Crooks is a literate black man who tends horses on the ranch. He has long been the victim of oppressive violence and prejudice and has retired behind a facade of aloofness and reserve, his natural personality deadened and suppressed by years of antagonism. Crooks is the only black man in the novel. He has a cynical intelligence and a contemptuous demeanor that he uses to prevent others from inevitably excluding him because of his race.
This sign of intelligence is conveyed when Steinbeck describes Crook’s bunkhouse: “And he had books, too; a tattered dictionary and a mauled copy of the California civil code for 1905” pg. 76 This illustrates the irony that Crooks is more intelligent than the other ranch hands but because of his colour, he is lower in status. Steinbeck describes all of his belongings, creating a strong vivid picture in the readers head. The description of the room makes the reader aware that Crooks is ‘”more permanent than the other men”pg. 75. I don’t believe this is through choice as Crooks is aware of his status and realises he wouldn’t be able to find work elsewhere; not only is he black, but a “cripple” pg. 75 as well.
In addition, he has “accumulated more possessions that he could carry on his back” pg. 75 which supports the idea of a permanent stay. Crook’s room is a place of solitude, but loneliness. He has his own space, but craves the attention of others. He sleeps on a “long box filled with straw” pg. 75 which contrasts with the men in the bunkhouse as they have better beds and company. Furthermore, “scattered about the floor were a number of personal possessions” pg. 75 relates to the idea of the permanent stay, rather than the other men who are itinerant workers.
Crooks owns a “single-barreled shotgun” pg. 76 which may suggest that he needs this weapon for security and protection. The idea of having a lot of books and “A pair of large-gold rimmed spectacles” pg. 76 makes the reader feel as if books are Crooks’ only entertainment as he is isolated, yet the ability to read reflects his intelligence. His room is flocculated with boxes with various amounts of tools from his countless amounts of previous jobs. Steinbeck tries to portray to the reader that Crooks has been a ranch worker for a very long time and over the years, he has gathered a lot of possessions.
Crooks exhibits the corrosive effects that loneliness can have on a person; his character evokes sympathy as the origins of his cruel behaviour are made evident. Crooks has become so accustomed to constant isolation, that he is suspicious of any man who suddenly tries to make friends with him. His distance from others is accentuated by the fact that he is in pain much of the time because of his spinal injury. Crooks' deformed back has also deprived him of working with the other men, thereby denying him his last opportunity for personal contact with them.
Crooks interacts with the other men when they play ‘horseshoes’, in which Crooks is the best player, but that is his only chance of even making acquaintances. I believe that Crooks would like to make human contact, but would rather reject it than be rejected; this may mean that Crooks is afraid of making friends because of how people treat him. When Lennie first enters Crook’s room, Crooks automatically reflects his strong, defensive manner, “he stiffened and a scowl came on his face”. We realise that Crooks is protective of the only space he has. “You got no right to come in my room. This here’s my room.
Nobody got any right in here but me. ” pg. 77 This quote illustrates the hardship Crooks faces whilst on the ranch and from his reaction when Lennie enters his house, we can determine that he is a very secluded man and he likes his privacy, as he feels powerful and in control in his own area, something in which he doesn’t have around the other men. Lennie disarms Crooks’ initial hostility with his simplicity which results in Crooks becoming softened by Lennie’s smile. Due to the fact he has been discriminated against and been isolated for so long, Crooks torments Lennie by suggesting George may not come back from town.
His cynical behaviour isn’t deliberate but I think Crooks feels like Lennie has invaded his personal space to insult or bully him. I believe that Crooks is most similar to Candy as in the social hierarchy of the ranch, both suffer from a disability that places them in the lowest rank. As mentioned, Crooks is lonely and isolated from the others due to the colour of his skin, yet Candy is lonely because he’s not as abled as the other workers. Because he is handicapped, he cannot do the work that the other men do, so when they go off to do work, Candy is left behind.
The theme of loneliness is conveyed throughout the novel. Steinbeck also portrays loneliness through characterisation. He uses sexism, racism and ageism to get his message across. When George talks to Candy and his antiquated dog, Candy states to the inarticulate George: "Give the Stable Buck hell?... Ya see the stable buck's a nigger" pg. 22 As black people were seen as inferior to white people, they were separated, which concludes why Crooks is left alone and friendless. Crooks feels "... A guys goes nuts if he ain't got nobody.
Don't make no difference who the guy is, long's he with you..." This suggests he would work for nothing, as long as he could communicate with others. Steinbeck also uses Candy to portray loneliness. The disconsolate Candy becomes lonely after his beloved dog was shot. The men in the ranch describe the dog as a "stinking hound" pg. 50 and an "old bastard" pg. 51 Candy feels dejected as he says "I wisht somebody’d shoot me when I become useless. ” pg. 51. Candy only had his dog as a companion, but once it was killed, he was in despair. The only hope both characters have is the dream ranch so they eagerly clutch on to the idea of having a farm with George and Lennie, but this of course leads to nothing.
He too finds it nearly impossible to make a friend, because he was always moving on and on, in search of better work and more money, which is different to Crooks because he isn’t able to make friends due to his colour and he is a permanent worker, and cannot go in search of other work. The itinerant workers never stay in one place long enough to form permanent relationships and even if they did, they would probably be destroyed by the demands of the nomadic life. Candy realises this idea and is bitter as a result, which is similar to Crook’s cynicism.