Monday, 19 March 2012

Of Mice and Men extract about Curley's Wife

Both men glanced up, for the rectangle of sunshine in the doorway was cut off. A girl was standing there looking in. She had full, rouged lips and widespaced eyes, heavily made up. Her fingernails were red. Her hair hung in little rolled clusters, like sausages. She wore a cotton house dress and red mules, on the insteps of which were little bouquets of red ostrich feathers. “I’m lookin’ for Curley,” she said. Her voice had a nasal, brittle quality.

George looked away from her and then back. “He was in here a minute ago, but he went.”

“Oh!” She put her hands behind her back and leaned against the door frame so that her body was thrown forward. “You’re the new fellas that just come, ain’t ya?”

“Yeah.”

Lennie’s eyes moved down over her body, and  though she did not seem to be looking at Lennie she bridled a little. She looked at her fingernails. “Sometimes Curley’s in here,” she explained.

George said brusquely. “Well he ain’t now.”

“If he ain’t, I guess I better look some place else,” she said playfully.

Lennie watched her, fascinated. George said, “If I see him, I’ll pass the word you was looking for him.”

She smiled archly and twitched her body. “Nobody can’t blame a person for lookin’,” she said. There were footsteps behind her, going by. She turned her head. “Hi, Slim,” she said. Slim’s voice came through the door. “Hi, Good-lookin’.”

“I’m tryin’ to find Curley, Slim.”

“Well, you ain’t tryin’ very hard. I seen him goin’ in your house.”

She was suddenly apprehensive. “’Bye, boys,” she called into the bunk house, and she hurried away.

George looked around at Lennie. “Jesus, what a tramp,” he said. “So that’s what Curley picks for a wife.”

“She’s purty,” said Lennie defensively.

“Yeah, and she’s sure hidin’ it. Curley got his work ahead of him. Bet she’d clear out for twenty bucks.”

Lennie still stared at the doorway where she had been. “Gosh, she was purty.” He smiled admiringly. George looked quickly down at him and then he took him by an ear and shook him.

“Listen to me, you crazy bastard,” he said fiercely. “Don’t you even take a look at that bitch. I don’t care what she says and what she does. I seen ‘em poison before, but I never seen no piece of jail bait worse than her. You leave her be.”

Lennie tried to disengage his ear. “I never done nothing, George.”

“No, you never. But when she was standin’ in the doorway showin’ her legs, you wasn’t lookin’ the other way, neither.”

“I never meant no harm, George. Honest I never.”

“Well, you keep away from her, cause she’s a rattrap if I ever seen one. You let Curley take the rap. He let himself in for it. Glove fulla vaseline,” George said disgustedly. “An’ I bet he’s eatin’ raw eggs and writin’ to the patent medicine houses.”

Lennie cried out suddenly—“I don’t like this place, George. This ain’t no good place. I wanna get outa here.”

“We gotta keep it till we get a stake. We can’t help it, Lennie. We’ll get out jus’ as soon as we can. I don’t like it no better than you do.” He went back to the table and set out a new solitaire hand. “No, I don’t like it,” he said. “For two bits I’d shove out of here. If we can get jus’ a few dollars in the poke we’ll shove off and go up the American River and pan gold. We can make maybe a couple of dollars a day there, and we might hit a pocket.”

Lennie leaned eagerly toward him. “Le’s go, George. Le’s get outa here. It’s mean here.”

“We gotta stay.” George said shortly. “Shut up now. The guys’ll becomin’in.”

Read the extract above and answer the question:
          What do we learn about Curley's wife?
Think about how she dresses, behaves and speaks.
How the men feel about her and why?
How and why does Steinbeck present her this way?
Refer to the end of the story and explain her place in the story.

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