How is Crooks's character marginalized in Of Mice and Men?John Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men
Crooks, the negro stable worker, finds himself ostracized from the social circle of the other ranchworkers who are white. He is forced to remain in the barn and not live in the bunkhouse apart from the other men in the harness room with a bed like that of an animal--"a long box filled with straw." The other men do not enter this room, whose window is above a manure pile. When Lennie asks Crooks why he is not wanted in the bunkhouse, Crooks replies,
"'Cause I'm black. They play cards in there, but I can't play because I'm black. They say I stink. Well, I tell you, you all of you stink to me."
This ostracism is something to which Crooks is not accustomed, either. For, as he tells Lennie, "I ain't a southern negro." His father had a chicken ranch, and as a boy he even played with white children...."And now there ain't a colored man on this ranch an' there's jus' one family in Soledad."
This terrible isolation of Crooks is what causes his cruelty to Lennie, underscoring what George has stated about the loners being "mean." Without human companionship with which to, as Crooks says, "measure" himself:
"I tell ya a guy gets too lonely an' he gets sick....He can't turn to some other buy and ast him whether it's right or not. He can't tell. He got nothing to measure by."
In his novella of socialist motifs about the socially and economically disenfranchised itinerant worker of the Great Depression, Crooks represents the quintessentially disenfranchised.
Crooks is the African American stable hand, who takes care of the horses and lives by himself in a small room attached to the barn. Being that Crooks is the only black employee on the ranch, he is discriminated against and marginalized throughout the novella. Unlike the other white workers, Crooks is forced to live by himself and not allowed to room with the other men in the bunkhouse. In chapter 4, Lennie enters Crooks's room uninvited, and Crooks reveals the extent of his loneliness. Crooks tells Lennie that there is only one black family in Soledad, and says that nobody listens to anything he has to say because he is a Negro. Crooks tells Lennie,
"If I say something, why it's just a nigger sayin' it." (35)
Crooks then tells Lennie that he needs someone to keep him company and feels left out because he's not allowed to stay in the bunkhouse or play rummy with the white workers. Later on, Curley's wife enters Crooks's room, where she makes everyone feel uncomfortable and is asked to leave. After Crooks tells her to get out of his room, she replies,
"Listen, Nigger . . . You know what I can do to you if you open your trap?" (39)
Curley's wife marginalizes Crooks by threatening him and treating him unfairly. Crooks knows that he is defenseless against Curley's wife's accusations and is forced to keep quiet. Overall, Crooks lives an isolated, lonely life, where he is excluded from certain activities and privileges.