This lesson will cover the events of Chapter Four of ''Of Mice and Men'', where we meet Crooks and explore the prevalent theme of loneliness in this chapter.
Crooks: The Stable Buck
Chapter Four develops the character of Crooks, the stable buck, who lives alone in a part of the barn. Crooks lives in the barn rather than the bunkhouse because he is black and the ranch is segregated. All of the men except Lennie, Candy, and Crooks have gone to a whorehouse, though George said in the previous chapter he was only going to get a drink to save money for their stake. Lennie, wanting to pet his puppy, comes into the barn, and Crooks gets upset with him for coming into his space, saying, ''You got no right to come in my room. This here's my room. Nobody got any right in here but me.'' He explains to Lennie that he is not allowed in their bunkhouse because of his race, so Lennie is not allowed in his space. Lennie, being naïve, does not understand why Crooks' race matters, making Crooks relent and feel bad for not letting Lennie come into the barn.
Dreams and Loneliness
Crooks, despite his initial reservation, is happy for the company Lennie provides. Lennie tells Crooks that the only person left on the ranch is Candy, who is planning for their shared farm dream. Crooks does not believe Lennie, thinking he is making up the plan. Bitter about his loneliness, Crooks asks Lennie what would happen if George was killed and did not come back to take care of him. John Steinbeck writes, ''Suddenly Lennie's eyes centered and grew quiet, and mad. He stood up and walked dangerously toward Crooks. 'Who hurt George?' he demanded.''' Crooks realizes his perilous situation, and abstains from his verbal torment of Lennie.
Crooks explains to Lennie that he was just asking him about this hypothetical situation because that is what his life is like. He says, ''S'pose you didn't have nobody. S'pose you couldn't go into the bunkhouse and play rummy 'cause you was black. How'd you like that? S'pose you had to sit out here an' read books. Sure you could play horseshoes till it got dark, but then you got to read books. Books ain't no good. A guy needs somebody--to be near him.'' Crooks' loneliness is a product of racism on the part of the boss and other ranch hands: he is not allowed to do anything with the rest of the men because of his race.
Candy comes into the barn to talk to Lennie about their dream of getting a farm with rabbits. Crooks suggests that they are being foolish because George might spend all of his money at the whorehouse and not be able to afford their farm dream. Candy explains how great life will be on their farm, how they will be in charge of everything and cannot be driven away. Crooks realizes this could be the end to his loneliness and asks to join them as free help.
Temptation, Trouble, and Threats
While the men are talking, Curley's wife comes into the barn, looking for Curley. Curley's wife also exemplifies the theme of loneliness in Of Mice and Men. Candy suggests that she leave the men alone because she has a husband and should not be spending time with other men. She claims that she just wants someone to talk to because her husband is never around and is always picking fights. This recalls Curley's mangled hand, and she asks the men how it actually got hurt because she does not believe the machine accident story.
Though we might feel some sympathy for Curley's wife initially, she begins to talk to Lennie and try to get him to tell her about Curley's hand, leading Crooks to tell her to leave Lennie alone. Curley's wife gets mean, saying, ''I could get you strung up on a tree so easy it ain't even funny.'' Candy says they would tell the boss if she did anything, but she tells them what they all already know: no one will listen to them and they will get kicked out of work, if not worse. Candy tells Curley's wife that soon they will have their own place and will not have to worry about getting kicked off their farm. Curley's wife tells them that this dream will never happen and, before leaving the barn, tells Lennie, ''I'm glad you bust up Curley a little bit. He got it comin' to him. Sometimes I'd like to bust him myself.'' When George comes back from the whorehouse, he comes into the barn to find Lennie, and Candy tells George he told Crooks about their farm plans. George is upset about this, so Crooks tells Candy before he leaves that he does not actually want to be a part of their plans.
In Chapter Four, we learn more about Crooks and see the theme of loneliness frequently, both associated with Crooks and with Curley's wife. The shared farm dream is almost a cure for this loneliness, so everyone wants to be a part of it. Racism plays a big role in Crooks' loneliness because he is excluded from activities, conversation, and living arrangements with the other men based on his race.