1. What is the novel about, background info, etc.
“Of Mice and Men” is a novel written by Nobel Prize-winning author John Steinbeck. Published in 1937, it tells the tragic story of George Milton and Lennie Small, two displaced migrant ranch workers, who move from place to place in search of job opportunities during the Great Depression in the 1930s in California, USA. At that time, social attitudes towards women were extremely different from nowadays. They were treated as second class citizens and were considered “possessions” of their father or husband. This study explores and analyses the ways that John Steinbeck uses to create sympathy towards Curley’s wife.
2. Give some information about the supporting characters in the novel.
Two of the main characters in John Steinbeck’s novel “Of Mice and Men” are the intelligent, but weak, George Milton and the mentally handicapped, but strong, Lennie Small. Their relationship is the focal point of the novel. As the half-witted Lennie dutifully intones to George, the two men are distinguished from all of the other characters in the story "because I got you to look after me, and you got me to look after you, and that's why."
They are linked together by a shared past, by a dream of the future, and by current circumstances. All of this implies a substratum of mutual affection.
George who is short-tempered but a loving and devoted friend, whose frequent protests against life with Lennie never weaken his commitment to protecting his friend. George’s first words, a stern warning to Lennie not to drink so much lest he get sick, set the tone of their relationship. George may be terse and impatient at times, but he never strays from his primary purpose of protecting Lennie They have a relationship father-son:George tells Lennie to come back to the brush if he gets in any trouble at the new ranch.
Steinbeck uses animal imagery to foreshadow to the unavoidable tragedy of Curley’s wife’s death. Lennie does not understand how great his strength is "Why'd you have to die? I did'n bounce you hard” and likes to play with small animals, often accidentally killing them.
3. Focus on the character of Curley’s wife. How is she described by Steinbeck? Why is she described in this way? What does it tell the reader about her?
Curley’s wife, the only woman on the ranch, is portrayed through her appearance, conversations with other characters, and what others say about her. Steinbeck presents her as a negative married woman who is mistrusted by her husband, the boss’ son.
She is introduced even before her appearance, through gossip at the ranch. Curley is said to have his “glove fulla vaseline” to keep his hand soft for her. Candy, the “old swamper” tells George that, although she has only been married for two weeks, she has already "got the eye." He describes her as "a tart" that has been flirting with both Slim and Carlson. The word “tart” is a derogatory term and has obvious negative connotations. This affects the reader to prejudge Curley’s wife even before she enters.
Curley’s wife is portrayed as dangerous, very flirty and in need for attention. When she first appears both George and Lennie notice “...the rectangle of sunshine in the doorway is cut off”. This suggests that Curley’s wife is like darkness and brings only trouble.
Using descriptive details such as “Her fingers nails were red”, “She wore a cotton house dress and red mules” with “little bouquets of red ostrich feathers", Steinbeck shows that she wears many red things, red being a symbolic colour of danger and seductiveness. On the other hand, her appearance could be seen as naive and youthful, red being bright and suggesting happiness. Curley’s wife is beautiful and manipulative, by showing off her beauty to the men and dressing inappropriately for a married woman. She uses her body to attract the men, for instance in the scene when "She put her hands behind her