Of Mice and Men: The Development of Curley's Wife

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Steinbeck depicts Curley's wife not as a villain, but rather as a victim. Like the ranch-hands, she is desperately lonely and has broken dreams of a better life.
In the 1930's when this novella is set, American domestic life was still revolved around the servitude of the housewife. Women were there to be enjoyed by men, to keep the house clean, to feed their families and to look after the children. It was very rare to see a woman get a'real' job – and if they did, it was liable that the pay would be less than is a man was doing the task because women were seen to be less efficient.
Curley’s Wife, in John Steinbeck’s novel Of Mice and Men, is an example of how the reader’s perception of a character can change without the character actually changing. She could be symbolic of women everywhere who are repressed by male-centered societies.
Wefirst hear about Curley’s Wife when Candy describes her to George. Candy uses expressions such as “she got the eye” and goes on to describe her as looking at other men before eventually calling her a “tart.” Through Candy’s words, we develop an initial perception of Curley’s Wife as flirtatious and promiscuous.
This perception is further emphasized by Curley’s Wife’sfirst appearance in the novel. Steinbeck uses light symbolically to show that she can be imposing when he writes, “The rectangle of sunshine in the doorway was cut off.” Her physical appearance of “full, rouged lips and wide-spaced eyes, heavily made- up”, as well as painted fingernails and elaborate hair, further build on our preconceptions. She both talks and acts playfully and flirtatiously in front of the other ranch workers. Through her physical appearance and her own actions, Candy’s description of Curley’s Wife seems accurate after herfirst appearance.
She is immediately isolated, partly by being the only female there and also by being the sort of woman who would not easily fit in on a…