Of Mice and Men Racial inequality & Crooksnobody never gets to heaven, and nobody gets no land
In todays lesson you will: explore the issue of racism in 1930s America (novel published in 1937)
think about the character of Crooks in this context
make some decisions about why the character of Crooks was so important in the novel as a whole
Strange Fruit by Nina Simonehttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ktsU01lfzLU
Segregation and Racism in 1930s AmericaWHY?
How do you think it would have felt to be black in 1930s America?
History of the Civil Rights Movement http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=URxwe6LPvkM
Slavery had been abolished but black people still did not have equal rights. Blacks and whites lived in separate areas of town, and were expected to stay there unless blacks worked as servants in a white home.American education in the 1930s was racially segregated. The average expenditure per pupil per year was eighty dollars; for African American students the average was fifteen. If they entered a white residence, blacks had to come through the back door. No white restaurants would serve black patrons.Wherever custom did not govern racial etiquette, Jim Crow segregation law stepped in. Schools, courtrooms, parks and pools, public water fountains, libraries, movie theaters, even cemeteries, were all legally segregated by race. Facilities provided for blacks, when provided at all, were always inferior
What was life like for black people in 1930s America?It shall be unlawful for a white person to marry anyone except a white personThe schools for white children and the schools for negro children shall be conducted separatelyBooks shall not be interchangeable between white and coloured schoolsNo person shall provide meals to white and coloured passengers in the same room, same table or same counterAny place of public entertainment shall separate the racesIt shall be unlawful for coloured people to frequent any park used and enjoyed by white peopleThe Jim Crow Laws
Great Depression affected blacks more than any other group in America
Great Depression affected blacks more than any other group in America half of black Americans were unemployed"last hired, first firedwhites were prioritywere paid less than whites for the same jobsPresident Roosevelt, for political reasons did not back all of the legislation favored by such groups as the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP)By 1930, very few black families owned their own land. Instead most worked as tenants or sharecroppers on farms owned by whites.
Chart showing number of Lynchings
Jesse WashingtonJesse Washington, a teenage African-American farmhand, was lynched in Waco, Texas, on May 15, 1916, in what became a well-known example of racially motivated lynching. Washington was accused of raping and murdering Lucy Fryer, the wife of his white employer in rural Robinson, Texas. There were no eyewitnesses to the crime, but during his interrogation by the McLennan County sheriff he signed a confession and described the location of the murder weapon.
Washington was tried for murder in Waco, in a courtroom filled with furious locals. He entered a guilty plea and was quickly sentenced to death. After his sentence was pronounced, he was dragged out of the court by observers and lynched in front of Waco's city hall. Over 10,000 spectators, including city officials and police, gathered to watch the attack. There was a celebratory atmosphere at the event, and many children attended during their lunch hour. Members of the mob castrated Washington, cut off his fingers, and hung him over a bonfire. He was repeatedly lowered and raised over the fire for about two hours. After the fire was extinguished, his charred torso was dragged through the town and parts of his body were sold as souvenirs. A professional photographer took pictures as the event unfolded, providing rare imagery of a lynching in progress. The pictures were printed and sold as postcards in Waco.
Crooks AppearanceNameDialogueActionsThoughtsAttitudes and ValuesWhat the narrator says about himWhat other characters say about himSetting Relationships with other charactersLinks to key themes
Steinbecks characters refer to Crooks using the following words:niggerA busted back niggerThe stable buck cripplenegroWhat does this tell us about them?
Appearance His body was bent over to the left by his crooked spine, and his eyes lay deep in his head, and because of their depth seemed to glitter with intensity. His lean face was lined with deep black wrinkles, and he had thin, pain-tightened lips which were lighter than his face.
Crooks timelineCrooks comes by the bunkhouse to tell Slim that Lennie is petting the puppies too much.Crooks is in his room rubbing ointment on his injured back when Lennie comes in.Crooks tries to tell Lennie that he shouldnt be in his room, but Lennie doesnt understand.When Lennie tries to hang out with Crooks, Crooks thinks about how nice is it to talk to someone, but he also remembers how mistreated hes been and takes this out on Lennie, an easy target.Crooks cruelly tells Lennie that George might not come back from town.Crooks tries to take this statement back when he sees how big and scary Lennie actually is.Crooks is secretly pleased by Candys appearance in his room.Crooks shyly suggests that he would like to live on the dream farm.Crooks is not pleased (secretly or otherwise) by Curleys wifes presence in his room.Crooks tells Curleys wife that she should leave. Crooks retreats when she threatens to have him lynched. Crooks retreats even further when George appears, unhappy about Crookss knowledge of the dream farm.
Crooks- key characteristicsDisabledOne of only two characters with permanent employment (other is Candy) but his job is one the most lowly stable-buckWorks with the ranch horsesNot allowed in the bunkhouseNot allowed to play horseshoes with the othersHe sleeps with the animalsSuggested that he is literate and has had some education bookishAware of his rightsAloof
Key characteristicsOnly Lennie is unaware of the colour of Crooks skinWont accept charityProud to be a descendant of a landownerSubject to Curleys wifes cruel tauntsTurns bully himself in his behaviour towards Lennie Cynical of the American DreamSeeks security and independence retains hope for the American DreamFeels intensely lonely and isolatedSteinbeck uses Crooks to show the effects of racial discrimination
Crookshttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nt2_mxUClnI What is the significance of his name? Why only a nickname?
How is Crooks presented at the start of the novel?http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jpx1wIXPI0I
How does Steinbeck use Crooks to present the theme of lonelinessCrooks said gently, Maybe you can see now. You got George. You know hes goin to come back. Spose you didnt have nobody. Spose you couldnt go into the bunk house and play rummy cause you was black. Howd you like that? Spose you had to sit out here an read books. Sure you could play horsehoes till it got dark, but then you got to read books. Books aint no good. A guy needs somebody-to be near him. He whined, A guy goes nuts if he aint got nobody. Dont make no different who the guy is, longs hes with you. I tell ya, he cried, I tell ya a guy gets too lonely an he gets sick. a few miles south of Soledad - Soledad in Spanish means solitude
How does Steinbeck use Crooks to present the American Dream? "Youre nuts." Crooks was scornful. "I seen hunderds of men come by on the road an on the ranches, with their bindles on their back an that same damn thing in their heads. Hunderds of them. They come, an they quit an go on; an every damn one of ems got a little piece of land in his head/ An never a God damn one of em ever gets it. Just like heaven. Everbody wants a little piece of lan. I read plenty of books out here. Nobody never gets to heaven, and nobody gets no land. Its just in their head. Theyre all the time talkin about it, but its jus in their head."
More on the DreamOne of Steinbecks main images in Of Mice and Men is the dream of an earthly paradise or heaven in America this is often associated with freedom and owning your own farm. Religion was very important to black people in the USA. Freedom from oppression and inequality was often linked to Biblical ideas and events especially those of Exodus where Moses leads the Israelites to the promised land of milk and honey (which sounds a little like the fatta the lan Lennie, George and Crooks hope for)
Crooks a bleak vision from America before the Civil Rights MovementIn 1963, the black civil rights leader, The Revd. Martin Luther King declared: I have a dream ... that my three little children will be judged, not on the colour of their skin, but on the content of their character. This dream would eventually come true
Crooks is very pessimistic. Martin Luther King was a Christian minister, and very religious. He believed that the day would come when all black people could get to the promised land of his dream. Crooks, on the other hand, seems to sum up the opposite view in Of Mice and Men Crooks tells us that Nobody never gets to heaven. In 1937, when Steinbeck created the character of Crooks, freedom for a poor black man probably seemed almost impossible
Questions to consider:Did Steinbeck create the character of Crooks to simply represent a downtrodden section of society or is there more significance to his character?Why does Crooks become bitter and vindictive when talking to Lennie?How does the scene in Crooks room act as a microcosm for the novel as a whole?In what ways