Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck

Chapter 4 Analysis (pages 66-83)

This chapter reveals that the state of this poor, black “stable buck” is much lonelier and more downtrodden than even that of the poor, white migrant farm worker. Crooks would have never been a slave, yet he clearly resides in the lowest societal stratum. He does not appear to be free to move from farm to farm seeking better work, nor is he permitted to bunk with the other men. Presumably, the only reason Lennie treats Crooks as an equal is because Lennie is too simple to understand the unspoken racial divides that exist. The others do not treat Crooks with the same ambivalence. Candy must be coaxed into entering Crooks’ bunk and Curley’s wife threatens him with death when he tries to prevent her from entering.

At first, Crooks seems to be the most grounded, realistic character, realizing that the men will never acquire their own ranch, yet even he temporarily falls victim to the seemingly impossible dream and shows a fleeting interest in taking part in their venture. Crooks quickly retracts his expressed interest, though, likely realizing that his skin color will forever prevent him from attaining any such dream as land ownership.

The fact that George is in town at Old Susy’s during this entire scene illustrates another obstacle to achieving their dream. Many men fall victim to temptations and cheap thrills, which entice the men to spend instead of save their money and prevent most men from acquiring enough cash to enable the purchase of their own land.