Curley is the son of the ranch boss. He is portrayed as a small, semi-privileged man with a very short temper and something of an inferiority complex. He is always itching for a scuffle and is constantly seeking the opportunity to prove himself on the ranch among other bigger, “better” men. From the moment we are introduced to Curley we discover this, due to the way in which he acts when he meets George and Lennie, “His eyes passed over the new men and he stopped.
He glanced coldly at George and then at Lennie. His arms gradually bent at the elbows and his hands closed into fists. He stiffened and went into a slight crouch. ” This illustrates that he is not mentally secure about himself, and quickly goes into a poised posture as if he is willing to lash out on the two new men to prove his manliness and authority. After a deliberately elongated stare down, Curley speaks but in short menacing sentences.
“You the new guys the old man was waitin’ for? And when George is the only one to reply he quickly retorts in a provocative manner “Let the big guy talk” Once again this justifies the fact that Curley is insecure and is always trying to prove himself as the alpha male on the ranch, so he tries doing so by badmouthing Lennie as he feels that by doing so he will be regarded as strong, manly and valiant. When Lennie refuses to speak the situation hastily increase due to Curley’s short temper.
Unlike most other characters in the story Curley is probably the only one that does not develop much over the course of the book but he stands out as a character with whom the author simply does not sympathize. While everyone else is struggling, Curley’s busy picking fights and trying to throw his weight around his dad’s ranch. He seems outside of the economic struggle and even the personal struggle of the Depression. Curley’s the kind of jerk you need in contrast to the other characters, so he maintains this “bad” reputation with the reader from the beginning right to the end.
The next encounter with Curley is in chapter 3 when all the men are in the bunkhouse. Curley is clearly frustrated and agitated by the fact that he can’t find his wife, a sign of weakness and lack of authority, and when he is told that Slim is at the barn he rushes out and starts interrogating him but when Slim shows that he is in control, Curley’s fake ego is quickly shattered and it is obvious that he is quickly forced back into his place. “Well, I didn’t mean nothing, Slim. I just ast you. ”
But Curley being the short fused jerk hat he is could not just leave it there and in a matter of seconds he is all up on Lennie punching him in the face. He did this because he evidently lost the argument with Slim and knowing Lennie’s friendly, unaggressive nature finds him the best solution to blow of some steam, as well as prove his dominance by overpowering a huge, defenseless man. But once Lennie retaliates and breaks Curley’s puny hand he finally realizes that he has lost twice and he should just leave it there. Our final encounter with Curley is when his wife is killed by Lennie.
It is apparent that he does not care about the death of his wife and is simply too absorbed into his own world were only he and his reputation matter. “Curley- maybe you better stay here with your wife” “I’m goin, I’m gonna shoot the guts out of the big bastard myself” This shows that the death of his wife is not very significant, but gaining fame and revenge by shooting the man that killed her would seem far more favorable, it would certainly be more manly than staying back and weeping over a dead female.