What are examples of direct and indirect characterizations of Crooks in Of Mice and Men?

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Crooks, a secondary character in John Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men, is characterized both directly and indirectly in the novella.

Direct characterizations are when the author specifically tells readers who a character is.

  • "Ya see the stable buck's a n....r." (I omitted the final word due to its...

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Crooks, a secondary character in John Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men, is characterized both directly and indirectly in the novella.

Direct characterizations are when the author specifically tells readers who a character is.

  • "Ya see the stable buck's a n....r." (I omitted the final word due to its ability to offend.) This example is a direct characterization because it openly states Crooks's race. He is a black man.
  • "Nice fella too." This is also a direct characterization, because it tells readers what kind of person Crooks is.
  • "Got a crooked back where a horse kicked him." This serves as a direct characterization because it offers a physical description of Crooks.
  • "His lean face was lined with deep black wrinkles, and he had thin, pain-tightened lips which were lighter than his face." This quote goes on to describe Crooks in more detail. However, it can also be defined as an indirect characterization, because it speaks of the pain Crooks has experienced, enough to put deep lines upon his face.

Indirect Characterizations:

  • "He reads a lot." This indirect characterization speaks to Crooks's desire to be a knowledgeable man. Many blacks, at this point in time, were still oppressed and treated with racial bias. The idea that Crooks wanted more in life, which he tried to gain through reading, illustrates that Crooks was not the typical black farmhand.
  • "I can do it if you want, Mr. Slim." This quote speaks to Crooks's character. He is a nice man, and he is willing to help others.
  • "In it a range of medicine bottles, both for himself and for the horses." This quote's message is twofold. First, Crooks is on medication. Although the type of medication is not divulged, readers can assume that Crooks is ill or in constant pain because of the back pain he suffers from the horse kick. Secondly, the quote shows Crooks cares about the animals on the farm. He keeps their medications so that he knows exactly where they are and how to get to them when needed. This also shows that Crooks is a responsible man.
  • "He had accumulated more possessions than he could carry on his back." This quote illustrates that Crooks has been on the farm for a while, unlike most of the other migrant workers, who move sporadically. Also, the quote refers to the idea that Crooks takes pride in his possessions. He is not able to simply leave, which would result in the abandonment of his possessions.
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Direct characterization occurs when an author explicitly states what a character is like: happy, humble, impetuous, angry, and so on. Indirect characterization occurs when a character is revealed through descriptions of their looks, by listening to what the character says as well as his private thoughts, how other characters react to that character and the character's actions. In Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men, much of the characterization is done indirectly. For example, Steinbeck never comes right out and states that Lennie is mentally disabled. Rather, he reveals Lennie's character through what he does, how he talks and what others say about him.

In the case of Crooks, Steinbeck chose to use both direct and indirect characterization. He is indirectly characterized in Chapter Two when Candy talks about him. He describes him physically as a black man who has a crooked back because he was kicked by a horse. He further relates that Crooks is a good horseshoe player, reads books, and is something of a fighter (because he wins a fight against "Smitty"). Candy seems to like Crooks although he does refer to him with a derogatory name for a black person, which would have been a common label at that time. In Chapter Three, Crooks is also characterized as having a face "lined with pain." 

In Chapter Four, Steinbeck uses direct characterization to inform the reader that Crooks was "proud and aloof." The reader later understands that Crooks is aloof because he is often ostracized from the white workers on the ranch and that he spends a great deal of time by himself. In the same chapter, Steinbeck again uses indirect characterization to reveal that Crooks is terribly lonely and frustrated by his position on the ranch. He temporarily takes out this frustration on Lennie by suggesting that George might leave Lennie alone. Finally, the reader also understands that Crooks has the same dreams as the other men when he suggests that he could go with George, Lennie and Candy to the dream farm and work and live with them. Unfortunately, Curley's wife spoils this dream by reminding Crooks that, as a black man, he is virtually a second class citizen without the same rights as the white men.

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