Through considering the roles of characters in the John Steinbeck novel Of Mice and Men I believe that the role of Curley’s wife is significant in the novel. Many aspects of her personality make her so important; other characters opinions on her also form a close judgment towards her from the beginning. I will be analysing her language and the way she communicates with the dominant males surrounding her at the ranch. I will look at how Steinbeck portrays her role in the novel and the impact that has on the reader and how they might perceive her character.
When introduced it is clear that she is attention seeking and very much a flirt. Steinbeck describes her by saying, “She had full rouged lips” and that she was “heavily made up” and wearing “a cotton house dress with little red mules, on the insteps which were little bouquets of red ostrich feathers”. It becomes clear that she wasn’t just looking for Curley so she told George and Lennie, but attention from the many men who worked on the ranch.
The fact that she was made up also implies that she has a lot of time on her hands and is somewhat bored. Steinbeck portrays her in this part of the novel as a flirt when she’s talking to the men, “She put her hands back and leaned against the door frame so that her body was thrown forward”. Furthermore, she tries her hardest to make conversation with the men, despite the fact they weren’t interested in speaking to her, she asks, “you’re the new fellas that just come, ain’t ya? George seemed reluctant to speak to her, he later referred to her as a “tramp” and “jail bait” what’s more he snapped at her when she was in the bunk house saying, “well he ain’t now” suggesting he just wants the conversation to end and for her to go. The introduction of Curley’s wife is an important part of her role, as the reader can easily draw a conclusion about her. Later on in the novel, when she is with Lennie in the barn, she says “go on feel right here” as she entices him to touch her soft hair.
She should have known the consequence of what would happen, because she had already unveiled the dead puppy that Lennie had petted too hard, as he liked to pet nice, soft things. Obviously this slipped her mind when asking him to feel her hair, as she was focused on all the attention she craved. A key aspect to look at when analysing this particular character is that the writer, John Steinbeck, calls her “Curley’s wife” throughout the novel. Not giving her an individual and personal name indicates a lack of authority and that she is owned by Curley and doesn’t have her own independence.
Curley’s wife herself also proclaims to being trapped and having regrets about the way her life could have been. In the final chapter when talking to Lennie in the barn she says, “I can’t talk to nobody but Curley. Else he gets made. ” She also confides in him saying, “I get awful lonely” Steinbeck tries to paint the reader a picture of how much she despises the way her life is. She tells Lennie about how she could have been a star; how she was spotted and could have been “in the movies” it’s as if Curley is to blame for the terrible life she seems to lead.
She tells him, “I coulda made somethin’ of myself”. It also becomes very clear that she is in the barn to talk about herself only, when Lennie tries to change the subject and move on to talking about himself being able to “tend the rabbits” she quickly interrupts and continues to talk about her own ambitions and problems. When she is unsure that Lennie has his full attention on her, she abruptly demands, “You listenin’? ” she then goes onto say “I don’t like Curley he ain’t a nice fella”.
Unusual as it is for a woman to talk of her husband this way, Steinbeck wants the reader to sympathise with her in a way. She didn’t want a life like this as she tells Lennie, and this may be why she acts in a way that draws attention. Before Curley’s wife is introduced properly in the novel, there is conversation about her between Candy, George and Lennie. Candy says, “Yeah purdy… but… well she got the eye”. Already we can draw a small conclusion the she doesn’t have the best reputation and the men on the ranch are wary of her flirtatious nature.
George warns Lennie to stay away from her; he says fiercely to Lennie, “You don’t even take a look at that bitch” George acts a little distrustful of Lennie and suspicious that Curley’s wife could end up getting him into trouble. She seems to be aware that the men on the ranch are cautious of her, she says, “Ain’t I gotta right to talk to nobody? Whatta they think I am anyways? ” when she’s talking to Lennie in the barn. She may be flirting to draw attention to herself, however the fact that she may be a little too flirt doesn’t cross her mind, and she is asking Lennie for assurance here and doesn’t quite know what she does wrong.
In conclusion, I agree that Curley’s wife plays a huge part in the novel, affecting other characters around her and the opinion they have on her, whether it be good or bad. I can decide upon the fact she is after attention, but not just for vanity and self worth, she is lonely and unhappy with her life she lives along side Curley, she doesn’t like the way he treats her and so confides and gets close to other men on the ranch. John Steinbeck gives her an automatically inferior role as he names her just “Curley’s wife” and gives a clear understanding of her personality before she is even introduced in the novel.