Thursday, June 04, 2009

Curley's Wife's Name

This is the second year I've taught John Steinbeck's Of Mice And Men, and for two years now I've put a wacky little question into my final--what is Curley's wife's name? Why?

Curley's wife is known only as that. I ask students to give her a name, both to give her some dignity, and also to express their ideas about this woman--the only woman on the ranch, known by the men to 'have the eye' two weeks after her wedding, married to a bully, isolated, capable of flashes of warmth, flirtatiousness and downright meanness.

Some students see her as the floozy Steinbeck said she wasn't--one boy last year named her 'Holy Water Girl', "because everyone touches her". Some see her as an ordinary girl and call her by simple, wholesome names. Some give her the names of movie stars, to reflect her girlhood dream.

One of my students says she should be called Hester, after Hester Prynne, because they're both accused of adultery, and unfairly vilified.

And one of my students just blew me away. Her name, Rivka G. writes, should be Soledad, because it means 'solitude' in Spanish, and is symbolic of her aloneness. And of course, although Rivka didn't mention it, Soledad is not only a girl's name, but the nearest town to the ranch in Of Mice and Men.

Wow, this kid is good!

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