How are gender and racial identity presented throughout Of Mice and Men?

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Steinbeck’s depiction of racial matters in Of Mice and Men centers on the character of Crooks, who is an older, black ranch-hand . While Crooks is not a major character in the book, he is important in a late chapter in which Steinbeck delves into his past and examines his...

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Steinbeck’s depiction of racial matters in Of Mice and Men centers on the character of Crooks, who is an older, black ranch-hand . While Crooks is not a major character in the book, he is important in a late chapter in which Steinbeck delves into his past and examines his feelings.

Crooks is taken for granted by the other ranch-hands. His name comes from his severely curved spine, which keeps him from doing the heavier work that most of the others do. He is called a “stable buck.” He is also frequently and routinely referred to using the “N” word.

When Steinbeck has Lennie wander into Crooks’ room one night, we find out how bitterly lonely Crooks is. He tells Lennie that it wasn’t always this way with him; as a kid he played with white children and never thought of it as unusual. But now he is shunned by the white workers—he cannot partake of their community.

As far as gender is concerned, there is also only one female character, and she isn’t even named. In the book she is only referred to as “Curley’s wife.” She is not a very admirable character. Like Crooks she is lonely, pushed to the fringes of ranch society, but she can’t stay away from the workers, who are afraid to talk to her for fear of causing a problem with the boss’s son, her husband. The reader sees in her a vicious streak when she threatens to have Crooks lynched after he speaks to her in a way she doesn’t like.

Steinbeck’s intentions are most likely not to make African-Americans or women look bad, but to show the agonizing loneliness of life for people who are not part of a community of others like themselves.  

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