In 1937, John Steinbeck wrote Of Mice and Men. The book, as well as its author, has won many prizes, such as the New York Drama Critics Award in 1938 and the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1962. Steinbeck is known for his well-developed characters, such as Crooks and Curley from "Of Mice and Men." The author shapes his story so that these two characters-Crooks, a black stable buck who is discriminated against and Curley, a bully who seeks respect-- have the same feelings. Steinbeck demonstrates that people with power and people without it, can be very similar by having the same emotions and feelings. Another thing Steinbeck tries to tell us is that you shouldn't judge someone by the way they act or look before being sure of it: by getting to know them.
We don't get lots of information about Crooks in the book other than the fact(s) that he is lonely and that his skin colour is black. He works on the ranch as a stable buck. This makes it hard for Crooks to make friends because the majority of workers work in the fields. He sits in his room all day and only gets up when he has to eat or when someone calls him to work at the stable, making him almost invisible on the ranch.
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This way of living is how Steinbeck brings out the contrast between people; to show what the person is like inside. Another way to explain this is by the old saying, "Don't judge a book by its cover." This teaches us to stop assuming what someone is like from the way they look or act before actually getting to know them. People are tricked often when lonely people, or people with a problem, act cheerful to mask what they really feel. This is exactly what Crooks does. He seems like a happy guy at first because he never complains, he doesn't seem to get into trouble and he generally has a good life. This is what you think at first when reading about him. It's a natural thing people do.
Crooks is a black male with a crooked back. He is quiet and keeps to himself most of the time, probably to stay out of trouble. He reads books all day because he has no one to talk to. He longs to have friends and you start to feel quite sorry for him, at least I did, as he explains this to the reader of the book. Crooks probably hates his job as well: he suffers because of racism from the other workers because of his skin colour, he has a bad job and I don't think they pay is very good either. When Crooks hears about George's and Lennie's plan of buying their own ranch, he instantly gets interested and begs for them to consider letting Crooks be part of the plan together with them. This is also very sad because it shows that he has to ask beg something, not be invited.
The boss's son, Curley wears high-heeled cowboy boots to underline that he is different from the field workers, who wear normal work boots. While everyone else (the migrant workers) is struggling, Curley is busy trying to throw his weight around on his dad's ranch. As an ex-lightweight fighter, Curley is always looking for a chance to use these skills. He does this by threatening people in the hope of provoking them to fight. This can be seen in the following citation: "Curley stepped over to Lennie like a terrier. "What the hell you laughin' at?" (p.62). In general, Curley is unpleasant.
Curly acts this way because he wants respect. No one really cares about Curley or pays attention to him, which he does not understand because he is egoistic and thinks that as the boss's son, he is superior to others. That he is the boss's son actually does make him more powerful than the others, but no one shows it. This makes Curley angry. In a way, Curley feels smaller than the rest of the people on the ranch. It is possible that this is the reason that Steinbeck made Curley a physically short character.
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Another way that Curley tries to get respect is by demonstrating his masculinity. Curley believes that it is masculine to have a wife. He is very protective and proud of her. Many times, when his wife and someone else are missing, he suspects them of having an affair. Even if someone is just talking to or looking at Curley's wife, Curley becomes angry. He shows off by talking about her and telling others of his own sexual prowess. No one cares about this so Curley is forced to find new ways to redeem himself and earn respect.
When Lennie and George arrive at the ranch, Curley starts his "technique" to get respect by picking on the mentally slow Lennie. Basically, Curley is the type of guy you would try to avoid. "He glanced coldly at George and then at Lennie. His arms gradually bent at the elbows and his hands closed into fists. He stiffened and went into a slight crouch. His glance was at once calculating and pugnacious. Lennie squirmed under the look and shifted his feet nervously. Curley stepped gingerly close to him" (p.25). This citation shows that Curley acts in an unfriendly and aggressive manner upon meeting Lennie (and George). The aggression is shown through the description of his hands: "his hands close into fists" and by the sentence "He stiffened and went into a slight crouch." This implies that Curley is maybe getting into a fighting stance or is trying to show that he knows how to fight. The description of him stepping "gingerly" close means that Curley is trying to give the impression of power and authority but that Lennie's size is obviously making him cautious.
Differences and similarities between Crooks and Curley are almost equal. Crooks has the lowest status on the ranch whilst Curley is second-to-highest in terms of status. They rarely talk with each other, they only time they do is if Curley asks for a horse to be made ready or if he teases Crooks. Curley talks about non-work stuff to the workers often, even though they don't like him, but Crooks very rarely talks to them at all.
They do have some things in common though: they are both lonely. For Curley, this can be seen in his desire for respect. No one likes Curley, not even his own wife, so he tries to get people to want to be friends with him because of his superiority. Curley is always angry; he uses his anger to cover up his own isolation and lack of self-esteem. Whenever he sees Lennie smile, Curley gets violent: "What the hell you laughin' atâ€¦.....Come on, ya big bastard. Get up on your feet. No big son-of-a-bitch is gonna laugh at me. I'll show ya who's yella" (p.89).
On Crooks's side, his loneliness is obvious. He sits in his room all day, reading books. No one comes to talk to him and Crooks himself doesn't go to talk to anyone either. He's kind of the odd one out. I think this is because he's black. The other workers classify Crook's as less important or as a worse level of life so basically they are racist. Neither of them has friends, either. For Crooks, this is because he's black and for Curley, it is because of his attitude.
In his novel "Of Mice and Men," Steinbeck shows that anyone can be lonely. It doesn't matter how popular, friendly, wealthy they are, emotions are always the same. This is shown through the characters of Curley and Crooks. Curley tries to win other's attention and respect. Curley, whom one would expect to be one of the most "popular" people and have lots of friends, is actually the loneliest person on the ranch. Curley uses his power to block out his loneliness by pushing people around and acting tough. Crooks has the lowest status on the ranch and yet, he is emotionally and maybe mentally similar to Curley. This is a perfect example again, of emotion and power. I suspect that famous and wealthy people are the loneliest people on our planet as well.
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The author brings out these differences to explain that lonely people, whether popular/wealthy or not, are actually all the same. Steinbeck's message is clear: Every-day people you may know, can also be the most loneliest people you know.