George and the rest of the men have gone into town, leaving Lennie by himself on the ranch. Seeing a light in Crooks’ room, Lennie goes to the stable buck’s room and tries to make conversation with him.
Crooks is immediately suspicious of Lennie and tells him that he is not welcome in his room just like Crooks “ain’t wanted in the bunkhouse.” We can sense the anger in his voice about the racism that he suffers on a daily basis. Lennie innocently asks Crooks why he’s not wanted, showing that Lennie does not understand the concept of racism.
Crooks responds, “Cause I’m black, they play cards in there but I can’t because I’m black. They say I stink.” This highlights the suffering that Crooks endures but it is interesting to see that Lennie, who is seen as stupid by the others does not see any differences between white people and black people, he only sees people. Steinbeck is highlighting here that racism and prejudice are learned traits and Lennie hasn’t learned them.
Sensing that Lennie means no harm, Crooks tells Lennie to sit down and he begins to talk to him about the way he and George travel together. He thinks that George has a great system in place because he can talk all day to Lennie and not have to worry about Lennie telling anyone because he hasn’t a clue what he’s talking about. “A guy can talk to you an’ be sure you won’t go blabbin’.”
Crooks behaves in a mean way towards Lennie as he gets him to imagine what it would be like if George didn’t come back or if he got killed and Lennie would be all alone. Lennie, not understanding what Crooks is doing gets angry and starts to shout at Crooks, who tells him he was only pretending. But he asks if he realises how lucky he is to have someone like George with him. He tells Lennie to imagine what it’s like to have no one to talk to and no one that cares about you. He tells Lennie, “I tell ya a guy gets too lonely an’ he gets sick.” This is highlighting the theme of loneliness in the story.
Candy arrives at Crook’s room looking for Lennie and when Crooks invites him into the room, he is hesitant but agrees. Crooks tries to pretend that he is angry about being disturbed but it is clear that he’s happy to have company. We learn that Candy, who has been on the farm for years has never been in Crooks’ room, highlighting the segregation that existed based on race at the time.
Lennie and Candy, who are both excited about the purchase of their own farm tell Crooks about the plan. Crooks is sceptical about the plan as he says he’s seen hundreds of guys with the same plan, but no one ever seems to get their own land. Crooks, sensing that the men were really going to do it offers to go with them and give them a hand working the land.
Just as the men are about to plan their future, Curley’s wife enters Crooks’ room ‘looking for Curley.’ Candy talks to her in an aggressive way and Crooks tells her it would be best if she just left the room. We see a different side to Curley’s wife when she tells us, “Think I don’t like to talk to somebody ever’ once in a while.” Here we see that she, just like Crooks and most of the men is simply lonely. She tells us what life is like with Curley, constantly talking about what he’s going to do to guys who cross him.
She then asks what happened to Curley’s hand and Candy tells her that it got caught in a machine. She doesn’t believe the men and tells them that she could have been ‘in the pitchers” and that a man told her that he could make her rich. This highlights her innocence and it’s the first time we can make our own impression of her. Note how we still haven’t heard her being called anything except Curley’s wife. Steinbeck is showing the attitude towards women in this era and that she is seen as a possession of Curley’s.
Candy loses it with her and tells her to get out, while proudly telling her that they aren’t like the other guys as they have their own place to go to, but she simply laughs at him. Before she leaves she asks Lennie what happened his face and Lennie, in a panic answers, “He got his han’ caught in a machine,” which shows that the story about Curley is not true.
Crooks, buoyed by a new found confidence brought about by the white men being in his room shouts at Curley’s wife and tells her to get out of his room. “You got no rights comin’ in a colored man’s room.” Curley’s wife shows her nasty streak as she turns on Crooks, racially abusing him and telling him, “I could get you strung up on a tree so easy it ain’t even funny.” We see Crooks get smaller and smaller as the scene unfolds, highlighting the power that white people had over black people.
When she leaves and it’s just the men, Crooks tells them, “You guys comin’ in an settin’ made me forget. What she says is true.”
At the end of the section, George comes into the room to take Lennie back to the bunkhouse. Crooks tells Candy to forget about what he said about going to the farm with them. The section ends as it started with Crooks rubbing his back with liniment while sitting in his room alone.
Questions on Section 4
- Why does Lennie not understand why Crooks is not allowed in the bunkhouse? Does this teach you anything about racism? Explain your answer.
- Why is Candy embarrassed about coming into Crooks’ room?
- Why do you think Crooks is so mean to Lennie?
- What do you learn about Crooks’ life from this section? Explain your answer with reference to the text.
- What do you learn about Curley’s wife from her conversation with the men? Explain with reference to the text.
- What do you learn about racism from the conversation between Curley’s wife and Crooks?
- Imagine you are Crooks, write the diary entry you would write after the men leave. (Format, Facts, Feelings)