In "Of Mice and Men" is Curley's Wife a Hero or a Villain?

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English: GCSE Controlled Assessment – Of Mice and Men

Heroes and Villains: Explore the ways Sympathy and/or Dislike of a character is created in Of Mice and Men.

Even before plunging into profound depths of Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men, it is unequivocal that the novel is a microcosm of American life in the 1930s. As a result of the Great Depression, the setting is replete with hardships and suffering which immensely mould the reader’s ambivalent feelings towards the most dominant female character in this novella: Curley’s Wife. Steinbeck’s depiction of this flirtacious but “lonely” temptress has the reader leaping from heartbreaking sympathy to nurturing an intense abhorrence for Curley’s Wife.

From the onset of her introduction, Curley’s Wife is immediatley condemned to the reader’s aversion because the author depicts her character as a threat to not just George and Lennie, but their aspirations to “live off the fatta the land”. The author intends to establish Curley’s Wife by portraying her as an ominous threat from the very beginning; as “the rectangle of sunshine was cut off” by her mere first appearance. Steinbeck’s particular use of the word “sunshine” correlates symbolically to hope which is derived from the main theme in this novel – the American Dream, or rather a paradise that has resulted in false hope flourishing in their hearts. This is in correlation to the “sunshine” which is evidently referring to George and Lennie’s vision of owning a farm. Furthermore, the fact that she is “cutting off” this dream, indicates that she possesses the power of a threat and hence, an obstacle in our protagonists’ paths. Curley’s Wife’s power to tarnish their dreams stems from her femininity and this is Steinbeck’s strong reflection of the sexist mind frame that dominated the American society in the 1930s. Ironically, she appears abruptly after George and Lennie conclude their pacts instructing Lennie to hide in the case of “any trouble” – this subtly foreshadows the event of Curley’s Wife’s death and consequently aggravates the reader’s attitude towards this seemingly disastrous character.

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        In addition to her already dismal first impression, the significance of her threat is further stressed by Steinbeck’s clever use of colour imagery. She makes her entrance with “full, rouged lips”, “red mules on the insteps of which were little books of red ostrich feathers” and her “fingernails” were the colour red too. Our initial perception of Curley’s Wife as being promiscuous can be attributed to the “heavily made up” state that implies she invests much effort into her appearance as a result of craving attention – therefore, indicating the first tangible sign of her loneliness. The frequent “red” colour ...

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