In the classical book Of Mice and Men, John Steinbeck has brought chraracters and their lives to life in this little tale using nothing but modest words. While the most well known are the main characters of Lennie and George, other characters are not to be forgotten, like the trouble causing wife of Curley.
Curley's wife lives on the same ranch that Lennie and George are employed in. At first, she causes trouble and seems to enjoy it as well. But as the truth that has been hiding for many years surfaces, it appears that there is more to her than meets the eye.
But she'll definitely give you the eye. ;D
From the first moments that she is introduced in the story, there is an aura of unpleasantness surrounding Curley's wife. She is introduced alongside her hostile husband. Anyone related to such a heartless man couldn't possibly be brimming with morals and good-ness. Her relationship with her husband will prove a key thing later on.
Immediately after her relationship with Curley is established to the reader, the next bits of information given about her come from Candy, the swamper. He tells Lennie and George;
"Well-she got the eye ... I seen her give Slim the eye. An' I seen her give Carlson the eye ... Well, I think Curley's married a tart." (p.28)
(Giving somebody the eye means to act flirtatiously around them)
The things that are said about Curley's wife, from the mouths of other characters, never show her in a positive light. In fact, a great majority of what we learn about her is from the words of the people who interact (or avoid to interact) with her everyday. And the things said about her reveal that she is an overly passive provocative lady whom many of the men would be happier to be without. They do not enjoy Curley's wife's bold mysterious appearances.
After Lennie and George's first encounter with Curley's wife, George had developed an opinion about her as well:
"Well, you keep away from her, 'cause she's a rat-trap if I ever seen one." (p.33)
"I'm lookin' for Curley ..." (p.31)
Curley's wife approaches the men at the ranch under her pretext of looking for her husband, although it is apparent to our heroes that she just wants to talk and flirt with them. Whenever Curley's wife appears in any scene, the atmosphere quickly grows hostile because quite frankly, there isn't anybody who enjoys her company. Despite their vocal disapproval, she consistently creates situations that put the other characters in precarious situations because her husband is fiercely possessive.
There are two things that angers Curley the most; Men who are physically bigger than him and men who have any sort of relationship with his wife. But what can be done if it's the wife herself that is passive and begins the "hello, boys!"? Her appearances causes unwanted stress and turmoil to the other workers on the farm. They don't want to but have to deal with Curley and his ferocious attitude to anyone who so much as glances at his wife.
"Bye, boys!" (p.32)
An excellent job was done in describing Curley's wife and her personality.
The first step was to give the readers an image of the woman herself. On page 31, she is described as a woman with "full rouged, rouged lips and wide-spaced eyes, heavily made up. Her fingernails were red. Her hair hung in little rolled clusters, like sausages. She wore a cotton house dress and redmules, on the insteps of which were little bouquets of red ostrich feathers."
You can almost see the stereotypical trampy lady that embodies Curley's wife. In accordance to that, she is dressed much too made up for a simple lady living on a male dominated ranch in the 1930's. She also behaves in a way that is too enticing for the situation she is currently in.
In her encounters with George, her attempts to get George and the other men to respond and talk with her are apparent. However, she does so with flirtatious methods that Curley would not approve of.
Her body movements described in the book further develops her role as a tempting villain ...
"She put her hands behind her back and leaned against the door frame so that her body was thrown forward" and "She smiled archly and twisted her body." (p. 31)
The dialogue does the same job as well.
"If he ain't, I guess I better look some place else,' she said playfully."
Her attitude towards the weaker characters of Crooks, Lennie, and Candy in the barnyard scene also show her lack of compassion to other's feelings. Her words are cruel and she takes advantages of their weaknesses to better herself and her self esteem.
"An' what am I doin'? Standin' here talkin' to a bunch of bindle stiffs--a nigger an' a dum-dum and a lousy ol' sheep!" (p.78) Followed by more harsh words towards the black stable buck; "Well, you keep your place then, Nigger. I could get you strung up on a tree so easy it ain't even funny."
By this time in the book, Curley's wife seems to have her personality established as a trouble making selfish even cruel lady. However, she doesn't remain this same woman throughout the entire story. Like any good character, Curley's Wife begins the delicate process of transforming from the character that our minds are accustomed to, into something strikingly new.
Under the protective blanket of Lennie's mental state and his easygoing personality, she is willing to pour her heart and soul out to him for he won't understand a word. Curley's wife is at her very friendliest here as well; comforting him when he worried about the dead pup.
"Don't you worry none. He was jus' a mutt. You can get another one easy." (p.87)
Shortly, she reveals that she too has aspirations outside of the closed containments that she's living in. Vividly, Curley's wife describes her big city dreams of becoming an aspiring actress in Hollywood.
"Coulda been in the movies, an' had nice clothes ... An' I coulda sat in them big hotels, an' had pitchers took of me. When they had them previews I coulda went to them, an' spoke in the radio, an' it wouldn'ta cost me a cent because I was in the pitcher. ... Because this guys says I was a natural." (p.88)
However, she also tells him of how her dreams, that she badly wanted to be reality instead of just fantasy, were shattered and torn apart once she married Curley.
Unsurprisngly, she tells of how she "don't like Curley. He ain't a nice fella." (p.89) In the previous scene with her in the barnyard, she had also revealed that she did not enjoy the only company that Curley would give her. He would only talk about fighting and beating up other men.
She reveals her bitterness in her marriage and how hurt, lonely, and unhappy she consistently feels with the bad-tempered Curley as her only companion. In the book itself, she is only known as the wife of Curley. She's not given a name or identity besides that. However, if her life was going the way she had intended it, her name would be the talk of the country and everyone would want to take "pitchers" of her.
One of the major themes in this book is loneliness and isolation from other people and Curley's wife, although she seems like she's living in her own little bubble, is no exception. Can anyone blame her for the way she acts anymore?
It is a shame that the one moment that the readers can sympathize with Curley's wife is her very last moment ... on Earth.