What is Steinbeck trying to do by presenting Crooks and Curley's wife as disadvantaged characters; is it sucessful?

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lsumner | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Senior Educator

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Steinbeck presents Curley's wife and Crooks as disadvantaged characters. In keeping with the theme of loneliness during the Great Depression, it is fitting to portray Crooks and Curley's wife as disadvantaged characters. Times were hard. There was much unrest on the ranches, and low wages and isolation were two themes presented in Of Mice and Men.

Crooks is ostracized. Steinbeck presents the racism that existed during the time period. Because Crooks is a black man, the others do not want to keep company with him. Crooks even has to sleep in separate quarters:

Crooks, the despairing old Negro stable worker, lives alone in the harness room, ostracized from the ranch hands.

Steinbeck reveals the problems with racism through the disadvantaged character of Crooks. Of course, Crooks is a bitter black man because of racism. He is treated with disrespect because of the color of his skin. If the isolation was not enough, Crooks has to deal with racism daily. 

Curley's wife is presented as a disadvantaged character. Not only was racism a big issue during the Great Depression, but women had very few rights, too. Curley's wife lives in a man's world. She has no female companions. She is lonely and reaches out to male ranch hands, which portrays her as a vamp:

Curley's wife (as the boss's son's flirtatious wife, she is not identified by any other name) wanders around the ranch searching for some human contact.

Curley's wife is presented here as a type of woman who flirts and shows herself as desperate. George calls her poison and jailbait, warning Lennie to stay away form her:

 George tells Lennie to avoid her, calling her "poison" and "jailbait." But she is pathetically lonely and had once had dreams of being a movie star. Both she and Crooks crave company and "someone to talk to."

She is just starving for company. She is desperate for companionship. She can only find it through Lennie. This proves to be disasterous for Curley's wife, asLennie accidentally breaks her neck later in the book. 

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