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OF MICE & MEN

CHARACTER PROFILE: CURLEY


APPEARANCE
a young man came into the bunkhouse; a thin young man with a brown face, with
brown eyes and a head of tightly curled hair (like his personality tightly wound).
He wore a work glove on his left hand, and, like the boss, he wore high heeled boots
(to give the allusion that hes taller than he actually is).
Curleys wife describes his hair as Some people got kinda coarse hair Take Curley.
His hair is jus like wire. This simile could be extended to represent Curleys
personality tough, unbendable, unattractive, strong.

BEHAVIOUR & PERSONALITY


He glanced coldly (he sees everyone as an opponent; a threat to him. There is no
warmth in his character at all, no welcome imagine what he is like as a husband?) at
George and then at Lennie. His arms gradually bent at the elbows and his hands
closed into fists (this matches his hair; he is winding himself up ready for a fight;
making himself tense and giving the impression of being tough). He stiffened and went
into a slight crouch (like hes ready to pounce, constantly on his guard). His glance
was at once calculating (trying to work out his opponents first move) and
pugnacious (means ready to fight).
You the new guys the old man was waitin for? An interrogative style of question
with an impersonal address; no warmth considering this is the first time hes met them
no welcome.
We just come in, said George.
Let the big guy talk. Issuing an order; his speech is as aggressive as his body
positioning.
Looking at the way Curley moves and speaks also shows a lot about him - for example,
at
the
end
of
chapter
two:
Just as they reached it Curley bounced in. You seen a girl round here? he
demanded angrily.
Bounced full of energy but coupled with demanded it shows its the wrong kind of
energy its energy that is bottled waiting to explode in whichever form it can
through speech or through fighting. A girl tell us a lot about how he views his wife
she is a, not his or my, just a no one special. She isnt even worthy of the label
wife.
Curley lashed his body round. Lashed implies a whip that comes crashing
down/round and makes you jump. A very quick and aggressive movement that has the
power to inflict pain.

WHAT IS HIS PURPOSE?


Curleys role is that of villain in the book; he is the person we dislike; the threat to our
two protagonists Lennie & George. His role in the fight is necessary for Steinbeck to
reveal Lennies true strength because otherwise we wouldnt be able to believe that
Lennie could break someones neck so easily.

HIS DREAM

OF MICE & MEN


CHARACTER PROFILE: CURLEY
Steinbeck doesnt tell us about Curleys dream; dreams of characters are only shared
if we like the characters it would seem, perhaps because by hearing them we feel
sorry for the characters and Steinbeck doesnt want us to feel sorry for Curley. What
would it be? To be tall I imagine and to have the respect that Slim has.

WHAT THE OTHER CHARACTERS SAY ABOUT HIM &


WHAT IT SHOWS ABOUT HIS PERSONALITY
(Candy) Thats the bosss son, he said quietly. Curleys pretty handy. Hes done
quite a bit in the ring. Hes a lightweight, and hes handy. The first thing that Candy
mentions is his position of power through his relation ship to the Boss. This is
obviously how Curley is known and how he wants to be known. Repetition of handy
this is the overriding impression that people get of Curley hes good with his fists.
Curley has probably worked hard to create this impression and if you look at his
behaviour described above, you can see its a constant part of his demeanour.
(Candy) Curleys like a lot of little guys. He hates big guys. Hes alla time picking
scraps with big guys. Kind of like hes mad at em because he aint a big guy. You
seen guys like that, aint you? Always scrappy? This gossip of Candys explains
Curleys behaviour to some extent. He has an inferiority complex due to his size or
lack of it and feels like he constantly has to prove that even though hes not tall hes
still a man and the only way he can see to do this is through fighting and using his
fists. Its a male, masculine thing, that men feel they have to prove their manliness
and if they are tall then they appear manly and it requires less explicit demonstration,
whereas if they are short sometimes it can make them feel like less of a man so they
need to explicitly show everyone.
(Candy) Never did seem right to me. Spose Curley jumps a big guys an licks him.
Everbody says what a game guy Curley is. And spose he does the same thing and get
licked. Then everbody says the big guy oughtta pick somebody his own size, and then
maybe they gang up on the big guy. Never did seem right to me. Seems like Curley
aint givin nobody a chance.
(Candy) You wont tell Curley nothing I said? (to George) shows the power that
Curley has to get men canned on the ranch because hes the boss son and that
the men all know this. However, only some of them fear him for this. Candy obviously
does George recognises the capability he has: I hate that kinda bastard I seen
plenty of em. Like the old guy says, Curley dont take no chances. He always wins.
He thought for a moment. If he tangles with you Lennie, were gonna get the can.
Dont make no mistake about that. Hes the bosss son.
(Whit about Curley & his wife and the men on the ranch) No, they aint been
nothing yet. Curleys got yella-jackets in his drawers, but thats all so far An Curleys
pants is just crawlin with ants Curley is very insecure and constantly on edge and
worrying about what other people are doing or saying that might make him look bad.
But its all about him looking bad, rather than how his wife might be treated or viewed.
He sees how the men treat his wife as a reflection on himself which it is Slim flirts
with his wife he good lookin which shows a complete disregard for Curley, and when
Curley goes after Slim in chapter 3 Curley ends up apologising to Slim for doing so:
Well I didnt mean nothing, Slim. I just ast you.

OF MICE & MEN


CHARACTER PROFILE: CURLEY
And Slims response: Well, you been askin me too often. Im getting god-damn sick
of it. If you cant look after your own god-damn wife, what you expect me to do about
it? You lay offa me. Shows just how much power Slim has because he is able to
effectively tell Curley off again, which only brings another apology from Curley: Im
just tryin to tell you I didnt mean nothing. said Curley. I jus thought you might of
saw her.
But it is this belittling of Curley in front of the other guys (which Carlson adds to: You
god damn punk.. You tried to throw a scare into Slim, an you couldnt make it stick.
Slim throwed a scare into you. Youre yella as a frog belly. I dont care if youre the best
welter in the country. You come for me, an Ill kick your god-damn head off.) that
ultimately forces Curley into a corner where he feels he has to prove himself through
the only way he knows his fists and to secure being able to do this he looks for
someone weak Lennie.
It is Curleys Wifes description of Curley that reveals what he is like as a husband.
I cant talk to nobody but Curley. Else he gets mad. He is possessive and the
implication in her words is that he could be violent, which would match the overriding
impression we get of him as a violent and aggressive man who needs to feel in control.
I dont like Curley. He aint a nice fella. Love doesnt even come close, and you would
almost expect a lack of love after marrying after only two weeks, however, to not even
like the person you are married to, hints at their marriage lacking even friendship.

HOW DOES STEINBECK WANT US TO VIEW CURLEY?


All of the above quotations come from the first time we meet Curley. Steinbeck clearly
doesnt want us to empathise with this character; he wants us to have a negative
impression of him; he is an angry man who doesnt give anyone a chance and uses his
fists to prove himself which to some would be a sign of weakness. And yet, even with
this opinion of Curley, we still dont sympathise with Curleys Wife because Steinbeck
is even more manipulative with her character, making us view her with such strong
dislike that we forget the fact that she is married to Curley who cant possibly be a
nice husband, based on this first impression we get of him, and yet this doesnt seem
to influence or weaken the strength of feelings the reader has towards her. Why dont
we feel sorry for her for being married to him? It takes Curleys Wife to explicitly I
dont like Curley. He aint a nice fella for us to finally consider this which shows
how clever Steinbeck is as a writer in how he has manipulated our perceptions of
people.
Seems like Curley is cockiern ever since he got married. His wife is a trophy that he
can show off to the other men on the ranch; shes another means by which he can
proved himself a man: flaunting the fact he has a wife and is having sex with her.
Curley says hes keepin that hand soft for his wife. This shows a complete
insensitivity towards his wife; an ignorant man who has no idea how to handle the fact
he is in a relationship and what a marriage involves. The fact that he got married after
only two weeks implies that he got married for the wrong reasons perhaps because
he has always been motivated by proving himself more than by finding someone he
loves. This is shown at the end of the book when his wife has been killed and instead
of staying with her body he wants to go after Lennie and avenge her death. But not to

OF MICE & MEN


CHARACTER PROFILE: CURLEY
avenge her death, but instead the insult it is to him that someone has killed his wife.
Curley maybe you better stay here with your wife. Curleys face reddened. Im
goin, he said. Im gonna shoot the guts outta that big bastard myself, even if I only
got one hand. Im gonna get im.

MAIN EVENTS HE IS INVOL VED IN


The fight:
The verbs Steinbeck uses to describe Curleys actions show his aggression and desire
to hurt. He slashed at Lennie with his left, and then smashed down his nose with
his right Curley followed, slugging him in the face Curley attacked his stomach
Curley slashed at his eyes. This fight shows off Curleys fighting skills and in any
other context he would be admired for them, but because he is attacking Lennie who
is one of the storys protagonists, we instantly dislike him for it especially as Lennie
doesnt deserve it and is a victim of Curleys lack of self-esteem.
When Lennie fights back and breaks every bone in Curleys hand we still dont feel
sorry for him and when he stands crying afterwards there is still no sympathy for
him. The actions of Slim and the men to protect Lennie and Georges job, rather than
to defend Curley, who lets face it, has just suffered quite badly, show their lack of
respect for him and also their awareness that he brought it all on himself. There isnt
one iota of sympathy for him at this point it is all directed at Lennie which shows
Steinbecks power of manipulation, because even after Curleys Wife has been killed at
the hands of Lennie our sympathy lies primarily with Lennie because it ultimately
causes his death.
Curleys Wifes Death:
When the men come into the barn and see Curleys Wifes body, the person who
rushes to her side is Slim, not Curley. His lack of response and emotion confirms the
state of their marriage and our previous views on how he views his wife are confirmed.
The first words out of his mouth are: I know who done it, he cried. That big son ofa-bitch done it. I know he done it. Whyeverbody else was out there playin
horseshoes. He worked himself into a fury. Im gonna get him. Im going for my
shotgun. Ill kill the big son-of-a-bitch myself. Ill shoot im in the guts. Come on,
you guys. He ran furiously out of the barn. All the references are about Lennie and
Curley killing Lennie is this to avenge his wifes death or Lennie crushing his hand?
Certainly there is no reference to his wife, or to his sadness at her dying. You could
argue that perhaps it is shock and this is his way of channelling his grief, however,
everything we have seen previously doesnt support this idea of Curley having any
kind of emotional depth to him. Plus Slim says when discussing what will happen to
Lennie with George: If we could keep Curley in, we might. But Curleys gonna want
to shoot im. Curleys still mad about his hand which shows his true motivation for
killing Lennie.
The final line to describe Curley is: Carlson came running in. The bastards stole my
Luger, he shouted. It aint in my bag. Curley followed him, and Curley carried a
shotgun in his good hand. Curley was cold now which epitomises his whole response.
Steinbeck spelling it out so clearly is his way of ensuring that all our sympathies lie
with Lennie and George in the forthcoming pages, as confirmed by the conversation
before they leave. Slim stood looking down at Curleys wife. He said, Curleymaybe
you better stay here with your wife. Curleys face reddened. Im goin, he said. Im

OF MICE & MEN


CHARACTER PROFILE: CURLEY
gonna shoot the guts outa that big bastard myself, even if I only got one hand. Im
gonna get im.

What an insensitive, unfeeling, insecure little man!


By Amy Holden