Analysis of Curley's Wife in of Mice and Men

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Words: 816 |

Pages: 2|

5 min read

Published: Jun 13, 2024

Words: 816|Pages: 2|5 min read

Published: Jun 13, 2024

John Steinbeck's novel, Of Mice and Men, explores the lives of migrant workers during the Great Depression. One of the most fascinating and controversial characters in the story is Curley's wife. Despite her limited appearances in the text, she leaves a lasting impression on the reader. This essay will analyze Curley's wife, examining her role, her loneliness, and the implications of her actions. Through an exploration of her character, it becomes clear that Curley's wife is more than just a "tart" or a "tramp," but rather a complex individual who is a victim of her circumstances.

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Curley's wife is introduced to the reader as a woman who is constantly seeking attention from the men on the ranch. She is married to Curley, the boss's son, who is possessive and jealous. Due to the lack of other women on the ranch, Curley's wife becomes the only female presence, leading the men to view her as a threat. This perception is reinforced by her appearance and behavior. Steinbeck describes her as having "full, rouged lips and wide-spaced eyes, heavily made up" (Steinbeck, 31). Her provocative attire and flirtatious nature further alienate her from the other characters, who believe that she is intentionally trying to disrupt their work and relationships.

However, it is important to note that Curley's wife is not solely to blame for the reactions she receives. The men on the ranch, including her own husband, objectify and dehumanize her. They refer to her as "jailbait" and "a tart" (Steinbeck, 32), reducing her to a sexual object. This objectification limits her agency and reinforces the patriarchal power dynamics that exist within the novel. Curley's wife is trapped in a world where her only value is determined by her sexual appeal, leaving her isolated and desperate for companionship.

Despite her attempts to connect with the men on the ranch, Curley's wife is incredibly lonely. She is shunned by the other characters due to their fear of Curley's violent reactions. The men see her as a threat to their dreams and aspirations, believing that associating with her will lead to trouble. This isolation drives Curley's wife to seek attention and validation from anyone who will listen. She confides in Lennie, one of the main characters, revealing her dreams of becoming an actress and escaping her current life.

Curley's wife's dreams of becoming an actress highlight her longing for a life beyond the ranch. She is aware of her limited options and the societal constraints placed upon her. Steinbeck writes, "Coulda been in the movies, an' had nice clothes" (Steinbeck, 89). These aspirations reveal her desire for independence and freedom from the oppressive environment in which she lives. Unfortunately, her dreams are shattered, as she is ultimately trapped in a loveless marriage and a world that offers her no opportunities for personal growth.

Curley's wife's actions, although misguided, are a result of her frustration and desperation. When she encounters Lennie in the barn, she engages him in conversation, seeking companionship and understanding. However, her attempts to connect with Lennie lead to tragic consequences. Lennie, who is mentally disabled, inadvertently kills Curley's wife in a moment of panic and confusion.

Curley's wife's death serves as a catalyst for the climax of the novel. It exposes the vulnerabilities and flaws of the other characters, forcing them to confront their own actions and desires. The men on the ranch, who initially dismissed Curley's wife as a nuisance, are forced to acknowledge the consequences of their objectification and mistreatment of her. This tragic event also highlights the larger themes of powerlessness and the desperate pursuit of the American Dream.


In conclusion, Curley's wife is a complex character who is often misunderstood and judged solely based on her appearance and behavior. She is a victim of the patriarchal society in which she lives, constantly seeking attention and validation. The loneliness she experiences drives her to make misguided choices, ultimately leading to her untimely death. By analyzing Curley's wife's role, her loneliness, and the implications of her actions, it becomes clear that she is not simply a one-dimensional "tart" or "tramp," but rather a tragic figure trapped in a world that offers her no escape.

Steinbeck's portrayal of Curley's wife forces the reader to confront their own biases and prejudices. It serves as a reminder that every individual has their own story and struggles, and that we should not judge others based solely on their outward appearance or behavior. Through the character of Curley's wife, Steinbeck sheds light on the injustices faced by women during the Great Depression, highlighting the need for empathy and understanding.

Overall, the character of Curley's wife in Of Mice and Men is a powerful example of the complex and nuanced portrayals of women in literature. By delving into her role, loneliness, and actions, readers are challenged to question their own assumptions and consider the broader social and cultural implications of the novel.

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Steinbeck, John. Of Mice and Men. Penguin Books, 1993.

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Dr. Charlotte Jacobson

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Analysis of Curley’s Wife in Of Mice and Men. (2024, Jun 13). GradesFixer. Retrieved July 22, 2024, from
“Analysis of Curley’s Wife in Of Mice and Men.” GradesFixer, 13 Jun. 2024,
Analysis of Curley’s Wife in Of Mice and Men. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 22 Jul. 2024].
Analysis of Curley’s Wife in Of Mice and Men [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2024 Jun 13 [cited 2024 Jul 22]. Available from:
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