Why is Crooks, the only man on the ranch who has experienced the American Dream of self-sufficiency as a boy on his father’s chicken farm, the most reluctant to believe in that dream in Of Mice and Men?
Although Crooks is marginalized because of his color, he is, perhaps, not one to hope because of two other factors:
1. Crooks is disillusioned. Having once known a comfortable life, after experiencing the deprivations of the Great Depression and the limitations imposed upon him at the ranch, Crooks's point of view has become clouded by the contrast of his present state and that of his former life. Among his possessions, Crooks has a California civil code manual. From this manual, Crooks could have deduced the limits upon his personal rights, the nature of property and property ownership.
That he understands his subservient position in society is evinced in Chapter 5 after Curley's wife insults and threatens Crooks for telling her she could not come into his room. Crooks "had reduced himself to nothing. There was no personality, no ego--nothing to arouse either like or dislike."
2. He is wiser than the other bindle stiffs. For, he has witnessed many a bindle stiff come and go, having a position that he can retain at the ranch. From these observations and from his reading--"he had books, too....there were battered magazines"--Crooks has probably gleaned much knowledge of men. Easily, for instance, he assesses Lennie's mental deficiences and takes the opportunity to manipulate and taunt him, having had the same done to him before: "Crooks's face lighted with pleasure in his torture."
Therefore, Crooks realizes the improbability of any dream ever truly being realized in the world in which the men exist.
Crooks is the only one who does not believe in the ranch dream because as a black man the dream is not open to him.
It is true that Crooks seems to have lived the American dream as a child, it is denied him now. As a black man, he is keenly aware of the fact that the other men on the ranch do not see him as an equal. He simply does not have the same opportunities as they do.
This room was swept and fairly neat, for Crooks was a proud, aloof man. He kept his distance and demanded that other people keep theirs. (ch 4)
Crooks is irritated when Lennie tells him about the rabbit farm dream. He feels like it is another dream he does not have access to. George and Lennie can, and even Candy can be involved, but Crooks is left out again.