What do we learn of the role played by Crooks in the text?
In your answer you should refer to the wider context of the text.
Crooks is introduced in the beginning of the text as the ‘stable buck’ of the ranch, and one feature of him that is highlighted significantly is the way in which he is addressed by the others on the ranch, often with derogatory references.
Crooks is placed in a setting in which he is the only black man of the ranch, and because the text is set in a time where racism was prominent, he is often discriminated against. Candy describes the boss as ‘[giving] him hell when he’s mad’, despite Candy himself describing Crooks as a ‘nice fella’ with a ‘crooked back’. The description of Crooks with his ‘crooked back’ introduces Crooks with the role of someone who is able to rise above his troubles, being described as ‘a proud, aloof man’, despite the fact that his life, like the others on the ranch is dominated by loneliness, and therefore Crooks can be seen as the struggle of man during harsh conditions, such as the economic depression in which the text is set in. Evidence of his struggles can be seen by his own view of ranch life, describing himself as someone who ‘ain’t wanted in the bunk house… ‘Cause I’m black’. Despite the constant racial prejudice surrounding him, Crooks represents mankind as a whole in which everyone is struggling during the depression, and despite going through difficulties Crooks perseveres and stands up for his rights. One example of Crooks standing up for his rights is shown when Crooks shows enough pride to demand Curley’s wife to leave his bunk: ‘“I had enough, he said coldly. “You got no rights comin’ in a coloured man’s room’”. However this short burst of pride and independence, like many other people’s, is quickly reversed when Curley’s wife threatens to falsely accuse him of committing a crime which would ultimately see Crooks lynched, and Crooks quickly withdraws by ‘reducing himself to nothing’.
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Crooks also represents mankind in another way by the fact that he revels in taunting Lennie, suggesting that like many others, he has also been broken inside and feels the need to have power over someone else. In a situation where loneliness is prominent, the text reveals how it becomes natural for people to wish to hold power over another person, no matter their social status such as in the case of Crooks who is racially discriminated against and also physically disabled. Crooks taunts Lennie by suggesting that George could supposedly go ‘into town tonight and (Lennie would) never [hear] of him no more’, to which Lennie responds with rage, forcing Crooks to once again withdraw, a continuation of the cycle of exerting the little power he has to withdrawing into nothing.
The text uses Crooks as the ultimate foreboding warning of the dream becoming a failure, when Crooks describes the dream as something ‘You’ll talk about… a hell of a lot, but…won’t get’, suggesting that George and Lennie’s dream’s end is imminent. His withdrawal from participating in the dream also serves as another warning that the dream is likely to be crushed, when he changes his mind saying that he was ‘Jus’ foolin’’, and ‘Wouldn’t want to go no place like that’. This change from his previous willingness to participate in the dream also again represents the cycle in which Crooks is able to exert his willpower and use his independence, only to withdraw soon afterwards. The continuous cycle of this relates to the struggles of man during the depression era, and strongly links to the Dream as the Dream becomes something that at times seems close, while at other times seems impossible.