A popular character to be asked about is Curley’s Wife. The nameless wife of the son of the boss, she portrays most of the themes of the novel. Curley’s Wife suffers from loveliness, tension and other important themes. It is important to know how to answer a question of CW, as she is probable to appear in either the character or theme question.
To make it clear to yourself, take time to follow the exercise below. It will allow you to lay out your ideas in a structured way and allow for easier revision later in the year.
Curley’s wife appears three times in the novel. Briefly describe what takes place on each occasion. On which occasion does she reveal most about herself, and what is it?
- At the bunkhouse
- Appears in doorway (looking for Curley)
- adopts provocative pose
- George is cold to her, Lennie admires her
- leaves quickly when Slim mentions Curley
- Crooks room
- interrupts Crooks, Candy and Lennie in their dream
- again looking for Curley
- reveals her unhappiness, grows angry and insulting
- plays up to Lennie
- threatens Crooks, may accuse him
- leaves when other men return
- approaches Lennie
- reveals her loneliness
- encourages him to pat her hair
- Lennie panics and kills her
- Last time reveals most
- in fact, each time she reveals more
- to Lennie, she confesses her loneliness
- her dreams of being in pictures
- how she came to marry Curley
- her true feelings for Curley
Does Steinbeck Want The Reader To Feel Sympathy or Contempt For Curley’s Wife?
Read through Chapter 4 of the novel from the bottom of Page 109 to the bottom of page 114.
Create a two columned table.
In the left hand column identify the traits of her character that are likely to provoke contempt and in the right column explain the evidence which revealed this aspect of her character. Use quotations!!
Does Steinbeck Condemn Or Condone Curley’s Wife?
To answer this question correctly in the exam you must discuss at which point in the story you think Steinbeck is asking us to judge Curley’s wife as being a ‘bad ‘ person, or whether you think that at the end he is trying to make us feel some sympathy for her.
Remember that writers put characters across to us through describing:
- what they look like – physical appearance
- what they say – dialogue with others
- what they do – their actions
- what other characters say about them
If we look through the men’s eyes we see that they view her as just a ‘tart’ and are wary of her. The physical description Steinbeck uses reinforces this idea – heavily made up. And her actions are also provocative (leaning against the doorway. We also see she is cruel in what she says to Crooks.
However, there are occasions when we see a better side of Curley’s wife. We see her loneliness; she is kind to Lennie; she has a dream that she is not likely to achieve, like the other men on the ranch, and finally, Steinbeck’s description of her dead body seems designed to make us see her as a victim of life.
You answer should show that you have thought about the question and have set out a line of argument, showing both sides (condemn or condone) but finally reaching your own personal conclusion.