Charles Dickens and Curley’s Wife Essay
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A comparison of Nancy from ‘Oliver Twist’ by Charles Dickens and Curley’s Wife from ‘Of Mice and Men’ by John Steinbeck. In the two books both characters can be compared with each other but in many ways they are different in looks, language and personality, but the reasons for which the authors created them is much the same. I believe that Steinbeck created Curley’s wife, so that the reader feels sorry for her because most of the other characters in the book try to stay clear of her and do not get to know her, and in a sense, judge her by the way she dresses.
On the other hand Steinbeck is trying to express to the reader that looks do not count for everything. The main reason for Curley’s wife’s creation in my personal opinion is because all of the characters in the book are misfits for example; Lennie is not clever and acts like a child when he is with George by the riverbank and threatens to leave because George becomes annoyed with him. Also Crooks the Negro is crippled and cannot walk very well, but in his own way he is special and well educated.
In the same way Dickens creates Nancy as the type of character that the reader feels sorry for but at the same time accuse her for the mistakes she has made, such as running away from Bill Sikes but returning to him because she loves him and cannot bring herself to leave. As the book progresses the reader begins to gain more respect for Nancy but I believe that there is a reason for Nancy’s death, which is brought about by Oliver and this, is that doing the right thing does not always mean that it is not dangerous to yourself.
The two characters have different opinions on their partners and are not treated in the same way, but neither of them is happy with her life. Curley’s wife is unhappy with her life and this is most likely because Curly is over possessive of her and all he ever talks about is fighting which makes her a little scared of what he may do to her if he is in a mood. She is always flirting with other men on the ranch like when she is alone with Lennie she says, ‘What you got there sonny boy.
‘ We are also given the impression that she is a ‘tart’ by the way Steinbeck describes what she wears, ‘She wore her bright cotton dress and the mules with red ostrich feathers. Her face was made up and the little sausage curls were all in place. ‘ Curley’s wife married Curley to get back at her mother after her dreams had been broken because the letter, which she had been promised from Hollywood never, arrived. On the other hand the only reason Curley married her was for his reputation and we know that he is vein due to the way he keeps one hand in a glove in order to keep it soft for her.
Curley is also worried about what she may be up to when he is absent and therefore is always snooping around after her, which makes his wife feel trapped. Nancy in much the same way is not loved either but she does really care about Bill Sikes. Unlike Curley’s wife, Nancy is assaulted by Bill on many different occasions and is eventually killed by him. The main difference between the two characters is that Sikes is not overprotective of Nancy in the same way Curley is and will let her go out as long as he knows where she is going, the reason for this is that Sikes knows that Nancy is loyal to him.
When Nancy meets up with Rose and helps to save Oliver she also offers Nancy a new start but the offer is declined because Nancy does not want to leave Bill Sikes and she says, The main contrast between the two characters is that Nancy loves Bill, but Curley’s wife does not love her husband but she cannot leave him because she lives on the ranch and has no other place to stay. The characters partner’s opinions compare because neither of them really care for their lover.
Sikes treats Nancy like a ‘punch bag’ and she is scared of Curley because he has hit many other people and she is suspense waiting to see if he will lash out at her. In ‘Of Mice and Men’ Curley’s wife is known to some of the other characters such as Crooks, George and Candy as a ‘tart’ or a ‘bitch’ and a good example of this is when she walks into the bunkhouse and George says, ‘Jesus what a tramp, so that’s what Curly picked for a wife. ‘ As George is saying this Lennie is admiringly staring at her saying’ ‘She’s purty’ in response to Georges insult.
Most of the men on the ranch try to stay clear of her and George warns Lennie about her too, ‘ Listen to me you crazy bastard, don’t you even take a look at that bitch. I don’t care what she says and what she does. I seen ’em poison before, but I never seen no piece of jailbait worse than her. You leave her be. ‘ Lennie refuses not to listen and ends up not taking any real notice of what George has says to him. Oliver respects Nancy, like Lennie is fond of Curley’s wife and both of them seem to have child like qualities that judge the characters for who they are and not how they dress or look.
In the same way as Curley’s wife is despised by the ranch workers, Nancy is looked down on by the upper class people of the nineteenth century. The main reason the upper class residents do not respect Nancy is because she is a prostitute and in the time of Dickens this occupation was the lowest of the low for a woman. When Nancy goes to visit Rose, who is the adopted daughter of the women whose house Oliver broke in to, she is looked down on by the servants and thrown out of the hotel because of the way she looks.
‘Come! ‘ said the man taking her to the door, ‘None of this, take yourself off. ‘ The servants are not the only characters that look down on Nancy, Fagin and Sikes treat her badly and Dickens describes Sikes as using Nancy as his punch bag. Bill Sikes persists this behaviour even though Nancy looks after him when she is ill and says that she would even walk around the jail if he was arrested, just to be with him, but Sikes replies that she would be useless to him unless she brought a file to help him escape.
On the whole I feel that neither of the character are loved and they are judged by the way they look, not by the people they really are inside. Each of the characters is special to one person, in Curley’s wife’s case Lennie and in Nancy’s, Oliver. I feel that the biggest difference between the two books is the language and the reason for this difference is the time at which they were written.
In John Steinbeck’s ‘Of Mice and Men’ the language is simple but strong, the reason Steinbeck’s characters speak in this way is because that’s the way 1930s Americans would have spoken, for example, when George, Crooks and Slim are talking about Lennie, George says, ‘If that crazy bastard foolin’ around too much, jus’ kick him out, Slim. ‘ There is also a large amount of slang used between the characters, like when George and Curly are talking and George replies, ‘He was ‘gunna’ put some tar on a split roof. ‘