How Steinbeck Presents Candy and Crooks' Vulnerability in of Mice and Men

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Crooks, named for his crooked back, is one of the most vulnerable characters on the ranch, mostly due to his race combined with general racist attitudes at the time. He lives by himself because he is the only black man on the ranch, and he has been so beaten down by loneliness and prejudicial treatment of that he is now suspicious of any kindness he receives. Crooks is painfully aware that his skin color is all that keeps him separate in this culture. This outsider status causes him to lament his loneliness, but he also delights in seeing the loneliness of others, perhaps because misery loves company. When Lennie arrives at his room, he turns him away, hoping to prove a point that if he, as a black man, is not allowed in white men’s houses, then whites are not allowed in his, but his desire for company ultimately wins out and he invites Lennie to sit with him. Like Curley’s wife, Crooks is disempowered, but turns his vulnerability into a weapon to attack those who are even weaker. Crooks begins to pick on Lennie, suggesting George won’t come home, and a slight mean streak is exposed that has probably developed after being alone for so long. Lennie unwittingly soothes Crooks into feeling at ease, and Candy even gets him excited about the dream farm. Crooks’s little dream of the farm is shattered by Curley’s wife’s nasty comments, putting the black man right into his "place" as inferior to a white woman, somebody already seen as being inferior to everyone else on the ranch to begin with. Crooks refuses to say Curley’s wife is wrong, he accepts the fact that he lives with ever-present racial discrimination, and says he had "forgotten himself" because they’d treated him so well. Crooks self-opinion isn’t based on what he believes he’s worth, but on knowing that no matter how he feels, others around him will always value him as less. As quickly as he got excited about the
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