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Crooks, the stable worker in John Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men, is a bitter man who resents his segregation from the other ranch workers because he is black. He feels very resentful of this action because it is unjustified, of course, but also because he is not accustomed to having been treated in this discriminatory way. As he explains to Lennie, he is not from the Deep South with its Jim Crow Laws:
I ain't a southern negro,...I was born right here in California. My old man had a chicken ranch, 'bout ten acres. The white kids come to play at our place, an' sometimes I went to play with them, and some of them was pretty nice. My ol' man didn't like that. I never knew till long later why he didn't like that. But I know now....
"There wasn't another colored family for miles around. And now there ain't a colored man on this ranch an' there's jus'one family in Soledad." He laughed. "If I say something, why it's just a nigger sayin' it."
In addition to his resentment, Crooks also senses his isolation is because of his racial differenc, and he is terribly lonely. He would like to have someone--anyone--to whom he can talk and "measure himself by." This terrible aloneness supercedes any racial bitterness, for he does begin to talk kindly with Lennie after having been acrimonious. In fact, he even extends his friendship in his act of asking if he can join the others in their dream of owning a ranch. Such gestures clearly underscore Steinbeck's main theme about the dehumanizing effects of alienation and how such isolation causes violence and hatred.
Crooks's attitudes towards white people may not be any different than those he would profess to everybody else. As a black man in a racially divided society, he has been psychologically castrated and socially isolated by the majority. As a man with little to no education, he lacks the tools he needs to build himself a new life. As a poor man, he needs to struggle to keep afloat but, again, as a black man that is a hard thing to do in this type of setting.
When Crooks isolates himself further from the rest of the field hands, he does it as a way to demonstrate that he can make the choice of separating himself from the others, and not the other way around. When he tortures Lennie mentally he does it because it must give him pleasure to use a white man as a laughing stock, as cruel as it may be.
However, there is a depth in Crooks that is quite delineated when he asks George and Lennie (as apathetic and mean as he is) whether there would be room for him in the farm that George and Lennie wish to run together in the future.
For a man who has been socially shun, and who has chosen to remain so, asking this question is a huge demonstration of what is inside his heart. He is not racist, for a racist man would never consider a possibility like this. He is not evil, for he would want to destroy both George and Lennie's dream for good. Instead, he seems to be a wondering soul with no place to go. His way of grieving is through attacking others verbally, yet, it is grieving nevertheless. This is what Crooks's attitude is really all about.
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