What is Crooks' American dream in Of Mice and Men?

Crooks' American Dream consists of his being a part of George and Lennie's plan to buy their own ranch. This will give Crooks the opportunity for more freedom and dignity, something he desperately lacks in his present situation. The only black person on the ranch, Crooks is treated like dirt and so is particularly keen to start a new life. But he quickly realizes that this dream is just that and has no chance of being realized.

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For an all too brief moment Crooks gets excited about the prospect of living off the fat of the land with George and Lennie. Their dream of operating their own ranch, of being their own bosses, inspires him to think of a better life for himself. And his current life really couldn't get much worse. The only black person on the ranch, Crooks is separated from the other men, forced to live in a crummy little shack all on his own. If that weren't bad enough, he lives under the constant fear of being lynched if he steps out of line. The threat that Curley's wife makes against him is by no means an idle one.

One can see why Crooks is briefly fired up by the prospect of being a part of George and Lennie's ambitious plan to realize the American Dream. However, due to his negative experiences, he quickly comes to believe that there's no realistic chance that this plan will ever come to fruition. He knows all too well what life is like for the poor and downtrodden in Depression-era America, especially if the poor and downtrodden happen to be black like himself. None of the characters in Of Mice and Men achieve the American Dream, and Crooks is the only one who realizes the futility of even trying.

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Crooks's American dream is the same as the one that animates the other men. For a brief moment, he becomes genuinely excited about the idea of being part of George's dream of owning his own small farm, where he can live off "the fat of the land." The dream of independence, of being one's own boss, of being able to take a day off when one likes, of being rooted in a community rather than wandering, and of being able to choose one's own companions, has a great appeal to all the ranch hands.

Crooks's desire for it is, I believe, Steinbeck's way of communicating the universality of this deep-rooted dream: it cuts across race, age, and mental or physical ability as a deep and heart-felt desire.

Because of the realities of racism and Crooks disappointments and isolation—he is not even allowed to live in the bunkhouse with the other men—he is the quickest to perceive the futility of the dream, at least for him, and to quickly lapse back into the reality he knows.

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Crooks is an important extension of the central American dream of all of the characters. Many of the other characters are ostracized because of their physical limitations--Lennie because of this mental state, Candy because of his lost arm. Crooks also suffers from a physical limitation in his crooked spine. However, Crooks is ostracized even more because of his race. Even on the ranch we see the repercussions of this idea--although both Candy and Crooks are "crippled," it is Candy who lives among the other ranch hands; Crooks does not. He is ostracized to his own room, away from the other ranch hands.

Crooks's American dream then is not that much different from the others'. He wants to be self-sufficient, able to live a life of his own choosing, yet he also wants to be accepted as he is and treated fairly and equally.

The symbolism throughout the scene in Crooks's room suggests Steinbeck's belief that all human beings are "crippled" in one way or another, and--at some level--we all want to be accepted and treated equally and fairly.

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Crooks is a fairly minor character, but an important one.  The crux of his involvement in the story comes when George has gone into town with the boys and Lennie wanders into the barn, into Crooks' bunkhouse.

The conversation that follows is critical to the story.  Lennie, given his mental limitations, only knows what he is told about race in the 1930s, and he doesn't understand it, so he is naturally curious like any young person would be.  The conversation they have is mostly innocent, and Crooks realizes that Lennie doesn't know to treat him differently.  For the first time, maybe ever, Crooks feels like an equal with a white man, even perhaps superior with Lennie.  He gets to drink a feeling of equality very briefly, until George reappears and sets the situation how it should be socially, in that time frame.

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For much of the time that we know him, I do not think that Crooks does have an American dream.  I think he has had it squeezed out of him by racism.

However, once he talks some to Lennie and Candy, he starts to have a dream as well.  His is pretty much like the others' dream -- he wants to be independent.  For him, however, there is another aspect.  He wants to be accepted and not shunned because of his skin color.

His dream dies quickest -- it dies before the night is even over because Curley's wife kills it.  But, for a little, it is there.

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