Characterization of Curley's Wife from John Steinbeck's "Of Mice and Men"

Essay by sarahthatisallHigh School, 10th gradeA+, February 2003

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Characterization: Curley's Wife in Of Mice And Men

With colorful statements like "She had full, 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 dress and red mules, on the insteps of which were little bouquets of red ostrich feathers" (John Steinbeck, 31), Curley's wife is one of the more vividly portrayed characters in Of Mice and Men. Although Steinbeck leaves almost nothing to the imagination about this woman, he chooses to consistently refer to her as 'Curley's Wife' rather than giving her a name or a nickname like he has done with most of the other characters. Through indirect and direct characterization the reader discovers that this woman was not simply a ticket to trouble like the workers on her father-in-law's ranch believed, but a girl stuck in a life where she didn't belong.

Curley's wife, who was incredibly lonely, was always 'heavily made up' even when she lived on the ranch where George and Lennie worked. Although generally she was thought of as a floozy, her talk with Lennie revealed that she was used to the high life. When her parents forbade her to go into the acting business, as she so wished, she married Curley, the first man who offered her something other than stardom, in order to get away from her overbearing family (Steinbeck, 88). Although because of this decision she was forced to spend her life on a ranch full of underclass workers, she still liked to make herself up to constantly remind herself that she had had the potential to be something better. To her, dressing up and flaunting her stuff was a symbol of status, something to set her apart from the rest...