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Barron's Booknotes-Of Mice And Men by John Steinbeck
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CURLEY

Curley is the only truly evil character in the book. Perhaps his name comes from the habit of villains in melodramas of the early 1900s of curling their mustaches with their fingers, or from the devil's curly tail. Or perhaps his name indicates that he is never really straight with anyone. Curley is a bully who knows he can't lose: he'll beat anyone smaller than he is, and anyone bigger who beats him will be told to pick on someone his own size.

Curley is the character most often associated with hands. Candy describes him as "handy," which in this case probably means pushy or combative. Candy also talks about Curley's keeping his hand softened with Vaseline and enclosed in a glove for his new wife's sake, a practice George finds disgusting. And Curley's hand is crushed in his fight with Lennie. Hands are also very important to Lennie, who is described as "not handy." Lennie's use of his hands is in direct contrast with Curley's. Lennie likes to feel softness with his hands; Curley's hands are filled with meanness.

Curley's inability to keep track of his wife gives us other insights into his character. He struts around like a rooster, but we know he isn't able to satisfy his wife. He is always looking around to see if someone else is fooling with her, instead of taking care of her himself. Also, he spends Saturday night at the whorehouse with the rest of the men, and his wife seeks the company of the outcasts gathered in Crooks' room. In some ways, we can see Curley and his wife as symbols of Adam and Eve after their fall. They too have fallen far from grace.



CURLEY'S WIFE

Curley's wife is the most anonymous figure on the ranch-she doesn't even have a name. She is also perhaps the saddest figure. She married the first man who came along, and she chose badly. She wears too much makeup and shows off her body to the men in provocative ways. The man she chooses to seduce is Lennie, who has no interest in her as a woman, just as something soft. She also has a mean streak in her: she hopes Lennie will crush Curley's other hand, and she threatens to get Crooks in trouble for messing with a white woman.

It is easy to draw connections between Curley's wife and Eve. Throughout literature, women have been viewed as Eve-like, bringing evil into a man's life. Curley's wife is the direct cause of the end of George and Lennie's dream: her death marks the end of the dream. Yet she is not an evil person; she is not out to destroy herself or Lennie. Like Eve, she is just a vehicle for spreading evil.

WHIT

Whit is a very minor figure in the novel. He appears only briefly and has little to say or do. His two scenes involve his discussion of a letter that a former ranch hand has sent to a magazine, and a talk with George in which he describes how the men usually spend their Saturday nights at the different whorehouses.

Whit gives undue importance to having a letter published or to choosing the right whorehouse. His purpose in the book seems to be to show us how trivial or uneventful the life of a ranch hand really is.

THE BOSS

The boss is another minor character. He appears briefly at the beginning to interview George and Lennie. He sets himself apart from the rest of the men on the ranch. In other words, he acts bosslike. He wears high-heeled boots and spurs to prove he is not a mere laborer. He also states his suspicions of George and Lennie traveling together. Yet we know he is not a bad guy. He did give the men a gallon of whiskey to drink on Christmas day.

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Barron's Booknotes-Of Mice And Men by John Steinbeck
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