We know this because Candy says ‘boss gives him hell when he’s angry’ about Crooks. Also, Curley’s wife is called ‘tart’ and ‘jail bait’ purely for being a woman. An air of bitterness hangs throughout the book, majorly from these two minor characters; both brought on by loneliness and lack of communication skills. The difference in these characters is that Curley’s wife is open about her loneliness, out looking for company, however Crooks isn’t so fond of letting people know he is lonely, he’d rather just let it go; this is until he finds that Lennie is actually good company, and it is better to have someone there to talk to.
Another form of their bitterness is shown through their own mean comments, for example Curley’s wife is racist to Crooks, making the remark that shows her true feelings towards him and his race. Also, Crooks isn’t so kind to Lennie at the start of part 4, tormenting him about George, telling him he would get locked up if George never came back. Although in some ways Curley’s wife is higher up in society that Crooks, Crooks still has a job which women weren’t allowed, not on a ranch anyway. Though black, Crooks was still allowed to work and get paid, without having to marry just to have income.
Curley’s wife is made to seem more of a threat by George: he tells Lennie to stay away from her and calls her vicious, sexist names, ‘tart’ and ‘jailbait’ and ‘trouble’. However he never makes comments about Crooks, or about how Lennie shouldn’t go near him, suggesting that he wouldn’t do as much harm to Lennie, or possibly that he is less important than Curley’s wife. Despite being seen as trouble, Curley’s wife could get Crooks in trouble even if he didn’t do anything, Crooks could not do this to her as she was seen as more important in the eyes of the law.
Even not taking the law into consideration, the ranch hands probably viewed Crooks as more important, but being married to Curley, would probably have to treat Curley’s wife with more respect if she made accusations against Crooks. Throughout the book there is a parallel of dreams. This ties in with the American Dream, a dream that nearly everyone in America had, and was wildly advertised as ‘the American Way. ’ These two minor characters both had dreams, just like everyone else.
However, unfortunately, they’ve both had their chance, Curley’s wife was offered a shot in Hollywood, and thinks that was it for her as she never got the reply she was hoping for. Crooks believes that he has already lived the dream throughout his childhood, so, just like Curley’s wife, he has no shot at a new dream. Themes play a large part in the structure of this novella, weaving in and out of the storyline the whole way through. Main themes like dreams and loneliness are featured the most; however nature, death and friendship also show.
Social hierarchy played a large part in society in the 1930’s, as it still does, however not as prominently as back then. Anyone that wasn’t white was instantly looked down on and given fewer rights. Women were seen as sexual objects. With friendship playing a large part in the novella, loneliness also played a part. In particular, Crooks and Curley’s wife were lonely, Crooks is unable to show this at first whereas Curley’s wife is fully able as she is always looking for company. ‘The American Dream’, the major dream all across America to defeat the Great Depression, and to find a place of your own, earning a sufficient amount of money.
It starts off just introducing to us the dream of George and Lennie: their dream, like everyone else’s, to get a place of their own and to ‘live of the fatta the lan’ ‘. This later progressed to having Candy involved. After the shooting of his beloved dog he realised that once he gets too old to work he will too be gotten rid of, not as brutally, but still ‘canned’. This also showed a theme of death, and lack of sentimentality. After Candy, Crooks finds an opening for him to join the dream, however soon backs down as he realises this isn’t the best idea.
We also realise the dream of Curley’s wife: to be off somewhere in Hollywood, the opposite of where she is now, with someone she doesn’t even like never mind love. She is also lonely; it probably being her dream to have someone to talk to which she never has on a lonely ranch. ‘Soledad’, ‘solitaire’, ‘Weed’ all show ‘sol’- lonely, or ‘Weed’ being the place that George and Lennie lived, and a weed is a plant that no one wants. Bad language curses the novella, giving a real sense of the harsh reality of the 1930’s.
‘Nigger,’ ‘Son-of-a-bitch,’ ‘bastard’ are all words used throughout the book to describe characters in vulgar, often racist ways. Also ‘tart’, ‘jailbait,’ and ‘trouble’ are used to describe Curley’s wife, in the innocence of her life she must put up with these judgemental names that she doesn’t deserve just for having a less preferred gender. All of these curse words show the reality of the language used in ranch life, releasing any anger one had as a result of the hard times they were going through. Many of the men would rub off on each other, so language would only get worse.
Crude language and swearing would circle the ranch until everyone was using it and it became a normal vocabulary for these poorly educated men. As well as using curse words, the way Steinbeck actually wrote the book helped to give a sense of the times. ‘…he had thin, pain –tightened lips, which were lighter than his face. ’ ‘Pain-tightened’ can only be describing the difficulty in Crooks’ life, he is so lonely and bitter that he has forgotten all communication, which must be such a difficult thing for a social being, however he stays quiet as he has no other option. As we know, racism was a large part of society.
This was not only shown through the racist remarks that are made to Crooks throughout the book, but also how Crooks isn’t fully introduced until part four of the novella. This shows his lack of importance and meaning in the story, and that he is just a side character, merely helping to keep the ranch together, and that is it. Not anyone’s friend. Not any reason other than ‘the stable buck’s a nigger’ for him to be mentioned. When this minor character is introduced, he is introduced in such a way that we can straight away grasp his true personality and really understand who he is.
His belongings show his inner personality, and his lack of hope to move on with his life, and that even though he is hardly mentioned as an important character, he is probably the most likely person on that ranch to never leave. Moving on from Crooks, Curley’s wife is also described in a way that says a lot about her visual appearance, showing that she probably cares more about what she looks like on the outside than what she is like on the inside. ‘She has full, rouged lips and wide-spaced eyes, heavily made sup.
Her fingernails were red. Her hair hung in little rolled clusters, like sausages. She wore a cotton house dress and red mules, on the insteps of which were little bouquets of red ostrich feathers. ’ No match for ranch life, Curley’s wife enters the book also majorly in part four, displaying her unimportance. She makes a storm as she gives the unforgivable comment to Crooks, showing that she is not only heavily made up on the outside, but also heavily made up on the inside, in that she thinks she is better than him, and almost big headed.
To conclude, I feel that the novella truly did show the hardship of the 1930’s, and what these men went through. The social + historical context, character description, language, themes and structure all piece together to make an unforgettably moving novella. I feel that the parallels through the book e. g. the book starting with life on the Salinas river, then ending with death in the same place, the parallels through George killing Lennie as he is a true friend who truly cares about him and wants the best for him.
I feel that Crooks and Curley’s wife did say unforgivingly nasty things to others, however, given the times, probably didn’t mean a word of it, and were both trying to prove their status, showing that where you are in social hierarchy was very important to them as it was probably all they had left. I do sympathise for them as they are, like everyone else, in need of company. Overall, taking the title into account, no matter how big or small you are, fate is always against you.