How Does Steinbeck Present the Theme of Loneliness Through Curley’s Wife in of Mice and Men? Essay
The story Of Mice and Men is set in Salinas by the Salinas River – where George and Lennie spend the night after escaping from their previous ranch in weed – just south of Soledad. The theme of loneliness runs throughout the book and I will be exploring how Steinbeck presents this theme through the character of Curley’s wife.
Many of the characters are lonely, and seek different ways to find comfort, for Candy it is his dog, this is why he finds it so hard to let him go during chapter 3 “The old man squirmed uncomfortably” this shows he’s in a lot of discomfort, as he does want to be lonely, and his dog accompanies him. For George and Lennie it is each other, they often speak about how important it is for them to travel together “Guys like us, that work on ranches, are the loneliest guys in the world”… Lennie broke in “But not us! An’ why?
Because… because I got you to look after me, and you got me to look after you, and that’s why. ” The quote proves how lonely it is, but Lennie and George prevent this by travelling together and keeping side by side throughout. The town Soledad means solitary or isolated which connects with the story well as both the characters and then ranch are both very lonely and isolated, the ranch is far from everything, Lennie and George have to walk 10 miles from the nearest town to get to the ranch in the first part of the book.
The book is set during the great depression, this effects the book as it makes it more realistic, during the Great Depression people travelled to find work, and were fired and hired by the bosses whenever, so it really brings the book to life, how George fears that the boss will refuse them work, and how he tries to drill it into Lennie not to step a foot out of line. + In the book Of Mice and Men my first impressions Curley’s wife are that she is very tarty “She had full, rouged lips….. heavily made up” Curley’s wife likes to make herself look immaculate, and seems very conscious of herself.
She likes to attract the attention from the boys on the ranch. She flaunts herself around lot “She put her hands behind her back and leaned against the door frame so that her body was thrown forward” this showed she liked to show off her body, to try and make the other guys appreciate it. Steinbeck has made the character of Curley’s wife very flirty ‘“If he ain’t, I guess I better look someplace else’ she said playfully” Overall I think this suggest she is a very character and likes to be the centre of attention, like people to look at her, she likes to get attention off other men which could suggest she is not ontent with her marriage. + The men on the ranch are not fond of Curley’s wife; throughout the book she is named “tart” “jailbait”.
None of the boys on the ranch are too keen of her and try and keep away whenever possible, though the reason for this is most probably because they don’t want to get on the wrong side of Curley, as Curley is a very violent character. Curley treats his wife badly; he uses her for his own sexual needs and speaks down to her, and tells her off he she speaks to the others on the ranch.
Steinbeck doesn’t seem to give Slim much of an opinion of Curley’s wife throughout the book, although in the book Candy explains that he’s seen her eyeing Slim up “I seen her give Slim the eye” and as far as we know, nothing happened between those two which shows he has no interest in her, and although she tries to attract the attention of the boys, it obviously has little effect. Candy shows a lot of dislike towards Curley’s wife and calls her a “tart” in the second chapter.
In the book Steinbeck doesn’t give Crooks an opinion of Curley’s wife; this is probably emphasizing the fact that ‘niggas’ didn’t have any say in anything. Although later in the book Curley’s wife threatens him “I could get you strung up a tree so easy…” so I don’t think – although he doesn’t really show an opinion – that Crooks is too fond of her either. George takes an instant dislike towards Curley’s wife and calls her “bitch” and “jailbait” Curley’s wife tries and talks to George on multiple occasions but he tends to ignore her and question her right to be talking to him.
Lennie is the only Character in book that doesn’t really show any dislike or hatred to her, when he first sees her he repeats “purty”, although he is told by George to stay away from her as he doesn’t want there to be no trouble. + Throughout the book Of Mice and Men Curley’s wife is never named, she is always just known as Curley’s wife. I think this is an important part of the book as it shows that she has no individual identity, it shows that she is merely Curley’s object.
She is not treated as an individual and is seen by other characters as just a symbol of other things like Curley’s wife. During the 1930s women were treated a lot differently as they were today. They were housewives. They were seen as ‘slaves’, and ‘the weaker sex’ they had to take orders from their husbands and obey them, they’d do chores, they would wash, cook and clean whilst the men went out and worked. They were treated without respect, they were only wanted for what they could offer; sex, cleaning. They were just seen as objects and nothing further. Women were not wanted on ranches, and that is where the role of Curley’s wife comes into it.
Whilst on the ranch, as stated earlier, the men are not friendly with her, and I think the inequality between the two genders back then really affected their views towards her. During the book you really do see how different it was for woman back then, Curley’s wife is always being bossed around, she is always told off when being seen socialising or chatting with the other men. She’s scared of Curley. She really is used as an object, Curley shows no affection for his wife, he doesn’t seem to like her, just likes having her there. During chapter 4 in the novel Curley’s wife is rude to Crooks, she threatens him “I could get you strung up on a tree so fast it ain’t even funny”
She threatens Crooks to make him feel small, she talks down to him, she likes to think the others think she has power, likes them to think she’s top dog, that she has control over everyone, eve though she doesn’t but she likes to believe she does because of her previous dream of being in the movies, when she was at the stage when she thought she was gonna be in movie she liked to thin k she was above everyone else, and now, now that the dream is over she still likes people to see her as a strong over powering character, even though she knows she has\s no authority.
This is why I believe she is cruel to Crooks, she knows she can’t talk down to the others, but she knows she can to crooks, so she takes the opportunity to do so she wants to feel strong and this is how she does so, this is the only way she can. She uses the power of white over black. “You know what I can do to you if you open your trap. ” + The theme of characters and their dreams run throughout the book. Lennie and George’s – later introduced to Candy and Crooks – dream of having their own small farm. “Someday –we’re gonna get the jack together and were gonna have a little house and a couple of acres an’ a cow and some pigs. ” Curley’s wife also has a dream which she tells Lennie about during chapter 5.
She talks about her dreams of being an actress, how close she once was, but then it all ended, she came back to reality and married Curley because she didn’t know what else to do, she married Curley to escape, but she doesn’t like Curley. “I don’t like Curley. He aint a nice fella” I feel sorry for her as her dreams were crushed and she had to marry Curley, there’s no going back now. She really dislikes Curley and rightly so, he’s mean to him but there’s no way out of his hold now. + In the end it all ends rather badly for Curley’s wife, just as she starts to grow on you, her life and role in the book comes to an end. “and the meanness and the plannings and the ache for attention were all gone from her face. this quote in the book is almost as if she’s just been released from all of this, like it was a good thing it happened, that she is now free from all of the torture she was put through during her time with Curley.
She will no longer be living in loneliness and will no longer seek for attention and be forever ignored. She’s no longer trapped in the circle of misery she had to live every day. + Throughout the book my opinions on Curley’s wife change a lot. To begin with she is introduced as a very flirtatious character, who is determined to look good at all times, to grab all the mens attention. And she maintains this all the way throughout the book.
Even at the very end, just before she dies, when she invites Lennie to feel her hair, she only tells him to stop when she claims he’s messing her hair up. “Don’t you muss it up” this shows she really is very concerned about the way she looks at all times. Later in the novel she begins to grow on you. You begin to feel sorry for her and begin to think she is just misunderstood, she is just lonely, has she have married the right man and got her dream she would have been a very different character. Though this is not the case so she lives being miserable and unwanted. Although towards the end I began to warm to Curley’s wife it can’t help but think she had escaped all the pain and unhappiness that would haunt her for the rest of her days had this not been the ending.