Do you think that Curley and his Wife Make a Good Couple? Essay
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Over the course of the novel it becomes clear that the relationship between Curley and his wife is far from the typical picture perfect hearts and flowers romance that a “good” marriage should be. Through their insecurities and loneliness they are bonded, yet in their character and emotional state, they are completely separate.
Steinbeck’s novel is set during the American depression, a time in which ranching became the crucial way of life for a large proportion of the population. At the time, the ranch owner – “the Boss”, held a huge amount of power that shaped the lives of the men who worked for him.
He provided accommodation, paid wages and offered an alternative to the completely bleak and lonely existence that these mostly single men, without a family and without any other companion, would otherwise face. It could be said that he had the power of life or death over these men.
Curley, being the Boss’ son, understood that he had an authority over the other men that allowed him to be the “mean little bastard” that he was.
“He hates big guys”, Candy tells George after Curley tries to “take after Lennie”. His reputation in the ring makes him overly confident and turns him into a bully that sees everyone as a potential opponent. He picks on guys bigger than him to fill some lonely pit of insecurity within himself that wants the world against which he has a grudge to know that he is a “big man” despite his appearance.
All the anger and hate within Curley, clearly have an effect on the relationship he shares with his wife. When confiding in Lennie, in the final scene of act 5, she tells him “I don’t like Curley. He aint a nice fella.”
For most of the novel, Curley’s wife is depicted as the “tramp” “tart” and “loo loo” that the men perceive her to be. We are not allowed a deeper insight into her personality, her thoughts or indeed her dreams until later in novel when she opens up fully to Lennie- the one character without any prejudice and too naive to honestly believe her to be the jail bait the other claimed she was. We see her as a complex character with dreams and ambitions- “I coulda been in the movies”- a far cry from the stereotypical vixen out to seduce all of mankind!
She is one of the most tragic personalities in “Of Mice and Men”, nameless and without identity we see her not as a person, a human being with character and emotions, rather a possession of Curley’s. “Curley’s wife”. That is her only role within the novel and being an underdog, she uses as her only advantage over the ranch men. “Listen, Nigger, you know what I can do to you if you open your trap?”, she threatens Crooks, the crippled black stable buck with her authority over him as Curley’s wife and her superiority as a white female. This reveals a nastier, darker side to her personality, one that makes it clear that she will do whatever she must to get by in a world dominated by men.
This aspect of her nature is in stark contrast to the girly, high spirited and hopeful side we see as she talks of “making the pitchers” and of the guy who said “he was gonna put me in the movies” and “soon’s he got back to Hollywood he was gonna write to me about it.” Here she seems vulnerable and full of emotion- so much more human than the woman who only moments previously threatened to get Crooks lynched.
We know that the relationship between Curley and his wife is far from perfect; one is always out looking for the other. Though this may be an excuse for his wife to talk to the ranch hands, the very fact that she has become this desperate for company highlights the gulf between them. The lack of communication between them means that the only relationship that they share is one of a physical nature. “Glove fulla Vaseline”, Curley keeps his hand “soft” for his wife- because he wishes to “show off his manliness”, this in no way is considerate towards her, it simply underlines yet another defect in their relationship.
Curley’s wife tells Lennie how the two came to meet one another and ended up married. Curley was what she was left with, her only alternative to the high life of glitz and glamour that had no chance of turning into reality. She did not love him. In fact, she didn’t even like him “I don’t like Curley”.
Her dislike for Curley and lack of concern for him again is evident when she “grows interested” whilst questioning Candy, Crooks and Lennie about how Curley came to break his hand. She shows no concern as a loving wife would, “Say- what happened to Curley’s han” She is merely curious and laughs when they tell her it was “caught in the machine”, “Baloney!” she cries.
Another point to be made is that Steinbeck never places Curley and his wife together in the sae scene, other than the occasion on which Curley stood before his wife’s body- a time at which he was further away from her then he ever was when she was alive. They are mentioned together on many occasions, but are inevitably presented as two separate, different individuals. So close to one another, yet so far. Curley’s wife belongs to Curley. But she is not a part of him, just as he is not a part of her.
A major reason as to why the relationship between Curley and his wife is so weak is because both characters are within themselves weak and insecure. Neither Curley, nor his wife has the power, the strength of personality or the will to go on without “support” or at least love.
Curley is depicted as a character with an evil, twisted temperament who thrives upon power. Although our first impression of his wife is far from “good”, she is not evil- she is merely used to emphasise Steinbeck’s depiction of women as being trouble makers that bring ruin on man- Curley’s temper having worsened since their marriage and her role as a temptress being solely to get men locked up, or lynched. However different to one another, both characters are emotionally unstable, they don’t have the strength to support one another and so the chances of a relationship between the two working out are minimal.
Indeed, at the end of the novel, when Curley realises that his wife is dead, instead of a feeling of deep hurt or loss that one usually feels after losing a close one, he immediately feels the need for revenge and so goes ahead to hunt Lennie down- his feelings of anger and to “get his own back” being stronger than the love he felt for his wife or sorrow ar her loss.