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    Steinbeck’s “Crooks”: A study in character

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    Steinbeck exposes the racism that was prevalent at that time in America through the character of Crooks, a sentimental, proud and aloof black man and sadly known as the ‘nigger’. He has a very realistic way at looking at the dream maybe as he sees the dream as a way of escaping but knows that there is no way and so speaks of the realization which fills him with pessimism. Yet gets caught up in optimism, and begins to link the dream with heaven in a way saying happiness is not possible on earth.

    He is an outcast due to his colour and therefore has to wait outside the bunkhouse and call all the other white men formal names. Therefore he is very protective of others entering his room of solitude where he has now one but himself. Furthermore Crooks is somewhat a vulnerable character and Curley’s wife is vicious towards him ‘strung up on a tree so easy’ she too has suffered much negligence she reminisces back, ironically, to her dream of becoming a movie star ‘could have been in the pictures’ but was forced into marrying curly, where then she no longer could portray her dream.

    Crooks in a way desires company and love and affection and admits he longs for a companion ‘a guy needs somebody’ therefore allows lennie into his bunkhouse, also the fact that Crooks maybe feels lennie is more vulnerable than he is. Lennie is the only one who really accepts Crooks as an equal human being.

    Steinbeck shows how powerless and lacking in value Crooks is written in the novel, at one point Crooks provided entertainment for Christmas ‘they let the nigger come in one night’, they also made him fight ‘ the guys wouldn’t let him use his legs on account of the nigger’s crooked back’ this is a quite sad event in the story and really exposes the way black people were treated at that time. Crooks is so often the victim that he cannot resist the opportunity to take power and inflict pain on someone else and so torments lennie by telling him George will not come back again.

    We are prepared for future events. Furthermore he says lennie will be treated like an animal in a cage and end up in a ‘booby hatch’. There are also many more reasons Steinbeck portrays Crooks is one that many readers begin to sympathise with, which may also include the fact that he lives in stable all alone and has nobody and has many personal possessions unlike the rest which gives the idea he is a ‘permanent ‘ character. Also the fact he is surrounded by books giving the idea he is ‘educated’ and ‘skilled’ highlighting the factor of permanency.

    Another factor is he has a face ‘lined with pain’ we know this is a character who has suffered much in his life, not only from his crooked spine but from exclusion ‘pain tightened lips. Consequently, the past also plays a big part in this novel as Crooks ironically used to ‘live the dream’ in his past on a chicken ranch ‘my old man had a chicken ranch’ this is ironic because all the other workers are looking for this ‘I could live so easy’.

    He has seen many men never reach the dream and become very depressed in doing so ‘crazy with loneliness for land’ ‘but every time a whore- house or blackjack game comes’ giving the idea that men never reach the dream due to the fact it is not the men themselves, its money. Steinbeck shows how Crooks has suffered so much in justice he protects himself by ‘Pride aloofness… Crooks’ experiences mean that he is a private man who retains personal dignity.

    He is the victim of racism and is unwelcoming when lennie appears in his room. Crooks is not just pessimistic and gets caught up in optimism and says ‘I’d come and lend a hand, I ‘aint so crippled’ and opens up to lennie and frequently laughs ‘Crooks laughed again’ maybe due to the fact he remembers his past were he ‘used to turn the chickens out in the alfalfa’ which echoes George and lennie’s dream.

    Finally I conclude that Crooks being the only ‘black man’ on the ranch creates the most sympathy within the readers as the fact he is very realistic towards the idea of the dream maybe because he knows its not possible on earth, also mostly his crooked back and has to frequently throughout the book put liniment on, in a way disabled yet still viciously and racially abused.

    Also his past experiences in the bunkhouse and how horribly they treated him just because he had dark coloured skin. Another reason is that he yearns love and affection and so is attentive to anybody who tries to communicate with him. Also the way Steinbeck portrays the idea of permanency through the description of Crooks ‘room’ giving the idea that Crooks disability means he can’t go anywhere else.

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    Steinbeck’s “Crooks”: A study in character. (2018, May 27). Retrieved from

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