The antagonist of
Because she too has suffered at Curley’s hands, Curley’s wife takes an interest in Lennie, the man who has fought back against the husband she despises. She approaches Lennie when he is alone because she has found that the men won’t talk to her when there’s a chance of Curley finding out. So it is Curley’s bullying that puts Curley’s wife and Lennie alone in a room together. It is also Curley’s bullying that causes Lennie to panic and accidentally kill Curley’s wife. He is frightened that George will be angry that Lennie has ignored his warning to avoid Curley’s wife—a warning that George issued because he fears Curley will hurt Lennie. This fear becomes a reality when George is forced to kill Lennie before Curley can torture and lynch him. In this concluding moment, the power of the land-owning class and American society at large—embodied in Curley—crushes the novel’s protagonists and their dream of owning a farm together.