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

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Introduction

HOW DOES STEINBECK EXPLORE DIFFERENT ATTITUDES TOWARDS WOMEN IN ?OF MICE AND MEN?? In this essay I will be writing about the attitudes towards women in ?Of Mice and Men? which was written in 1936 by John Steinbeck. Steinbeck uses the portrayal of Curley?s wife, who is the main female character in the novel to show how women were treated in 1930s America. He also mentions Curley?s wife?s mother, Aunt Clara, Susy and the prostitutes in the cathouse to show how women were treated. In America in the 1930s, there was mass unemployment following the Wall Street Crash in 1929. Life for ranch workers wasn?t good at all - the living conditions were very poor and companionships were rare as the workers had to move frequently to different ranches to find work. Many farmers moved to California, thinking life was much better and that there many opportunities there. Everyone dreamed of a better life - this was known as the American Dream. In the novel, the women are socially inferior to the men and men just see them as possessions or objects. Curley?s wife is nameless which suggests that she is insignificant and unimportant, and that she is not treated like the men on the ranch who all have names. The importance of her character is crucial for the story?s development. Maybe her name isn?t needed and she is just a key plot device? ...read more.

Middle

a tart?. This is a very harsh label and it is used before the reader can even judge the character, so the reader automatically has a negative, unsympathetic view of Curley?s wife straight away. However, the ellipsis shows hesitation or even that Candy doesn?t usually use such a harsh word or maybe because he starts to think whether she deserves such a harsh label. It is clear that men think women are only there to fulfil their sexual desires and therefore, they think prostitution is totally acceptable. ?You ought ta come in town with us guys tomorra night?. They treat most women with no respect and just use them for sex. However, they treat Susy (the brothel owner) with lots of respect and the men speak about her in a positive way. ?We do in old Susy?s place. Hell of a nice place?. This is because she knows what the men want and she says ?my girls is clean?. On the contrary, the other brothel owner, Clara, is not treated with the same respect as Susy is and the men make degrading remarks about her house and complain about the entertainment there. ?Clara gets three bucks a crack and thirty-five cents a shot, and she don?t crack no jokes?. The men don?t respect Clara because she doesn?t fulfil the men?s needs and she is too expensive. ...read more.

Conclusion

In the film which was directed by Gary Sinise in 1992, the director gives Curley?s wife a larger role than Steinbeck does so that the audience has more sympathy for her than they might have in the novel. Also, in the film, when she is dead, she is still referred to as Curley?s wife and still has no name - there is no sympathy received. Also, in the film, Curley?s wife comes across as very flirty - there is heavy eye contact between her and the men she talks to, she lifts up her dress and thrusts her chest out. This allows the audience to not sympathise with her. Also, the fact the all the men eat together, go to the cathouse together, work together and play cards together shows that it is definitely a man?s world and there is no place for women on the ranch. In one scene, it shows the men working and lifting really heavy bags which is certainly not a woman?s job! In conclusion, I think that Steinbeck explores a wide range of attitudes towards women. He uses Curley?s wife as a plot device to show how women were degraded and isolated at the time of the novel and he uses Susy and Aunt Clara to show that there are some nice women, even though women were mainly portrayed very negatively throughout the book. ...read more.

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