A Problem of Loneliness in of Mice and Men Novel

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Many themes are evident in “Of Mice and Men”, including friendship, fate, and the American Dream. One that is most prominent, and can probably be connected to every character except Slim, is loneliness. Candy experiences loneliness from the loss of his dog; Crooks is discriminated and outcast from the ranch because of his skin color; George had to kill Lennie and therefore ended up with no companion. To me, however, I find that John Steinbeck best created the theme of loneliness through Curley’s Wife, who is a much deeper character than people give her credit for.

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Steinbeck went out of his way in the beginning to paint Curley’s Wife as a villain- a temptress whose only goal is to get into the minds of men and ruin their lives, as seen when Whit talks about how she “got the eye goin’ all the time on everybody” (51) to George. Every time the topic of Curley’s Wife comes up, she is regarded as “jail bait”, “tramp” and “whore”, her clothes described to be tight fitting and high heels decorated with ostrich feathers. The men on the ranch don’t understand the burden her failures to go into acting have on her, seeking male attention from those around her to feel validated. Yet, they continue to belittle and slutshame, ignoring her in fear of a beating from Curley. Instead of an actual person, she is seen as Curley’s property- his possession, or even trophy. In their eyes, Curley’s Wife is not regarded as an actual human being, and in a way Curley could think the same, going into town to “whore houses” and presumably cheating on her. Nobody cares even to take into account how this makes her feel, even when she mentions outright that he won’t let her talk to anyone on the ranch, controlling almost every aspect of her life. The actions by the other characters and Curley only worsen her loneliness.

Of Mice and Men can be analyzed to have inherent religious themes, and Steinbeck makes no exception for Curley’s Wife. The story of Adam and Eve involves the Garden of Eden, or in this case, the ranch, and a forbidden tree, their desires. Curley’s Wife plays the role of the serpent, a liar and manipulator of men in order to get her way. She could also be compared to Eve, who is curious about the tree and tempts Adam into eating from it with her. Curley’s Wife becomes curious about Lennie, inviting him to touch her hair because of how “soft and fine” (90) it is, not realizing what the consequences would be. Just as Eve’s temptations caused mankind to be sent out of the perfect place, Curley’s wife tempts Lennie, whose subsequent actions cause him and the others to lose their dream of a little farm. Curley’s Wife has led a sorrowful life, from losing her American Dream to bringing about her own demise, making her the perfect portrayal for loneliness.

Her internal conflicts show how much she truly despises the place she lives in, using her status as both a weapon and a coping mechanism. She intimidates the men on the ranch, being Curley’s wife, saying how if they “had two bits in the worl’, why you’d be in gettin’ two shots of corn with it and suckin’ the bottom of the glass” (79) in reaction to George and Lennie’s American Dream. And, as a coping mechanism, she has her beauty and “role” to fall back on; Curley’s Wife knows she is beautiful, knows she can seduce men, and therefore uses that to her advantage. With the abuse she’s endured not just from the workers, but from Curley as well, it is the only thing getting her through what she sees as a pitiful life. It’s understandable, going from how she “coulda been in the pictures” to wondering how long she can get away talking to the men before Curley yells at them. The statement of Curley not even seeing her as a human being is further reinforced when Lennie kills her, Curley immediately wanting to shoot him in the guts, but it’s not because he’s genuinely anguished- he’s just angry about his hand. In her life, nobody really seemed to care about Curley’s Wife except in her last moments with Lennie, finally having someone to share her own American Dream with.

Looking closer into Steinbeck’s work, you can make numerous assumptions about every character just by the amount of symbolism he hides within it (after all, the title is symbolic enough). Through an expert way in making the reader despise Curley’s Wife until the end, it’s obvious how you can sympathize with her. John Steinbeck made her an excellent portrayal in the theme of loneliness with her reputations, religious parallels, and failed American Dream, enough to give this nameless character a name of her own.

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