Discuss how Crooks's being black impacts his dreams in Of Mice and Men.

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Crooks is an interesting character in terms of dreams because he is Black.  Steinbeck is insightful enough to present dreams as a concept that challenges people of color and those deemed as "outsiders" by the social order.  For example, Crooks demonstrates a sense of cruelty in trying to get Lennie to understand what it is like to live without anyone, to be immersed in a segregated landscape.  He succeeds in doing so because Lennie is terrified of the prospect.  In this exchange, the reader can see that Crooks' vision of dreams and dreaming is something that is inhibited, or at the very least challenged, by the presence of racial segregation.  Yet, there is a tinge of hope present when Candy comes in and talks to Lennie about their plans.  Crooks is intrigued with the idea and even volunteers to be a part of it.  This moment shows that not all dreams can be repressed due to social marginalization.  However challenged dreams are, they are still a part of human consciousness because it allows a human being to construct what can be from a hopeless state of what is.  Yet, all of this is undermined when Curley's wife verbally attacks Crooks, putting him back in his place with what Steinbeck describes as a snake's precision.  Crooks recognizes the moment for what it is:  Social denial of his own dreams.  This is something that Lennie, George, and Candy will experience later on in the narrative for their own reasons, but it is something that Crooks experiences because of his racial identity and because he is an outsider.  In this light, dreams are important to Crooks, but he also recognizes that his hopes and aspirations might be constructed on more tenuous ground than others, which is why at the end of the chapter four, Crooks calls out to Candy and tells him that he wishes to have no part in the men's dreams.  In this light, Crooks goes back to being alone, understanding his own function and purpose as an outsider, and someone who can only peer from the outside looking in.

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