In Of Mice and Men, Curley’s Wife is portrayed in three different ways. Firstly, she is described as a “tart” and having “the eye”, both used when Candy mentions her. Since it is the first time she is portrayed in the novel, we as an audience build up negative imagery of her. She is also commonly associated with the colour red (”her fingernails were red…she wore a cotton house dress and red mules, on the insteps of which were bouquets of little red ostrich feathers.”), which, during the 1930’s, was seen as a very sexual and seductive colour. This also shows, to the ranchers, she is dangerous, especially if they want to keep their jobs.
During the first scene she actually appears in, she is flirty and “playful”, which just proves Candy’s point to George. For example, she tells George and Lennie in a “playful” way that if Curley isn’t in the Bunk House she should “look some place else”. In a way, it also shows she can’t talk to men without flirting with them in some way or, as Candy said, giving them “the eye”.
When she is first seen, she is also described in a way that makes her seem, in the rancher’s eyes, “purty” and acts in a way that seems like she likes to show of. For example, she “put her hands behind her back and leaned against the door frame so her body was thrown forward”. It could also show she is “childlike” in the fact that she acts as if flirting is a game.
A second way in which Curley’s Wife is portrayed is far more sinister. When everyone but Crooks, Candy and Lennie go into town, she not only insults them (”you bindle bums think you so good…an’ what am I doin’? Standin’ here talkin’ to a bunch of bindle stiffs – a nigger an’ a dum-dum and a lousy old sheep”) but also threatens Crooks by telling him how easy she could get him lynched (”I could get you strung up on a tree so fast it ain’t even funny”), just because he’s black and that’s what the times were like. This also shows she wants to use any power over Crooks to make herself feel good, since, as a woman in the 30’s, it would have been the only power she’d hold.
The last way in which Curley’s Wife is portrayed is that she is lonely. This is shown through the lack of opportunities she has, since she’s expected to just stay at the farm house. Also, because none of the ranchers want to be near her, she’s even more lonely so, before her death, she jumps at the chance to talk to Lennie and treats him kindly and acts like she cares about him, even if he isn’t always mentally there, kind of similarly to George.
Her being lonely is also portrayed through being, as mentioned before, like an object that belongs to Curley, as if she was meant to be kept away from. She’s only really seen as an individual just before and after her death. For example, the way she talked to Lennie sounded passionate, especially talking about her dream (objects can’t have dreams) and when she dies her made-up face makes her “look alive”, whereas, before, the makeup was “too much”, futher signalising she was a heavily decorated object.
Overall, throughout the majority of the novel, Curley’s Wife is portrayed as a “tart”. However, before her death, the reader can really feel sorry for her as she is portrayed as lonely and a victim.