- She is newly married to Curley.
- We never know her name - she is merely Curley's 'property' with no individual identity.
- She is young, pretty, wears attractive clothes and curls her hair.
- She seems flirtatious and is always hanging around the bunk-house.
- She is lonely - there are no other women to talk to and Curley is not really interested in her.
- "What kinda harm am I doin' to you? Seems like they ain't none of them cares how I gotta live. I tell you I ain't used to livin' like this. I coulda made somethin' of myself."
- She doesn't like Curley - she tells Lennie that she only married him when she didn't receive a letter she'd been promised to get into Hollywood.
- She is naive.
Curley's wife knows her beauty is her power, and she uses it to flirt with the ranch hands and make her husband jealous. She is utterly alone on the ranch, and her husband has seen to it that no one will talk to her without fearing a beating.
Steinbeck's initial portrayal of Curley's wife shows her to be a mean and seductive temptress. Alive, she is connected to Eve in the Garden of Eden. She brings evil into mens' lives by tempting them in a way they cannot resist. Eventually, she brings about the end of the dream of Eden, the little farm where George and Lennie can live off the fat of the land. Her death at Lennie's hands means the end of George and Lennie's companionship and their dream. She is portrayed, like the girl in Weed, as a liar and manipulator of men. In the scene in Crooks' room, she reminds Crooks of his place and threatens to have him lynched if he doesn't show her the proper respect as the wife of the boss' son and a white woman. All of these appearances cause the reader to dislike her and see her as the downfall of the men in the story.
In the barn scene, however, Steinbeck softens the reader's reaction to Curley's wife by exploring her dreams. Her "best laid plans" involved a stint in the movies with all the benefits, money, and pleasure that would provide. Her beauty is such that perhaps that dream might have come true. Her dreams make her more human and vulnerable. Steinbeck reiterates this impression by portraying her innocence in death:
Curley's wife lay with a half-covering of yellow hay. And the meanness and the plannings and the discontent and the ache for attention were all gone from her face. 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.
Steinbeck seems to show, through Curley's wife, that even the worst of us have our humanity.