ing the reader’s attention to the fact that American society in general cannot support their ideas, views and perceptions on the Black race. In other words, Steinbeck has deliberately stereotyped Crooks as a “stinking nigger” in hopes that the readers will examine their ideas about racism and determine the validity of those ideas. It is a rather cleaver way to use a derogatory term in hopes of demonstrating how despicable the phrase “stinking Nigger” really is. It is used only to humiliate Blacks. Crooks is a proud and aloof man who is more hurt by being segregated than angry.
He tells Lennie that all men need someone to talk to. Crooks was born, “right here in California” indicating that he desires to be a part of something, anything, yet he owns no part of anything and is more of an outcast than the other characters only because of his race. He has worked his life away for only a broken back. Crooks confides in Lennie, but Lennie can’t understand. In this instance Lennie becomes a symbol for whites who do not, and cannot, understand the Black man’s story. Here Lennie also symbolizes the whites who are more obsessed with their pets than the welfare of a fellow human being.Notice Lennie’s preoccupation with the pup and rabbits during the visit with Crooks. The Black man speaks but no one listens, much less cares.
It’s of little or no matter to the other characters that Crooks is far more educated, intelligent and introspective than any of them because he is still just a Black man. Crooks’ effort to acquire knowledge is symbolized by his statement to Lennie, “Well, I got a right to have light.” Light is a traditional symbol for knowledge in literature. His frustration over his position is seen when he says, “If I say something, why it’s just a nigger sayin’ it.
” Curley’s wife threatens him with a frame up if he does not keep his place, “Listen Nigger.You know what I can do to you if you open your trap?” She continues later with, “Well, you keep your place then, Nigger. I could get you strung up on a tree so easy it ain’t even funny.” “Crooks had reduced himself to nothing. There was no personality, no ego..
” All he could say was, “Yes, ma’am.” There’s a significant aspect to Crooks’ ability to survive (a symbolic use of character once again) that is seen in the description of the fight which ensued after Smitty “took after the nigger.” Although Crooks had a bad back he was still able to defend himself against Smitty’s attack because he was a tough old guy, a survivor. Smitty wanted to “use his feet.” The other workers wouldn’t let him, “on account of the nigger’s got a crooked back..
” Smitty could have beaten Crooks if he had not been unfairly deprived of the use of his feet in the fight. That irony shows their distorted idea of fairness.Steinbeck is stating that what the white race sees a “fair” when dealing with Blacks is in reality completely one sided and totally unfair in the Black view. In spite of everything Crooks beat the daylights out of the “little skinner” Smitty. Notice Smitty is imaged as “little” and he says he “woulda killed the nigger” but he didn’t. Why? Because in this “little” man’s mind it wasn’t a fair fight.
If he had been permitted to fight fairly (use his feet on an old crippled man) he would have won the fight.The boss Curley’s father. Wears high-heeled boots and spurs to prove he is not a working man.
Cocky man, looks down on working men. Cannot understand George’s concern for Lennie’s welfare, thinks he is up to something. Symbolic of American business world which has no concerns for anything except profit.
They think there has to be an angle to profit from everything.A good example of Steinbeck’s use of naturalistic details is seen when the boss first enters the bunkhouse to speak with George and Lennie. His belt buckle, thumbs in his belt, high-heeled boots, etc. all act to show what sort of individual he is. Curley’s wife A dim-wit, two-dimensional character, a wanna-be actress, a bimbo with no talent.
She’s about 18 to 20 years old and has no name, other than “Curley’s wife.She is anonymous, nameless, unknown and without any identity. The search for, and/or lack of identity is a common theme in literature. Steinbeck leaves her without identity to show that she is but one in a million of nameless persons who dream of stardom, those who lack a self-identity and go in droves to California only to continue living a dream. Curley’s wife, we are told, was promised to be taken to Hollywood by a man who in all probability seduced her by using her own dream. He told her what she wanted to hear.
In trade for promising to make her a famous actress he got a night’s roll in the hay.The bimbo actually believed the lie. She spends her time getting made up with no where to go. She is trying through the use of cosmetics to create an identity yet it has no basis in reality. It is doomed to fail. And it does.Without an identity which is firmly rooted in reality an individual has little hope for survival. She does not survive and that is Steinbeck’s point.
She also has, “the eye” which provokes Curley’s jealousies and indicates that loyalty, an important attribute of human character, is not one of her foremost concerns. The couple have only been married a few weeks. No identity, easily seduced.Smitty “Took after the nigger” on Christmas when they let Crooks in the bunkhouse. He did good but couldn’t use his feet so Crooks got the best of him. “We had fun.
” “Smitty says he woulda killed the nigger..on account of the nigger’s..back, Smitty couldn’t use his feet.” Excellent example of man’s brutality to those less fortunate than themselves. Smitty could not use his feet shows that in a fair fight he could not beat an old crippled black man.
The attack occurs on Christmas, the time of Christian charity, goodwill, and giving. Note that Smitty is a “little” man. See Crooks section above for more on Smitty.Murray & Ready Labor recruiters Carlson Large powerful man. His Luger was used to kill both Candy’s dog and Lennie. He urged and got Slim’s okay to shooting Candy’s dog. No accident that Steinbeck had Carlson’s gun kill them both.
Whit Worked with Bill Tenner running cultivators. Showed magazine to Slim.William “Bill” Tenner Wrote letter to the pulp magazine complimenting them on their publication which was published. Whit showed it to Slim.
Tenner used to work on the farm and ran cultivators with Whit. Shows types of reading the hands like. Susy’s place The whorehouse where the men go.
Clara’s house The whorehouse which they don’t like as well.Some themes in Of Mice and Men Can you see any others? Care for the mentally ill Dreams Economic injustice Friendship Helping Helplessness Imagination Industrialization and its castoffs Knowledge Loneliness Love relationships Man’s brutality to man Man vs. nature/machines Nature vs. civilization Parent/child relationships Pets Plans Racism/segregation Responsibility Security and certainty Social injustice The helpless Vision Techniques and Settings to Discuss. Have students find examples in the novel.
Naturalism: contrast between crisp nature scenes and squalid lives that the men must lead in an industrialized world. Steinbeck’s use of naturalistic details to develop characters.Depression America: Stock Market crash, failed system, vagabonds, Hoovervilles, hoboes. Barren setting: no reproduction, cannot sustain life, men doomed, is shown by lack of females in novel except for cheap whores and Curley’s wife the dreamer.
Barley: a basic staple of life, yet the men retain no significant part of it. Must exist in an endless cycle of planting/harvesting/etc., circularity, no rewards. California: seen as traditional land of milk and honey, but its soil cannot sustain dreams of those who come. Foreshadowing: Candy’s dog, Lennie, Crooks, all characters doomed.Dog/pet/animal imagery: used to describe Lennie throughout novel.
Sheepherder now useless, no rewards. Dogs/underdogs is a motif to maybe suggest: work like dogs, dog days, dog tired, dogged out, etc. This is evident from George’s language when speaking to Lennie, “Good boy.” Lennie is imaged as a dog/pet/animal throughout the novel.