"Of Mice and Men" is not kind in its portrayel of women. In fact, women are treated with contempt throughout the course of the novel. Steinbeck generally depicts women as being troublemakers who bring ruin on men and drive them mad. Curley's wife, who walks the ranch as a temptress, seems to be a prime example of this destructive tendency - Curley's already bad temper has only worsened since their wedding. Aside from wearisome wives, 'Of Mice and Men' offers limited, rather misogynistic, descriptions of women who are either dead maternal figures or prostitutes. The fact that she is not given a name only adds to her lack of status.
Despite this Curley's wife does emerge as quite a complex and interesting character. Initially she does appear to be quite a simple character as she is described as having 'got the eye' and being a 'tart'. Again when we see here for the first time it is clear that she is seen as a dangerous, sexual character.
Her 'rouged lips', 'red nails' and 'red mules' emphasise her dangerous role. Her negative description is furthur developed with the ironic cutting off of the light, foreshadowing her role in destroying everyone's dreams and Lennie's life. We are encouraged to dislike her as she acts provocatively towards the men and behaves inappropriately for a male dominated, ranch environment. George's comment that she is 'jail bait' furthur ensues that we see her as a danger, particularly as he almost predicts Lennie's future entanglement. We only begin to see her in more depthand feel sympathy for her when she shows her obvious fear for Curley when she becomes 'apprehensive' at the mention of him looking for her. This made me begin to wonder about and that she may be more than just a 'tart'.