8 Mar 2013

GCSE Exam Essays Of Mice and Men: Graded with Examiner's Comments

‘Of Mice and Men’: In a letter, John Steinbeck wrote of Curley’s wife: ‘She’s a nice girl and not a floozy.’ Discuss and explain your own impression of Curley’s wife.

John Steinbeck portrays Curley’s wife as being a floozy but also a nice girl. She is a natural flirt as throughout the novel she continues to talk to all the other men, but when she dies, we see her as an innocent young girl. I am writing this essay to discuss my views and whether I agree with John Steinbeck when he says she is a nice girl.

Curley’s wife gives off the impression she is a floozy throughout the novel. When we first see her, her body language is deliberately provocative when she leans against a pole in the barn. ‘So her body was thrown forward.’ Knowing her beautiful womanly figure, and being the only woman on the farm, this suggestive posture reveals her need to be noticed and admired by the men. She talks very confidently and flirtatiously to George and Lennie even though they have just arrived and she doesn’t know them. She pretends to be looking for her husband and when told that he is not there Steinbeck writes: ‘“If he ain’t, I guess I better look some place else" she said playfully.’ This suggests her boredom in marriage and that she just wants company and fun. She talks ‘playfully’ as a young teenager would and obviously cares more about throwing herself towards people and enjoying male company than she does spending time with her husband.

Candy’s opinion of her is very prejudiced as he says to George and Lennie, ‘I think Curley’s married... a tart.’ This is prejudiced as just because he has got that impression of her, he may be very wrong and other people should be left to judge for themselves, although Candy warns them away from her right from the beginning. Later in the book, she has a disrespectful attitude towards Crooks, George and Lennie. `You bindle bums think you’re so damn good', ‘talking to a bunch of bindle stiffs, a nigger an' a dum-dum and a lousy ol' sheep' shows even though she is younger, she has no respect and thinks herself a lot better than them. She likes to create attention for herself as she clearly feels she isn’t noticed. 

She uses the fact she is a vulnerable female against Crooks and is very racist towards him. ‘Well you keep your trap shut then, Nigger. I could get you strung up on a tree so easy it ain’t even funny.’ This is a definite threat to Crooks. This shows that the social attitudes at the time were extremely racist and she chooses him because he is the most weak and least able to defend himself. She was going to accuse him of sexual assault and his black skin she knew would add to the problem. This gives her some status and power despite her because she is the only woman though her unpopular husband actually makes her an outcast on the farm. Nobody will want to converse with her because they fear her husband, and because they would automatically tar her with the same brush as they had him, which is to be extremely unreasonable and disrespectful, not to mention rude and very unfriendly.

When Lennie and George arrive at the ranch, Curley’s wife claims to be looking for her husband Curley. But she clearly isn’t just there for that. ‘You’re the new fella’s that just come, ain’t ya?’ She immediately moves from finding her husband to acquainting herself with them. When Slim arrives and tells her Curley had gone into the house, she leaves in a hurry as though she thought they knew her intentions weren’t actually to find Curley.

There are, then, a number of aspects of her character which are less attractive. She flirts with the other men, she does not consider the effect she is having upon them and she is racist. She endangers their positions on the ranch through her behaviour.

Throughout the novel, there are also indications she is a victim rather than a floozy. You learn that she dreamt of being in films but it was never going to become a reality. She showed she had always been used by men as none of them ever intended to put her in films: ‘an’ a guy tol’ me he could put me in pitchers.’ Although she was very naive in believing it, it leaves her bitter in her marriage knowing that this was once on offer for her because she was trapped with no contact with the outside world of wider opportunities. She confesses to Lennie that she isn’t happy and still plans to fulfil her dreams in the future. ‘I coulda made somethin' of myseIf... maybe I will yet'. She confesses that her marriage to Curley isn’t based on love or even lust; it was arranged when she was just in a temper with her mother and on the rebound. ‘I married Curley. Met him out to the Riverside Dance that same night.' She thought she’d have more freedom, to fulfil her dreams, but it did not worked out like that. She craves some sort of affection and attention and has clearly kept her feelings hidden away for a long time before her confession to Lennie. ‘I don’t like Curley. He ain’t a nice fella.’ She jumps at the chance to be able to express herself to somebody, somebody who would listen. She obviously is in despair as by now she has lost hope of her dream. She is lonely and never receives any of the love and affection she needs and like any young girl would want. ‘Think I don’t like to talk to somebody ever once in a while? Think I like to stick in that house alla time?’ She always just wants some company and never understands just why nobody would speak with her. She is young, and probably never meant to appear ‘a tramp' or ‘a tart'. She simply has nothing to do and nobody to talk to. She can put two and two together. She realises her husband has no respect for her. ‘Think I don’t know where they all went? Even Curley. I know where they all went.' On the Saturday night, Curley had gone to a brothel with some of the other men who worked on the ranch. Just his absence alone gives us the impression that their marriage lacks love and intimacy. This makes you sympathise with her more, as she is young, beautiful and full of life and her husband still chooses other women over her which surely must make her feel unworthy and insecure as well as lowering her self-esteem.

Another part of the novel which makes you sympathise with Curley’s wife is when she dies. ‘The meanness and the planning and the discontent and the ache for attention were all gone from her face.’ This shows that after all the stress and things life had placed on her, she has finally relaxed and is at ease. ‘She was very pretty and simple, and her face was sweet and young.’ This again reminds you of how young she was and how she had so much unhappiness in such a short time. Her beauty ruined her in a way, as that was the main cause of her disappointment with acting and also why she ended up marrying Curley. ‘Now her rouged cheeks and her reddened lips made her seem alive.’ This shows and reminds you of the importance of makeup to her, as even at her death she looks the same. Last of all ‘the curls, tiny little sausages,’ make her seem so young, like a child which automatically again makes you feel sorry for her, and guilty in a way for thinking she was just a floozy in the beginning.

Finally, throughout the novel, she is simply known as ‘Curley’s wife'. This shows a huge lack of respect for her as nobody once throughout called her by her own name. It was as though her identity had been taken away, and she has no right to stand up as a person with rights and an opinion. This also makes me feel very sorry for her as she is neglected and overlooked a lot of the time. Curley’s wife is definitely not a straightforward character. Throughout the novel, you see different sides of her which means you can interpret her in different ways, a floozy and a nice girl. She shows many characteristics of being both but on balance, I feel, that she is a victim of her circumstances. 

I think John Steinbeck made her seem a very realistic character for the time and place when the book is set. The novel is set in the 1930’s when people had less social compassion than we do now. It shows how women had no choices and few opportunities which still happens now. He made her seem very naive, which she was and that she was only seen for her beauty, not for herself. He uses a lot of dialect to show her strong accent and where she came from as she is not well spoken and says a lot of things in slang. It could also pick up on her family background as it shows how, just like the men, she is not well educated. Examples of this dialect are, ‘awright, cover ‘im up if ya wanta,’ ‘an’ a guy tol’ me he could put me in pitchers,’ which all give you a precise indication of how she speaks. Curley’s wife is then a sad and na├»ve young lady who lacks the education to escape from her environment.

I think that John Steinbeck was successful in his aim to present Curley’s wife as a ‘nice girl' rather than a ‘fIoozy’ as without a doubt by the end of the novel I thought she was a nice girl. When she died, he showed her being sweet and innocent in death and her natural beauty was allowed to shine through. It highlighted the fact that it was her negative life experiences that made her act in the way she did. This made me sympathise with her and truly feel sorry for her as you finally realise that she is in fact not a ‘floozy’ just a young girl trying to follow some sort of dream.


Commentary

This student is able to make close textual reference and she comments on the language of the novel in a thoughtful and mature fashion. She investigates the central aspect of her task with care and she remains focused throughout the essay. Appropriate reference is made to the social and historical background to the novel where it is necessary to do so. The student is able to comment maturely on relationships and characters, attitudes and motives. She handles the text with confidence although the structure of the essay could be better. The section on Curley’s wife being a ‘floozy’ could perhaps have been more detailed. This is Band 5 work with a mark of 35.



Why is Curley’s wife important in the book?

We know Curley’s wife is important in the book because at the beginning Curley is looking for his wife which gets Curley and the men into a fight. ‘His eyes slipped on past him and lighted on Lennie and Lennie was still smiling with delight at the memory of the ranch’. This brought Curley to anger because he thought Lennie was laughing about Slim and Carlson scaring Curley. We know this because the book says, ‘what the hell you laughing at?’ Lennie looked blankly at him. Lennie did not realise that Curley was angry with him for laughing so he just looked blank at him. Then Curley burst out with anger. We know this because the book says, ‘Then Curley’s rage exploded. No son of a bitch is gonna laugh at me’. By now in the book we already know Curley doesn’t like big fellows. 

Curley’s wife doesn’t really have much power in the ranch because she says, ‘they have left all the weak ones here’. This means she can’t really help it and she tries to flirt with Crooks, Candy and Lennie. Then when Crooks tells her to leave his room, she says ‘I can have you strung up so quick, it ain’t even funny.’ By ‘strung up’ she means she can have him hanged if she accuses him of rape. This means that Curley’s wife is racist.

The workers think she is trouble. It says in the book she is called ‘jailbait’ and a ‘tart’. George has to tell Lennie to leave her alone because he thinks she is pretty. George is worried that she will get Lennie and him into trouble when Lennie looks at her legs. Lennie says, ‘I don’t like this place’. He thinks he is always getting into trouble and he never understands why.

Curley’s wife has ‘got the eye’ which means that she flirts with anyone. We know she’s got the eye because Candy tells us at the beginning of the book. He also says that she’s only been married two weeks.

Curley’s wife is sad because she only married Curley to get away from her mum who she thought had stolen a letter from the film producer. She wanted to get into the movies. It is also sad when she dies in the book as it says she ‘flopped like a fish.’ This makes us think that she is like a rag doll. Curley’s wife is also lonely like other people in the book. She is the only female on the ranch so that may be why she flirts with the men so that she can get some attention. Curley doesn’t seem t like her. She has a dream of being in the movies. She had been told by a producer that she was a natural but he didn’t send her a letter to get her into the movies. But he was probably trying to get her to go to bed with him and never really thought she would get into the movies. 

Lennie only got killed because of Curley’s wife. I don’t think Curley cared about his wife. I think he only wanted to get Lennie back because he bust his hand. The men don’t really like her because when she lay there dead he said, ‘you goddam tramp.’ 

George didn’t want Lennie to die painfully so he shot him in the back of the head when he was happy thinking about the dream.



Commentary

The focus early in the essay is doubtful but it improves later in the work. The essay seems rushed with ideas pouring out but with little support. Organisation is clearly a problem too though the student does track through the book. Some of it is irrelevant to task and slight disorganisation and the lack of clear supporting reference weakens the work. This is Band 3 work with a mark of 17. 

Task

Choose four characters who are lonely in the book ‘Of Mice and Men’ and show why they are lonely.

My first character I am going to talk about is Candy. Candy shows his loneliness when he was going to leave the share of his money to the guys that used to work with him on the ranch. This is shown when he says ‘I’ll make a will and leave my share to you guys in case I kick off because I have no relatives or nothing.’ Candy was an old swamper with no family to leave his money to. That is why he wanted to leave his money to George and Lennie. In the 1930s old people were not safe as there was no social security that people could rely on.

My second character is going to be Lennie. This character shows that he was very lonely as when he killed Curley’s wife all he was talking and thinking about was the rabbit. I know this when it says ‘Aunt Clara was gone and from out of Lennie’s head came a gigantic rabbit. It said scornfully, you crazy bastard.’ When someone kills they wouldn’t be thinking of rabbits and Aunt Clara past away a few years before.

My third character is Curley’s wife. She is a very lonely woman as she is the only female on the ranch so she has no one to talk to as her husband Curley was always out getting drunk and she was left alone. In the novel she is only known as Curley’s wife. She is never given a name. Curley didn’t want her to talk to anyone otherwise he gets mad. ‘How’d you like not to talk to anybody?’ This quotation comes from the scene where Curley’s wife is telling Lennie about her dream before he kills her.

Crooks is the only black man on the ranch. He says to Lennie, ‘because I’m black they say I stink, well I tell you, you all stink to me.’ This shows Crooks is not accepted by anyone else. He couldn’t go into a room to have a game with other workers. He only had his own room and is not sharing with anyone because he is the only black man on the ranch.


Commentary

The task is suitably simple for the ability of the student. However, she does not develop the points made. She makes ‘some attempt to respond to a text’ and shows a ‘response to significant characters’. This essay is worth a mark of 12 in the upper area of Band 2.

Task

How does Steinbeck portray the character of Lennie in Chapters 1 and 2 of ‘Of Mice and Men’?

Lennie is a huge man with a shapeless face and large pale eyes.  He has wide sloping shoulders and dragged his feet like a bear drags his paws.  This happens in the Great Depression and when the great dust bowl happened. Lennie flung himself down and took big long gulps of water like a horse. Lennie dabbled his big paw in the water splashing about, like a child.

Lennie copies what George does, drew up his knees, embraced them. He pushed his hat over his eyes a little. "Where we goin’, George?" Lennie is quite forgetful and doesn’t remember his Aunt Clara.

Lennie loves to pet animals but he pets them too hard and they end up dead because he is quite strong and doesn’t know it.  His dream is to tend lots of rabbit, nothing else.  George promises to get him a dog. Once Lennie touches something he likes, he won't let it go. "Lennie's lip quivered and tears started in his eyes." Lennie is like a big child and doesn’t understand violence.

"Lennie's eyes moved down her body" and "She's pretty" proves he likes Curley’s wife.

Lennie gets a puppy but he pets it too hard and gets upset about it.  Lennie crushes Curley's hand in a fight Curly started. Lennie doesn’t know his own strength. Lennie and Curley's wife have a chat in the barn. Lennie starts to stroke his fingers through her hair, then started pulling it and she started to scream.  Lennie tried to calm her down but accidently kills her.

George finds out about what happened and he shot Lennie in the head when he wasn't looking because Lennie killed Curley's wife.  Lennie never got to tend any rabbits, which was his dream that never happened.


Commentary

This student begins by describing what happens at the beginning of the book closely mirroring the text. She makes some simple comments about Lennie’s love of animals and likens him to a child. In the remainder of the essay, she continues her narrative description of the chapters losing focus on the task as she leaps to the end of the text. There is a basic understanding of the narrative line in the essay and some character description. This is low Band 2 work with a mark of 10.