Of Mice and Men Of Mice and Men question

Curley's Wife Was an Emotional Bully
Monty J Heying Monty J (last edited Jun 12, 2013 10:02PM ) Jun 08, 2013 11:54AM
Because Curley is such a two dimensional villain, strutting pervasively throughout the story, there is a tendency to overlook his wife's villainous cruelty toward the farm hands, all men. She brandishes her social status (as member of the owner's family) like a club to make them submit to her will. She whips them with words, insulting labels and invective. She flaunts her sexuality because of the power it gives her over them.

She comes across as much an emotional bully as Curly is physical, demonstrated in that climactic scene in Crooks' room, where she tongue lashes Candy, Crooks and Lennie, making each one fear her.

As a white woman she threatens to exercise her social power of life or death over Crooks the black stable hand, and as a member of the owner's family she has power over the livelihood of all three.

Her mere presence in men's quarters, Crooks' room, is an implied sexual threat, which she articulates, addressing Crooks: [She present there with Candy, Lennie and Crooks] "She was breathless with indignation. '--sat'day night. Ever'body out doin' som'pin. Ever'body! An' what am I doin'? Standin' here talkin' to a bunch of bindle stiffs--a nigger an' a dum-dum and a lousy ol' sheep--an' likin' it because they aint' nobody else.'

...Crooks stood up from his bunk and faced her. 'I had enough,' he said coldly. 'You got no rights comin' in a colored man's room. You got no rights messing around in here at all. Now you jus' get out, an' get out quick. If you don't, I'm gonna ast the boss not to ever let you come in the barn no more.'

She turned on him in scorn. 'Listen, nigger,' she said 'You know what I can do to you if you open your trap?'
[meaning all she has to do is allege that Crooks even looked at her in a sexual way and Crooks will be lynched]

Crooks stared hopelessly at her, and then he sat down on his bunk an drew into himself.

She closed on him. 'You know what I could do?'
Crooks seemed to grow smaller, and he pressed himself against the wall. 'Yes, ma'am.'

'Well, you keep your place then, nigger. I could get you strung up on a tree so easy it ain't even funny.'

Crooks had reduced himself to nothing. There was no personality, no ego--nothing to arouse either like or dislike. He said, 'Yes, ma'am,' and his voice was toneless. For a moment she stood over him
[like a victorous prize fighter] as though waiting for him to move so that she could whip at him again[emphasis added]; but Crooks sat perfectly still, his eyes averted, everything that might be hurt drawn in."

In the phrase addressing Lennie as she departs, "I'll see you later. I like machines." she acknowledges her newly discovered power over Lennie, who could be her ticket to escape Curley and the dull, boring ranch life. He is her toy, to do with as she, mistress of passive aggression, pleases.

In subduing Lennie she succeeds where Curley failed, proving that emotional power triumphs over physical power.

Many see Curley's wife as a powerless victim, as in the Senise/Malkovich melodramatic film interpretation of the character. But based on what's on the page, I see a woman who refuses to be a victim and uses the power she has--guile, spirit and sexuality--to contend with the unhappy environment in which she is trapped.

Curly's wife bullys him and basically mentally abuses him. She refuses on a victim but everyone sees her as one. Even though shes contend with the very dull environment.she's a good-looking woman who knows it, wearing makeup, form-fitting dresses, and ostrich-feathered high heels. She is an example of how the reader's perception of a character can change without the character actually changing. We first hear about Curley's Wife when Candy describes her to George. Candy uses expressions such as "she got the eye" and goes on to describe her as looking at other men before eventually calling her a "tart."

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