In his novel “Of Mice and Men” Stienbeck tries to prove that the achievement of the American dream is impossible and that if someone is born a certain status they will stay that status for the rest of their life, especially is they are mentally retarded, deformed or of a different ethnicity. Steinbeck viewed many failed American dreams all around him during the years of the Dust Bowl. He witnessed the poverty and saw people who had dreams that were never accomplished. This was his inspiration to write “Of Mice and Men. It is safe to say that the book is based on the theme of the empty promise of the American dream. Steinbeck shows the theme in his book by introducing a series of characters that each have a failed American dream. Although he is not the most important character in the plot, even Crooks, the stable buck, embodies this theme. Crooks is African-American and disabled. Because Crooks is African-American, he will never be treated fairly and will never raise up in society. He has the same job for 20 years working in a stable. Because Crooks is disabled, he could never find a better job and get a better pay.
Crooks has also been at the ranch for a very long time and has seen all of the drifters who had an American dream and that they never accomplished. He is a witness to the failure of the American Dream as well as its victim. Stienbeck chose Crooks as the character to embody his views on race. He is the only character who is African-American in the book. Because he is African-American, the American dream does not even apply to him. On page 81 in “Of Mice and Men” Curley’s wife says to Crooks, “Well you keep your place then nigger.
I could get you strung up in a tree so easy it ain’t even funny. ” This shows that even such a low ranking person as Curley’s wife, who is regarded as a “tart” by the other characters, could get Crooks lynched for barely any reason and nobody would really care. Keeping your place means not moving up. White people would never let a “nigger” out of his “place. ” Out of all of the characters, Crooks has the one of the most detailed personalities and backgrounds yet he is marginalized. He is the only character in the book, besides George and Lennie, who explains his past.
Even as a child, he was told not to play with white children. He has been taught that he shouldn’t try to leave his place in society, even by his own family. Everyone calls him Crooks, not because that is his name, but because he has a crooked back. In everyone’s eyes, they characterize Crooks by his deformity not by his humanity. They view him as an incomplete person, someone who has no hope of rising up and standing tall. In spite of his low status, he is striving to improve himself. “He reads a lot. He got books in his room. ” Yet it doesn’t make any difference.
He never moves up. Still he knows about things. He was the one who told Slim that taking the puppies out of the nest and handling them, “don’t do them any good. ” But his advice is ignored. In the book, it is obvious to see that everyone looks down on Crooks as a lesser being. On page 50, Crooks goes to Slim and says, “You told me to warm up tar for that mule’s foot. I got it warm. ” This shows that Crooks is just used to do common jobs that anyone else could easily do themselves but just don’t want to so Crooks could be easily replaced.
Another example of this is the description of a fight where Crooks and another character fight for sport. “Yes, sir. Jesus, we had fun. They let the nigger come in that night. Little skinner name of Smitty took after the nigger. Done pretty good, too. The guys wouldn’t let him use his feet, so the nigger got him. If he coulda used his feet, Smitty says he woulda killed the nigger. The guys said on account of the nigger’s got a crooked back, Smitty can’t use his feet. ” They “let the nigger come in” this time to fight but ordinarily they wouldn’t.
To them Crooks is used as a form of entertainment, a plaything, something they don’t care about if it breaks because they never really needed him in the first place; not a human being. Crooks is African –American, crippled, has a very low ranking job, and is highly unrespected. Out of all of the characters, he is the one who illustrates that the American dream does not apply to everyone. The other characters that have a failed American dream could still raise their social status if they tried hard enough, but Crooks could never achieve even that. That is why he represents the unachievable American dream.