Who is Curley in Of Mice and Men? - Description & Quotes

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  • 0:02 Curley the Antagonist
  • 0:33 Curley and His Wife
  • 1:22 Curley the Fighter
  • 3:08 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Tommi Waters

TK Waters has a bachelor's degree in literature and religious studies and a master's degree in religious studies and teaches Hebrew Bible at Western Kentucky University.

In this lesson, we will examine the antagonistic character, Curley, from Of Mice and Men, who is the mean, cruel, and menacing son of the boss. Throughout the novel, Curley picks fights with the rest of the men and objectifies and controls his wife.

Curley the Antagonist

Curley is the antagonist, or the character who stands in opposition to the protagonist (usually the main character), in Of Mice and Men. He is the son of the boss of the ranch and is always stirring up trouble for everyone, particularly the main characters, George and Lennie. John Steinbeck portrays Curley devoid of any good qualities, and does not develop Curley's character throughout the novel. Because Curley's character is rather static, the novel concludes with the reader disliking him as much as at the beginning.

Curley and His Wife

When we first hear of and meet Curley, he has been married for just two weeks to his wife. Curley's wife is young, beautiful, and promiscuous - possibly the reasons why he married her. Curley is insecure about his masculinity, or sense of maleness, possibly because of his small stature, so he tries to prove it by marrying his wife, keeping her from talking to anyone else, and picking fights with other men. He frequently brags about his wife, and Candy mentions that Curley keeps Vaseline in one of his gloves and that ''Curley says he's keepin' that hand soft for his wife.'' Although Curley wants to keep his wife happy, he never spends time with her and treats her like a possession, evidenced by her only being called ''Curley's wife'' throughout the novel. He tries to keep her from spending time with anyone else on the ranch.

Curley the Fighter

Curley is a boxer, which leads him to try to pick fights with the other men, especially large men, to prove his worth and masculinity. Curley is always looking to upset someone, so they will fight with him, and he decides to pick on Lennie since Lennie is bigger and stronger but also kinder and less intelligent. When Curley first meets George and Lennie, the reader senses the ominous nature of this man, as does Lennie. '' 'I don't want no trouble,' Lennie mourned. 'I never done nothing to him.' '' George says he does not like men like Curley, and worries not just for Lennie getting pulled into a fight, but himself as well.

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