Curley is the main antagonist in the 1937 novella Of Mice and Men and its adaptations. He is portrayed as a stereotypical arrogant and cruel bully who abuses those viewed weaker than himself and gets away with it because he is the boss' son.
He was portrayed by the late Bob Steele in the 1939 film adaptation, Ted Neeley in the 1981 film adaptation, Casey Siemaszko in the 1992 film adaptation, and Alex Morf in the 2014 play adaptation.
Curley has an extremely short-tempered, arrogant, aggressive, mean-spirited, controlling and wrathful personality, to say the least. He suffers from an inferiority complex, and possibly even a Napoleon Complex, by that he detests larger men than him as he is of very short stature because he envies them and wishes he was larger like them. This is best shown by when he bullies and attacks Lennie because of his larger size.
He appears to very sexist and degrading towards women, (like were many other men at the time of the novel in America), believing the female was inferior to the male.
He best shows his sexism by the way he treats his unfortunate young wife, who he obviously only married her because of her sexual attractiveness, and does not care for her emotionally, and there are also references to him abusing her when he becomes angry with her, by destroying her record collection.
As stated before in his biography, he has a glove on one of these hands full of Vaseline, to keep soft his wife - a perfect example of his arrogance and attitude of women.
Like many cruel, mean spirited bullies, he loves to fight with other people he regards weaker than himself, the reason he was very successful as a boxer. Although he loves to look intimidating and tough in front of others, he is also very cowardly, as he is careful who considers fighting, as he would never fight Slim or Carlson, as they are strong-minded and tough, and never George, as he would get any enjoyment doing so as George is of a similar size, so he picks Lennie, the easiest possible target, as Lennie is mentally disabled, has low intelligence, and is childish and gentle-natured (Not to mention of an extremely large stature, exacerbating Curley's hatred of men who are physically bigger than himself). However, he gets his comeuppance when Lennie crushes his hand, meaning he learns to leave Lennie alone and becomes quite scared of him.
|“||At that moment a young man appeared in the ranch house. A tall man with a brown face, brown eyes and tightly curled hair. He wore a work glove in his right hand and like the boss he wore high heeled boots||„|
|~ An extract describing Curley's appearance.|
Curley is the son of a wealthy ranch worker, and once a professional boxer, who first meet when George and Lennie enter the bunkhouse. He treats them initially with hostility and mocks them for being friends, as it was unusual for migrant workers to have company. He has an extremely aggressive, arrogant, hotheaded and violent personality, as he takes a particular hatred of Lennie because he is a lot physically larger than him. Curly suffers from an inferiority complex, as he is of very short stature - so thus he envies bigger guys and looks for excuses to bully and mistreat them. He is remarked by Candy that he is "alla time picking scraps with big guys".
He is also recently married to a very attractive and young wife, who is never named, only as "Curley's wife", meaning that she is Curley's property with no real identity of her own. Although they are married, they share a very poor relationship, as they have nothing in common with each other, Curley never listens to her or gives her any emotional attention, is only sexually interested in her, and thus, she is very unfaithful and flirts with other men on the ranch to satisfy her unfulfilled desires. Due to his mean spirited and controlling personality, he probably physically and mentally abuses his wife as in the films she remarks that when Curley gets angry, he destroys her personal belongings, and on one hand he wears a glove that is full of vaseline which he apparently "keeps it soft for his wife", unknown whenever for sexual purposes or to attack her with, but certainly a very seedy thing to spread around, as thought by George and Candy.
Because his wife flirts with other men, this comes into conflict with some of the ranch workers, Slim and Carlson, they tell him to look after his own "god damn wife". Realizing he is cornered by the other men, as Carlson threatens to "kick your god damn head off", and Candy torments him about his glove, like a cowardly bully, he picks on the easiest target, Lennie, as he is still smiling, but about a different topic altogether (Rabbits on a dream ranch of his own), as Lennie is very simple-minded and childish, not paying attention to what is currently happening. Curley misinterprets Lennie's smiling as finding amusement at his (Curley's) expense when the other workers were making fun of him, believing that Lennie was smiling out of finding their insults at Curley to be funny. Curley starts to fight Lennie by repeatedly punching him in the face.
Lennie, terrified and without any idea of how to stand up for himself, begs the other men for advice, they tell him to fight back, and Lennie uses his incredible strength to completely crush Curley's hand, and thus he is left nearly unconscious and in a great state of shock of how powerful Lennie really is, and how nobody has ever defeated him before. The other men take him to hospital as he is seriously injured, but not before Slim warns them if he tells his father the boss what happened, in order to get Lennie fired, he will tell everyone about how Lennie crushed his hand, resulting in ridicule and embarrassment, to which he reluctantly agrees to. Slim then tells him to tell everyone else his hand was caught and mangled in a machine as part of the agreement.
Curley's wife is accidentally killed by Lennie breaking her neck. Curley's wife meets Lennie upset in the barn after he has yet again killed his pet puppy by stroking it too hard, she comforts him and reveals to him that she secretly hates Curley, and how she has dreams of becoming a famous Hollywood actress and that she only married Curley to avoid living with her unpleasant mother.
She also makes him admit to crushing Curley's hand but she is proud of him for standing up to Curley. She calls him crazy but also a nice person, as they are talking together. Whilst talking, they find that they both like touching soft objects like velvet and hair, so she kindly lets Lennie stroke her soft hair, but she is overwhelmed by his strength, and when she begs him to stop, Lennie refuses to let go, and thus her neck is accidentally broken killing Curley's wife immediately.
When her corpse is found by the other guys, Curley rounds up a lynch mob to kill Lennie, as he has taken both his hand (And, with it, any chance of him ever getting back into boxing) and wife from him. He does not seem to care about his wife's actual death, but that he has taken his own personal belongings from him and also figures that he could use his wife's death as an excuse/justification to kill Lennie in revenge for crushing his hand. But Lennie is instead killed by George by painlessly shooting in the back of the head, to avoid his friend from dying a long, painful death by being shot in the guts by Curley, or being locked and tortured in an insane asylum, or starving to death out in the wilderness.
- His controlling, arrogant, belligerent, and uncaring attitude is similar to that of Jim from Edward Scissorhands. He is also mean to Lennie for being taller than him and for having a child-like attitude, similar to how Jim was mean to Edward for having scissors for hands.
- Aside from getting one of his hands badly damaged, he did not get any sort of punishment whatsoever.