How is Curley's Wife presented in 'Of Mice and Men'? Do you find her portrayal a sympathetic one?
In of mice and men, Curley’s Wife is presented in many various ways. At first impression, she comes across as the seductive, troublemaker the ranchers see her as. However, as the story progresses, we learn that this is only one of many sides to a very lonely woman. The readers sympathy for this character also changes throughout the novel, as her secrets are revealed and the real Curley's Wife is found.
Curley's Wife is a very complex character. The reader's first impression of her is created before she actually appears in the book. We find out what the workers think of Curley's Wife through Candy when George and Lennie first arrive at the ranch. Candy, who considers Curley's Wife to be the reason for everything wrong in the whole of Soledad, creates an image of Curley's Wife in the reader's mind as a flirtatious tramp who's "got the eye." Candy calls her a "tart" and warns George against her, causing George, Lennie and the reader to see Curley's wife through Candy's eyes on their first encounter.
This is a preview of the whole essay
When she finally appears for the first time, she certainly seems to live up to the image the reader expects from Candy's gossip. "She had full, rouged lips and wide spaced eyes, heavily made up. Her fingernails were red…. She wore a cotton house dress and red mules, on the insteps of which were little bouquets of ostrich feathers." Red is known to represent love, lust and danger. By her wearing red, the reader is given another warning of the trouble she could cause. Also, her 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 flimsy excuses to be with the men in their quarters contribute to the rancher's view of her as a "tramp." George quickly joins them in their hatred for her. He insults her, (" I bet she'd clear out for twenty bucks") and calls her several names including "jail bait," Rat trap" and a "bitch," which proves this is how she is first presented in the book.
In Curley's Wife's second appearance in Crooks' room, the reader discovers why Curley's Wife acts as such a temptress, and begins to feel sympathy for the character when it is discovered she is in fact extremely lonely. We learn that she uses flirting and seduction as a way of gaining attention and spending time with others. She uses the excuse of looking for Curley to find some company, but then slips up, admitting she knew where Curley had really went. She then begins to become more aggressive when they ask her to leave, saying "Think I don't like to talk to somebody ever' once in a while? Think I like to stick in that house alla time?" She also begins to snap back at the men and "flares up," throwing them insults, calling them "bindle stiffs" and confesses again to her loneliness by asking herself why she is even talking to them, "an' likin' it because they ain't nobody else." Her loneliness is the first way in which the reader begins to feel sympathy for her. Curley's wife is also the only woman on the ranch, which means she has no other women to talk to or be friends with and is therefore seen as a sex object by all the men who work there.
This chapter of the novel is also the first time Curley's Wife shows any regret of marrying Curley in the book. She sarcastically replies to Candy's comment that she already has a husband with " Sure I gotta husban'. You all seen him. Swell guy, ain't he?" and thanks Lennie for "busting him up a little bit," confessing she'd like to bust him herself sometimes. These comments prove that she is, in fact irritated by Curley and is the first signs of her acknowledgement she regrets her marriage to him. This is point where the readers sympathy for her may also increase again. Steinbeck never names Curley's Wife so she is defined by her relationship to Curley and not as an individual person with her own name. Her namelessness also reinforces how insignificant she is on the ranch and how little she is respected by the others.
In her aggressiveness and frustration, Curley's Wife lowers herself to blackmailing Crooks, ("You know what I can do to you if you open your trap?") showing that even though she is insignificant and disrespected, she still has power and control over them to get whatever she wants.
Her confrontation in Crooks' room is the first time Curley's Wife mentions her dream, which is revealed in more detail nearer her murder. She tells Lennie, Crooks and Candy "A guy tol' me he could put me in pitchers…"
Later in the novel, Curley's Wife appears again. This time, she is alone with Lennie in the stable. She is wearing her cotton dress with the red ostrich feather mules again, signifying what is to come. When he tells her he's not supposed to talk to her, she asks him "why can't I talk to you? I never get to talk to nobody. I get awfully lonely."
Here's what a teacher thought of this essay
This essay is developing very well but peters out here, quite incomplete, just before Curley's wife dies. Very little is said about what she means to Curley or his jealousy of her speaking to other men. There is little context given in the introduction, yet the social context of the novel, including attitudes to race and gender, is important in understanding how Curley's wife is presented. There is no attempt at a conclusion, where the main findings of the analysis could be summarised. Sentence and paragraph construction are mostly well managed and quotations are skilfully incorporated into the essay. In all, the essay represents some promising work but more needs to be done. 3 stars