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The Portrayal of Crooks in

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1 The Portrayal of Crooks in
‘Of Mice and Men’

2 In today’s lesson you will:
explore the issue of racism in 1930s America think about the character of Crooks in this context decide why the character of Crooks was so important in the novel as a whole

3 Steinbeck’s characters refer to Crooks using the following words:
nigger A busted back nigger The stable buck cripple negro What does this tell us about them?

4 Steinbeck himself describes Crooks using the following words:
A lean negro head, lined with pain, the eye patient A proud, aloof man Having “pain tightened lips” A face lined with deep black wrinkles What does this tell us about Steinbeck?

5 Crooks himself, conveys a lot about his character.
I can’t play because I’m black Nobody got any right in here but me My old man had a chicken ranch Crooks face lighted with pleasure in his torture If you … guys would want a hand to work for nothing I got nothing to measure by

6 Read this description of Crooks’ room.
What do we learn about him from the room itself, its position on the ranch and its contents? Crooks, the negro stable buck, had his bunk in the harness room; a little shed that leaned off the wall of the barn. On one side of the little room there was a square four-paned window, and on the other, a narrow plank door leading into the barn. Crooks’ bunk was a long box filled with straw, on which his blankets were flung. On the wall by the window there were pegs on which hung broken harness in process of being mended; strips of leather; and under the window itself a little bench for leather-working tools, curved knives and needles and balls of linen thread, and a small hand riveter. On pegs were also pieces of harness, a split collar with a horsehair stuffing sticking out, a broken hame, and a trace chain with its leather covering split. Crooks had his apple box over his bunk, and in it a range of medicine bottles, both for himself and for the horses. There were cans of saddle soap and a drippy can of tar with its paint brush sticking over the edge. And scattered about the floor were a number of personal possessions; for, being a stable buck and a cripple, he was more permanent than the other men, and he had accumulated more possessions than he could carry on his back.

7 What do we learn about him from his possessions?
Crooks possessed several pairs of shoes, a pair of rubber boots, a big alarm clock and a single-barreled shotgun. And he had books, too; a tattered dictionary and a mauled copy of the California civil code for There were battered magazines and a few dirty books on a special shelf over his bunk. A pair of large gold-rimmed spectacles hung from a nail on the wall above his bed. The description of Crooks’ room and Crooks himself is the most detailed of all the characters in the novel. What significance do you think this has?

8 What was life like for black people in 1930s America?
It shall be unlawful for a white person to marry anyone except a white person The schools for white children and the schools for negro children shall be conducted separately Books shall not be interchangeable between white and coloured schools No person shall provide meals to white and coloured passengers in the same room, same table or same counter Any place of public entertainment shall separate the races It shall be unlawful for coloured people to frequent any park used and enjoyed by white people The ‘Jim Crow’ Laws

9 Lynch Mobs During the 1930s, after thousands of African Americans had been put to death by mobs, lynchings were no longer unusual or shocking events that deviated from the norm. Approximately 4,742 individuals were lynched between 1882 and 1968; of the victims, 3,445 or 73 percent were Black. Between 1889 and 1918, 3,224 individuals were lynched, of whom 2,522 or 78 percent were Black. Typically, the victims were hung or burned to death by mobs of White vigilantes, frequently in front of thousands of spectators, many of whom would take pieces of the dead person's body as souvenirs to help remember the spectacular event.

10 Statistics do not tell the entire story, however
Statistics do not tell the entire story, however. These were recorded lynchings; others were never reported beyond the community involved. Furthermore, mobs used especially sadistic tactics when blacks were the prime targets. By the 1890s lynchers increasingly employed burning, torture, and dismemberment to prolong suffering and excite a "festive atmosphere" among the killers and onlookers.

11 So, what did Curley’s wife mean when she said “You know what I can do if you open your trap?”


13 Mage:

14 Image:

15 Real people, real lives. In Chicago, Emmett Till, a 14 year old black boy, was beaten and shot to death for whistling at a white girl..

16 Questions to consider:
Did Steinbeck create the character of Crooks to simply represent a downtrodden section of society or is there more significance to his character? Why does Crooks become bitter and vindictive when talking to Lennie? How does the scene in Crooks’ room act as a microcosm for the novel as a whole? In what ways can Crooks’ position be compared to that of Curley’s wife? Crooks says, "I seen hundreds of men come by on the road an' on the ranches, with their bindles on their back an'...every damn one of 'em's got a little piece of land in his head.   An' never a God damn one of 'em ever gets it.  Just like heaven.  Ever'body wants a little piece of lan'...Nobody never gets to heaven, and nobody gets no land.  They're all the time talkin' about it, but it's jus' in their head". Why is he so dismissive of others’ dreams?

17 thought about the character of Crooks in this context
In today’s lesson you: explored the issue of racism in 1930s America thought about the character of Crooks in this context made some decisions about why the character of Crooks was so important in the novel as a whole

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