Crooks' Transformation In John Steninbeck's Of Mice And Men

1735 words - 7 pages

Chapter Four of John Steinbeck's emotionally moving, but bleak, novel, Of Mice and Men, is devoted to the character of Crooks. The chapter begins and ends with this recluse character applying liniment, a medicinal fluid rubbed into the skin to soothe pain or relieve stiffness, to his "crooked" back. One of the first impressions given to readers is of his physical pain- which presumable parallels his emotional, or spiritual pain. More to the point, however, the first five words of the chapter, "Crooks, the negro stable buck.." (66), characterize the key element driving this characters particular shade of lonliness. For in contrast to the lonliness of Candy or of Curly's wife, Crooks is devided from the world by his race. So, on one level, with the character of Crooks, Steinbeck captures social injustice of the times, and, on another level, offers yet another character to symbolize the theme of lonliness. Crook's victimization both as a lonely cripple and a black man in a bigoted world is presented as an emotional journey in which Crooks goes first from hopeless recluse, then to hoping to share in the dream of Lennie and George, and finally a return to his hopelessness.

Steinbeck offers several hints that color the sort of hopeless lonliness of Crook's life. For a black stable hand during the Great Depression life was extremely lonely - a life of quiet desperation. To begin with, Steinbeck describes Crooks as "a proud, aloof man. He kept his distance and demanded that other people keep theirs (67). Perhaps this desire to keep apart is merely a psychological trick he has played on himself, as if he wanted to be left always alone? In any case, the story continues with Steinbeck introducing Lennie into Crook's world: "Noiselessly Lennie appeared in the open doorway and stood there looking in, his big shoulder nearly filling the opening" ( 68). Of coarse, the "opening" is symbolic not only of the physical, but of the emotional gaps in Crooks. Lennie Small, the strong but mentally challenged laborer, is often the only character that can fill the void for others, such as his friend, George. It is only someone like Lennie that can earnestly ask Crooks why he is not wanted in the bunk house, which Crooks explains is "Cause I'm Black. They play cards in there, but I can't play because I'm black. They say I stink. Well, I tell you, you all of you stink to me" (68). Clearly, he is bitter towards his oppressors. Lennie continues to remain in the annoyed prescence of Crooks explaining George and Lennie's plan to "get a little place an' live on the fatta the lan' (69). At this point, Crooks becomes the oppressor, and the weak revenges himself by pickig on the weaker, and questions whether George, Lennie's friend and guardian, will come back from a night out with the boys. The childlike mind but giant strength of Lennie is troubled to the point of anger. Once Crooks ends his torture because " he saw the danger as it approached him," Crookes begins his...

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