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Depiction of Sexism in of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck

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Has our culture improved of how women are widely viewed? Looking at the book Steinbeck introduces a character named Curley’s Wife who is treated poorly simply because she was a woman. Steinbeck’s portrayal of Curley’s Wife is his indictment of how women were viewed in the 1930’s society. Has anything really changed for women since then? In Of Mice And Men, John Steinbeck shows how sexism degrades women and creates false public representation.

Curley’s wife is a major female character in Of Mice And Men and is clearly married to a character named Curley, an egotistical farmer that tries to prove his manliness by picking fights with other workers and proving his masculinity by marrying an attractive women. Her name was never given in the book. I believe that she was given no name to emphasize the facts of her basically being Curley’s property. Curley’s wife hated the idea of being dehumanized and thought of as property, of belonging to someone, but she was. Curley had huge control over his wife which was very common during the Great Depression era. He forbid any other man from talking to her due to his own jealousy. He degrades and humiliates her is every way possible but he’s still with her due to wanting to build a reputation. In addition to being ̈ property ̈ and not viewed as a human being, it needs to be added that she was alone female in a very aggressive male environment that went the whole book nameless. I believe she didn’t have a name because her opinion and presents wasn ́t important to the ranch. Steinbeck betrayed her like a nobody because she wasn’t anybody to the ranch. When she wasn’t in the presence of the men insults we’re constantly thrown at her. Curley’s wife is compared to an animal in an attempt to reduce her being. The men would refer to her as a “tramp”, “bitch”, and “rat-trap”. 

Towards the end of the novel, Curley’s wife shows a more emotional side of her when talking with Lennie privately. She finally opens up and reveals her frustration and pent-up emotions. She cried out loud ̈What’s the matter with me?̈ Ain’t I got a right to talk to nobody? What do they think I am, anyways. I ain’t doing no harm to you. Seems like they ain’t none of them cares how I got to live.¨ She seemed frustrated and as the only woman on the ranch throughout the entire book it’s clear that Curley’s wife is mistreated by the sexist men she lives around and has continued to be blamed for her own death. The workers on the ranch look down on her and often speak very negative behind her back. Some could say it’s clearly her fault on how she’s viewed due to the way she portrays herself publicly. 

I believe Steinbeck wants us to dislike her at the beginning of the book because, we only seen her as an arrogant, self-absorbed girl who needed to have every ranchers attention. It can be argued that she fits the stereotype of a tease and leads on guys to make herself feel better but, what would you do if the man you unwillingly agreed to spend the rest of your life with continuously puts you down and makes you feel ugly and worthless? She was lonely and the only man who wasn’t afraid to talk to her was her own husband and which she loathed. She wasn’t some whore she was sought out to be, she was lonely and desperate for human contact. Loneliness is one of the most devastating feelings you can experience. It was a frequent theme I saw throughout the whole story.  

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Depiction Of Sexism In Of Mice And Men By John Steinbeck. (2021, December 16). GradesFixer. Retrieved January 28, 2022, from
“Depiction Of Sexism In Of Mice And Men By John Steinbeck.” GradesFixer, 16 Dec. 2021,
Depiction Of Sexism In Of Mice And Men By John Steinbeck. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 28 Jan. 2022].
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