Here’s a super-thorough collection of quotations with analysis for the character of Crooks. It also explains Crooks’ relationship with Lennie and Curley’s wife, prejudice, loneliness, hopes and dreams, black rights – with short video – and his significance to the novel. Phew!
These notes are designed to help you produce brilliant essays in the GCSE and IGCSE Exams. They include a little of the Social and Historical Context too.

In what ways is Crooks significant to the novel?

Crooks is disabled, a victim of prejudice because of his skin colour which isolates him from the other men. He’s bitter, and lonely. Lennie is the only character who does not see his colour – either from stupidity, innocence, or kindness.

Crooks is the black stable buck who is one of the few permanent members of the ranch. He is called Crooks due to an injury when a horse kicked his back, leaving him crippled. He lives segregated, alone in an unglamorous ‘little shed‘ away from the bunk house, with a ‘manure pile’ beneath his window.

Unlike the other men, he’s obviously educated. He has a copy of the ‘California Law Code’ –

Crooks, like Candy, Lennie and Curley’s wife, is a a victim of prejudice. But his is specifically anchored in the racism that was typical of the period. To us, the name ‘nigger‘ is shocking; then it was the norm. Though Steinbeck uses the word, it does not mean he approved. Crooks is a victim of casual, everyday racism:

  • Candy says: “the boss gives him hell when he’s mad“.
  • He’s banned from the bunkhouse, only at Christmas “they let the nigger come in” – as if it were a special treat – underlining the irony of the lack of Christian charity in their behaviour.
  • Crooks is mistreated even when things have nothing to do with him like George and Lennie arriving late.

    In America at the time, black people were often treated as barely human. Crooks is a fully rounded character, fully aware of his situation:
    “I ain’t a southern Negro*,” he said. “I was born right here in California. My old man had a chicken ranch, ‘bout ten acres. The white kids come to play at our place, an’ sometimes I went to play with them, and some of them was pretty nice. My ol’ man didn’t like that. I never knew till long later why he didn’t like that. But I know now.”
    *Southern Negros were considered the ‘worst’ as they were originally slaves. It’s pretty harsh hearing a black American disassociate himself from other black people.

    Crooks is aware he’s isolated and asks rhetorically: ‘how’d you like it if you couldn’t …’cause you was black

    ‘S’pose you had to sit out here an’ read books. Sure you could play horseshoes till it got dark, but then you got to read books. Books ain’t no good. A guy needs somebody-to be near him.

    He’s aware of his rights, and has a copy of the ‘California Legal Code‘ on his shelf.

    “Maybe you guys better go. I ain’t sure I want you in here no more. A colored man got to have some rights even if he don’t like ’em”.

    The semantic field of pain in the character of Crooks:

    “pain-tightened lips” and “face lined with pain” – this is physical from his injury, and from his emotional suffering.

    Loneliness: Candy has “been here a long time”, but he has never been in Crooks’ room, showing how lonely Crooks must be. Crooks tells Lennie that “a guy needs somebody – to be near him”. This shows that, in contrast to the boss and Curley, he understands why George and Lennie are together. Crooks’ comment that “a guy gets too lonely an’ he gets sick” shows that emotional pain can be as profound as physical. This heightens the tragedy at the end; after Lennie’s death, George becomes merely another lonely guy like the rest of the ranch workers.

    Dreams and Shattered Dreams… After his initial scepticism towards Lennie’s dream – and unkindness to Lennie, he offers to join in – even to the point he will “work for nothing”. 
    At this point, Curley’s Wife brings her own loneliness to the doorway of Crooks’ shed. When she is rejected, she bitterly remarks: I could “get you strung up on a tree so easy it ain’t even funny“.
    After Curley’s wife’s cruelty, Crooks says he doesn’t want the dream anymore. The bubble is burst. Crooks says, bleakly “nobody never gets to heaven, and nobody gets no land”, a heart-breaking judgement. All he can do is endure.