What is Crooks' American dream in Of Mice and Men?
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Crooks is an important extension of the central American dream of all of the characters. Many of the other characters are ostracized because of their physical limitations--Lennie because of this mental state, Candy because of his lost arm. Crooks also suffers from a physical limitation in his crooked spine. However, Crooks is ostracized even more because of his race. Even on the ranch we see the repercussions of this idea--although both Candy and Crooks are "crippled," it is Candy who lives among the other ranch hands; Crooks does not. He is ostracized to his own room, away from the other ranch hands.
Crooks's American dream then is not that much different from the others'. He wants to be self-sufficient, able to live a life of his own choosing, yet he also wants to be accepted as he is and treated fairly and equally.
The symbolism throughout the scene in Crooks's room suggests Steinbeck's belief that all human beings are "crippled" in one way or another, and--at some level--we all want to be accepted and treated equally and fairly.
For much of the time that we know him, I do not think that Crooks does have an American dream. I think he has had it squeezed out of him by racism.
However, once he talks some to Lennie and Candy, he starts to have a dream as well. His is pretty much like the others' dream -- he wants to be independent. For him, however, there is another aspect. He wants to be accepted and not shunned because of his skin color.
His dream dies quickest -- it dies before the night is even over because Curley's wife kills it. But, for a little, it is there.
Crooks is a fairly minor character, but an important one. The crux of his involvement in the story comes when George has gone into town with the boys and Lennie wanders into the barn, into Crooks' bunkhouse.
The conversation that follows is critical to the story. Lennie, given his mental limitations, only knows what he is told about race in the 1930s, and he doesn't understand it, so he is naturally curious like any young person would be. The conversation they have is mostly innocent, and Crooks realizes that Lennie doesn't know to treat him differently. For the first time, maybe ever, Crooks feels like an equal with a white man, even perhaps superior with Lennie. He gets to drink a feeling of equality very briefly, until George reappears and sets the situation how it should be socially, in that time frame.
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