CHARACTER COLLAGE CREATION
I chose to create a character collage of Curley's Wife.
Curley's wife is one of the loneliest, most misunderstood characters in Steinbeck's novel, of mice and men,
She dreams of becoming a Hollywood movie star after moving to Salinas as a kid.
The reader doesn't know much about her background, but it seems like she had a rough childhood. In chpt. 5, she refers to the woman who was raising her as her "ol' lady" who stole her mail.
"Coulda been in the movies, an' had [...] all them nice clothes like they wear. An' I coulda sat in them big hotels, an' had pitchers took of me" (Steinbeck 89).
She ends up marrying Curley right after meeting him at the Riverside Dance Palace, the same night she meets a Hollywood actor who tells her she's "a natural" (Steinbeck 88). She likely marries Curley to escape the clutches of her "ol' lady", and doesn't take time to get to know him. She feels trapped because Curley expects her to stay in the ranch house by herself all the time without talking to anyone else, and he's not much of a conversationalist.
"Sure I gotta husban'. You all seen him. Swell guy, ain't he? Spends all his time sayin' what he's gonna do to guys he don't like, and he don't like nobody. Think I'm gonna stay in that two-by-four house and listen how Curley's gonna lead with his left twict, and then bring in the ol' right cross" (Steinbeck 78)?
Curley's wife is miserable living under these conditions, but no one seems to pity her because she's young, pretty, and flirtatious. The ranch men are wary of Curley, known for his boxing skills in the ring. His father is their boss, so they view Curley's wife as nothing but trouble. When warning Lennie to stay away from her, George says, "I never seen no piece of jail bait worse than her" (Steinbeck 32).
As a reader, do you pity Curley's wife?
"Seems like they ain't none of them cares how I gotta live. I tell you I ain't used to livin' like this. I coulda made somethin' of myself. Maybe I will yet" (Steinbeck 88).
Curley's wife lives with her own version of the unattainable "American Dream".
In chpt. 2, while showing George and Lennie the ropes, Candy tells them that Curley got married a couple of weeks earlier, and refers to his new wife as a "tart". He also says that the glove Curley wears on his left hand is full of Vaseline to keep it soft for his wife. When she appears in the bunkhouse, Curley's wife is wearing heavy make-up, red-painted nails, red heels with ostrich feathers, her hair hangs in curls and she speaks in a nasal tone.
"Know what I think? Well, I think Curley's married... a tart" (Steinbeck 28).
George rebukes Lennie for even looking at Curley's wife, let alone talking to her.
"... when she was standin' in the doorway showin' her legs, you wasn't lookin' the other ways..." (Steinbeck 32).
The reader knows that Lennie likes to pet soft, pretty things, but doesn't know his own strength. In chpt. 2 when Lennie tells George he thinks Curley's wife is "purty" (Steinbeck 32), the reader suspects trouble.
Can anyone really blame Curley's wife for wanting to talk to anyone other than her bully of a husband?
"I get lonely. You can talk to people, but I can't talk to nobody but Curley. Else he gets mad. How'd you like not to talk to anybody" (Steinbeck 87)?
Curley's wife's ultimate fate is tragic but predictable. She is a lonely, alienated misfit, just like Lennie, but unaware of his past, she doesn't view him as a threat. However, the reader is aware of the danger she faces when she chooses to interact with Lennie alone in the barn, foreshadowed as early as the first chapter.
"Jus' wanted to feel that girl's dress - jus' wanted to pet it like it was a mouse - Well, how the hell did she know you jus' wanted to feel her dress? She jerks back and you hold on like it was a mouse" (Steinbeck 11).