Of Mice and Men

Why might Steinbeck wait until curlys wife is dead to describe her in such a beautiful way

Chapter 5

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The full extent of the misogyny latent in the portrayal of Curley's wife comes following her death. Steinbeck describes her as having more life and vitality as a dead than a living character. The trope of finding beauty in a young woman's corpse is a very old one in Western literature - it can be found in countless texts, such as the dead Ophelia in Hamlet, or the dead maidens of Edgar Allen Poe's lyric poems. The basic idea in Steinbeck's description of Curley's wife's corpse is that in death her beauty can finally be appreciated apart from her conniving, duplicitous personality. It is as though he casts her sentience itself as her worst characteristic. In this way, she is completely objectified - reduced, in death, to the grotesque ideal of the silent and docile woman she never was in life. A modern reader has every reason to find this depiction objectionable.