Of mIce and Men, how Steinbeck creates sympoahty and animosity towards Curley’s Wife Essay

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Of mIce and Men, how Steinbeck creates sympoahty and animosity towards Curley’s Wife

In of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck, Curley’s wife sparks much debate and controversy, being an extremely important character in the book as she symbolises the gender inequality and discrimination of the period. At the start of the novella, we assume she is just a plot device, but later on find out that there is much more about her and she has a very important role in the book as being the only woman. During the 1930’s women were treated unequally to men, and weren’t treated with as much respect, which is reflected later when we realise that Curley’s wife isn’t addressed with a name.

The attitude to women at the time contrasts with how gender inequality is now; women have the right to vote and they are now appreciated. The novella is set in the 1930s in Soledad, near Salinas, California. The novella was set during the American depression. Soledad, meaning loneliness in Spanish is also cleverly used as the place name of where the fictional ranch is set.

This merges in with the theme of loneliness that runs throughout the novel, foreshadowing what we later find out about Curley’s wife’s life on the ranch. The Great depression was triggered by the Wall Street Crash of 1929 and left millions of people unemployed. All the while people lost confidence, felt insecure and the American Dream had vanished, linking to what all the men on the ranch want, but now seems impossible to achieve.

Because of the ranch being an isolated and primitive, the lifestyle was lonely. Steinbeck uses his personal experience as a ranch worker to describe how the workers felt: George says that “ranch workers are the loneliest people in the world and don’t belong nowhere”. Steinbeck also portrays loneliness through characterisation. Perhaps the loneliest character, which Steinbeck creates in the novel, is Curley’s wife. She is the only female in the ranch and although she is married, you never witness the distinct couple of Curley and his wife together. She is never really noticed, hence the sense of sexual discrimination. Section 1:

Of Mice and Men is filled with tragic events which come in a crucial structure that are hinted throughout the book. In fact, even the title foreshadows the unfortunate situations that take place. “Of Mice and Men” comes from the poem by Robert Burns – To a Mouse. ‘The best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men/ gang aft agley./ An’ lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain./ Forn promis’d joy!’.

The poem tells us that the best things always go wrong and leave you with nothing but grief and pain, this relates to the novella well because the best dream for Curley’s wife was to be in the ‘pitcures’, but because her mother took them away (she believed) her dreams was shattered and now is left in an unhappy marriage on a ranch where she doesn’t belong. The first moment that we hear about Curley’s wife is when Candy describes her in the bunkhouse, through gossip.

He describes her as a sex object, sounding quite negative towards her. Steinbeck first describes her in a less judgmental way, not really showing a strong opinion of her, unlike Candy’s view which is much more frustrated and clear: ‘well i think Curley’s married…a tart’. When Candy describes her as a ‘tart’ and the use of an ellipsis, shows that he recoils when using such a derogatory term. The reader already pictures Curley’s wife in their head, and we immediately seem to dislike her, but also sympathise for her because she is gossiped about before the reader even meets her and can make their own decision.

One of the reasons why we first hear about Curley’s wife before we meet her is because the men on the ranch all dislike Curley, and they all presume she is as mean as he is. Again, when she is introduced, an ill feeling overcomes the atmosphere indicating that Lennie will be getting into a mess with her. George states in the very beginning that he is always getting into mishaps, “You do bad things and I got to get you out,”. In the first scene, we learn that Lennie likes to stroke mice and other soft creatures, but has a tendency to kill them accidentally.

This foreshadows the death of his puppy and the death of Curley’s wife. Furthermore, when George recounts that Lennie grabbed the woman’s dress in Weed and would not let go, the reader anticipates that similar trouble will arise at the ranch, especially once Curley’s flirtatious wife appears on the scene. Lennie being naïve and has limited intelligence, showing that he is somewhat childish and interprets his feelings different to how we might understand these feelings. When he describes Curley’s wife as ‘Purty’ we get the sense that he considers her on her looks alone.

The vernacular language again shows that he is childlike, and makes him sound real. In society, from where the book was published up till now, the elderly are no longer useful because they aren’t as able. The shooting of Candy’s dog symbolises that there is not need for the elderly to live, representing that Lennie is the dog, because he is not as mentally able as the other men on the ranch.

Candy mirrors George- he has to suffer and has lost his partner, just like Candy lost his dog that kept Candy company, but no longer can, linking back to the idea of everyone always ending up lonely. The contrast between the first chapter and the last also shows his death because the same scene goes from the peaceful field to the violent death of the water snake at the beginning of the novella.

Section 2:

Throughout Of Mice and Men, we feel that a lot of the characters feel real to us. This is because of the vernacular Steinbeck uses. Curley’s wife seems to be a hard character, but might not be as strong as she would like to appear. She strives to make an impression in front of all the men, because she is the only woman on the ranch, one could interpret this like she knows that the men might be attracted to her and thinks she has an advantage. ‘She was heavily made up’ describes that she wears a lot of makeup; this makes the reader get a sense of ill feeling towards her, although whilst also feeling sensitivity for her because this could illustrate that she wears so much makeup to hide herself, and uses it as a mask.

Also, she could be so made up because she still wants to imagine herself as an actress; all the stars where makeup and look magnificent. When Curley’s wife first speaks, her voice is described with having ‘a nasal, brittle quality’. The word ‘nasal’ suggests a high, whiney voice, which does not match her powerful facade and links to previous suggestions of being fake and disguising her real persona with her appearance. The fact that she feels unable to show her true self for fear of being hurt, creates sympathy in the reader. After the gossip we hear about Curley’s wife, we finally meet her.

Her physical appearance of ‘full, rouged lips and wide-spaced eyes, heavily made- up’, as well as ‘fingernail painted red’ and elaborate hair, further build on our preconceptions of her. Red, the colour of her attire and the style of her hair and makeup suggest some sexuality. Additionally, she use suggestive and provocative body language, ‘she put her hands behind her back and leaned against the door frame so that her body was thrown forward’, and her flimsy excuse to be with the men in their quarters contribute to the rancher’s view of her as a ’tramp’. She both talks and acts playfully and flirtatiously in front of the other ranch workers.

She could behave in this manner because her sexuality is her only weapon to gain attention, thus Candy’s description of her seems accurate after her first appearance in the novel. Through her physical appearance and her own actions, Candy’s description of Curley’s Wife seems accurate after her first appearance in the novel. On the other hand, Curley’s Wife’s appearance could be seen as naivety and simply youthful desire to be found attractive.

Red is a primary colour therefore children are attracted to it, it is a colour children want to wear because it is bright and has an element of happiness in it. Therefore Curley’s Wife wearing the colour red may symbolise a child’s attraction to bright colours portraying her as youthful or girly.

Curley’s wife is such a complex character, and we see this in the letter Steinbeck wrote to Miss Luce describing her. Steinbeck heard that Miss Luce was struggling to play the role of Curley’s wife in 1938, in the letter he included her as ‘knowing utterly nothing about sex’ and Curley’s wife is an innocent woman under all the defenses she has built up against all the comments directed to her.

In of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck, Curley’s wife sparks much debate and controversy, being an extremely important character in the book as she symbolises the gender inequality and discrimination of the period. At the start of the novella, we assume she is just a plot device, but later on find out that there is much more about her and she has a very important role in the book as being the only woman. During the 1930’s women were treated unequally to men, and weren’t treated with as much respect, which is reflected later when we realise that Curley’s wife isn’t addressed with a name.

The attitude to women at the time contrasts with how gender inequality is now; women have the right to vote and they are now appreciated. The novella is set in the 1930s in Soledad, near Salinas, California. The novella was set during the American depression. Soledad, meaning loneliness in Spanish is also cleverly used as the place name of where the fictional ranch is set.

This merges in with the theme of loneliness that runs throughout the novel, foreshadowing what we later find out about Curley’s wife’s life on the ranch. The Great depression was triggered by the Wall Street Crash of 1929 and left millions of people unemployed. All the while people lost confidence, felt insecure and the American Dream had vanished, linking to what all the men on the ranch want, but now seems impossible to achieve.

Because of the ranch being an isolated and primitive, the lifestyle was lonely. Steinbeck uses his personal experience as a ranch worker to describe how the workers felt: George says that “ranch workers are the loneliest people in the world and don’t belong nowhere”. Steinbeck also portrays loneliness through characterisation. Perhaps the loneliest character, which Steinbeck creates in the novel, is Curley’s wife. She is the only female in the ranch and although she is married, you never witness the distinct couple of Curley and his wife together. She is never really noticed, hence the sense of sexual discrimination. Section 1:

Of Mice and Men is filled with tragic events which come in a crucial structure that are hinted throughout the book. In fact, even the title foreshadows the unfortunate situations that take place. “Of Mice and Men” comes from the poem by Robert Burns – To a Mouse. ‘The best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men/ gang aft agley./ An’ lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain./

For promis’d joy!’. The poem tells us that the best things always go wrong and leave you with nothing but grief and pain, this relates to the novella well because the best dream for Curley’s wife was to be in the ‘pitcures’, but because her mother took them away (she believed) her dreams was shattered and now is left in an unhappy marriage on a ranch where she doesn’t belong. The first moment that we hear about Curley’s wife is when Candy describes her in the bunkhouse, through gossip. He describes her as a sex object, sounding quite negative towards her.

Steinbeck first describes her in a less judgmental way, not really showing a strong opinion of her, unlike Candy’s view which is much more frustrated and clear: ‘well i think Curley’s married…a tart’. When Candy describes her as a ‘tart’ and the use of an ellipsis, shows that he recoils when using such a derogatory term. The reader already pictures Curley’s wife in their head, and we immediately seem to dislike her, but also sympathise for her because she is gossiped about before the reader even meets her and can make their own decision.

One of the reasons why we first hear about Curley’s wife before we meet her is because the men on the ranch all dislike Curley, and they all presume she is as mean as he is. Again, when she is introduced, an ill feeling overcomes the atmosphere indicating that Lennie will be getting into a mess with her. George states in the very beginning that he is always getting into mishaps, “You do bad things and I got to get you out,”. In the first scene, we learn that Lennie likes to stroke mice and other soft creatures, but has a tendency to kill them accidentally.

This foreshadows the death of his puppy and the death of Curley’s wife. Furthermore, when George recounts that Lennie grabbed the woman’s dress in Weed and would not let go, the reader anticipates that similar trouble will arise at the ranch, especially once Curley’s flirtatious wife appears on the scene. Lennie being naïve and has limited intelligence, showing that he is somewhat childish and interprets his feelings different to how we might understand these feelings. When he describes Curley’s wife as ‘Purty’ we get the sense that he considers her on her looks alone.

The vernacular language again shows that he is childlike, and makes him sound real. In society, from where the book was published up till now, the elderly are no longer useful because they aren’t as able. The shooting of Candy’s dog symbolises that there is not need for the elderly to live, representing that Lennie is the dog, because he is not as mentally
able as the other men on the ranch. Candy mirrors George- he has to suffer and has lost his partner, just like Candy lost his dog that kept Candy company, but no longer can, linking back to the idea of everyone always ending up lonely. The contrast between the first chapter and the last also shows his death because the same scene goes from the peaceful field to the violent death of the water snake at the beginning of the novella.

Section 2:

Throughout Of Mice and Men, we feel that a lot of the characters feel real to us. This is because of the vernacular Steinbeck uses. Curley’s wife seems to be a hard character, but might not be as strong as she would like to appear. She strives to make an impression in front of all the men, because she is the only woman on the ranch, one could interpret this like she knows that the men might be attracted to her and thinks she has an advantage.

‘She was heavily made up’ describes that she wears a lot of makeup; this makes the reader get a sense of ill feeling towards her, although whilst also feeling sensitivity for her because this could illustrate that she wears so much makeup to hide herself, and uses it as a mask. Also, she could be so made up because she still wants to imagine herself as an actress; all the stars where makeup and look magnificent. When Curley’s wife first speaks, her voice is described with having ‘a nasal, brittle quality’. The word ‘nasal’ suggests a high, whiney voice, which does not match her powerful facade and links to previous suggestion

In of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck, Curley’s wife sparks much debate and controversy, being an extremely important character in the book as she symbolises the gender inequality and discrimination of the period. At the start of the novella, we assume she is just a plot device, but later on find out that there is much more about her and she has a very important role in the book as being the only woman. During the 1930’s women were treated unequally to men, and weren’t treated with as much respect, which is reflected later when we realise that Curley’s wife isn’t addressed with a name.

The attitude to women at the time contrasts with how gender inequality is now; women have the right to vote and they are now appreciated. The novella is set in the 1930s in Soledad, near Salinas, California. The novella was set during the American depression. Soledad, meaning loneliness in Spanish is also cleverly used as the place name of where the fictional ranch is set. This merges in with the theme of loneliness that runs throughout the novel, foreshadowing what we later find out about Curley’s wife’s life on the ranch.

The Great depression was triggered by the Wall Street Crash of 1929 and left millions of people unemployed. All the while people lost confidence, felt insecure and the American Dream had vanished, linking to what all the men on the ranch want, but now seems impossible to achieve. Because of the ranch being an isolated and primitive, the lifestyle was lonely.

Steinbeck uses his personal experience as a ranch worker to describe how the workers felt: George says that “ranch workers are the loneliest people in the world and don’t belong nowhere”. Steinbeck also portrays loneliness through characterisation. Perhaps the loneliest character, which Steinbeck creates in the novel, is Curley’s wife. She is the only female in the ranch and although she is married, you never witness the distinct couple of Curley and his wife together. She is never really noticed, hence the sense of sexual discrimination. Section 1:

Of Mice and Men is filled with tragic events which come in a crucial structure that are hinted throughout the book. In fact, even the title foreshadows the unfortunate situations that take place. “Of Mice and Men” comes from the poem by Robert Burns – To a Mouse. ‘The best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men/ gang aft agley./ An’ lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain./ For promis’d joy!’.

The poem tells us that the best things always go wrong and leave you with nothing but grief and pain, this relates to the novella well because the best dream for Curley’s wife was to be in the ‘pitcures’, but because her mother took them away (she believed) her dreams was shattered and now is left in an unhappy marriage on a ranch where she doesn’t belong. The first moment that we hear about Curley’s wife is when Candy describes her in the bunkhouse, through gossip. He describes her as a sex object, sounding quite negative towards her.

Steinbeck first describes her in a less judgmental way, not really showing a strong opinion of her, unlike Candy’s view which is much more frustrated and clear: ‘well i think Curley’s married…a tart’. When Candy describes her as a ‘tart’ and the use of an ellipsis, shows that he recoils when using such a derogatory term. The reader already pictures Curley’s wife in their head, and we immediately seem to dislike her, but also sympathise for her because she is gossiped about before the reader even meets her and can make their own decision.

One of the reasons why we first hear about Curley’s wife before we meet her is because the men on the ranch all dislike Curley, and they all presume she is as mean as he is. Again, when she is introduced, an ill feeling overcomes the atmosphere indicating that Lennie will be getting into a mess with her. George states in the very beginning that he is always getting into mishaps, “You do bad things and I got to get you out,”. In the first scene, we learn that Lennie likes to stroke mice and other soft creatures, but has a tendency to kill them accidentally.

This foreshadows the death of his puppy and the death of Curley’s wife. Furthermore, when George recounts that Lennie grabbed the woman’s dress in Weed and would not let go, the reader anticipates that similar trouble will arise at the ranch, especially once Curley’s flirtatious wife appears on the scene. Lennie being naïve and has limited intelligence, showing that he is somewhat childish and interprets his feelings different to how we might understand these feelings. When he describes Curley’s wife as ‘Purty’ we get the sense that he considers her on her looks alone.

The vernacular language again shows that he is childlike, and makes him sound real. In society, from where the book was published up till now, the elderly are no longer useful because they aren’t as able. The shooting of Candy’s dog symbolises that there is not need for the elderly to live, representing that Lennie is the dog, because he is not as mentally able as the other men on the ranch.

Candy mirrors George- he has to suffer and has lost his partner, just like Candy lost his dog that kept Candy company, but no longer can, linking back to the idea of everyone always ending up lonely. The contrast between the first chapter and the last also shows his death because the same scene goes from the peaceful field to the violent death of the water snake at the beginning of the novella.

Section 2:

Throughout Of Mice and Men, we feel that a lot of the characters feel real to us. This is because of the vernacular Steinbeck uses. Curley’s wife seems to be a hard character, but might not be as strong as she would like to appear. She strives to make an impression in front of all the men, because she is the only woman on the ranch, one could interpret this like she knows that the men might be attracted to her and thinks she has an advantage.

‘She was heavily made up’ describes that she wears a lot of makeup; this makes the reader get a sense of ill feeling towards her, although whilst also feeling sensitivity for her because this could illustrate that she wears so much makeup to hide herself, and uses it as a mask. Also, she could be so made up because she still wants to imagine herself as an actress; all the stars where makeup and look magnificent. When Curley’s wife first speaks, her voice is described with having ‘a nasal, brittle quality’.

The word ‘nasal’ suggests a high, whiney voice, which does not match her powerful facade and links to previous suggestions of being fake and disguising her real persona with her appearance. The fact that she feels unable to show her true self for fear of being hurt, creates sympathy in the reader. After the gossip we hear about Curley’s wife, we finally meet her. Her physical appearance of ‘full, rouged lips and wide-spaced eyes, heavily made- up’, as well as ‘fingernail painted red’ and elaborate hair, further build on our preconceptions of her.

Red, the colour of her attire and the style of her hair and makeup suggest some sexuality. Additionally, she use suggestive and provocative body language, ‘she put her hands behind her back and leaned against the door frame so that her body was thrown forward’, and her flimsy excuse to be with the men in their quarters contribute to the rancher’s view of her as a ’tramp’. She both talks and acts playfully and flirtatiously in front of the other ranch workers. She could behave in this manner because her sexuality is her only weapon to gain attention, thus Candy’s description of her seems accurate after her first appearance in the novel.

Through her physical appearance and her own actions, Candy’s description of Curley’s Wife seems accurate after her first appearance in the novel. On the other hand, Curley’s Wife’s appearance could be seen as naivety and simply youthful desire to be found attractive. Red is a primary colour therefore children are attracted to it, it is a colour children want to wear because it is bright and has an element of happiness in it. Therefore Curley’s Wife wearing the colour red may symbolise a child’s attraction to bright colours portraying her as youthful or girly.

Curley’s wife is such a complex character, and we see this in the letter Steinbeck wrote to Miss Luce describing her. Steinbeck heard that Miss Luce was struggling to play the role of Curley’s wife in 1938, in the letter he included her as ‘knowing utterly nothing about sex’ and Curley’s wife is an innocent woman under all the defenses she has built up against all the comments directed to her.

s of being fake and disguising her real persona with her appearance. The fact that she feels unable to show her true self for fear of being hurt, creates sympathy in the reader. After the gossip we hear about Curley’s wife, we finally meet her. Her physical appearance of ‘full, rouged lips and wide-spaced eyes, heavily made- up’, as well as ‘fingernail painted red’ and elaborate hair, further build on our preconceptions of her.

Red, the colour of her attire and the style of her hair and makeup suggest some sexuality. Additionally, she use suggestive and provocative body language, ‘she put her hands behind her back and leaned against the door frame so that her body was thrown forward’, and her flimsy excuse to be with the men in their quarters contribute to the rancher’s view of her as a ’tramp’. She both talks and acts playfully and flirtatiously in front of the other ranch workers.

She could behave in this manner because her sexuality is her only weapon to gain attention, thus Candy’s description of her seems accurate after her first appearance in the novel. Through her physical appearance and her own actions, Candy’s description of Curley’s Wife seems accurate after her first appearance in the novel.

On the other hand, Curley’s Wife’s appearance could be seen as naivety and simply youthful desire to be found attractive. Red is a primary colour therefore children are attracted to it, it is a colour children want to wear because it is bright and has an element of happiness in it. Therefore Curley’s Wife wearing the colour red may symbolise a child’s attraction to bright colours portraying her as youthful or girly.

Curley’s wife is such a complex character, and we see this in the letter Steinbeck wrote to Miss Luce describing her. Steinbeck heard that Miss Luce was struggling to play the role of Curley’s wife in 1938, in the letter he included her as ‘knowing utterly nothing about sex’ and Curley’s wife is an innocent woman under all the defenses she has built up against all the comments directed to her.

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  • Date: 13 May 2016

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