Of Mice and Men is a classic novel written by one of the world’s most illustrious writers, John Steinbeck. John Steinbeck wrote a naturalistic novel which dealt with many powerful and universal themes including the value of dreams and goals, friendship and also “outsiders”, which means individuals who do not fit into the mainstream of society. The novel also illustrates the significance of moral responsibility, the veracity of social injustice and also solitude.
His novel “Of Mice and Men” is a story taking place around the 1930s during the Great Depression in California where the New York Wall Street stock market collapsed, and the rate of unemployment was very high. The great depression affected everyone, including both the rich and poor, industrial workers, farmers and so on. This novel however, portrays the life of two farmers, George Milton and Lennie Small. The themes of the novel are important because they depict human life in a remarkable and comprehensible way relating to the dreams and constant struggles faced in life.
All the characters played in the novel “Of Mice and Men” are lonesome, living an empty life everyday consisting of mainly hard labor. The characters all live a very disheartening life, with the lack of happiness, love and affection in their lives. This can be seen also when George mentions that ‘ranch workers are the loneliest people in the world and don’t belong nowhere”. Of the many characters in the novel, Curley’s wife might be one of the most pathetic and reviled of the outsiders.
Steinbeck introduces her to us as an outcast, where she is isolated from the community. Being a minor character in the novel, Steinbeck manages to illustrate her as a character that deeply influences the lives of the main characters George and Lennie. Throughout the whole novel, Curley’s wife’s name is never mentioned. This initiates the readers to feel the sense of belonging of Curley’s wife to Curley and to emphasize as an pariah, being feared of, leaving her with nobody to talk to and her identity as a mystery.
Apart from that, Curley’s wife is portrayed as the only female in the ranch, and although she is married to Curley, the boss’s son, giving her a high status at the ranch, they are psychologically separated, and are never witnessed together, leaving her desperate for camaraderie. Her desire of attention and escape from loneliness leads her to try to seek attention from other men working in the ranch by flirting. Her coquettish actions and inappropriate dressing leads other characters to think of her as a “tart”.
The ranch workers are uneasy about this and avoid her in fear of being reprimanded by Curley which may cost them to lose their jobs innocently. She is first introduced by Steinbeck when she comes into the bunkhouse disrupting a conversation that Lennie and George are holding. The depiction is dramatic, “Both men glanced up, for the rectangle of sunshine in the doorway was cut off”. This suggests that she has obscured the light, and darkened the room with her presence. This gives a dark and threatening image.
Steinbeck describes the image of her standing and peering through the door, “heavily made-up” with “full rouged lips” and “her fingernails” being applied with “red” nailpolish. The fact that she was “looking in” through the door “standing there” accentuates her as an outsider. She is also described wearing “red mules” and with “bouquets of red ostrich feathers” on them. The constant repetition of the word “red” used in the novel to describe Curley’s wife portrays her as one who is dangerous because the color red is quite provocative and has connotations such as love, passion and danger.