What do we learn about Crooks in Section 4? How does he help the reader understand the lives of people in 1930’s America?
‘Of Mice and Men’ is a novel with strong themes of unfulfilled dreams, prejudice and loneliness, which are exposed within the extract, through the ranch’s resident stable-buck - Crooks. The themes that feature in the novel relate directly to the era in which it is set; that of 1930’s America. This was a time of mass unemployment across the country, with itinerant workers, such as the characters at the centre of the plot, becoming far from uncommon. The extract predominantly consists of dialogue between Crooks, Lennie and Candy, as they sit in the unlikely setting of Crooks’ room, adjacent to the stables. Prior to Section 4, only second hand information is provided about Crooks, mainly told through Candy’s accounts of past events. However, the reader’s preconceptions of the character are shattered somewhat upon meeting him properly, as we learn that perhaps Candy does not fully understand the man. Crooks embodies many of the novel’s themes, as he is very much alone on the ranch, and represents those who were discriminated against within the microcosm created by Steinbeck. At the beginning of the extract Crooks is more than pessimistic of the dream that Lennie describes, seeing it as idealistic and over ambitious. He is very cynical of the dream, saying that he has ‘ “seen too many guys with land in their head. They never get none under their hand.” ’ Crooks represents the rational man of the time, as he recognises that he has seen many men arrive and leave the ranch, all with wonderful dreams filling their hearts, but no way of achieving it. He appears to be a part of a small minority of ranch workers that were able to distinguish dreams from reality and you get the impression that he has never believed in the American Dream, and never will. He knows that he has a job for life, as he was injured on the ranch, whereas the other men are travelling towards a place that has never existed. He also refers to land as ‘ “Just like heaven. Ever’body wants a little piece of land” ’. It is quite unusual to find a man of his ethnic background that has anti-religious beliefs in that time, which may represent how he has not only abandoned the idea of the American Dream, but also that of a greater force, illustrating a sense of hopelessness that surrounds him as a character. Crooks’ pessimism continues when Candy mentions that they have the funds to begin their dream, as he points out one of the major flaws in their plan: ‘ “An’ where’s George now? In town in a whore house.” ’ Crooks sees where all of the men waste their payment, assuming that George is not different to the many hundreds he has seen in the past. This shows that Crooks does not consider himself to be ‘one of the men’, viewing them as an onlooker. It is also a subtle continuation of him taunting Lennie, saying that George may not be as heroic as he thinks him. At the beginning of Section 4 Crooks is vastly reluctant to allow Lennie into his room, aiming to prove a point that; if he is not allowed into the white men’s house, just because he’s black, then the white men should not be allowed in his house. He emphasises this by saying: ‘ “I ain’t wanted in the bunk house, and you ain’t wanted in my room.” ’. But, at the mercy of Lennie’s persistence, Crooks’ desire for some company overrides his stubborn attempts to establish his point and he invited Lennie to sit with him a while. This shows how lonely Crooks, and men equivalent to him, would have been. Lennie is a perfect stranger to him yet, after a minimal resistance, he asks the man into his home. Just as every other man on the ranch is, Crooks is alone in the world, with no companion so share the day with. However, due to the simple fact that he is black, he is not permitted to reside with the other men, but alone, in a lean-to on the side of the stables. This was typical...
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