Sample Essay On Curley In Of Mice And Men

Type of paper: Essay

Topic: Family, Women, Wife, Men, Literature, Death, Ranch, Violence

Pages: 5

Words: 1375

Published: 2020/12/13

Unlikable characters have been a part of literature since almost the very beginning. In Homer’s Iliad, king Agamemnon is different from the other Achaean monarchs in his petty cruelty. When it turns out that Agamemnon hunted the sacred deer of Artemis, incurring her wrath and causing a plague to strike the Greek soldiers, the remedy that the Oracle suggests is the sacrifice of a virgin. Agamemnon quickly offers up the life of his own daughter, Iphigenia, without even discussing the matter with his wife. Ultimately this leads to Agamemnon’s own demise, as his wife plots his murder the whole time he is off fighting the Trojans. In Of Mice and Men, Curley is the son of the boss, but his position has only taught him to be petty and cruel in ways that remind the reader of Agamemnon and other similar characters throughout literature. John Steinbeck uses a variety of conceits to present Curley to the reader as a character worthy of scorn, and to make him the object of ridicule among the men on his ranch as well.
Lennie is a character with an imposing physical presence that most men know better than to agitate, but Curley represents a much more conscious level of menace. When Curley first enters the bunkhouse, shortly after George and Lennie arrive on this farm, Curley’s look – brown face and eyes, with even hair that is wound tight – carries a sense of danger with it that Lennie can pick up on. The gentle giant feels peril when Curley is around.
The rest of the men on the farm have come to accept the fact that they have to respect Curley, even though they cannot stand him. As the boss’ son, he commands a great deal of power over them, personally and professionally. He struts around in high-heeled boots to make himself look socially superior to the rest of the men. He has some physical capability to support the machismo with which he walks around, because he can do work with his fists. As a Golden Glove champion, he has convinced Candy that he is a “handy” guy. However, being a former Golden Glove winner is not enough for Curley’s ego. Instead, he goes around picking fights whenever possible. He has also attempted to salve his ego by marrying a beautiful wife. Interestingly, Steinbeck never bestows a name on this woman, always calling her “Curley’s wife.” The implication is that she belongs to Curley, and Curley supports this with his behavior. He will not let her talk to anybody else on the ranch. He keeps her away from all other human contact, thereby setting up the potential for trouble. He uses a special glove so that he can keep his hand soft enough to caress her – yet another conceit that Steinbeck installs to make Curley look ridiculous – but he is not faithful, heading instead to a local brothel on Saturday nights. It is clear that, in a number of ways, he has failed at satisfying his wife, and in retaliation he treats her in a mean way, and he fights any man who tries to talk to her. He is always looking for her when he is walking around the ranch, but he ultimately has refused to be the sort of husband that she deserves.
One fact about Curley that does not bode well for Lennie is that Curley hates “big guys.” As a small guy, Curley represents a no-win scenario for bigger guys who fight him. If Curley wins, then he has overcome difficult odds to do so. However, if he loses, a big bully has taken out his aggression on Curley. This hatred of big men is just one form of prejudice that appears in the story. Ultimately, the way that Curley behaves brings him a comeuppance in the bunkhouse, as Carlson and Slim finally confront him. Carlson calls Curley a coward, comparing him to a frog’s stomach in order to make fun of his alleged boxing skill. Carlson also refers to Curley a “God damn punk,” showing that the respect that Curley expected from the men on the ranch is anything but present for him. Candy chimes in, mocking Curley about his “Glove fulla Vaseline” – his strategy to keep his hand soft. All of the contradictions that make up Curley’s masculine profile – trying to be tough while maintaining a soft hand; constantly looking for his wife unless he is looking for sex; having an extremely low sense of self despite his prowess as a boxer – come through over the course of the novel, and it is these contradictions that form the basis for the reader’s scorn for Curley.
One way that Steinbeck makes Curley look especially pernicious is with his juxtaposition of the most optimistic section of the novel with the most awful part. When Candy, Lennie and George actually seem to believe that they will achieve their dream of independence, the very next event in the plot is Curley’s attack on Lennie. When Lennie reacts in a happy way, Curley cannot understand him, thinking instead that he is mocking him. From beginning to end, Curley lacks empathy, but this may be the most fatal appearance of that trait. Curley’s arrogance keeps him from realizing the peril that awaits him in this fight. George finally permits Lennie to retaliate, and Lennie breaks all of the bones in Curley’s hand. In response, Curley cries much like an infant would, helpless in the face of the pain. Curley is helpless – the complete opposite of the profile that he has built for himself. Slim forces Curley to accept a fictitious version of events, but he knows that his rule of cruelty over the men on the ranch is over. With this final humiliation, there is no more strutting for Curley. The ominous implications of this change for Lennie mean that danger is coming for him.
Unfortunately, Curley does not have to ensnare Lennie in any way. Instead, Lennie’s own strength and susceptibility pave the way for his own disaster. When Curley’s wife comes to Lennie, Lennie cannot control himself. There is no menace in the way that he touches Curley’s wife, but Lennie simply has no way to manage his own strength. Interestingly, the scene showing Curley and his dead wife is the only one that has the two of them together, yet another way that Steinbeck makes Curley look like a heel rather than a man of any dignity or honor. Curley does not stay with his wife long, though. Even though Slim urges Curley to stay by his wife’s body, Curley wants to bring attention to himself – and revenge to Lennie. He calls together a lynch mob to kill the gentle giant who, in a more modern era, would have likely been sent to a hospital for mental treatment. In that time, though, the verdict of an eye for an eye was a powerful one, and that sort of justice is Curley’s only love now. He does not shed a single tear for his dead wife. Instead, he merely finds a way to express his blood lust. The fact that Curley has to “[work] himself into a fury” indicates the mechanical nature of his emotion. The loss of his wife merely means that he has a possession to replace, but he also knows that he can take advantage of the situation to bury Lennie – literally.
When George shoots Lennie, he does so out of mercy. Having Lennie caught by that mob would have led to an inhuman sort of torture that, in George’s mind, Lennie does not deserve. While Lennie has killed Curley’s wife, George finds a way out that is less painful. Curley, on the other hand, had told Carlson to aim for Lennie’s stomach so that death would take longer. Even at the end, empathy has not found its way into Curley’s soul. Carlson and Curley, at the story’s end, wonder why Slim and George are so upset. Neither Carlson nor Curley can understand why George and Slim feel the way that they do. Neither of them has apparently felt the experience of friendship in the way that Slim and George have, and neither of them can understand how deeply George must have felt a need to protect Lennie if he were going to kill him in that way.
When Agamemnon returns home from the Trojan War, he orders himself a bath, not sensing that anything is wrong. After he hops into the bath, his wife springs up on him and kills him. One imagines that Curley is just as clueless, sitting at the bar, immune to the death of his wife – and the death of another innocent.

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"Sample Essay On Curley In Of Mice And Men," Free Essay Examples -, 13-Dec-2020. [Online]. Available: [Accessed: 14-Jul-2024].
Sample Essay On Curley In Of Mice And Men. Free Essay Examples - Published Dec 13, 2020. Accessed July 14, 2024.

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