I think there are many characters that stand out as being weak in many different ways in the book with either physical or mental weaknesses, and occasionally both. Candy clearly is easily dictated as Carlson proved, but I think the presentation of Curley’s wife and Crooks is more intriguing. Steinbeck also presents Curley’s wife as a doll ‘her hair hung in little rolled clusters, like sausages’ which has the effect of objectifying her.
We also find out that Curley’s wife is used in the book. She was picked up by somebody who said they were going to make her a movie star, and then they didn’t send her a letter, showing how she was a ‘pushover’ and nave, and then Curley found her, and made her his wife, and that is the only identity Steinbeck gives her in the book(as the wife of Curley) which I think emphasises he does to show her as an inferior by not giving her a personal identity so that we cannot relate to her- she is objectified.Order now
Possibly due to having little experience with other men, Curley’s wife married very badly, and doesn’t get on with Curley ‘Sure I gotta husban…swell guy, ain’t he? She says sarcastically, and added to Curley’s paranoia that she will cheat on him (shown on page 62-Slim said ‘well you been asking me too often. I’m getting God damn sick of it’) and in addition, due to the fact that she is the only girl on the ranch she is isolated and very lonely.
Curley’s wife hangs around the bunk house, possibly in order to make friends with the workers, but appears to have weaknesses in her skill in conversation, so finds the easiest way to communicate is by flirtation, and as a result she makes few friends on the ranch as they are wary of her, despite her not showing any definite intention of wanting to cheat on Curley; this leaves Curley’s wife with the ‘losers’ on the ranch: ‘ bunch of bindle-stiffs’, while the rest of the men go out and have a good time and she is not even accepted by this group ‘she looked from one face to another, but they were all closed against her’ and her ability to get along with people is a huge weakness ,meaning she has no support, and little chance of escape from her isolation. This might make the reader either sympathise with her, or distance themselves from her.
Another of her weaknesses that is shown when Crooks ask her to leave is her insecurity and poor morals. She turns on Crooks and threatens to get him ‘strung up on a tree so easy ain’t so funny’ the punishment for attempted rape – in order to assert her authority. Steinbeck might have done this to turn us against Curley’s wife so we could see the trouble she could cause by her female status, and it has the effect on the reader of making us lose any sympathy for Curley’s wife.
Although there is always a sense that Curley’s wife is slightly evil, Candy calls her a tart at the beginning of the book: ‘Curley’s married a tart ‘and Steinbeck brings her onto the scene when Crooks is opening up, and makes things turn sour and then finally when she dies Steinbeck seems to show that she is at peace: ‘the meanness and the planning’s and the discontent and the ache for attention were all gone from her face, and finally time stops/slows down as though there is peace’ Throughout the rest of the book however and after this Steinbeck makes everything very dramatic, with all the animals reacting ‘The horses stamped and snorted …and they clashed their halter chains’ and every thing happening in such a short space of time.
Steinbeck might have done this to have the effect on the reader of thinking that this was the right thing to happen, and had happened according to fate similarly to how he twists fate to make it seem that what George did (shooting Lennie) was right by making it happen at sunset when opportunities are closed and later having Slim, a Godlike figure, condone the killing. Also by alienating Curley’s wife the reader is not particularly upset by this event.
A feminist however, might react completely differently to the portrayal of Curley’s wife and think that she is portrayed unjustly and that women are victimised in this book. I think that it is just symbolic that Curley’s wife is a girl to isolate her from a society, which at that time was male orientated, and fit in with her part, and it does not dictate in any way how women should be treated today. The idea that Crooks is shown being slightly crippled, accentuates his weakness, also he is coloured and shown as being completely independent, and not particularly interested in getting involved with other members of the ranch, with the exception of the odd game.
Crooks main problem is that he is depressive. He is stuck in his ways, and does not have the motivation or is too weak to break out of his bonds. Steinbeck shows this very effectively using structure by introducing him rubbing his spine with liniment, and leaving him rubbing his spine with liniment, trapping him in this fixed routine. Even when Lennie and Candy come to his rescue, he doesn’t have the drive to pursue what they suggest after being humiliated by Curley’s wife.
In addition to this he is not ambitious and has a very low ego, and thinks dreams to be futile, and so attempt to torment Lennie, and put down Candy’s aspirations, and this makes the reader slightly wary of him, and not very trusting; he is also shown as being slightly evil Crooks, ‘face lighted with pleasure in the torture’ A weakness Crooks shares with Curley’s wife is that he is isolated/has no support ‘there ain’t a coloured man on this ranch’ and apart from Lennie who is controlled by George, Crooks is seen by Everyone to be lower than them on account of his colour, and for this reason he withdraws into his room as a place of security, and then his bunk when his room is invaded.
Crooks also finds it hard to communicate with people, partly because he is shy and humiliated which makes him feel lonely, and maybe justifies his insecurities and depression. The presentation of Crooks fits in with racist the pre-second world war depression Steinbeck is describing, where dreams are futile as poverty is extreme, and a common dream is shared. The American Dream’ of a piece of land and independence but rarely achieved, and is probably why he is presented like this.