The Floozy Character of Curley's Wife in the Novel, Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck

Categories: Curleys Wife
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“If you knew her, if you could ever break down the thousand little defenses she has built up,–you would end up by loving her–She is a nice, kind girl, and not a floozy” Steinbeck breaks apart our initial perception of Curley’s wife as “floozy” to reveals her as a victim in the face of an unforgiving world. He introduces the cruelty of the Great Depression through the hardships characters, including Curley’s wife, experience during the time period.

Of Mice and Men, by John Steinbeck mainly depicts the hardships two workers, George and Lennie. They encounter Curley’s wife at the beginning of the novel and develop their own impression of her.

Reflective of the historical realities, Steinbeck is forced to offer a limited description of women. The only female profession mentioned is prostitution; women either worked in “whore houses” or were married to men with jobs. During time period, society generally held a firm belief that women were inferior to men.

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The constant suppression and prejudice Curley’s wife encounters forces her to mask her weaknesses by assuming a fierce and powerful identity. Steinbeck contrasts the promiscuous mannerism of Curley’s wife with her victimized nature to argue that people must be conscious of the judgments they make, because judgments inhibit a person’s ability to understand the true nature of others.

Steinbeck initially portrays Curley’s wife as a troublemaker who appears both flirtatious and cruel. He develops a crucial first impression of her; emphasizing her provocative appearance as she enters the bunkhouse.

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“She had full, roughed lips and wide-spaced eyes, heavily made up. Her finger-nails were red. Her hair hung in little clusters, like sausages. She wore a cotton house dress and red mules, on the insteps of which were little bouquets of red ostrich feathers ” (Steinbeck 31). Steinbeck addresses the perspective of other characters in the room by focusing on her outward appearance. Introducing her through physical description, he highlights the fact that characters in the room form judgements about Curley’s wife based solely on physical

attributes. This first impression impacts the reader’s perception of Curley’s wife throughout the novel, and she is judged before her circumstances are understood. Her background and upbringing have taught her that showing fear and weakness will bring upon persecution. In order to appear strong and confident she wears “heavy makeup” and “red mules,” however this is misinterpreted as a ploy to be more sexually desirable.

The heavy makeup she wears also suggests that she is insecure about herself, striving to earn acknowledgement through her beauty. Furthermore, the color red incorporated in the outfit bestows a passionate and dangerous persona upon Curley’s wife by connecting her to the manipulative girl in Weed. Red symbolizes danger or threat but it is also a means to gain attention. Because of the association ranchers have, they automatically label her as jailbait, failing to see beyond her mannerisms. The ranch hands assume women who appear promiscuous and flirtatious have loose morals, and avoid her before they understand her true nature.

The imagery of her tightly curled hair “like sausages” represents the complex personality “wound up” inside of her. A personality characters around her fail to recognize. Her outward cruelty builds up walls that serve to protect her weakness. Curley’s wife appears hostile and rude and as she insults the powerless: “Standin’ here talkin’ to a bunch of bindle stiffs a nigger an’ a dum-dum and a lousy ol’ sheep-an’ likin’ it because they ain’t nobody else” (78). Shrouded in her own insecurities she unconsciously tries to magnify herself by targeting people who are weaker than herself.

To compensate for her own vulnerability she flaunts whatever power she does possess, accentuating other’s weaknesses to make herself appear stronger. Her manipulative ways actually present her craving for attention and drive the reader to be more sympathetic, attributing her as a victim rather than a villain. Steinbeck utilizes colloquial dialogue to recreate the time period and reflect the lack of education and opportunity Curley’s wife had. Repressed by a male-centered society, she adopts a hostile tone, knowing that cruelty will attract attention. She is simply desperate for people to see her as a person, someone who can be loved. Though she appears malicious, underneath her seductive beauty is a nice, honest person.

As the novel progresses, Steinbeck changes the readers perspective on Curley’s wife as she is presented as a victim. She confides in Lennie saying: “I tell you I ain’t used to livin’ like this. I coulda made somethin’ of myself.’ She said darkly, ‘Maybe I will yet.’ Her words tumbled out in a passion of communication, as though she hurried before her listener could be taken away” (88).

The word “tumbled” emphasizes her pent up isolation and frustration at not being able to speak to “nobody but Curley” and “passion” illustrates her desperation for communication. Her excitement and enthusiasm about simply being able to express herself creates sympathy as the audience realizes that she is accustomed to people leaving when she speaks. The fact that she has a dreams humanizes her and connects her to the other men on the ranch. Character who surround her have never attempted to acquaint themselves yet they have the effrontery to judge her. The reader’s perception of Curley’s wife continues to grow softer as Steinbeck contrasts her first entrance with her final description.

“Curley’s wife lay with a half- covering of yellow hay. And the meanness and the plannings and the discontent and the ache for attention were all gone from her face. She was very pretty and simple, and her face was sweet and young. Now her rouged cheeks and her reddened lips made her seem alive and sleeping very lightly. The curls, tiny little sausages, were spread on the hay behind her head, and her lips were parted”.

Again Steinbeck uses imagery to paint a more developed picture of her when she lays dead, revealing Curley’s wife in a completely different light. This description of her is discrepant to her malicious and threatening persona. Death has cast away all the hurt and pain and revealed her purity. Steinbeck unravel all the readers misconceptions and illustrates her untouched by her harsh environment. Most of all, the audience realizes their mistake in judging Curley’s wife before understanding her.

Oftentime people are unfairly judged for their appearance Curley’s wife is judged by her seductive mannerism, but she it is revealed that she is simply a victim of circumstance. Toward the end, our judgement changes and we begin to recognize her loneliness. Her environment encourage an instinct to survive and protects herself, teaching her that fears and weakness cannot be tolerated in the harsh reality of the Great Depression. Curley’s wife knows that beauty is her only power so she acts flirtatiously out of desperation and to defend herself. Underneath the deceit is a genuinely “nice, kind girl” not a floozy but a victim who longs to be loved. She too, is only human.

I mean we should not judge people before we understand their circumstances because often time we realize that they are actually very nice people. This is exemplified in the fact that I misjudged ms christopher because of things other people told me, but eventually discovered that underneath all that Character’s judge her before understanding who is truly is she, but who is “appears” to be.

Oftentimes people unfairly judged because of preconceived ideas a students may have developed from something they heard Steinbeck, John. Steinbeck: A Life in Letters. New York: Viking, 1975. “Poison.” Merriam-Webster. Merriam-Webster, n.d. Web. 01 Nov. 2013. Steinbeck, John. Of Mice and Men. New York: Penguin, 1993. 31-93. Print After seeing Lennie’s interest in Curley’s wife George warns him to stay away from her“ Don’t you take a look at that Bitch. I don’t care what she does. I seen’ em poison before, but I never seen no piece of jailbait worse than that.” (32) George uses adjective “Poison” to classify Curley’s wife.

The word “poison” connotates that she is harmful and unpleasant, and the word “bitch” is a clear insult to her. George’s suggests that he has a pre-established view on women that affects his characterization of Curley’s wife. He develops his opinion on the type of person immediately Curley’s wife invokes a revulsion in George, affecting his word choice, “I seen’ em” suggest that his judgements stem from past experiences. Furthermore, we can infer than he has drawn conclusion from what he has heard from Candy that “she got the eye” (28), Candy’s view serves to change the way George and he can no longer views her in a biased manner. Most importantly we recognize that George has formed opinions and judged Curley’s wife immediately, first impression are difficult to change and we reconignize that Ge This is completely unfair to Curley’s wife is a victim of her past experiences, background and opportunity, her lack of education pushing her in a harsh cruel world.

The personalities and experiences she had Victim bully other victim. We cannot characterize her as evil before we understand these factors that have shaped her to be. Her environment (Great depression) has given her the instinct to to survive and defend herself and the only way things she was to sell is her sexual desirability to sell, and she knows it. A personality is not formed a single decision and cannot mold a person, but her personality is an accumulation of the past and often times they are forced by their surrounding to become that cruel and harsh. In order to hide her insecuries she However underneath all that scheming deceit is a kind, honest, nice girl. We may all seem evil at one time or anther in our life and look bad but it is about persepective, the author protray the evil aspect of her personality but slowly uncovers a victim. Realization, her flirtatious mannerism were done out of desperation, our view changed when we began to understand her loneliness. Eventually we discover that she too, is only human.

He present her manipulative and a bully to show that she is victim. People who have been hurt themselves have a greater chance of hurting others. Create sympathy She feels as if she will never be good enough, she is struggling inside, she knows that Curley’s has gone to awhore house and that he is choose other woman over his own wife.

This is degrading ot her demonstrates that after hearing George’s opinions on Curley’s wife, Lennie find himself agreeing with George even though in his innocence he has no idea what is going on. When Curley’s wife asks Lennie why he can’t talk to her, he cannot think of any reason other than the fact that “George says” However we later find that Steinbeck presents the character of Curley’s Wife as manipulative, however his true purpose for doing this is to create sympathy for Curley’s Wife and women in the 1930s.

The fact that Curley’s wife has to be manipulative to get attention shows her starved for does not kill any sympathy that the reader could have for her but drives it so that the reader is more sympathetic. I also feel that Steinbeck uses Curley’s wife as a reflection on men in the 1930s as they are manipulative yet despise Curley’s wife because she is manipulative; they do not realise that it is them that made her so in the first place. I feel that ‘Of Mice and Men’ is a perfect representation of the treatment of human beings in the 1920s. she wantes to be recognized for her talents and her humanity

Maybe that why in stories the villian is always abstract, we never seen into their true personality, we do not take the care to delve into ttheir background. I belive that no one is born with of mean nature but that the cruel world shapes them to be. Could it be that if we broke down the thousands of little defense they’ve built up that we would find a nice person, an honest person, and that we would end up loving them? But such a things can never happen.

“I get lonely,” she said. “You can talk to people, but I can’t talk to nobody but Curley. Else he gets mad. How’d you like not to talk to anybody?”

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The Floozy Character of Curley's Wife in the Novel, Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck. (2023, May 14). Retrieved from

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