All the characters played in the novel “Of Mice and Men” are lonesome, living an empty life everyday consisting of mainly hard labor. The characters all live a very disheartening life, with the lack of happiness, love and affection in their lives. This can be seen also when George mentions that ‘ranch workers are the loneliest people in the world and don’t belong nowhere”. Of the many characters in the novel, Curley’s wife might be one of the most pathetic and reviled of the outsiders.
Steinbeck introduces her to us as an outcast, where she is isolated from the community. Being a minor character in the novel, Steinbeck manages to illustrate her as a character that deeply influences the lives of the main characters George and Lennie. Throughout the whole novel, Curley’s wife’s name is never mentioned. This initiates the readers to feel the sense of belonging of Curley’s wife to Curley and to emphasize as an pariah, being feared of, leaving her with nobody to talk to and her identity as a mystery.
Apart from that, Curley’s wife is portrayed as the only female in the ranch, and although she is married to Curley, the boss’s son, giving her a high status at the ranch, they are psychologically separated, and are never witnessed together, leaving her desperate for camaraderie. Her desire of attention and escape from loneliness leads her to try to seek attention from other men working in the ranch by flirting. Her coquettish actions and inappropriate dressing leads other characters to think of her as a “tart”.
The ranch workers are uneasy about this and avoid her in fear of being reprimanded by Curley which may cost them to lose their jobs innocently. She is first introduced by Steinbeck when she comes into the bunkhouse disrupting a conversation that Lennie and George are holding. The depiction is dramatic, “Both men glanced up, for the rectangle of sunshine in the doorway was cut off”. This suggests that she has obscured the light, and darkened the room with her presence. This gives a dark and threatening image.
Steinbeck describes the image of her standing and peering through the door, “heavily made-up” with “full rouged lips” and “her fingernails” being applied with “red” nailpolish. The fact that she was “looking in” through the door “standing there” accentuates her as an outsider. She is also described wearing “red mules” and with “bouquets of red ostrich feathers” on them. The constant repetition of the word “red” used in the novel to describe Curley’s wife portrays her as one who is dangerous because the color red is quite provocative and has connotations such as love, passion and danger.
“Her hair hung in little rolled clusters, like sausages” implies the extensive amount of time she has, being alone with nothing better to do than to curl her hair. Her inappropriate body language proves how she dreadfully tries to seek attention and flirts openly with men as she positions herself against the door frame so that “her body was thrown forward”. She smiles “archly” and “twitch(es) her body”. This gives the reader the general impression that Curley’s wife is an attractive young lady who seeks attention of men.
George’s immediate comments such as “Jesus, what a tramp”, and “So that’s what Curley picks for a wife” and reactions to Curley’s wife, however, allows the reader to realize that she is a potential threat to George and Lennie. George fumes when he knows of Lennie’s admiration of her being one who is “purty” and fiercely tells him not to even “take a look at that bitch” and refers to her as “poison” and “jail bait” and to leave her alone. It is obvious that she longs for friends and for someone to talk to, however, males on the ranch dislike her because they see has as one who is a magnet to trouble.