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How does Steinbeck explore different attitudes to women in Of Mice and Men?

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How does Steinbeck explore different attitudes to women in ?Of Mice and Men? In this essay I will analyse how Steinbeck explores different attitudes to women in the novel ?Of Mice and Men?. I will start by looking at the historical and social context, then I will show how the writer presents women in his work, and finally, I will present and analyse the male characters who have a defined opinion about women and explore their attitude. ?Of Mice and Men? is set in the 1930s during the Great Depression, a period of economic recession that resulted in a huge separation between social classes. Because of mass unemployment, many workers had to become ranch hands moving from place to place in search for work. Steinbeck sets his novel on a ranch near Salinas, California. He was personally familiar with ranch life as he was born in the Salinas Valley and worked on a farm himself. It is possible that some characters within the novel to be inspired from his experience. Steinbeck has made the ranch a micro representation of the society of that time. This contains all the elements of the 1930s society: a male environment with a well established hierarchy on the farm, a single female character and a few other women about who we learned through the men. There were three stereotypes of women in the 1930s: the obedient wife and mother, the actress and the prostitute. The writer reveals all these stereotypes of women through his female characters in his novel. The 1930s? wife and mother stereotype is personified through four different characters: Curley?s wife - the promiscuous wife, George?s girl - the perfect wife, Aunt Clara - the good mother and Curley?s wife?s mother - the controlling mother. ...read more.


Steinbeck is an invisible author. He masterfully combines the narrative and dialogue styles to create detailed descriptions and characters through which he expresses his attitude to the 1930s society. Curley?s wife is introduced using a dialogue between George and Candy, but when she is seen for the first time by the men on the farm the writer uses a narrative description. We also understand the writer?s vision from the way in which the characters act and speak or from the way in which he uses symbolism and imagery to create scenes, for example, the imagery of sunlight and darkness. Generally, men tend to see women through the novel with contempt and fear considering them as dangerous sexual temptations. Women are often referred to as ?tarts?, a word with a very negative connotation that means ?tramp?. Curley?s wife is introduced by Candy as a ?tart? who ?got the eye? (page 31). Lennie and George have a childhood friend who is in prison ?on account of a tart? (page 63). Also their own troubles result from a tempting attitude of two women: the woman in Weed and Curley?s wife. Being called ?tart?, ?tramp? and ?jail bait? from the first time when they are seen or mentioned in the story, it is a sign of prejudice. Men judge them from the first sight without knowing them well. Men assume that Curley?s wife is a ?tramp?. ?Jesus, what a tramp? (page 35) says George when he sees her in the bunk house. In the contrary, Curley?s wife assumes that men are useless. ?I seen too many you guys.? (page 89) This reveals that men and women didn?t understand each other in that era. ...read more.


He represents the weakest men in the American society of 1930s. His attitude to women is completely different to others in the novel. He is afraid of everyone, men or women, just because he is black. Even though she is a woman, Curleys wife has more authority over Crooks.?Well, you keep your place then, Nigger. I could get you strung up on a tree so easy it ain?t even funny.?, she says in Crooks room in the barn. Lennie, Candy and Crooks represent three discriminated categories of people in the 1930s society. They don?t go to the whorehouse with the other men on Friday evenings. Because of their handicap, age or race they are considered at the bottom at the society even in their relationship with the women. Finally, Curley?s wife symbolizes the Eve ? the woman who brings sin and death to the world, as the Biblical story states. Steinbeck?s style is a combination of poetic and realistic. It is simple and forward with a few long sentences. His style uses detailed descriptions with smiles and imagery. For example, the smile ?little rolled clusters, like sausages? is used to describe Curley?s wife; the imagery of natural and artificial light, the sunshine and darkness are used to create scenes in the novel. The language is direct, colloquial, ungrammatical and contains slang words like ?jail bait? or ?rat-trap?. In conclusion, I think that Steinbeck explores a wide range of attitudes towards women in the novel Of Mice and Men. He uses his characters to show how the men were stereotyping the women and the women were stereotyping the men in the 1930s society and how each puts the others? dream down through his or her actions. The portrayal of women is unflattering. He uses Curley?s wife and the other women mentioned in the story to show how women are isolated and degraded in a male-centered society. ...read more.

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