What methods does Steinbeck use to present Curley’s wife and the attitudes of other to her? And How Does Steinbeck present attitudes to women in the society in which the novel is set? The novel ‘Of Mice and Men’ is set in a very patriarchal society, a society in which men dominate women and use them for their own needs. Women, who lived within this society, were not seen equal to men. Steinbeck uses many different language techniques to describe Curley’s wife. She plays a complex and misfit character in the novel and is made to sound like a ‘tart’ as mentioned by George himself.
Curley uses her for his own needs and controls her. As Curley’s wife walks through the bunk house, ‘the rectangle of sunshine in the doorway was cut off’, describing the fact that it goes dark, a sign of evil and danger. A very strong sense of foreboding is given and this continues throughout the text yet, getting stronger. Curley’s wife is kept away from the men. ‘A girl was standing… Looking in’. Curley’s wife is standing at the doorway like there’s an invisible barrier, preventing her from entering the men’s dorm. This is because the men don’t want her mixing in with them.
They are afraid to talk to her as it would result in losing their jobs. She is ostracised and excluded from the male fraternity. She knows her beauty is her power, and she uses it to flirt with the ranch hands and make her husband jealous. She is utterly alone on the ranch, and her husband has seen to it that no one will talk to her without fearing a beating. For this specific reason, Curley’s wife uses ‘I’m lookin’ for Curley’ as a pick up line to get through to the other men even if it means getting a hello. She mentions this twice throughout the text.
Once when she’s talking to George and another when she’s talking to Slim however, the men still keep their distance in fear of Curley. Because of her beauty, ‘Lennie’s eyes move down over her body’. Lennie finds her attractive and wants to touch her like he did to the girl in the red dress. As mentioned in the beginning of the novel, the ‘girl in the red dress’ was trouble for George and Lennie. This is creates an atmosphere of foreboding. Curley and his wife’s relationship isn’t very tight so for this reason, Curley’s wife tries to seek companionship but goes about it the wrong by openly flirting and dressing to impress.
She had full rouged lips and wide spaced eyes. Heavily made up’. She covers her face in make-up and puts on an innocent look however it creates the thought she’s seducing in the readers head. As well as this, she uses a flirtatious but coy voice,’ her voice has a nasal, brittle quality’. Brittle meaning fragile, proves that she talk the way she does for friendly attention. Not just to gain sexual attention. As I have previously mentioned, Curley’s wife has a very complex character in which she is, at some points, made to sound naive and at some points very seducing.
To back up my point, during mid text, Curley’s wife ‘puts her hands behind her back and leaned against the door frame so that her body was thrown forward’. At this point, Curley’s wife starts to seduce. She does this because, her pick up line didn’t gain much attention from George as he simply replied, ‘he was in here a minute ago, but he went’. Curley’s wife does so much for someone to talk to her but doesn’t go about it the right way. On the other hand, Curley’s wife has a lot of importance in the novel. At the beginning of the text, Steinbeck uses the colour ‘red’ many times.
In this particular piece of text, ‘red’ isn’t just an ordinary colour but has much more depth to. It’s repeated in the first paragraph thrice. ‘Her finger nails were red…and red mules…red ostrich feathers’. ‘Red’ is mainly associated with Curley’s wife who is symbolic to Eve- the female character who, in the biblical story ( the garden of Even) bring sin and death to the society. However, ‘red’ also represents the anger of a bull, which, relating back to the novel, attracts Lennie similar to ‘the girl in the red dress’. It also signifies love, impurity and desire, the type of attention Curley’s wife is looking for.
Yet, also, ‘red’ in a traffic light, stop and look. As I previously mentioned, the novel was set in a patriarchal society. The women had no dignity and no rights to speak up for themselves or make their own decisions. Similarly, Curley’s wife is treated with a very low level of respect and is isolated from the male society. She has no possession of her own name and is classified as a ‘tart’. The men don’t try to talk to her because of the fear of Curley and the consequences they would face after. Finally, Curley’s wife gets worried when she finds out that Curley went back to their house. She was suddenly apprehensive… and she scurried away’. Curley likes to fight with big men, so if he finds out that his wife was in the bunk house with the big man, he’ll be sure to pick out a fight once he finds her. To conclude my essay, Curley’s wife is treated like a no ‘one and has no importance in the eyes of the men. She is treated similar to Candy and Crooks like she’s good for nothing and only good to be used as a toy. Steinbeck indirectly mentioned the rights of women and discrimination in this novel through the way Curley treats his wife and the way the men are scared to talk to her.
Courtney from Study Moose
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