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Throughout the story ‘Of Mice and Men,’ Steinbeck’s perception of women as the novel evolves is truly revealed. It is shown that at that time if women didn’t fit into the societal view that a woman should be maternal and modest, they would be frowned upon and outcasted. Throughout the novel, Steinbeck represents women to be lower in society than men. In the novel, women only have three different roles. A wife, an aunt, and prostitutes. Steinbeck uses these roles to show the roles of women in society. Curley’s wife, Aunt Clara, the girl from Weed, and Suzy from the Cathouse represent his attitude towards women in American society.

The first female character we are introduced to in of mice and men is Lennie’s, Aunt Clara. Aunt Clara is only briefly mentioned at the start of the book and in the last chapter. She is described in Lennie’s hallucination as a little fat old woman. She wore thick bulls-eyeglasses, and she wore a huge gingham apron with pockets, and she was starched and clean.’ This creates the image of a warm and inviting woman whom you would trust. Aunt Clara is also mentioned in the authorial description of chapter three during a conversation between George and Slim. George mentions how ‘She took him in when he was a baby and raised him up.’ This shows how she is seen as the mothering and nurturing type. Aunt Clara is also seen as the maternal figure in the whole novel Throughout the novel Aunt Clara is the kind-hearted woman to represent women in the women mentioned. Steinbeck uses the words ‘baby and raised him up’ this shows how she is like a mother to him and has always been there for him since he was born and until she died. As Aunt Clara is seen to be his guardian, she also mirrors to be his conscience. Right at the end of the novel, a mirage of Aunt Clara appears, and Lennie is seen to be talking to her. She is seen acting as the villain archetype. Going by what we see in the beginning she is presented as a loving character who was one of the only people who truly cared about Lennie. Aunt Clara later when appears to Lennie reprimanding him for his ‘bad’ and foolish nature and attempting to make him believe that George is going to abandon him. This circles back to Steinbeck’s view on women and that even the ones who are seen as good in the beginning can be bad. She has a domestic house position which is what was expected of women.

We are then introduced to the little girl from Weed. She is introduced in a hostile manner when George explodes and shouts at Lennie for their having to run away from the weed. When George is describing what happened in Weed to Slim, he says ‘Well he seen this girl in a red dress. A dumb bastard like he is…. he reaches out to feel this red dress and she let out a squawk and gets Lennie all mixed up, and he holds on.’ The symbolism of the color of her ‘red’ dress is implying that she is dangerous and that you shouldn’t go near her as something bad may happen to foreshadow what happens when ‘that girl rabbits in an’ tells the law she’s been raped. The guys in Weed start a party out to lynch Lennie’. Both quotes include animal imagery in the lines ‘squawk’ and ‘rabbits. This can display how she can reflect the image of a dream to Lennie with the mention of rabbits. This also foreshadows how later the dream doesn’t work out.

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The third woman we are introduced to is Curley’s wife. When we are first introduced to the fact that Curley has a wife. It is displayed in a conversation between Candy and George. ‘Well, that glove’s fulla Vaseline.’ ‘Vaseline? What the hell for?’ ‘Well, I will tell ya what ‘Curley says he’s keepin’ that hand soft for his wife.’. It is shown that Curley’s wife is being objectified and this is just something Curley is using to show off to the other men. He is using his wife to show how manly he is. The fact that the main female character in Of Mice and Men is referred to as either a ‘tart’ or as ‘Curley’s wife’ indicates that women in the 1930s setting in which the novel takes place are one of two things: sexual objects or men’s property. When we are first described Curley’s wife, she is being sexualized due to her femininity. She is described as having ‘Full rouged lips and wide-spaced eyes. Heavily made up. Her fingernails were painted red, her hair hung up 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.’ As we have seen before the color symbolism of red is dangerous and to be kept away from. The color red can also be a quite sexual color implying how her character is quite well known for her sexuality. George and Candy call her by other names such as ‘jailbait’ or ‘tart.’ She wears too much makeup and dresses like a ‘whore’ with red fingernails and red shoes with ostrich feathers. Lennie is fascinated by her and cannot take his eyes off her. He keeps repeating ‘She’s purity.’ George, realizing Lennie’s fascination, warns him to stay away from her. Curley’s wife is depicted as a manipulator and a temptress throughout Of Mice and Men. She is usually described as Curley’s possession and is frequently objectified by the ranch hands. However, right before and after her death, we see a softer woman who was a dreamer and still retained her innocence. Quotes hats are used against her are ‘Well, ain’t she a looloo?’ this is a misogynistic term from the 1930s mostly used against attractive women who don’t use their beauty for ‘good’ instead of using it for tempting men with her femininity and sexuality. She is aware that her beauty is power and so uses this to her advantage. we can see her fully use this when she says to Crooks in chapter 4 ‘I could get you strung up on a tree so easy it ain’t even funny.’ This is also linked to the past rape allegations and how it could happen once again. This is showing how Steinbeck may have the idea that women are manipulative liars. Curley’s wife is depicted as a manipulator and a temptress throughout Of Mice and Men. She is usually described as Curley’s possession and is frequently objectified by the ranch hands. However, right before and after her death, we see a softer woman who was a dreamer and still retained her innocence. Contrasting the past description of her she is described as ‘she was very pretty and simple, and her face was sweet and young. Now her rouged cheeks and her reddened lips made her seem alive and sleeping very lightly. The curls, tiny little sausages, were spread on the hay behind her head and her lips were parted.’ The symbolism of red is still there possibly hinting towards how the men should still be cautious of her. Steinbeck is portraying her innocently now as the thing that made her dangerous before is no longer a threat. This is her voice. Right before her end Steinbeck finally gave her a story and made us the reader feel sympathy for her character and maybe feel some likeness to her and then he kills her. This can show how he may have his own hatred for her character.

The last female character we are introduced to are Suzy and Clara the owners of the cathouses in town. Suzy’s place is a brothel that is frequented by migrant workers. Suzy is described as a likable and funny character who often makes jokes ‘Like she says when we come up on the front porch las’ Sat ‘day night.’ This goes to the maternal desired woman figure. Suzy’s brothel is mostly visited by the ranch workers as they don’t have the chance to ever settle down and so they visit to find some ‘company’ for the night. This is leading to how a woman is only needed for children and sex. The prostitutes mentioned are sexualised and objectified. The women throughout the novel are often reduced to an object and sexualised. Providing these services for men in being the owner of a cathouse is one of the only ways in which a woman such as Suzy doesn’t have to go through these troubles and finally get the respect that is deserved.

Of Mice and Men is gentle in its portrayal of women. Women are treated with disdain throughout the novella. Steinbeck depicts women who don’t fit the perfect image as pests who wreak havoc wherever they go ruining a man and driving him mad. Steinbeck didn’t give Curley’s wife possibly the fault of his sexist attitudes although this could also be because he wanted to dehumanise her so the reader would feel less connection and sympathy towards her character. We also see the lack of a name with the girl from weed. The only women with names in the book are the maternal characters such as Aunt Clara and Suzy. If a woman doesn’t fit the 1930s best image of a woman, they are objectified and sexualised. This is how Steinbeck portrays the women in ‘Of Mice and Men’.

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