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

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  • 0:01 Objectified Possession
  • 1:12 Temptress and Manipulator
  • 2:11 Innocent Dreamer
  • 3:09 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 look at the character of Curley's wife, from ''Of Mice and Men'', and how she is depicted as an Eve-like temptress and manipulator. We will see that it is only after death that her sweetness and innocence is revealed.

Objectified Possession

Curley's wife is never even given a name in Of Mice and Men. She is often portrayed as an antagonist, a character who stands in opposition to the main character, but her more human side emerges as the novel progresses. When Curley's wife is discussed by other characters in the novel, she is usually objectified, or regarded as an object, not a person. For example, when Candy describes her to George, he says, 'Well, you look her over, mister. You see if she ain't a tart.' The men in the story frequently talk about her as a 'tramp' and a 'whore.' She is discussed in terms of what she looks like, not her personality. She typically dresses in red, provocative clothing and accessories.

Curley's wife is essentially his possession. Whenever we encounter her in the first half of the novel, she is looking to Curley for companionship, or he is looking to her to try to keep track of his possession. Curley gets upset that she flirts with all the men and spends time in their bunkhouse. The men suggest that Curley keep up with her whereabouts better. Carlson says, 'Why'n't you tell her to stay the hell home where she belongs?' Even though her character develops, she is always constrained by being Curley's possession.

Temptress and Manipulator

Although Curley's wife is usually depicted as a possession, she is not a passive character. Rather, there are many parallels between her and Eve from the Genesis 'Garden of Eden' story. She is much like Eve, who is seen as having a lesser status, and even belonging to Adam. Eve is also depicted as a temptress in the Genesis story, and is blamed for her and Adam's expulsion from the paradise of Eden. Just as she tempts Adam to eat the fruit, Curley's wife tempts Lennie to touch her hair. Both women's actions lead the men to fall into temptation, resulting in dire consequences.

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