How are Curley's wife and Crooks similar, and what are their roles on the ranch and in society in Of Mice and Men?  

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Steinbeck's novella Of Mice and Men, both Crooks and Curley's wife are marginalized.

Much of the time, Crooks is alluded to simply as the "stable buck" in the narrative. Candy initially speaks about him in an objectified manner as he tells George how the boss has reacted to their not having reported to work in the morning:

"He was sure burned when you wasn't here this morning. Come right in when we was eatin' breakfast and says, 'Where the hell's them new men?' An' he give the stable buck hell, too."

When George asks Candy about his last sentence, Candy explains that the "buck's a n****r. . .The boss gives him hell when he's mad." So, Crooks is a verbal whipping boy.

Additionally, he is isolated from the other ranch hands as he is made to live in the barn, apart from the others in the bunkhouse. So, he occupies himself with reading when he is not working because he is also not allowed to play horseshoes or cards with the other men. When the men go into town to drink and engage in other activities, Crooks never goes then, either.

Curley's wife, too, is prevented from interacting with others on the ranch. Just like Crooks, she is objectified; she has no other name but that of being the genitive of Curley, her husband. When she first appears in the narrative, she stands in the doorway of the bunkhouse in a seductive pose, the only position which gives her any attention. She can only use her womanhood to gain any attention, and so she becomes an Eve to tempt the men and manipulate them. However, she duplicates Curley's mistake of failing to comprehend how uncontrollable is the fear and irrationality of Lennie. 

Both Crooks and Curley's wife play unique roles in the society of Steinbeck's novella. Crooks embodies the isolation, loneliness, and marginalization of many during the Great Depression while Curley's wife is a vehicle by which Steinbeck contrasts the way that various men act. Moreover, she acts as a disruptive force in the fraternity of men.

parkerlee eNotes educator| Certified Educator

This question has just been answered. Please see the reference below concerning these and other characters representing alienation.

I would add the comment that Crooks and Candy's wife are the two characters always left behind when everybody else goes to town. They play purely domestic roles. As Lennie, they are misfits with nowhere to go. 

mcfox1948 | Student

Crooks and Curley's wife are both victims of oppression and discrimination. Curley's wife is described as a "floozy" and a "tart"; she is ignored and avoided because she is seen as "trouble", while Crooks is called a n***** and is ostracized by the other men.

They are both extremely lonely, needing someone else with whom to relate to. They are both denied the company of others: Curley's wife, because she is a woman, and Crooks is denied the freedom of socializing because he is black.

donnamaria | Student

crooks are curley's wife are both really lonely. they both have shattered dreams and they both are discriminated because of their gender and race.

mikaelap14 | Student

i think they're similar because they are both second class / second rate

and they dont get equal rights and respect

curley's wife doesnt get much respect as she's a woman and men were inferior in the 1930's

crooks doesnt get equal rights as he's a black man and america was racist back then