Essay written by Daud, Akbar, Tameekha, James, Anisha and Khadija
Steinbeck has a recurring theme of light and darkness prevalent throughout the novel. This is extremely present in the start of this extract, when the “rectangle of sunshine… was cut off”. This was effective as “sunshine” has connotations with light. The fact that Steinbeck has stated that she has “cut off” this source of light instantly creates very insightful imagery as we picture the room slowly falling into darkness. This was not surprising as Curley’s Wife is made guilty of luring the men into her pit of darkness and as the ranch is a microcosm of society, it only makes sense that Steinbeck supported the patriarchy with this novella. Also, the quote foreshadows the climax of the novel as it is Curley’s Wife who causes Lennie and George to flee. Therefore, Steinbeck is warning his characters to steer clear of this woman who brings darkness to everything she touches, her grasp inescapable.
Steinbeck uses the adjective “red” and repeats fingernails throughout the passage. Curley’s Wife’s “fingernails were red” and she “loomed at her fingernails when Lennie was looking at her”. The word “red” makes us think of danger and fear, which could foreshadow her death. Lennie looking at her while she “looked at her fingernails” supports this point as Lennie ends up killing her. At this point the reader may feel sympathy for her as the world “red” can be thought of as a “tart” colour so Steinbeck is implying that she is a “tart”. Also the reader may feel sympathy for her because she can’t even look Lennie in the eye which shows the hierarchy between men and women. On the other hand, if the reader has different/negative opinions on women they may feel no sympathy at all for her as she could be seen as a “tart”.
Steinbeck cleverly portrays women in the novella by using the character of Curley’s Wife by describing her as “heavily made up”. The use of the word “heavily” can suggest that she has a lot of makeup on. However, on further glance, an alternate interpretation may be that the weight of her makeup is pulling her down, making her an insignificant character on the ranch. However some readers think that because she is “heavily made up” it can suggest that she is insecure about her appearance, meaning that she wants to change herself because she has things to hide from the other men on the ranch. Others think that because the character is insignificant because she is a woman. The use of “heavy” use of makeup is to grab the reader’s attention of the men on the ranch, making her feel slightly meaningful to herself.
One of Steinbeck’s method cleverly shows the power of Curley’s Wife through her “nasal brittle quality”. The use of the word “brittle” is metaphorically shown by her spirit being broken easily. This could be said as she doesn’t receive Curley’s love and attention and that she is damaged within because of her past and the circumstances of how Curley and her got married. However, this could also mean that she is difficult and hard to handle because she is a flirty character which shows why Curley left her alone and doesn’t give her that attention she deserves. Readers may feel confused as they don’t know who is behind the failure of the relationship as they are both at fault somehow. Therefore this helps the reader engage more in the novel as it gives them a chance to think about the quality of their relationship.
During Curley’s Wife’s entrance, very early on she is described as having “her body thrown forward” while engaging in conversation with the men on the ranch. Displaying her body “forward” to the men on the ranch will no doubt raised some eyebrows and consequently made them pay more attention to her then they were originally. After George’s very cold-hearted response to her question regarding Curley’s whereabouts, it may have left her feeling dismissive and so resorted to her willingly displaying her womanly assets to the view of the men. Alternatively due to the word choice “thrown”, this description of Curley’s Wife may not be so innocent. “Thrown” implies aggressiveness and force which when being about her “body”, greatly parallels with Lennie’s treatment of her later on in the barn. This description of Curley’s Wife may have well been Steinbeck’s way of foreshadowing her brutal treatment. At first glance many readers may rightfully believe that this is just a desperate plea for attention by Curley’s Wife but with men like George who called her a “tramp” after having just having met her, who can blame her?
One of Steinbeck’s methods is his use of verbs to create imagery in the reader’s head. When she is in conversation with George she smiled archly and “twitched her body”. The use of the word “twitched” may be cleverly included to foreshadow her death where her body also “twitched” when Lennie snaps her neck. If we further zoom into the word “twitched” we normally associate with an animal, like a fish when it is pulled out of the water. Therefore because of this, some readers may argue that the inclusion of the word “twitched” is to portray her as a bit of an animal. An alternative interpretation is included to create imagery in the reader’s head and emphasise how vividly twitching can be and how graphic it is compared to just moving her body. Her twitching is followed up by admitting “you can’t blame a person for looking”. This is a further comparison to an animal as an animal stares at its prey.