Of Mice and Men Of Mice and Men question

More Confusion About Curley's Wife
Monty J Heying Monty J (last edited Sep 06, 2015 09:11AM ) Apr 28, 2015 12:45PM

Above is a link to a July, 2014, Huffington Post article by actress Leighton Meester illustrating the confusion surrounding Curley's wife (CW) caused by Steinbeck himself.

The ink hadn't dried on the first printing of the novel when Steinbeck had begun a different version for stage and film with Curey's wife softened to appeal to a wider audience.

The most condemning scene in the original (book) version of Curley's wife takes place in Crooks' bedroom, where she barged in on Crooks, Lennie and Candy, refused to leave when asked, insulted all three, called Crooks a "n----r," and threatened to have him hanged, standing over him as he cowers on his bed. (Imagine the outrage if a man had been portrayed barging into a woman's bedroom this way.)

This scene has never made it to any film version of the novel, nor have I heard of it rendered on stage.

Steinbeck's letter to stage actress Clare Luce is cited in Meester's article as Steinbeck's interpretation of the character, but it was for the stage version of Curley's wife, not the original (book) version.

In no other case have I found that Steinbeck re-interpreted one of his characters. This, his one slip on behalf of greed, was uncharacteristic of Steinbeck. The result is widespread confusion about one of the most interesting female characters in American literature, perhaps the best "tart" of all.

It is a legacy of perpetual controversy.

Of Mice and Men celebrates the noble anti-heroism of George, who devoted himself to the comfort and well-being of the meek and vulnerable Lennie. It would be a sad mistake to warp the story into a feminist statement on female victim-hood, which is what was done in the last film rendition by Gary Senise. The film was in most respects masterfully executed, but it is a Hollywood-ized dismissal of Stenbeck's authorship.

Of Mice and Men is about brotherhood among men and the sabotage of their dreams by a self-absorbed woman. The men didn't pursue Curley's wife. She pursued them. She was the sexual aggressor. She infused their social context with sexual content, thereby contaminating it.

Instead of prowling in the barn to get the vulnerable Lennie alone with her, she could have put on overalls and joined the men in a social event, the horseshoe tournament. It was her choice, with predictable consequences given Lennie's demonstrated history.

MY guess is that Hollywood (the public, they thought) couldn't handle a woman character with two distinct sides to her. The loneliness and the meanness and the ache for attention were all gone from her...Steinbeck wrote something like that when describing her lifeless body. I wouldn't blame Steinbeck. I don't see him as bowing.

It may not be so much greed but that it was too much controversy for Steinbeck to handle, considering he had been vilified, threatened, ostracized and hated by his reactionary detractors in California.

Monty J Heying Steinbeck had immense respect for Elia Kazan (EE and Viva Zapata) and Daryl Zanuck (GOW) and would have taken their advice regarding screen adaptation ...more
Sep 06, 2015 02:10PM · flag
Monty J Heying OMM was published in '37. He didn't marry Elaine Scott, his third wife, until December, 1950, too late for her to have had an influence on any of his ...more
Sep 06, 2015 02:35PM · flag

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