Friday, 14 December 2012

Example Essay - Curley's Wife

Page 34-35

Part (a)

In this passage, what methods does Steinbeck use to

present Curley’s wife and the attitudes of others to her?

Refer closely to the passage in your answer.

AND then Part (b)

How does Steinbeck present attitudes to women in the

society in which the novel is set? [30 marks]

In John Steinbeck’s novella ‘Of Mice and Men’ (hereafter OMM) Steinbeck tackles many issues faced by people in the 1930s. As the 1930s were difficult times for most people it is a perfect setting to reveal the true characters of people.

The issue of sexism was very present in the 1930s compared to how it is now.  Steinbeck’s use of the character of Curley’s Wife is the only female character in the novella.  Steinbeck uses different methods to diminish the importance of Curley’s wife.

Steinbeck never gives Curley’s Wife a name.  This is done to show that she does not have any identity or position on the ranch.  As Curley’s Wife is a representation of all women in the 1930s I feel Steinbeck uses her to show that she does not have any identity or position on the ranch.  As Curley’s Wife is a representation of all women in the 1930s I feel Steinbeck uses her to show that most women back then had no identity or position in the working world.

Steinbeck uses methods of introduction to show the reader the hardships of women in the 1930s.  Steinbeck never introduces Curley’s Wife throughout the novella.  I feel Steinbeck does this to show that although to the reader she is an important character, she is insignificant in the 1930s society.  However Curley’s wife upon meeting George and Lennie never introduces herself.  This shows that the character herself feels insignificant in society.  She feels that she is unwanted and no one cares for her so no one would need to know her name.  Curely’s Wife is also only introduced to other people as “Curley’s Wife”, I think that Steinbeck does this to show that Curley, her husband, is in possession of her, like so many other women in 1930 in other situations.

No characters in the novella care for Curley’s Wife and very little attention is given to her.  However many of the men only see her as an object. I think Steinbeck conveys that idea by his description of her.  When we and George and Lennie are first introduced to her, Steinbeck takes a long time to describe her.  ‘She had full rouged lips and wide-spaced eyes, heavily made up.  Her finger nails were red.  Her hair hung in little clusters, like sausages…’  This I feel Steinbeck uses to present Curley’s Wife as an object to the men and society.  It is to show that Curley’s wife is worth as much as she is wearing.

But Steinbeck doesn’t only use the description of what she is wearing, he also fully describes her actions.  This is to show the physical awareness the men have towards her.  ‘She put her hands behind her back and leaned against the door frame so that her body was thrown forward’  Steinbeck’s description of Curley’s Wife’s actions, I think, is to not only describe the men’s physical awareness, but to show the desperation of Curely’s Wife and the women in the 1930s.

Steinbeck presents the men’s reactions towards her as hostile through the use of language.  When George first meets her he responds to her ‘brusquely’.  I think this is to show the hesitance men have towards Curley’s Wife.  I feel Steinbeck not only does this to make us feel sympathy towards Curley’s Wife and women in the 1930s, but also towards men in the 1930s as they have to be extremely careful and hostile so they can keep their jobs.

This I think is the contrast Steinbeck is trying to make towards Lennie’s reaction.  As Lennie does not understand normal social behaviour he is in awe of Curley’s Wife.  I think Steinbeck does this to show that two people who don’t fit into society are maybe the ones that do.

John Steinbeck uses different methods to present Curley’s Wife and women in the 1930s.  I fell Steinbeck uses Curley’s Wife as a representation of injustice in the 1930s.  Steinbeck presents the character of Curley’s Wife as manipulative, however I feel he only does this to make us feel sympathy to Curley’s Wife and women in the 1930s.  The fact that Curley’s wife has to be manipulative to get attention which she is so starved for does not kill any sympathy that the reader could have for her but drives it so that the reader is more sympathetic.  I also feel that Steinbeck uses Curley’s wife as a reflection on men in the 1930s as they are manipulative yet despise Curley’s wife because she is manipulative; they do not realise that it is them that made her so in the first place.  I feel that ‘Of Mice and Men’ is a perfect representation of the treatment of human beings in the 1920s.

JPS Comments:
The candidate has failed to mark out where part b appears in her answer, however it is quite clear that context is built in throughout the answer and so addresses point 5 and 6.  The candidate achieves All band 4 as well as 5.1 and 5.2 - as the candiate is familiar and exploratory, as well as conssitent in her investigation of the novel and the idea under question.  Towards the end there is some overlapping of point and explanation and her answer could have been more concise.  The candidate makes the point that Curley's wife is manipulative but fails to back this up with evidence - an investigation of the language chosen by Steinbeck may have shown how she is sexually manipulative, but does not appear to be sexually overt with Lennie in the barn - perhaps an interesting discussion point.


  1. hey this is such a helpful example.
    Our Controlled Assessment task is to write an essay on how Steinbeck explores the differnet attitudes to women in Of Mice and Men. I am still a bit confused about the way I could structure my paragraphs because ther is so much goin on at the same time, there's 2 differnet ladies; Curley's wife, Aunt Clara, te girl in Weed, the 2 brothel owners and I have to mention all of them along with the different attitudes of George, Lenny, ranch men and Curley...but this helps so thanks...I would appreciate it if you could give me some adivice on my essay. Thank you

    1. Thanks for the comment, I'm glad it's helpful to you. Just be aware this response is for the AQA exam in English Literature. The assessment criteria will be ever so slightly different if you are doing a controlled assessment (but not massively).
      I would recommend you open your essay by framing the attitudes of men at the time Steinbeck sets the novel and offer examples of this in the text. Investigate the role of women in the main body of your essay and then conclude by discussing how effectively the author's view has been conveyed. You must refer to the methods and techniques used to do this by the author and root this in referring to textual evidence. Also think about how women are first represented and who does this - what attitude does Candy prejudice us with from the start and what is the significance of the language he uses?

      Good luck and let us know how you get on.
      Mr Stirrup

  2. hey this is really good, im in year 10 and have my CA in two weeks time and im just researching upon curlyes wife, i recently moved school and at my previous school we had only read 1 chapter, at the school i am currently at they started omam in june and have read the whole book and watched the film, can you see the dilema im in? is there any chance you could tell me a little bit about curleys wife please? p.s. what grade did you get for this ? thanks for your help
    Ellie x

    1. Hi Ellie,
      Thanks glad you like it. Borrow a book or buy a book, you'll get it in plenty of time before the CA and it's worth the money for you GCSE. It's really short as you will have noticed so won't take you long to read. You need to think about why she is the only woman unnamed in the novel. The prostitutes and Aunt Clara have names! IT sort of illustrates just how much of an object she is, none of the men know her name and no one ever asks. The other unnamed character is the dog - is there a correlation. Did Steinbeck mean for us to compare a woman and an animal and if so what does that tell you about 1920s American attitudes to women. This is something you can comment on in a really interesting way. Also, why does she 'throw herself forward'? What is missing from her life? This essay was an A*.
      Ask if you need any more help

    2. I have the same controlled assessment and I'm in Year 10 so it looks like everyone I think in the UK is doing it. I have to do the assessment on Friday 13th December. (How lucky!)

  3. Hi,
    I've got my controlled assessment for Of Mice And Men soon, (Very soon). The question I need to answer is "Explore the ways in which Steinbeck creates sympathy for and dislike of Curley's wife in of mice and men". I would just like to know what I should include in my essay to get an A* and if possible how should I structure it.
    Thanks, Adebayo

  4. i m feel so happy when read your blog which provide so good & informatics content Thanks for sharing Such as power

  5. hi i'm doing a controlled assesment in 2 days and i need your help. the question is "how is curley's wife portrayed in the novella? how much is she a victim and how much is she a villain? if you could help me by telling me what is needed in the A/A* criteria i would be thankful as i do get an A but i always fail to get an A* and i don't understand the band criteria as the text looks complicated for me. thank you

    1. Hi beanie,

      I'm not sure which exam board you are using so it is difficult to advise. If you are doing this for LIT (it is possible to do this with LANG in some cases) then essentially you want to make sure you expand your point and link techniques across the range of ideas discussed by the writer. It is important to recognise that the author is using the characters and situations to 'teach' you something or share something about the men and society of that time. If you are looking at Curly's Wife then expand your discussion about how women are presented and used (so also victims) in the rest of the novel. Think of Aunt Clara who is only remembered as a nice lady and nothing more, think of Suzy who runs the 'cat house'. Also think about the idea that men are just as much a victim of the degradation of women as it makes them fearful of them.

      Hope that helps. Let me know how you do.

    2. yo! yo! yo! that helped a lot thanks!

  6. I believe this would get a B

  7. I believe this would get a B