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Crooks has a hard life, and his ways of coping with his conflicts have obviously shaped his character. One of his conflicts is that he is black. He is subject to cruel and blatant discrimination. The other men will not even allow him to come into the bunkhouse to socialize and play cards. He responds by keeping strictly to himself and not attempting to win acceptance or friendship. He has to act as if he prefers his own company. He is extremely careful to avoid arguments and quarrels. Another conflict is that he is badly crippled. He can't do the heavy work the other men can do, so he has learned to make himself useful by taking care of the horses and keeping the equipment in order. A third conflict is with his solitude and isolation. He pretends that he is not interested in socializing, but he is lonely in his little room off the stable, with no company except for the horses. His way of coping with this internal conflict has been to develop an interest in reading, as Steinbeck shows by describing Crooks' rather pitiful collection of magazines and old books. His home is his castle. He is very defensive about his private domain and everything in it. This little room, which also serves as storeroom and repair room for livery paraphernalia, is the only place where he can feel any minimal sense of security. The reader cannot help admiring Crooks because of his pride, dignity, and endurance.
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