In Of Mice and Men, what does Chapter 2 reveal about the stable buck?

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Susan Hurn | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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Crooks, the stable buck, is introduced in Chapter 2 when George and Lennie are being shown around the bunk house by the old man referred to later as "the old swamper." We learn that Crooks is the only hand on the ranch who is African-American and that he is victimized because of it. Crooks isn't allowed to live in the bunk house with the other men; instead, he lives in a room by himself and is not allowed to come out and socialize. The previous Christmas, George is told, the boss brought whiskey to the bunk house, and Crooks was "let in" for that one night. According to the old swamper, Crooks was then attacked by one of the men:

Little skinner name of Smitty took after the nigger. Done pretty good, too. The guys wouldn't let him use his feet, so the nigger got him. If he coulda used his feet, Smitty says he woulda killed the nigger.

The racism Crooks endures is evident in the old man's remarks.

We also learn that Crooks keeps books in his room, reads a lot, has a temper, and isn't especially impressed when the boss gets angry. Most of the time he's "a pretty nice fella." He is called "Crooks" because of his crooked back, an injury he suffered when he was once kicked by a horse.

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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In Chapter 2 of Of Mice and Men, though Crooks is depicted as a social pariah because of his race, it is also evident that, unlike others, this man is no transient, and he may be better educated than some others. He also suffers from having broken his back.

As George talks with the "old swamper," Candy, he learns that the boss became very angry when George and Lennie did not report to the ranch in the morning, and he used Crooks as a whipping boy: "An' he give the stable buck hell." When George asks Candy why the boss would lash out at Crooks because of their actions, Candy explains,

"Sure. Ya see the stable buck's a n****r....Nice fella, too. Got a crooked back where a horse kicked him. The boss gives him hell when he's mad. But the stable buck don't give a damn about that. He reads a lot. Got books in his room."

From these words, the reader learns that it is acceptable to refer to Crooks with demeaning terms, rather than using his name ("n****r" and "buck"), and he is literate. Also, since he has books in his room, and the boss "give him hell" on a regular basis, Crooks is not a transient worker like George and Lennie.


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