Please could someone give me feedback on my Mice and Men essay? :)

Rory H
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I'd really appreciate any critical feedback on my essay attempt in addition to an idea of a mark? My exam board is Edexel.


Of Mice and Men is an example of literary realism, hence Steinbeck uses the character of Crooks within of Mice and Men to highlight his criticisms of society in the 1930s and in the Depression, including his perspective on racial tensions and discrimination. One prominent theme throughout the novel is loneliness, and Crooks falls definitively on the side of lonely between the themes of loneliness and friendship. Due to Crooks’s ethnicity, I would argue that he is the single lowest character in terms of social status, power and influence on the ranch. Crooks is a desolate, lonely character who has received mainly prejudice in return for gut wrenching labour throughout his life and Steinbeck builds the readers empathy for this using his diction, narrative and a range of literary and linguistic devices.

Crooks is the only African American on the ranch and in the novel. His character is predominantly defined by his physical appearance and job, his identity is simply, “Crooks, the ***** stable buck,”. Even the omniscient narrator seems dismissive of Crooks, using a short and simple sentence to convey his initially rather flat, two dimensional character which is generally conformant to racial stereotypes throughout the beginning of the novel. the main reason for Crooks’ isolation from the other itinerant workers is his ethnicity, due to his African American heritage he is socially rejected by the other itinerant workers and viewed as an inferior person. Racism towards Crooks is perhaps the greatest example of prejudice within Of Mice and Men, set in the 1930s when racism was rampant throughout America.

Having no choice but to endure prejudice and isolation, segregated from the other workers, he bitterly guards and enforces his territory and privacy, so he keeps his distance from the others, “This here’s my room… I ain’t wanted in the bunkhouse, and you ain’t wanted in my room”. He actively avoids contact with the other itinerant workers, perhaps as a result of his cynical nature and the mistreatment and prejudice he has received from them, leading him to become resentful. As the only African American in the novel Crooks has no one to confide in and no one who is particularly concerned for his wellbeing, meaning he is lonely and isolated from the others, leading him to become antisocial and dispassionate over a prolonged period of time.

As an African American and a cripple, Crooks had been the recipient of continuous discrimination, prejudice and segregation from the other itinerant workers. As a result of this, he becomes cynical and bitter, “Nobody gets to heaven and nobody gets no land”. This is to the extent that Crooks begins to loose his religious faith, perhaps depicting the extent to which consistent mistreatment has effected Crooks emotionally. Crooks’s cynicism is the most realistic outlook expressed within the novel, as not a single character achieves their dream and as a result of Lennie’s death, George and Candy will not attain theirs.

When all of the weaker or disadvantaged characters are together, Crooks reveals a new negative element to his personality. He takes pleasure from taunting Lennie and enjoys his company, “Crooks’s face lighted with pleasure at the torture.” He relishes being in being in a position of power over Lennie mentally, perhaps his pleasure is enhanced due to the fact Lennie is white and physically healthy. Crooks is usually treated as an inferior due to his race, and the subject of discrimination and mistreatment, so it gives him pleasure to wield superiority over and dominate Lennie until later on when Curley’s wife threatens to have him lynched, reaffirming Crooks’s position at very bottom of the social hierarchy.
Even Curley’s wife, arguably the single most alienated and isolated character in the novel, exercise higher social status then Crooks through being Caucasian and her influence over Curley, suggesting Crooks has the lowest status. She threatens to kill him: “I could get you strung up on a tree so easy it ain’t funny,” using a casual inclination to convey a mostly empty yet telling threat. Curley’s wife has the position of power of Crooks, suggesting that racism was rampant beyond misogyny, placing Crooks as the single greatest recipient of prejudice and the least powerful character in the novel.

One of the most emotional moments within the novel is where Crooks reveals his feelings, which is surprising for the proud and territorial character of Crooks, who usually tries to suppress and hide emotions of weakness perhaps due to his position in an environment dominated by the notions of masculinity and strength. His character softens and he tenderly admits his emotions; “A guy goes nuts if he ain’t got nobody… a guy gets too lonely an’ he gets sick.” Steinbeck enhances the reader’s empathy for Crooks at this stage as he begins to open up as his character develops throughout the course of the novel, beginning to demonstrate not only the widespread, casual occurrence of prejudice but its harmful effects both psychological and physiological, whereby “sick” suggests that Crooks is lonely to the extent that he is physically affected.
Crooks is at the bottom of the social ladder on the ranch, left behind when the men go into town and even controlled by Curley’s wife, physically segregated from the other itinerant workers due to his greatest flaw: his race. Crooks is physically disabled, antisocial and lonely without friends or a husband, or even the benefit of the meaningless, shallow social interactions between the men on the ranch except one Christmas.

Despite the tragedy of the death of Curley’s wife, the most alienated character, perhaps her silver lining is that she dies with her ignorance, still naively believing that her unrealistic dream is attainable. In contrast, Crooks will likely die alone, with the full cynical knowledge that his life amounted to nothing but living as a friendless, cynical labourer who has experienced little pleasure, receiving hostility and prejudice throughout the course of his mundane, monotonous, lonely life. Crooks’s desolation is a slight exaggeration of the situation of most of the characters, who will likely retire and die discontented and alone just as Candy will at the end of the novel; I would argue this is the truly the most effective moment within the novel, not the death of Lennie, which is arguably symbolic of this greater meaning of the novel, despair.

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