I'm Not a Tart: The Feminist Subtext of Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men

July 15, 2014 12:53 PM

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"Jesus, what a tramp!" George of the famous duo leading John Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men exclaims with disdain after first meeting Curley's wife, the newly married young woman living on the ranch. The audience, notably younger than usual Broadway theatergoers, dependably erupts with laughter, and as that subsides, George threatens Lennie, his lovable, mentally disabled friend, "Don't even look at that bitch" when Lennie innocently remarks how "purdy" she is.

The insults are thrown at Curley's wife: bitch, tramp, tart. The further along in the production we go, the more I realize that the audience agrees. In rooting for our heroes -- the everyman protagonists who scorn and demean the only woman -- the audience finds themselves unquestioningly hating her,...

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