John Steinbeck reflects on the context of 1930’s America in his novel entitled ‘Of Mice and Men’. The public would perceive Afro-Americans solely by their physical features and society would segregate them as a result of their racial distinction. I will be exploring how Steinbeck presents Crooks and his development through literary devices, and hence, how he changes depending on the characters he is interacting with.
Steinbeck initially presents Crooks in a dialogue between George and Candy though he himself was absent. This signifies that they may not have been friends with Crooks because they were discussing him without his presence. Steinbeck possibly did this to give the audience secondary insight on Crooks’ character before he is established later on in the novel. In the conversation they mentioned “the boss gave him [Crooks] hell … when he’s mad”, this indicates that perhaps the Boss takes his anger out on the worker with the lowest status or maybe the one he dislikes most. However, Crooks “don’t give a damn about that” as he may be accustomed to it or alternatively, doesn’t want to waste his time and energy arguing when he also may be at risk of losing his job easily.
From when Steinbeck physically established Crooks into the novel in chapter 4, his introduction was significantly distinctive from those of the other characters. He was the only individual of whom Steinbeck specifically allocated a name to before a description. “Crooks, the Negro stable buck, had his bunk…” perhaps Steinbeck used that method of an introduction to stress his importance in the novel. Crooks was given a stereotype as “the Negro stable buck”, “Negro” is a term of address that describes his race. Steinbeck may have thought this was necessary so the audience were aware of his obvious distinction as opposed to the other characters (who’s races were not mentioned).
Steinbeck uses setting to further develop Crooks’ character. He lives in the harness room therefore it is his home. Yet, it is his workplace as well “and a manure pile under the window” this indicates he was not deserving of a separate living space and dehumanizes him as he is obligated not only to live around animals, but also work FOR them, as opposed to the conventional ‘animals work for men’ theory. Steinbeck possibly intended for Crooks to be an allegory of an animal as he is treated similarly or, in some cases, with less respect than the creatures. On the other hand, he is not living directly WITH the horses therefore some human features are present. He had a “range of medicine bottles, both for him and the horses”; Crooks virtually shared everything he owned with the horses including his own personal area for even the most important possessives such as his medicines. This setting further segregates him from the other migrant workers, as he is isolated from mankind and forced into living with animals. This again designates the other men’s disapproval of him as only animals can accept him; which, ironically, cannot communicate with humans. Steinbeck always mentions Crooks indoors, rather than the idyllic natural world outside. This is paradoxical as Crooks is not only confined politically but also confined within his living space.
The structure of this novel is important to the isolation of Crooks because although Crooks himself is segregated, the chapter of which he is introduced is separate from the other chapters, not only within the structure of the novel, but also the structure of the chapter itself. In all chapters before the fourth, the scene is established with a description of the setting. However, Chapter 4 was different as Crooks was immediately introduced himself. Steinbeck may have applied this device into his text to again isolate Crooks from the conventional openings; or, looking from a large perspective, exclude him from the other characters.
As a result of his segregation, Crooks became possessive over his belongings and properties. “This is my...
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