Towards the end of the novel Steinbeck manages to alter the reader’s perception of Curley’s wife by portraying her in a different light than earlier on. Steinbeck creates an atmosphere of tragedy and doom in which the reader is aware of Lenny’s anxiety “and rattled the halter chains. ” Curley’s wife enters wearing ‘a bright cotton dress’ and ‘red ostrich feathers’ and I as the reader already know that Lennie has an attraction to the colour red which creates a sense of painful inevitability. Her face is “made up” and her “curls” are in place… This suggested to me that she has noticeably made herself as seductive as possible for Lennie.
Curley’s wife feels safe with Lenny because he beat her husband in the fight earlier on, after she worked out the lie where Curley supposedly damaged his hand in a machine “Baloney! What you think you’re sellin’ me? Curley started som’pin he didn’ finish. Caught in a machine – baloney”. I think she has worked out an arrangement to make sure that she and Lenny will be alone without interruption as she may have feelings for him but Lenny is relatively aware of George’s instructions to avoid conversation with her as well as the consequences of not being able to “tend the rabbits.
” But she is desperate to talk to him “you’re a nice guy, why can’t I talk to you? ” and when she is alone with Lennie she pours out her desire for more communication, although Lenny barely listens. Here she describes her dream and passion to be an actress; she shows her childlike behaviour here as she still feels her “old lady” had stolen the letter from the man who thinks that she has a future in the movies and why she married Curley and not actually liking him. But at this point despite her provocative dress sense and her sensuality we realise that she wants only to talk to Lenny “why can’t I talk to you?
I never talk to nobody. I get awful lonely” and comfort him when he tells her how he has killed the puppy, “don’t you worry none. ” Steinbeck has now cleverly created a more passionate portrayal, someone we can feel sympathy for. At the point where Curley’s wife offers for Lenny to stroke her hair “feel right round there, feel how soft it is” we are; as readers, uncertain as to whether this is an innocent, childish act referring to its texture or that she wants to encounter a more sexual act with Lennie.
It is also apparent now, of how young she actually is, the act of stroking hair is very harmless and childlike, not what we would expect of her character earlier on in the novel. She is likened to a little girl who wants to feel physical contact without sexual trace. This also shadows how she was called “jailbait” earlier on in the novel by the other men. When they pointed out how young she actually is. When Lenny is petting Curley’s wife’s hair he ends up “mussing it up”. To me it looked like she only struggled when she came to this realisation again pointing to her self-image and vanity.
Here we feel sympathy for her as she still has to try and show people she is pretty and capable of her dream. When Lenny accidentally breaks Curley’s wife’s neck he escapes and we are left with a description of the empty barn, where “a pigeon flew in through the open hay door and circled and flew out again”. This time when Steinbeck describes the empty quietness of the barn is the first real time the reader has the chance to fully feel sympathy and pity for Curley’s wife. She had a short life, and the pigeon flying in the barn and straight back out again is a good way of symbolising this and life in general.
“The meanness and the planning’s and the discontent and the ache for attention were all gone from her face” here to me Steinbeck now sums up everything we already know about her but in a way that transforms the way we think about her. Still with flawless skin she appears “pretty and simple…sweet and young” a complete contrast to what is supposed of her in the earlier chapters. I think her death allows the reader to see the true woman that she was deep down. But even then the men at the ranch still do not pity her “You god damn tramp…
Ever’body knowed you’d mess things up” Candy clearly is bitter over her death and he blames her for his dreams being ruined. This allows me as a reader to further sympathise with her because no one seems to even care that she is dead, just merely something that is interfering in their plans. Even her husband doesn’t fully care that she is dead. Most newly wedded couples would be devastated if their wife had died so suddenly; however, Curley just uses her death as an excuse to get revenge over his hand; which Lennie had broken earlier on in the novel, which Curley’s wife had admired.
“Even if I only got one hand” clearly shows his bitterness over what Lennie had done to him as his pride and Lennie had wrecked that. In all Steinbeck has managed to make the reader go from a promiscuous “tart” to someone that they sympathise. No one cared, no one truly loved her and she died alone. The way that Steinbeck did this is very discrete throughout and only towards the end do you clearly feel the pity for her, Show preview only The above preview is unformatted text This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our GCSE John Steinbeck section.