Of Mice and Men Questions and Answers
by John Steinbeck

Of Mice and Men book cover
Start Your Free Trial

Need help on Gender and Racial identity in 'Of mice and men' The way it is presented throughout the play? 

Expert Answers info

Mike Walter eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2012

write1,473 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, Social Sciences, and History

Steinbeck’s depiction of racial matters in Of Mice and Men centers on the character of Crooks, who is an older, black ranch-hand . While Crooks is not a major character in the book, he is important in a late chapter in which Steinbeck delves into his past and examines his feelings.

Crooks is taken for granted by the other ranch-hands. His name comes from his severely curved spine, which keeps him from doing the heavier work that most of the others do. He is called a “stable buck.” He is also frequently and routinely referred to using the “N” word.

When Steinbeck has Lennie wander into Crooks’ room one night, we find out how bitterly lonely Crooks is. He tells Lennie that it wasn’t always this way with him; as a kid he played with white children and never thought of it as unusual. But now he is shunned by the white workers—he cannot partake of their community.

As far as gender is concerned, there is also only one female character, and she isn’t even named. In the book she is only referred to as “Curley’s wife.” She is not a very admirable character. Like Crooks she is lonely, pushed to the fringes of ranch society, but she can’t stay away from the workers, who are afraid to talk to her for fear of causing a problem with the boss’s son, her husband. The reader sees in her a vicious streak when she threatens to have Crooks lynched after he speaks to her in a way she doesn’t like.

Steinbeck’s intentions are most likely not to make African-Americans or women look bad, but to show the agonizing loneliness of life for people who are not part of a community of others like themselves.  

check Approved by eNotes Editorial

foxwit | Student

Of Mice and Men is a novel, not a play.

Throughout the novel the reader would notice how women play a very small role, as only one of the characters on the ranch is a women (Curley's wife - notice how she isn't even provided with a name, this highlights the insignificance of the female character in the novel). Curley's wife is treated as if she doesn't really even exist, she only becomes significant when Lennie kills her. Also, the men of the ranch discuss visiting a whorehouse, this shows how women are not regarded with much respect by the men. None of the men in the novel are married, except for Curley; however, his marriage is clearly disfunctional and corrupt as he needs to wear a glove filled with vaseline to keep his hands soft, and also how him and his wife never seem to be together, and always looking for one another. Marriage is certainly not represented as being meaningful in this novel as both Curley and his wife do not share a very close relationship towards one another.

Basically, women are underrepresented throughout the novel, it seems to be "a man's world," seperate from female attention or presence.

The racial identity throughout the novel is mainly represented by Crooks (the stablebuck). Crooks has his own room, seperate from the rest of the men, this shows the racism at the time period at which the book was presented. Crooks was also excluded from most leisure activities the other men took part in - except for playing horseshoes. Crooks has seemingly accepted the fact that he is disculded from the rest of the ranch and how insignificant he is, this becomes apparent when Lennie comes into Crooks room, Crooks becomes confused as to why Lennie would be visiting him. In a way this is very sad that Crooks would be actually surprised that another character would want to spend time with him.