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.
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.