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Please discuss how Curley's wife is presented in Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men. |

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In John Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men, Curley's wife is a static or flat character: she does not change throughout the story. She drives the plot forward, but is not well-developed in this story of two drifters who dream of making enough money during the Great Depression to buy their own home.

Curley and his wife are newly married. Curley has brought his bride to his new home, situated on his father's ranch. He is very jealous and insists that his wife stay away from the men—and that the men stay away from her.

Curley's wife's character is not deeply developed: she is not even given a first name name. And she is not an example of someone disenfranchised by the devastated economy in the 1930s in the U.S. She has nice clothes and enough to eat. Her only problem is that she is bored. In her loneliness, she ultimately ends up talking with the ranch-hands.

George has been very clear that Lennie needs to stay away from Curley's wife because they have already had some problems with Lennie and girls. Lennie doesn't mean any harm, but he is mentally challenged and is sometimes too rough. They find themselves on the ranch after running away from the town of Weed because Lennie frightened a young girl trying to feel the soft fabric of her dress.

Curley's wife is described as having a "roving eye," meaning that she checks out the men, perhaps flirts:

"Purty?" [George] asked casually?

"Yeah. Purty...but—" George studied his cards. "But what?"

"Well—she got the eye."

"Yeah? Married two weeks and got the eye? Maybe that's why Curley's pants is full of ants."

The swamper goes on to tell George that she's a "tart." (This may mean she is a prostitute or promiscuous woman.) Later, Curley's wife comes "looking for her husband" in the bunk house and Lennie is enthralled by her.

"Gosh, she was purty." He smiled admiringly. George looked quickly down at him and then he took him by an ear and shook him.

"Listen to me, you crazy bastard," he said fiercely. "Don't you even take a look at that bitch. I don't care what she says and what she does. I seen 'em poison before, but I never see no piece of jail bait worse than her. You leave her be."

Towards the end of the story, Curley's wife's fate is sealed when she comes to the barn and sits down to talk with Lennie. Lennie tries to avoid speaking with the woman, but she will not leave him alone.

"No sir. I ain't gonna talk to you or nothing."

..."Why can't I talk to you? I never get to talk to nobody. I get awful lonely...I get lonely," [Curley's wife] said. "You can talk to people, but I can't talk to nobody by Curley. Else he gets mad. How'd you like not to talk to anybody?"

Lennie, again, is impulsive and too strong. She lets him stroke her hair, but when he won't let go, she is frightened of Lennie; he becomes afraid that she will get him in trouble with George. In an effort to quiet her, he kills her by mistake.

Curley's wife's presence in the story is not meaningful to the way the ranch works, but it does become a decisive element in costing Lennie his life, and George a place to settle for a while. The final tragedy that befalls the men comes because Curley's wife won't stay away from the men.

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