John Steinbeck’s novella ‘Of Mice and Men’, tells a story of tragedy during the Great Depression, a story of companionship and loneliness. Although I feel sympathetic towards most of the characters, Curley’s wife in many ways is the most sympathetic character in the novel and I will explain why in this essay. I feel Curley’s wife is the most depressed and lonely character in the novel. She has no one to talk to, no future, no respect from her own husband, and no one even knows her real name. I have found that I am most sympathetic towards her because all she wants is someone to talk to, to communicate with, but the way she tries to talk to others is by flaunting herself to the men just to get noticed. This only increases her reputation as a flirt, which forces the men to stay away from her. I think she represents complete loneliness and desperation to achieve something better in life.
Curley’s wife has no friends on the ranch and her desire to communicate with anyone makes her attempt to find some kind of sympathy with lowly considered people such as Crooks or Lennie. The only reason she shows off herself is to get attention because that’s the only thing she wants in life. Her marriage to Curley was only an effort to get away from her lonely and depressing life. However, the marriage had made it only worse. Curley does not have any respect for his wife, and his insecure feeling towards her forces her into flirting with the other ranchers. She is dressed rather “slutty” when talking to the men and uses her eye-catching appearance to gain the attention of the ranchers to make her forget about her loneliness. But because of her reputation for being a flirt, the men try to avoid her. “Maybe you better go along to your own house now. We don’t want no trouble.” (pg 77)
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The one and only thing Curley’s Wife desires is attention. To be noticed by everyone. First of all her dream of becoming an actress is shattered when the man who was going to put her in the movies never writes back. She then marries Curley since it was the only thing she felt she could do during the depression where work was hard to come by, hoping desperately that being the wife of the boss’s son may give her some respect and some happiness in life. However, the marriage was a total disaster. In chapter 5 she confesses she doesn’t like Curley. “Well, I ain’t told this to nobody before. Maybe I ought to. I don’t like Curley. He ain’t a nice fella” (pg 87). She was also in some way glad that Lennie busted Curley’s hand. This tells us she wasn’t happy at all being married to Curley.
Curley’s wife is a very flirtatious character in the novel, but only to get attention. For instance, when she firsts meet George and Lennie she instantly starts to flirt with them. This gives us the impression that she is in desperate need of someone to talk to. She is also the only female character on the ranch, which would also make her feel fairly lonely and isolated. The only person to take some interest in Curley’s wife is Lennie. He is the only person Curley’s wife feels she can talk to, explain her problems and not just flirt outrageously with since he is much unsophisticated. When she is talking to Lennie, we see her other side, she opens up to him and treats him kindly unlike her husband Curley. Lennie on the other hand isn’t much of a good talker or a listener and is only interested in tending rabbits. She just wants someone to talk to but doesn’t know how and instead, she represents herself as a flirty “whore” which does the total opposite of what she wants.
Also, Curley’s wife becomes aware of how childlike Lennie is and takes advantage of the situation (chp.5 in the barn). One problem that Curley’s wife is unaware of, is Lennie’s fetish for soft objects. When Curley’s wife is done explaining her problem, she asks him to stroke her hair. But as he keeps stroking harder and harder, she starts crying for help, which confuses Lennie. He eventually grabs a hold of her and gives a quick violent shake, which results in the death of Curley’s wife. Curley’s wife has great difficulty in finding someone that she could talk to. The men on the ranch try to avoid her because they think she will get them into trouble. They make judgments without getting to know her first, for instance, judging a book by its cover. Her husband Curley doesn’t trust her with the other men. He forces her to stay at home all day until he gets back, which clearly tells us she must have been a really friendless person with lonely feelings.
Throughout the novel, I tend to feel sorry for her but at the same time, I think she let herself into the situation. I have sympathy for her because she is very much isolated from others, but on the other hand, I despise her because of the way she acts. In conclusion, Curley’s wife is the most sympathetic character in ‘Of Mice and Men’ as she has many difficulties talking to the men on the ranch. They try to stay away from her, as she’s known to be very flirtatious, which makes her extremely lonely. She is also forced to stay at home because of Curley’s insecure feeling towards her, which makes her very isolated from others. The death of Curley’s wife, in a way, could have been a good thing, as she won’t ever have to worry about being alone.