How does Steinbeck use the character of Crooks in the novel as a whole to convey ideas about America in the 1930s in Of Mice and Men?

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Crooks demonstrates how the society of the 1930’s used up people and threw them away, especially blacks.  He is an outcast because of his skin color and injury.  He also demonstrates the disillusionment in the American dream.

Crooks is an old man who fears that he has outlived his usefulness.  When he comes in quietly to talk to Slim, his face is “lined with pain” but his “eyes patient” (ch 3).  He tells Slim he has done what he was asked, and wants to help, but Slim says he can do it himself.  He always keeps just out of “attention range.”

"You told me to warm up tar for that mule's foot. I got it warm."

"Oh! Sure, Crooks. I'll come right out an' put it on."

"I can do it if you want, Mr. Slim."

"No. I'll come do it myself." He stood up. (ch 3)

Crooks sleeps in a bunk in the harness room.  He tries to be useful and stay out of everyone’s way, but he is in pain.  He worries that his injuries will prevent him from staying at the ranch.  Crooks is “a proud, aloof man” who stays to himself.  He is annoyed when Lennie sees him rubbing liniment on his aching back, because he does not like to show weakness.

Crooks makes himself subservient to white people when he needs too, despite his pride.  When he talks to Curley’s wide, he demonstrates “no personality, no ego- nothing to arouse either like or dislike” (ch 4).

Crooks is jealous of Lennie and George’s relationship.

Books ain't no good. A guy needs somebody to be near him. (ch 4)

Crooks thinks that people have unrealistic dreams, such as getting a patch of land.  He scoffs at Lennie and Candy’s dream of the rabbit farm.  Crooks had dreams once too, and a happy childhood on a farm.  During the Great Depression, the American Dream was fading.  People no longer believed that things would get better.  Crooks represents this sentiment.

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Of Mice and Men

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