Suggested possible question for 2016 English exam could be a Curley based question. Please read my response and give feedback, very much appreciated.
Steinbeck uses methods in the passage to present Curley as a confrontational character who is a threat to the American Dream.
Language is used as a method to describe Curley when he first enters the bunkhouse. The quotation ‘brown face, brown eyes and a head of tightly curled hair’ shows how Steinbeck uses colour symbolism, a three point list and anaphora to describe Curley as a typical migrant worker. The ‘brown’ suggests he works outside a lot and that his relationship with his wife isn’t stable because he is always on the ranch. He resembles how citizens in 1930’s America had to support themselves by working hard due to the Great Depression which left the country in poverty. It also shows a patriarchal society as men stereotypically went out to work while the women remained home to cook and clean. Alternatively, the word ‘curled’ suggests Curley is defined by his appearance which can link to his personality which is like bipolar because he is constantly going off like a spring. It can be perceived that he can lash out at any minute which makes the reader and other characters in the novel, very afraid of him.
In addition to this, Curley’s speech proves he is threatening because of the phrase ‘I’ll try to catch him’. Like a predator, Curley speaks about his father like his prey. He wants to take over the business and become more successful because in order to survive, you must be in a higher class to others because society in the 1930’s couldn’t support the weak. A simile is used in the quotation ‘like the boss, he wore high-heeled boots’ to present the reader with the idea that Curley thrives to be taller, bigger and better so people will look up to him as the boss. He wants to follow in his father’s footstep and have everyone to be intimidated by him so they can be his puppets and follow his every instruction. It resembles how although Curley is short, he uses his position in the hierarchy as the boss’s son to gain authority over the other characters. Therefore, he threatens the American Dream that everyone thrives for because migrant workers often wanted a better life and because Curley can’t achieve his dream of being a bigger man, he wants to ruin other people’s dream. Lennie’s body language towards Curley is described as though her ‘squirmed’ which makes the reader also fear him and makes them anticipant as to what this foreshadows for the rest of the novel.
Finally, Curley’s inferiority continues in the quotation ‘Curley lashed his body around’. The word ‘lashed’ is onomatopoeia and creates imagery as if Curley’s movement hits everyone. Its power is feared by the ranch men because they know Curley can lose them their job and they’d be stranded once again, unable to support themselves. He demands respect and tries to dominate the worker which makes his character unlikeable. The reader can empathise with the characters because they feel as though they’re in the room witnessing Curley claim authority over everyone. The reader can understand what society was truly like and can believe that there were people like Curley in real life that made the Dustbowl and Wall Street Crash ever more difficult for people who were trying to survive.
In conclusion, Steinbeck presents Curley as a man on the ranch that foreshadows the rest of the novel because of the trouble he causes and suggests that bad things are going to happen.
Steinbeck uses Curley to present ideas about society in 1930’s America because he adds to the struggle to survive.
Firstly, Curley represents the practical attitude migrant workers had. Due to the Dustbowl and the Wall Street crash, there was little money and few places to farm in America which caused The Great Depression. This meant that society couldn’t support everyone and the weak didn’t survive. At the death of his own wife, Curley is presented as a practical man who seeks revenge. The quotation ‘Curley carried a shotgun in his good hand. Curley was cold now’ represents repetition of Curley’s name which slows the reader down through this passage. It shows his frustration as the word ‘cold’ is used, like all the heat has left his body and he is frozen with anger, yet he is ready to go after Lennie. The phrase ‘Curley’s still mad about his hand’ is said by Slim as George pleads him to stop Lennie getting killed. It shows that the hunt for Lennie isn’t about him killing Curley’s wife but because Lennie is the epitome of Curley’s American Dream to be big and jealousy takes over as he goes after Lennie to kill him. Curley is the predator and Lennie is his prey. This makes the reader fearful because of their knowledge of survival of the fittest, where they know Lennie is in great danger because he is one of the weak due to his disability. Society cannot support him and now, neither can George so the end is anticipant and filled with suspense. Instead of the men coming together to help Lennie because he is different, the best solution provided by Curley is to kill Lennie which shows how the men had to practical and could not love because they learnt to be hardened workers.
Furthermore, representation of hierarchy is shown in Curley’s attire as he wears ‘high healed boots’ in order to seem intimidating and to show his authority to the other men. It also presents the reader with his dream to be bigger and better than everyone else. Therefore, the reader has contrasting ideas about him because they feel sorry for him however, he abuses his right as the boss’s son to try and demand respect from everyone. In addition to this, it is confirmed that Curley is a threatening character in the fight scene between him and Lennie when he tries to withhold his position in hierarchy. The quotation ‘Curley stepped over to Lennie like a terrier’ is a smile that brings imagery of Curley being a dog ready to pounce on Lennie. He thinks by gritting his teeth and squaring up to the bigger man that he can prove he is the boss. However, he is blackmailed and overcome by Lennie. Much like animals, they fight each other for the highest position and it shows you should learn to accept when you are in a lower rank otherwise you will be put in danger. The reader understands that it was difficult for everyone to get along in the 1930’s because no one had any money or was achieving their dream so everyone was depressed. You needed to fight to survive and this creates a very tense atmosphere that follows Curley whenever he appears in the novel.
Finally, Steinbeck uses Curley to present sexism through his actions towards his wife. They are never in the same room until after death which shows how weak their relationship is. One quotation that suggests sexism is that during the fight scene as Carlson says ‘why’n’t you tell her to stay the hell home where she belongs?’ The word ‘hell’ shows religious language rarely used in those days because it caused offence. This makes it ever more insulting and we feel sorry for Curley’s wife. The workers make sexist remarks, believing she should stay home stereotypically as the men draw in the money. The reader therefore feels anger towards him as he continues to provoke other characters instead of defending his wife like a good husband should. The reader acknowledges that women didn’t stand a chance against men in this patriarchal society and it shows that migrant workers don’t know how to love because they’ve been hardened so they can do their job.
Curley presents 1930’s American migrant workers as believers in hierarchy, practicality and sexist views which ultimately makes him a dislikeable character to the reader.
Feedback on Curley, Of Mice & Men Question?
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- 21-05-2016 12:47
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- 21-05-2016 12:52
this is a really good answer
how you got all those techniques, onomatopoeia ,etc, into your answer is unbelievable.
I'm personally hoping a question on Curley's Wife comes up - that would be perfect