Curley’s wife is the only female character who is directly featured in the novel. Many of the male characters on the ranch feel threatened by her, calling her
jailbait because she is flirtatious and her husband is jealous and violent. They perceive her to be a tart because of the way that she acts around all of the men on the ranch.
Curley’s wife is never named in the novel, which reflects how she is not valued as a person. Her character demonstrates the negative attitude towards women that may have been held by men such as the ranchworkers at the time. She is only thought of in relation to her husband and is never seen by the other characters as a worthwhile individual.
Due to this isolation and misogyny, Curley’s wife is very lonely. She seeks out men to speak to so that she can engage in conversation with somebody. Curley’s wife admits that she does not like her husband and thinks that he’s an unpleasant man. Curley’s wife is also disappointed because of her failed dream to become a movie star.
Curley’s wife looks for company throughout the book, but never finds it because none of the other characters are willing to speak to her.
I never get to talk to nobody. I get awful lonely.
Curley’s wife’s statements here are short and simple, reflecting her sparse and limited life on the ranch. She is shown to use only a few words here, in the same way as she speaks very few words in her day-to-day life. The word
awful is used like we would use ‘really’ to emphasise how lonely she is, but the word
awful also shows how sad her life is.
Curley’s wife is made to feel alone on the ranch because the men do not speak to her and she has a bad relationship with her husband, whom she dislikes.
–Sat’iday night. Ever’body out doin’ som’pin’. Ever’body! An’ what am I doin’? Standin’ here talkin’ to a bunch of bindle stiffs–
Curley’s wife is bitter here, insulting the only men left on the ranch (Lennie, Crooks and Candy) while the others are at the brothel, by referring to them as
bindle stiffs, meaning tramps. She repeats
Ever’body to show how alone she feels, as if everyone in the world is doing something except her.
The men talk about Curley’s wife defensively, worried that she could get them into trouble.
I never seen no piece of jail bait worse than her. You leave her be.
George emphasises his mistrust of Curley’s wife by saying that he has
never seen another woman as likely to get a man into trouble before. George warns Lennie away from her, suggesting that she is dangerous and untrustworthy.