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How does Steinbeck present Curley’s Wife?

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The book was written in the 1900’s which was an area where women and black people were marginalized by society due to their sex or skin colour. In the book, the first time we are introduced to Curley’s Wife is through another character: Candy. This suggests that she must be quite an important character as she is being rumoured about. He says “Wait’ll you see Curley’s Wife”, this quotation intrigues the reader and makes them wonder about Curley’s Wife. Then Candy goes on to say “she’s got the eye” which subtly suggests to the reader that even though she has just been married she is not happy with her relationship and doesn’t really like Curley otherwise she wouldn’t be giving anybody “the eye”. Also, Steinbeck’s use of ellipsis “yeah,purty…but” and “Well,I think Curley’s married a…tart” shows that Candy is quite reluctant to talk to George about Curley and his wife as they both have a lot of authority because they both like in the boss’ house. Candy waited for George to say something negative abot them before he properly started talking about them:”that’s a dirty thing to tell around”. Candy had to be reassured that George was on his side.

In Curley’s Wife’s first appearance in the book, Steinbeck portrays her negatively on many occasions. Firstly, in the quote “for the rectangle of sunshine was cut off” Steinbeck uses a foreshadowing technique to hint at the reader that there is something dangerous about this character. Curley’s Wife stands in fromt of the door which is the only way in and out of the room, which suggests that she is like an obstacle in George and Lennie’s way. Also, Steinbeck uses the word “cut” which is a violent verb and is associated with things like death and danger. The verb could have easily been replaced by a verb like blocked. Secondly, Steinbeck also repeats the colour red in her clothing: “rouge lips, red mules” and the colour is usually associated with positive things like love however it could also be associated with negative things like danger and prostitution. The way she has been described previously makes the reader automatically think of the negative.

In addition to that, Curley’s Wife is also wearing inappropriate clothing for a ranch. “She wore a cotton house dress and red mules, on the insteps of which were little bouquets of red ostrich feathers.”She is wearing a “cotton house dress” which is not suitable clothing. She is working on a ranch yet she is wearing a house dress. I think this implies that she is willing to sacrifice her own comfort to attract the attention of the men. This links back to what Candy said about her being a “tart”. She doesn’t care if she isn’t comfortable in her clothing, she just wants to get a few looks from the men even though she has a husband. She is also wearing “red mules, on the insteps of which were little bouquets of red ostrich feathers”-first of all mules aren’t suitable footwear for a ranch. Again, this suggests that she is willing to sacrifice herself feeling comfortable for a few looks from the men.

Also, this book was written in the era of the Great Depression so exotic “ostrich feathers” on her mules must be quite expensive and rare yet she is wearing them around a ranch. Also, Steinbeck says she was “heavily made up” which implies that she is wearing a mask to hide something. This adds even more mystery to her character. However, it also suggests something about Curley’s character: he focuses more on looks rather than personality. As well as that, Steinbeck uses a simile to describe her hair:”her hair hung in clusters, like sausages”. This is an unusual simile which I think is another negative aspect of Curley’s Wife. I think it’s negative because sausages are really greasy which is the comparison to her hair, so Steinbeck is saying her hair is greasy. Furthermore, Steinbeck also describes her as a “girl” which i think suggests that maybe she isn’t mature or a lady yet even though she has been recently married and has a job. Also, Curley’s Wife “body was thrown forward” and this implies that she has the ache for attention and will do anything to get it.

Additionally, Curley’s Wife behaves in a very flirtatious manner towards the men and is quite friendly with them. This suggests that her relationship with Curley isn’t going too well as she has only been married a couple of weeks and seeks the attention of other men because Curley doesn’t spend enough time with her. Also, I think that the men on the ranch do not develop relationships or maintain conversation with her because first, they do not want to be accused of anything as they could get kicked out of the ranch immediately because Curley’s dad is the boss and second, they probably think that she isn’t trustworthy at all because she can’t even be loyal to her own husband. Just like in one of the scenes Slim and Curley’s Wife were in the barn together and Curley assumed they were up to no good so that proves he doesn’t trust her either.

Curley’s Wife starts telling the men about her dream of becoming an actress which the men think is bizarre and will never happen, likewise Curley’s Wife thinks that Candy and Lennie’s dream of owning their own land is completely nuts. Curley’s Wife is too naive to understand that her dream was never going to happen.

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