Posted: June 25th, 2021
Curley is one of ‘Of Mice and Men’s’ major characters. Although he does not appear to hold a central role, he is very important in other respects. The first of these is the way in which he treats George and Lennie, and the ranch workers in general on the ranch. Curley is the boss’ son. Therefore he acts like he is the boss himself. He orders the others around, and, although it is true that he does hold some power on the ranch, he does not hold any respect from the workers.
He is nasty towards them, treating as though they are them below him, and often trying to pick fights. Curley is disliked by pretty much everyone on the ranch, and with good reason. George immediately dislikes his hostility, and shows the same attitude in return. He himself says “I hate that kind of a guy” as soon as he has and warns Lennie to “have nothing to do with him”. Even Curley’s own wife dislikes him, sarcastically saying “swell guy, ain’t he” when told to talk to him by Candy. Furthermore, Candy, although not directly airing his dislike mentions the he is “handy.
God damn handy. ” The way in which Candy says this hints towards his dislike for Candy being on account of his aggressive nature and hostility, rather than simply being due to his nastiness. His desire to fight with people all the time shows two things. Firstly, it shows inferiority complex: Curley is short, and therefore is constantly trying to be better than “big guys”. Secondly, it shows his aggression. Curley holds a fighting stance when he first encounters George and Lennie: “his arms gradually bent at the elbows and his hands closed into fists.
He stiffened and went into a slight crouch. ” According to Candy, Curley is an amateur boxer and is always picking fights, especially with guys who are bigger than he is. Ultimately, Curley is trying to prove his masculinity. Another way in which Curley can be seen as trying to prove himself is by marrying a physically attractive woman. His wife is never given a name, but by calling her “Curley’s wife,” Steinbeck indicates she is his possession. Curley refuses to let her talk to anyone on the ranch, isolating her from everyone and setting the stage for trouble.
This trouble happens in Section 3, where he accuses Slim of being with his wife and is completely wrong. He is ganged up on by the ranch workers, and picks on Lennie in order to vent his anger at being picked on. This turns out to be a mistake. Lennie quickly crushes his hand, and Curley has to be taken to the hospital. Luckily for George and Lennie, Slim comes to there aid, telling Curley “your hand got caught in a machine”. He makes a big show of keeping his hand soft to caress her, yet also visits the local whorehouse on Saturday night.
While he may strut around the ranch because of his position as the boss’ son, he obviously cannot satisfy his wife and is mean, or perhaps simply detached from her. Curley beats up any man who dares to talk to her, but ironically, he rarely talks to her himself, and they spend the majority of the book looking for each other. When Curley’s wife dies, Curley, rather than showing the reaction that would be expected of a man whose wife has just been killed. He does not appear to grieve at all in any way, barely looking at the body, or regarding the her death into his immediate future plans.
Instead, his first thought is towards seeking revenge and hunting down Lennie. It is perhaps this moment in the novel which epitomises the way in which Curley is aggressive, nasty, and shows no concern for anyone else apart from himself. All of this seems to be negative however. Surely Steinbeck didn’t present Curley in a poor light? Well, there may some positive aspects to Curley, or perhaps those which are not entirely bad. Firstly, he does appear to show some care for his wife. He is constantly looking for her, and appears to try and protect her.
Although she is more of a possession to him than a person, he is clearly proud of her, but perhaps for the wrong reasons. Also, Curley is a good worker. He is one of the best on the ranch, having grown up there, and this shows in his care for his work. Unlike most of the other characters, Curley doesn’t develop much over the course of the book, but he stands out as a character with whom Steinbeck does not sympathise. Whilst everyone else is struggling, Curley’s busy picking fights and trying to throw his weight around on his dad’s ranch. He seems to be outside of the economic struggle and even the personal struggle of the Depression.
Curley’s the kind of person that is needed in contrast to the mild peacefulness of the other characters. Also, someone is needed to be the source of trouble among the men of the ranch who mostly want to get along. In conclusion, if Steinbeck wrote ‘Of Mice and Men’ as being a microcosm of American society, then Curley represents one clear type of person. This is all the men in the country at the time who are petty and embittered, who wish to appear better than all of the others. He acts as a sort of control variable, whose actions and reactions can almost always be predicted, because he is such a simple shallow person.
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