How is Crooks's character marginalized in Of Mice and Men?John Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

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. 



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Of Mice and Men

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