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In 1937, John Steinbeck wrote Of Mice and Men a novella about friendship during the Great Depression. The novella offers a unique and vivid insight into the lives of all social groups during the horrific collapse of the American economy. We’re given a comprehensive insight into the life of woman; a minority group in the American society. During the novella we only meet two women, Curley’s wife is one of them, a very naive young girl. In the novella, Steinbeck uses status to make us the reader feel compassionate towards Curley’s wife and the minority group of women.
Curley’s wife has limited status and to some extent freedom on the ranch because she is a woman, a social minority. “Why can’t I talk to you? I never get to talk to nobody, I get awful lonely” Steinbeck uses Curley’s wife’s loneliness to make us the reader feel compassionate towards her as no one wants to participate in conversation with her. Candy regards her as “Jailbait” indicating she is a young female seeking to get men into trouble. Jailbait is slang for a minor who is younger than the legal age of consent for sexual activity, with the implication that an older person might find him or her sexually attractive.
“ I never get to talk to anyone” on the ranch there is a strong prejudice towards Curley’s wife, the men of the ranch have some very strong opinions however Candy is rather cruel about her throughout the novella and even when she is dead he verbally abuses her; “You god damn tramp, he said viciously” throughout the novella we have been aware of a bazaar tension between Curley’s wife and Candy, Candy and Curley’s wife are both regarded as a members of social minority groups.
This relationship is perhaps very unequal because Candy is scared of the power Curley’s wife has. Her strength arises from her membership of being a female on the ranch, she has neither mental or physical strength but she has the ability to get Candy or any other ranch occupant lynched or sacked, which is possibly one of the reasons why he hates her. “Then-it’s all off? Candy said sulkily. ” during this tragic time of Curley’s wife’s death, all Candy can think about is his and George’s agreement to buy their own ranch.
“I get awful lonely” Steinbeck makes the reader develop a sympathetic feelings about Curley’s wife as no one wants to talk to her, her own husband doesn’t want to be with her and when he does conversation isn’t on his mind. Curley’s wife urges for attention and status on the ranch. Curley’s wife views herself higher than other people on the ranch, “they left all the weak ones here” Curley’s wife ironically insults herself by mistake during a dispute in Crook’s bedroom. “All the weak ones” the irony is that Curley’s wife is in essence calling herself weak.
She views herself as an occupant of the ranch with high importance but in reality she is as weak if not weaker than anyone else on the ranch. Her lack of status is because she is a woman and acts in rather provocative way, whilst reading Of Mice and Men it is obvious that she carves attention. The use of the word “weak” is interesting as it means to lack the power to perform physically demanding tasks; having little physical or mental strength. This is ironic as she is an attention-seeking child.
Steinbeck uses foreshadowing to make the book feel more like a piece of readable art. The effect of this in the novella is to make the book interact with emotions and thoughts; in some instances it can appear rather predictable but as enjoyable if not more than any other book. The effect on the reader is that they read on to see if their opinions and thoughts which were sparked by the effect of foreshadowing, are true. In chapter two we meet Curley’s wife for the first time, “both men glanced up, for the rectangle of sunshine in the doorway was cut off.
A girl was standing there looking in” as the reader this is our first encounter with Curely’s wife, she is presented as a source of danger, but there is a deeper meaning to this. Steinbeck uses light as hope and it enters the bunkhouse until Curley’s wife stands in the doorway and blocks light from entering the bunkhouse. Immediately Curley’s wife is presented as trouble, this scenario is an example of foreshadowing. Curley’s wife dies because of her innocence, when we first meet her in the novella she appears in a rather innocent but provocative manner.
“ Her hair hung in little rolled clusters like sausages. She wore a cotton house dress and red mules, on the insteps oh which were little bouquets of red ostrich feathers. ” She appears to dress much older than she really is. Steinbeck allowed us to know this by “A girl was standing there…” which indicates that she is quite young but dresses as an older lady which portrays to us the reader that she is really innocent and rather lost in a world she doesn’t quite understand. When we first meet her we see her as a rather flamboyant, confident young woman but towards the end of the novella her persona changes.
Before Curley’s wife’s tragic death she confides in Lennie and we see her youth and innocence open up to Lennie. “ He says he was gonna put me in the movies. Says I was a natural. Soon’s he got back to Hollywood he gonna write to me about it. ” Curley’s wife opens up to Lennie about an experience she had with a man who worked in Hollywood, who promised her a career in the movies. Curley’s wife’s innocence and naivety were her own weapons of disaster. It was her innocence that sneakily leads her to her death but Steinbeck warned us about this cataclysmic event from our first introduction to Curley’s wife.