Could someone please give me a grade and some feedback for my essay on Crooks? I haven't written my conclusion but apart from that the entire thing is below. Thank you in advance
In the novella, ‘Of Mice and Men’, by John Steinbeck, introduces the integral character of Crooks to the audience, initially through Candy (an old “swamper”) who highlights Crook’s position as the “stable buck”, making him a senior on the ranch (Crook’s is responsible for the livelihood of the animals- a factor on which the efficiency of the farm relies on), and comments that he is a “******”. This immediately exposes the audience to Crook’s desperate situation in which the character is a victim of the Great Depression, like the other labourers on the ranch, but also placed in further disadvantage due to the prevailing racist attitudes of the time period. As a result, Crooks is utilised in order to reveal the explicit, underlying prejudices of 1930s American society against people of colour and the disable (Crooks suffers from a back injury sustained in an accident with a horse years prior), who were constantly suppressed and marginalised whilst being subject to extreme violence and discrimination. However, alongside representing a minor group, Crooks also plays another pivotal role in this novel- that is, he is symbolic of humanity, possessing both negative and positive characteristics that allow this character to be perceived with sympathy and understanding; Crooks also is manipulated to demonstrate the futility of the American Dream and the unrealistic optimism it evokes in even the most intelligent of characters.
To begin with, Steinbeck, most notably utilises Crooks in order to demonstrate the exploitation and maltreatment of the black community throughout 1930s America. This is initially demonstrated through Candy who as stated before employs juxtaposition and a flippant tone in order to describe Crooks to Lennie and George, saying that he is a “good fella” but a “******”. The casual use of the derogative slur by majority of the characters in the novel (aside from Slim and Lennie) alludes to the inherent racism that characterises the Southern States of the U.S. and demonstrates these beliefs being used in order to oppress Crooks. This further depicts the hierarchal system on the ranch which positions Crooks as the most vulnerable and weakest member showing the extent to which racism effected the livelihood of people of colour. This unjust and corrupted power system is further corroborated with Curley’s wife declaring that she could get Crooks “strung upon a tree so easy it ain’t even funny” in reference to lynching. This quote mirrors 1930s American society where which lynching, particularly of Black Americans who were accused of attacking their WASP counterparts, was commonplace with the re-emergence of the Ku Klux Klan, a white supremacist group in 1915. The threat presented by this community was both unnerving and widespread with over 4.5 million KKK members by 1924 in 4000 klaverns which resulted in strong political and legal influence and approximately 3,500 lynchings of blacks between the years 1880 and 1951, 85% of which occurred in the Southern States. This is seen accordingly with Crooks’ sudden change of tone when he replies to Curley’s wife, “[reducing] himself to nothing. He said, “Yes ma’am”, and his voice was tone less”. This again demonstrates the adverse consequences of being of colour in this period. Thus, Crook’s character is used to represent the racist attitudes ingrained in 1930s society.
This victimisation is further developed through Crook’s ostracisation from society in general. For instance, Crooks is segregated through even his sleeping conditions- he lives in a separate bunk that “was a large box filled with straw” away from the company of the other ranch members. The fact that he resides in the harness room (a shed attached to the barn) presents the character as animalistic with his bed drawing a parallel with a horse’s bed of straw. This depicts the dehumanising conditions in which Crooks lives which suggests that despite the novella occurring 70 years after the abolition of slavery (this was in 1865 with the conclusion of the Civil War), these attitudes and beliefs were maintained by society with African Americans being regarded and treated as second class citizens and inferior. This is also an explicit demonstration of the Jim Crow Laws on segregation- a legislation that was a result of the 1896 Plessy v. Ferguson trial in the Supreme Court which concluded that ‘separate but equal’ was legal. Moreover, the repeated mention of the harness rooms and the “rattle of chains” it is associated with, symbolises the lack of freedom and the superficiality of any rights Crooks has as an African American, particularly in the Southern States where racial discrimination was at large. These implicit references to slavery are once again apparent in Crooks’ name which is a method used by the ranch members to emphasise his physical disability being his crooked back- this would have mirrored the manner in which slaves were named, if they were given names at all. Therefore, Steinbeck uses Crooks and the injustice he is subjected to as part of the microcosm Steinbeck describes in the novella.
Furthermore, Crooks’ literal isolation from the other members of the ranch is positioned by Steinbeck to be the cause of his constant bitter attitude- the author effectively highlights the corrosive effects of loneliness and the lack of companionship and the ways in which these effects the human nature. Unlike, George and Lennie or Candy and his dog, Crooks is essentially abandoned and lives in solitude- he is avoided by the other members of the ranch and not included in any of their activities (apart from Christmas). As a result, Crooks conforms to the idea that friendship was uncommon given the transient lifestyle of ranch workers, whose competition to ensure their jobs would have created an aggressive environment. This emphasises the hostility of life on a ranch and by extension the hostility created by the capitalist society of the 1930s which encouraged “rugged individualism” and supported the belief of Social Darwinism. However, this aspect of Crooks’ character is severely exaggerated due to racial prejudices- its impact is seen through Crooks’ acrimonious speech when he addresses Lennie, taunting him saying that “S’pose George don’t come’. In this instance specifically, Crooks is depicted as both cruel and cynical by Steinbeck as regardless of his low position in the social hierarchy of the ranch, Crooks recognises Lennie’s vulnerability as mentally challenged and attempts to assert dominance and power, exploiting Lennie’s innocence in order to validate himself. This imposes the idea that power is drawn from weakness and overall allows Crooks to be presented as both a victim and an aggressor. This is carefully created by Steinbeck to show the duality of human nature, allowing Crooks to appear more realistic and relatable towards the audience.
Lastly, Crooks is presented as desperate by Steinbeck in order to demonstrate the futility and the meaninglessness of the American Dream. Crooks is continuously throughout the novel presented as intelligent with the symbolism of his “gold-rimmed spectacles”, his “tattered dictionary” and “mauled copy of the California Civil Code of 1905” which suggests the Crooks is keen in educating himself on rights, challenging the stereotypes of Black Americans- being that they were uneducated, ignorant and addicts. This intelligence is again depicted through his pessimistic yet realistic approach to the American Dream. This is evidenced by the quote, “Nobody never gets to heaven, and nobody gets no land”, with the repetition of the indefinite pronoun “nobody” reinforcing the unattainable nature of the dreams and hopes of men. However, despite his knowledge, Crooks’ loneliness and insecurity results in him being seduced by George and Lennie’s dream to the point where he blindly requests if they would “want a hand to work for nothing”. Crooks’ yearning for security and stability highlights the unpredictable nature that defined his employment status. As a member of the disabled community, Crooks would have been perceived as replacement by younger, able men as his work efficiency and capacity would have reduced with his spinal injury. This constant threat of dismissal would have been even more amplified by his being a person of colour as during the Great Depression racist attitudes were ever so present seen by campaigns such as the Black Shirts in Atlanta (40,000 people joined this) being formed in order to prevent black people from working, and reserve these for white Americans.