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What are your first impressions of Curley's Wife?

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Alice Reeve-Tucker

on 25 February 2015

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Transcript of What are your first impressions of Curley's Wife?

What are your FIRST impressions of Curley's Wife?

What do you think Steinbeck wants us to think about her?
Thought-provoking points:

- she is never given a name. Why not?

- she is called a 'tramp' and a 'tart' for flirting with men, and yet the men can go to brothels every weekend. What does this tell us?

- The other pretty girl mentioned so far has been associated with danger - is this the same for Curley's wife?
Is she a victim or a vixen?
4 minute writing activity:
In pairs, come up with as many reasons as possible for defending her behaviour and then for criticising her behaviour.

Finally, decide which side you take.
2 minutes

In pairs, create a mindmap of everything you know about women in the 1930s and their role on ranches and in society.

What can we learn from Curley's wife about women in 1930s?

Sad? Desperate? Provocative?
What could this make up symbolise?

What do we learn about her?
What does this specific hair style tell us about her?

How does this affect your understanding of Curley's wife?
Having read the letter, and analysed her portrayal, what do you think Steinbeck is trying to show us/teach us through her?

Do you feel sorry for her? Explain why/why not.
5 minute writing activity
Exam practice

What you will get marks for:

• AO1: a close knowledge and understanding of the novel and its context (you need to write in detail and be specific when writing about the novel).

• AO2: understanding and appreciation of writers’ uses of the following as appropriate: characterisation, theme, plot and setting

• AO4: a focused, sensitive, lively and informed personal engagement with literary texts – your opinions and ideas matter!

1 Don’t retell the story. The examiner follows a mark scheme and will probably be referring to ‘grade descriptors’ giving pointers to the features to be expected from essays at each grade. A key feature of the lowest grades is ‘retelling the story’.

2 Don’t quote long passages. You will waste time and gain no marks by quoting long passages from the novel. Use your judgement, but it will probably never be necessary for you to quote more than two sentences at a time.

3 Don’t just identify figures of speech or other features. You will not gain marks simply for identifying figures of speech, such as similes or metaphors. Similarly, you will gain no marks for pointing out that ‘Steinbeck uses a lot of adverbs in this passage.’ You will only gain marks by identifying these features and saying why the author has used them and how effective you think they are.

4 Don’t give unsubstantiated opinions. The examiner will be keen to give you marks for your opinions, but only if they are supported by reasoned argument and references to the text.
American Dream: the home

- Lennie has rabbits (responsibility, something to love)
- he's safe and protected
- they can stay in one place (stability) and be their own boss (decide when to work)
- they reap the rewards of hard labour - they eat and sell what they grow (self-sufficient)

To Kill a Mockingbird

The narrator's father, Atticus Finch, has served as a moral hero for many readers and as a model of integrity for lawyers. One critic explains the novel's impact by writing, "In the twentieth century, To Kill a Mockingbird is probably the most widely read book dealing with race in America, and its protagonist, Atticus Finch, the most enduring fictional image of racial heroism."
'Shoot all the bluejays you want, if you can hit 'em, but remember it's a sin to kill a mockingbird.'

A lawyer's advice to his children as he defends the real mockingbird of Harper Lee's classic novel - a black man charged with the rape of a white girl. Through the young eyes of Scout and Jem Finch, Harper Lee explores with exuberant humour the irrationality of adult attitudes to race and class in the Deep South of the thirties. The conscience of a town steeped in prejudice, violence and hypocrisy is pricked by the stamina of one man's struggle for justice. But the weight of history will only tolerate so much.

To Kill a Mockingbird is a coming-of-age story, an anti-racist novel, a historical drama of the Great Depression and a sublime example of the Southern writing tradition.

Exam Practice
In pairs, read over your notes and identify WHY the first answer is a C grade
The only female character in the novel is Curley’s wife, so we have to accept the way Steinbeck shows her as being what he thinks of women. Other women are mentioned, but only prostitutes and Lennie’s aunt. The men on the ranch all fancy Curley’s wife, which is a big problem for Curley. He’s really jealous. Steinbeck shows her to be a ‘tart’ pointing out that she wears a lot of make-up and has sausage hair. Candy says that she’s pretty but that ‘she got the eye’. He adds that she is ‘a tart’. Steinbeck also describes her speaking ‘playfully’ and writes ‘She smiled archly and twitched her body.’
Steinbeck has already shown how women cause trouble. In Weed, which is where George and Lennie used to work before they came to Salinas, Lennie touched a girl’s dress and she screamed and tried to make out that he had tried to rape her. So they had to hide in a ditch all day to escape. George doesn’t want this to happen again, because he thinks a lot of Lennie even though he is not very bright and does ‘bad things’, and he wants to protect him. George also warns us that Curley’s wife is going to cause trouble.

These hints are developed when violence breaks out because of Curley’s jealous suspicions of his wife. Curley thinks that Slim has been with his wife, which he hasn’t, and this makes Slim angry, which makes Curley want to pick on someone. He tries to have a go at Carlson, but he threatens to kick his head in, so Curley takes it out on Lennie. Curley’s wife is the cause of all this so the message is again that she is ‘trouble’.
Slim is nice to her, although even he only refers to her looks: ‘Hi, Good-lookin’.’ George is a good man but still calls her a ‘tramp’ and comments ‘So that’s what Curley picks for a wife.’ This shows his disapproval.

We meet Curley’s wife again in person when she invites herself into the bunk house. The image of her built up so far now becomes even more negative. However, we do see something more of her. Firstly, she has the intelligence to guess why the men avoid her. We see how limited her life is, which may make us sympathise with her. She is apparently not happy with Curley.
Discuss the way in which Steinbeck presents women in Of Mice and Men.

Of Mice and Men is set almost entirely on a ranch in 1930s California, and this is a man’s world. It follows that Steinbeck’s presentation of women is not wide-ranging. However, even given these limitations, his presentation of women seems unnecessarily negative.
The only female character in the novel is Curley’s wife. Other women are mentioned, but she is the only one to appear in person. As the only female character, and as one who plays such a major role in the plot, the way in which Steinbeck presents her is crucial. Yet she is portrayed in a rather two-dimensional way. It is perhaps not surprising that the ranch men have a stereotypical view of her. This reflects the moral double standards common at that time in America, and to some extent still in existence today. When Candy describes her to George, he says that she’s pretty, but that ‘she got the eye’ — meaning that she takes a sexual interest in men other than Curley. He adds disapprovingly that she is ‘a tart’. When she appears soon after this, Steinbeck’s presentation of her reinforces Candy’s view. She blocks out the light as she looks into the bunk house. As Steinbeck uses light to symbolise goodness, her blocking it out warns us that she is bad — or at least that she will lead to bad things happening. Moreover, she is heavily made up and her hair hangs ‘in little rolled clusters, like sausages’. This is an unflattering description. Steinbeck also describes her speaking ‘playfully’ and writes ‘She smiled archly and twitched her body.’ These details suggest that she is flirtatious.
Slim is pleasant to her, although even he only refers to her looks: ‘Hi, Good-lookin’.’ George, whose opinion we are generally supposed to respect, calls her a ‘tramp’ (almost a prostitute) and comments ‘So that’s what Curley picks for a wife.’ The word ‘that’s’ suggests that she is treated as a thing, not a person. This is emphasised by the fact that Steinbeck never gives her a name. He wants us to see that on the ranch she is not treated as an individual in her own right.
By describing the incident in Weed, Steinbeck warns us that women cause trouble — or perhaps that men’s attitude towards them does. Through George, he further warns us that Curley’s wife is going to cause trouble:
‘She’s gonna make a mess. They’re gonna be a bad mess about her. She’s a jail bait all set on the trigger.’
These rather heavy hints are developed when violence breaks out in the third section because of Curley’s jealous suspicions of her. His wife is not present, but the message is again that she is ‘trouble’.


What have you learned today about exam technique that you did not know at the beginning of the lesson

e.g. good things to do, specific things to avoid.

Make a note of these ideas in your books.


Slim is an ideal character - how does Steinbeck make us see him in this way?
Closely analyse and highlight the description of SLIM - in what ways is he presented as being an ideal worker?

Some critics argue that he is unrealistic and too perfect? Do you agree? Would flaws make him more believable?

WHY would Steinbeck present a character like Slim in this novel - what is his function/purpose?
Ideal to contrast other characters?

Role model and therefore hope (because not all men are corrupt?)

A lessson (a way to behave despite these conditions on the ranch)

How, you don't need to be violent and aggressive to gain respect from others

Symbolises kindness and goodness and that noble qualities can be found in humble men

Curley has no virtues; Slim has no faults (two dimensional? or Symbolic?)

Function: Enables George to relax and open up

We respect his judgements and values
In small groups you will prepare a character document which records key ideas and key quotations so far. The idea is that we keep adding to these at various points, so that by the end, we can create our own detailed revision booklet (as opposed to each of you individually doing this).

1. George

2. Lennie

3. Curley and Boss
George Walker

Monday 10th February:
40 minutes to plan and write an essay that focuses on Curley’s Wife

Tuesday 11th February:
No lesson because it is lesson swap.

Thursday 13th February:
You will be in D2 for this lesson with a cover teacher. You will need to use these 40 minutes to finalise your revision document.

Friday 14th February:
Deliver your revision notes and we finish reading Chapter 2.

Spend 5 minutes silently reading through my comments.

Only one of you answered the question!

I think you are following an 'RE' model when you need to do something different for English.

State what YOUR view is and explain WHY. Yes, allude to why people may disagree, but then hit back and explain why you think the way you do.

Too many gave a 'for' paragraph, followed by an 'against' paragraph, only telling me your view in the conclusion - when I need it in the introduction and throughout the essay

- introduce Curley's Wife (only woman, lives on the ranch, is isolated, fixates on her looks, is young and very attractive, is in an unhappy marriage with an aggressive man etc.)
- tell me YOUR view of her and summarise your reasons

e.g. while some readers may view her as a victim, because of her loneliness and possible insecurity, I interpret her as being a vixen because she I think Steinbeck presents her as being aware of her attractiveness (1) attention-seeking (2) and manipulative (3).
Main body of the argument (which develops the statements made in your introduction)

1 – She is aware of her attractiveness (pick quotes and explain them)
e.g. some people view her as insecure and lonely, however I view her as being deliberately provocative as she spends a huge amount of time and effort on attracting ranch workers. This is probably because she has nothing else to do on the ranch because women in the 1930s were expected to stay inside their homes and act in a domestic way....

2 – She is attention seeking - focus on her body language, her voice, her flirtatious language (some people may view her as insecure because she could be using make up to mask her true self, or she may not know how else to behave in front of men, but I see her as being confident and self-aware - she knows that the men are lonely (because they are away from their families) and she takes advantage of this.

3. She is manipulative - she is the wife of the ranch owner's son - she knows that if the ranch workers complain or reciprocate in any way, then they will get fired. Thus, she has a form of power over them and since this is her only available power on the ranch she uses it to provoke the men (evidence: how uncomfortable they are around her)

Conclusion: therefore, despite being isolated, lonely and possibly insecure, I still view her as a vixen figure because she deliberately uses her body and sexuality to yield a form of power of the men; and I think that her appearance and behaviour is very contrived (meaning, she knows what she's doing and is aware of her effect on men).

Common mistakes

- 'Of Mice and Men'
not: of mice and men

- Curley's wife
not: Curleys wife

'it quotes' 'it writes' - instead:
Steinbeck writes
And INTRODUCE and CONTEXTUALISE the quotes - don't just lump them in.

Write about the text in the PRESENT TENSE (she IS lonely, she LIVES on a ranch)

Remember, you are INTERPRETING a character - just because she wears make up doesn't mean she IS insecure, it's just that you are interpreting her to be so e.g. she wears 'heavy' make up, which could indicate her insecurity because.......
rather than: she wears heavy makeup which shows her insecurity
What you did well:

- EMBEDDED quotations from the text and then explained them
- referred to Steinbeck's letter
- demonstrated your knowledge of 1930s context
- made excellent and sophisticated points about Curley's Wife

Reflect on your answer and summarise in a couple of sentences (or bullet points) what you need to do to improve your answer.

This shows me that you understand my feedback
Monday 24th February

Welcome back!

1. We will have a Literature folder check on Thursday. If any are not up to scratch then I will have to issue detentions in order for you to spend time making them organised. I want to see:
- dividers
- sheets in order
- target sheets up to date (remember, I have a list of your targets so please make sure they are accurate!)

2. Review of revision task - some of you need to write more (and follow the guidelines I gave). These need to be handed in to me on Thursday also.

3. Hector - you owe me an 'American Dream' essay!
Question: How is Candy presented in the novel?

Introduction: Summarise the character of Candy (who he is, what we learn about him) and outline the main ways in which he is presented.

1st paragraph: topic sentence which links to the question and summarises ONE key way in which you think Candy is presented. Then, explain this idea in detail using quotations from the text and your knowledge of the 1930s.
Remember - what is his ROLE in this novel? What does he teach us about attitudes to the disabled? attitudes to work? Life on the ranch? Loneliness?
Never write:

'Quotation' this shows....
that is FAR too vague - be specific. This adjective/this description of his movement/ this reference to his emotions etc. etc.

You need to show a personal response to the text, understanding of the context in which it was written and an awareness of how/why Steinbeck presents his characters.

Prep - spend 45 minutes on your essay (at least the intro and first two points)

- I want to see evidence of 10 minutes planning, 30 minutes writing, 5 minutes proof reading in another colour.
What should go into an introduction???

Brain storm
What I need from you by Monday:

1.Fill in the table in your Section 3 pack:

How does George’s attitude towards the dream change when he speaks with Candy

NB: Please take note of how George's language changes from the hopeful‘I bet we could swing her' to the definite‘we'll do her'– what does this show?

2. Summarise in your own words what Candy wants from this dream home (use quotations in a short paragraph)

3. Write a couple of sentences explaining how Steinbeck shows us the importance of this dream (e.g. it brings three very different people together – what does this show? That they have similar needs?)

4. In your own words, explain the significance of this quotation in detail:

They fell into a silence. They looked at one another, amazed. This thing they had never really believed in was coming true
- What could this quote mean?
- What can we learn from it?

I need your essay paragraphs today.

Quick self-assessment:

1. topic sentence that is related to the question?
2. Embedded quotations and analysis of these quotations
3. No writing of 'this shows'
We will read to the end of Section 3.

How is Curley presented in this section?

How is Lenny presented in this section?
Essay reflection: 10 minutes

1. Read through my notes and comments carefully.

2. Write out a paragraph for me, in which you explain what you need to do next time (referring to your targets).

3. Think about your mark: are you happy with it? If not, what do you need to do?

4. If you finish, move on to the next part of our Crook's worksheet - how is he presented?

he is VERY chatty, which is a sign of his loneliness
he is isolated because of his age ('aint got the poop' no more')
he is a cleaner and perhaps doesn't do a good job if there are fleas
he is the eyes and ears of the ranch because he is unassuming

- segregated
- shockingly violent acts of racism are revealed in a casual manner
- no name
- Steinbeck does not endorse stereotypes as Crooks can read and we infer that he is powerless and has to just put up with his treatment.

- aggressive and confrontational

- only one work glove - perhaps hinting that he doesn't actually do the hard labour (unlike Slim, who gains respect because of his ability)

- insecure and tense

Dear Miss Luce:
Annie Laurie says you are worried about your playing of the part of Curley’s wife although from the reviews it appears that you are playing it marvelously. I am deeply grateful to you and to the others in the cast for your feeling about the play. You have surely made it much more than it was by such a feeling.
About the girl—I don’t know of course what you think about her, but perhaps if I should tell you a little about her as I know her, it might clear your feeling about her.
She grew up in an atmosphere of fighting and suspicion. Quite early she learned that she must never trust anyone but she was never able to carry out what she learned. A natural trustfulness broke through constantly and every time it did, she got her. Her moral training was most rigid. She was told over and over that she must remain a virgin because that was the only way she could get a husband. This was harped on so often that it became a fixation. It would have been impossible to seduce her. She had only that one thing to sell and she knew it.
Now, she was trained by threat not only at home but by other kids. And any show of fear or weakness brought an instant persecution. She learned to be hard to cover her fright. And automatically she became hardest when she was most frightened. She is a night, kind girl, not a floozy. No man has ever considered her as anything except a girl to try to make. She has never talked to a man except in the sexual fencing conversation. She is not highly sexed particularly but knows instinctively that if she is to be noticed at all, it will be because some one finds her sexually desirable.
As to her actual sexual life—she has had none except with Curley and there has probably been no consummation there since Curley would not consider her gratification and would probably be suspicious if she had any. Consequently she is a little starved. She knows utterly nothing about sex except the mass misinformation girls tell one another. If anyone—a man or woman—ever gave her a break—treated her like a person—she would be a slave to that person. Her craving for contact is immense but she, with her background, is incapable of conceiving any contact without some sexual context. With all this—if you knew her, if you could ever break down a thousand little defenses she has built up, you would find a nice person, an honest person, and you would end up by loving her. But such a thing could never happen.

I hope you won't think I'm preaching. I've known this girl and I'm just trying to tell you what she is like. She is afraid of everyone in the world. You've known girls like that, haven't you? You can see them in Central Park on a hot night. They travel in groups for protection. They pretend to be wise and hard and voluptuous.

I have a feeling that you know all this and that you are doing all this. Please forgive me if I seem to intrude on your job. I don’t intend to and I am only writing this because Annie Laurie said you wondered about the girl. It's a devil of a hard part. I am very happy that you have it.
John Steinbeck
Write two columns

Lesson objectives:

- analyse the character of Slim (personality? purpose in the novel?)

- evaluate his presentation (idealistic? unrealistic?)

- finish the Chapter!

Starter: 4 mins

Review your notes on Slim and

What themes/ideas could he represent in the novel?

What do you think his purpose is?

Write your ideas down in your books ready to share with your partner

Writing to Argue

(practice for the writing paper and development of personal response to literature text)

To argue means linking a sequence of reasons to prove or justify something, usually an opinion or point of view.

What kind of questions will I face in the exam?

There are many kinds of ‘argue’ questions. Whatever the question, you will probably have to do one or both of the following:

1) Present reasons in support of, or against, an argument
2) Develop and justify a point of view about issues, events or behaviour, using logic and reason.

To argue successfully, in writing, you need:
To express yourself clearly and accurately
To think of reasonable and relevant ideas
To organise your answer carefully: make sure your answer is structured in a way which is appropriate to the purpose and audience.
To aim for a strong start and to link your ideas with words which connect and develop ideas, for instance, ‘moreover’, furthermore’, ‘in addition’, ‘on the other hand’
Use evidence or supporting points from personal knowledge or prior experience
A strong ending is also important – a dramatic way to finish could be to save your final point for your conclusion
How many did you get?
1. What makes an effective argument?

2. What will I be marking you on when I assess your written pieces?
full vocabulary

sharply focused task

sophisticated text structure (opening, linked paragraphs to develop the argument, powerful ending

effective use of accurate sentence structures

range of accurate punctuation
Argue either for or against the idea that Curley’s Wife is more vixen than victim in Chapter Two

You won't get asked a question like this in your exam; however, this question enables you to practise your writing to argue skills and it will encourage you to develop an informed personal opinion about Curley's wife – which is really important. It will also enable you to practicse analysing quotations, thinking about wider themes, and ordering your ideas in a structured manner.


1. Put targets from a previous piece of writing at the top

2. Spend 10 minutes planning (I want to see your plans – they shouldn't be ridiculously long and detailed – they should be bullet points with key words/short sentences)

3. Spend 25 minutes to write out your argument – I expect it will be about 1 side of A4.

4. Remember: you need to support your points with evidence from the text and to closely analyse the language in the quotations.
You will plan and write the piece in Thursday's lesson

Tomorrow and Friday we will continue with Chapter Three
4. Curley’s Wife and other women

5. Slim
Jojo and Mollie

6. Candy and Candy’s Dog
George Figgis

7. Crooks
How to divide the work?
One could make a list of key quotes

Another could put them in the necessary boxes and add a brief comment about them

The third could link to contextual knowledge

Then swap roles for Chapter 2

Candy gives more of a general sense of the itinerant worker:

1) He is a permanent fixture and so is able to see the workers come and go

2) he was once a physical labourour and so we learn how physically demanding and dangerous the job is

3) disbaled: we see how vulnerable he is
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