How does John Steinbeck portray racism in 'Of Mice And Men'?

Categories: Of Mice and Men
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From the 17th Century, when the first settlers arrived, immigrants dreamed of a better life in America. People went there to escape from discrimination or poverty, and to make a new life for themselves or their families. They dreamed of making their fortunes in the goldfields. For many the dream became a nightmare. The horrors of slavery, of the American Civil War, the growth of towns with slums as bad as those in Europe, and the corruption of the American political system led to many shattered hopes.

For the American society as a whole the dream ended with the Wall Street crash of 1929. This was the start of the Great Depression that would affect the whole world during the 1930s. However the dream survived in the hope of individuals. Thousands made their way west to California to escape from their farmlands in the mid-West. George and Lennie dreamt of there ‘little house and a couple of acres’.

However, between 1929 – 39 there was a general world destine in trade and prosperity.

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A great deal of money had been spent on the First World War, and countries found themselves in debt. Lots of American lost their jobs. They joined bands of wandering farmers, looking for work. The farm owners of California found that they could pay very low wages, and expect men to work for long hours, as the demand for work was so great. The men were only needed for short periods at a time, for harvesting and so they had to travel around for work.

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On October 24, 1929, the stock market crashed. Prices began to decline early in the day, triggering a selling panic in the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE). This caused the loss of jobs of various workers, black or white. It was very hard for the workers to find a job elsewhere in any other farms, just like George and lennie. These kinds of workers were called itinerant workers. The coming months saw no recovery.

The racism, which Martin Luther King talks about in his famous “I had a dream speech”, states that white men think they have got power over black people. That all men are created equally, and no one differs from each other. The black people have to give up their seats if a white person comes on to the bus and there is no space left. Also black people were not allowed to shop in the same place as white people. And black people had to send their children to a different school to the white people. This is an example of segregation and isolation.

Crooks demands isolation because he is black and wants to live alone. He is also called names ” nigger “. He is proberly one of the most disliked people in the story because of the colour of hes skin. But still people say crooks the ” nigger ” is a really nice fellow at the same time. I think they just call him that because at that time they could say or do anything to a nigger and still get away with it. The white boys did not want to sleep in the same room as a black man. I just totally disagree with this because you should not judge a perosn by the colout of the skin. Also crooks himself does not want to sleep with them because of the way the white boys have treated him.

Crooks him self is a stable buck which is a very low classed job even at that time. The white boys call crooks ” crooks ” because as a stable buck he waz kicked on the back by a horse and he is now got a crooked back. Also the white lads have made crooks fight on christmas day with smitty just so he can sit down and have a drink with the white boys on christmas day. I think that is not acceptable because crooks is already hurt hes back from the accident with the horse and on top of that he had to have a fight with smitty with that injury when smitty was perfectly fine. All they did do was that they tyied hes hands behind hes back so he could not punch crooks but can only kick him.

This first starts when crooks privacy is invaded by lennie. When lennie enters crooks room without no permission from crooks to cum into the room. Crooks is not very happy when lennie enters the room and says ‘you got no right to come in my room. This here’s my room. Nobody got no rights in here but me’! Crooks says all of this because he is not really happy with lennies presents in the room. As lennie stays longer and longer he starts to find out that lennie is dumb and crooks thinks to him self that he has got the upper hand on lennie.

Crooks for the first time has got power over someone and that’s a white man. Then lennie gets up and says to crooks ‘why are you not liked on the ranch’ and crooks replys by saying ‘its just because I’m BLACK! Crooks means by this quote that the white men on the ranch do not like him. And also crooks has got nobody to talk to because crooks is the only ” nigger ” on the ranch. Then lennie quickly changes the subject and starts talking about the dream him and George have got. But all crooks thinks is hes ” crazy “. He thinks this because he thinks that lennie doesn’t know what he is talking about.

Crooks taunts lennie thaat George is not going to come back. And crooks also says he might even get hurt. After crooks has said that ” crooks face lightened up with pleasure in his torture. After crooks has said lennie quickly gets to hes feet and says ” nothing is going to happen to come George he si going to come back safe”. Crooks is really frightened when lennis says’s that and crooks moves further up hes bed and rests hes hands on hes knees. The reason for crooks out burst like that is because all crooks is trying to do is trying to make someone feel like how crooks is feeling by telling lennie when the other boys on the ranch play horse shoe he has to stay in hes room and read a book when he would rather be playing horse shoe with the other workers on the ranch. Crooks is trying say just because i am black they don’t let me play horseshoe. Crooks is trying to gain sympthy from lennie but lennie does not really understand what crooks is trying to say to him. So lennie doesn’t really feel sorry for him because he doesn’t know what going on. So lennie can’t really feel sorry for crooks because he is lost him self in other words.

The workers on the ranch describe crooks as a ” nigger ” one second and the other second they be saying he is a ” very nice fella “. I think my self that crooks is a very good person and stays quiet throught the book but it is just because of the colour of hes skin he is treated like dirt. Even thought crooks is proberly the most educated person on the farm. Crooks has got a dictionary which is described as ” battered” and ” ripped “and hes also got some ” tatered ” magazines. Also crooks has got some reading books, which are described, as ” dirty “. And all of these things go on a special shelf over hes bunk. When crooks read these books he feels ” proud ” and really ” important ” because at this time not much people could read or write. And on top of all that hes a ” nigger “.

When we first meet crooks I thought he waz a nasty man because of hes posture and hes colour of hes skin. But looks can be dece-ving because he turned out to be a very well educated person and also soft hearted. It was very unusal for a black man to read or write in these in these times even so most of the white men could not read or write. I really feel sorry for crooks because he is alll alone and must feel really isolated at times or most of the time. And he has got no company at all and he aint even got no one to talk to at all because hes black. If you ask me I think that is really unacceptable because no one should be left alone for that reason.

He aint got no friends to say ” hello ” too all because of the colour of hes skin. The white boys always pick him on. And even thought it aint hes fault most of the things are blamed on him. Also when the boss is feeling really mad he takes it all out on crooks and crooks just gets shouted at for no reason at all. Crooks on the hireachy he is right at the bottom and hes got no power at all. Even thought he has been one of the people who has been working there the longest and he has been loyal to boss.

Curley’s wife, the attention seeker always flirts with other prople on the ranch because her husband is always at the cathouse or out and about. And is never at home to care about her. Curley’s wife is one of the most powerful people in the hireachy because she is married to the boses son. She tries to have some comfort with other people. This is because her husband takes no notice of her apart from the sex. She is used for an object of sex.

When crooks reailses that his chances of being in the dream looked very slim and he crawled back defeated because he can’t say anything to Curley’s wife at all because she has got all the power. She can get him hung from a tree so easy, she can jus say that he waz flirting with me and that’s it he would get hung. If that was a white person being prosequted they would give him a trial and would be taken to court but just because he is black they would just get him hung without any proof he did it or not.

Going back to the initial question, I think that john Steinbeck doesn’t throw the thought of ‘racism’ in our face. He just hints of the idea and makes do the rest of the thinking. This is proved whenthe worker calls him a ‘nigger’ and also a ‘nice fella’. We had do some thinking to find out that the word ‘nigger is used so much that the workers don’t even think of what the word means.

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How does John Steinbeck portray racism in 'Of Mice And Men'?. (2017, Oct 28). Retrieved from

How does John Steinbeck portray racism in 'Of Mice And Men'?

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