The Student Room Group

"Crooks is a cruel and aloof character"

Explore the character of Crooks within Of Mice and Men

Throughout the novella, Crooks is displayed as a lonesome character who yearns for friendship, but inevitably fails due to his aloof demeanour and the fact that he is ostracised due to the colour of his skin and his lowly placement in the social hierarchy. As the story unfolds, his cruelty is evident through his mistreatment of Lennie. Additionally, his loneliness and search for companionship is seen through his analysis of male friendship, perhaps also indicating Steinbeck’s social commentary on 1930s America.
Crooks’ cruelty is observable when Lennie enters his room and is quickly sent away, “You have no right to come in here”. Here, Crooks is displaying his expert knowledge on the Jim Crow laws, the segregation laws that often marginalised him. Yet now, he is using the very same laws that oppress him in order to send Lennie away. Moreover, Crooks takes advantage of Lennie’s mental disability and taunts him with ideas of George’s disappearance, making Lennie grow more anxious and uneasy. He states that “they’ll tie you up like a collar dog”. In using the animalistic analogy, Crooks is truly cruel in comparing Lennie’s intelligence to that of a dog. He also uses the threat of others tying him up, therefore creating a semantic field of violence and terror in order to frighten Lennie, all for Crooks’ enjoyment. It can be argued that Crooks’ cruelty stems from his own oppression and marginalisation that creates a strive for power wherever he can find it. Steinbeck comments on this power struggle and criticises the human nature to oppress despite personal oppression.
Furthermore, it can be seen that Crooks is a truly aloof character, but not by choice. Rather, he is forced into a position of loneliness because his race and disability place him at the bottom of the social hierarchy, meaning the workers in the ranch do not treat him as a companion or an equal, instead just a lowly stable buck- despite the fact that all ranch workers are desperate for friendship, they will still continue to segregate Crooks’ from this. Readers can observe his desire for a friendship through “come on in and set a while” and “a guy goes nuts if he ain’t got nobody”. Crooks’ invitation to Lennie proves that he does indeed long for friendship as he is willing to converse with a character who has proven to not have significant mental intelligence. The ambiguous temporal indicator “a while” proves that Crooks’ hopes for this company to last a long time, and the use of imperative verbs creates an instructional tone that makes Lennie follow what he says. In addition, the colloquial idiom “goes nuts” shows the insanity one feels without friendship, an insanity Crooks has likely felt. No matter how one-sided the conversation is, Crooks is grateful for Lennie’s presence as he can now also enjoy “the talking”. He emphasised the importance of friendship through “it don’t make no difference… it’s just the talking”. The adverb “just” highlights the importance of talking and communication to ensure happiness, and how something that seems so insignificant is actually so vital to human survival.

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