A Man Robbed of His Dignity: an African American Facing Social Injustice in of Mice and Men

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A Man Robbed of His Dignity: An African American Facing Social Injustice in Of Mice and Men

On February 26th, in Sanford, Florida, a seventeen-year-old boy named Trayvon Martin was killed by George Zimmerman. Zimmerman’s stated reason was self-defense, but many believe that he shot Martin because of racial discrimination. African Americans suffer much discrimination despite being guaranteed equal rights by the Fourteenth Amendment. Of Mice and Men, by John Steinbeck, is about two migrant farmers living during the Great Depression. In the book there is only one African-American character; he is a California born stable worker known as Crooks on the ranch. His name has both a figurative and literal meaning: he was kicked in the back by a horse, leaving him with a crooked back, and he has been robbed of his dignity as well as his hope. Crooks faces many problems mainly due to the fact that he is African American. By presenting Crooks as a segregated, cynical, and dehumanized African American character, Steinbeck displays the effects of racism during the Great Depression. *

In the middle of the novella, Lennie is in Crooks’s room even though Crooks does not want him in his room because he knows that Lennie is a nuisance. Lennie is attempting to have a conversation with Crooks by questioning him. Crooks responds to one question with anger, “Well, I got a right to have a light. You go on get outta my room. I ain’t wanted in the bunkhouse, and you ain’t wanted in my room…’[c]ause I’m black…[t]hey say I stink, well I tell you, all of you stink to me”(Steinbeck 68). Crooks is accepting that everyone on the ranch segregates him. Because Crooks is a poor African American, he only has a few possessions. One of the few things that Crooks has is his own room, but by Lennie coming into his room, he feels it is being taken away; therefore, he wants Lennie out. Crooks is not wanted in the bunkhouse because of his race so he wants to make the white workers...
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