John Steinbeck Essay
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Comparison between the portrayal of women in ‘The Ostler’ by Wilkie Collins and in ‘Of Mice And Men’ by John Steinbeck In both the stories ‘The Ostler’ by Wilkie Collins and ‘Of Mice And Men’ by John Steinbeck the authors have used the females, who are Rebecca in ‘The Ostler’ and Curley’s wife in ‘Of Mice and Men’ to play important roles in developing the plot. Both of them considerably shape and alter the lives of those other characters around them.
In ‘The Ostler’ Rebecca is a young lady who meets Isaac and later marries him. She totally changes his life.
However she has a darker side and later plots to kill him leaving Isaac living in fear for his life. Similarly in ‘Of Mice and Men’ Curley’s wife ends up causing the death of one of the principal characters, Lennie. So we can see that in both stories the women either threaten or cause the death of a main character. Both the stories were written some time ago, the Ostler being the older of the two, written in 1855. So the Ostler was set in the Victorian age. We know that in the Victorian age there were little opportunities for unmarried women. Rebecca is a good example of this.
Before she met Isaac she was dependant on drugs. This is suggested on page 11 when Isaac meets Rebecca in the Chemist’s whilst he is buying medicine for his mother. The chemist said “It’s my opinion there’s something wrong with her. She’s been asking for Laudanum to put on a bad tooth”… “It’s a case of suicide, sir, if ever there was one yet. ” Of Mice and Men was set in the great depression in America. Still there was little opportunity for women and most were unfairly treated. Curley’s wife is portrayed as a lonely, isolated character who longs to be free from the tight reigns of her husband Curley.
She spends much of her time flirting with the other men on the ranch, hungry for conversation. So in both stories the writers have portrayed the women as unfairly treated. Whether it was one of their aims to make their readers aware of the situation or whether the suggestion is just through their realistic reflection on the society they lived in we cannot tell. Although I wouldn’t say that a strong emphasis is placed on the treatment of women and therefore I would argue that it was not their target but just one consequence of the story line.
Rebecca is first introduced to us in the fourth paragraph on the first page, although we don’t know who she is at that point. A detailed description is given of her, but she is not named. “Light grey eyes… and a droop in the left eyelid… Flaxen hair with a gold streak in it… Fair, white arms with a down in the – little lady’s hands, with a reddish look under the fingernails” However after this description which Isaac is telling us in his sleep, then has a narrative signpost suggesting that this women is trouble. “… and the knife – always the cursed knife – first on one side, then on the other. ”
It is suggested that there will be murder in the story and conveys a horror genre, a style very popular at that time. Similarly, In ‘Of Mice and Men’ Curley’s wife looks are portrayed as dangerous. Although we haer a description of Rebecca, it is only a feature of Isaac’s nightmare. The same decription of Rebecca is then repeated when Isaac returns home to his mother and tells her of his dream. His mother writes the details down so that she doesn’t forget them. His mother seems to be a suspicious women who believes the dream had a deeper significance and that it was a prophecy that Isaac would one day be killed by the women of the dream.
It isn’t until some time later, when his mother falls ill and he goes to the chemist, that he meets a lady who we find is called Rebecca, although Isaac doesn’t recognize her from his dream. He thinks she will commit suicide so in an attempt to prevent her taking her life and also because he is strangely attracted to her, he plans to marry her. When he introduces Rebecca his mother recognizes her to be the women of the dream and tries to call off the marriage. However the marriage goes ahead. So you can see what a big part her looks played. It was her looks that first caused conflict in the marriage.
Rebecca, who is upset that Isaac’s mother, Mrs. Scatchard, does not like her, tries to be friendly towards his mother. However the relationship between Isaac and Rebecca deteriorates and when Isaac discovers Rebecca has bought a new knife, one like that of the dream and demands that he keeps the knife. This further upsets Rebecca and they get into a fight and she leaves. Isaac lived in fear wondering if she return and try to kill him like in the dream. He takes precautions to protect himself. Then one day she returns and tries to kill him. So he leaves. From that day forward he lived in fear.