Of Mice and Men Chapter 4
Crooks sits on his bed in the harness room of the barn. He lives alone, away from the other workers. Because of his job and hiscrooked back, Crooks is more permanent and has more possessions than the other men. Books and medicine fill the room, but Crooks keeps his room clean, and is not accustomed to visitors. He is rubbing liniment on his crooked back when Lennie walks in, standing noiselessly at the door. Surprised and annoyed, Crooks removes his hand from his back and tells Lennie that he has no right to be in his room. Lennie wanted to look at his puppy, and he saw Crooks' light. Crooks is angry at this invasion of privacy, as he is not allowed the option of entering the men's bunkhouse.
Lennie asks Crooks if he can stay because everyone else went into town tonight. Lennie hovers around the doorway, talking about his puppy, and Crooks gives in and lets Lennie come into his room. Only Candy has stayed home, and he is sitting in the bunkhouse making calculations about their farm. Lennie starts to talk about the rabbits they're going to get, but Crooks just thinks he's crazy. Lennie tells Crooks if he doesn't believe him he can ask George. Crooks asks Lennie about travelling with George and if the two of them talk. Crooks becomes very excited when he realizes he can tell Lennie anything, because Lennie won't understand it. He tells Lennie how when he was young his father had a chicken ranch. Crooks used to play with the white children, but his father didn't like it. Now, the only black person around, Crooks understands his father's apprehension towards whites.
Crooks' idea that he can tell Lennie anything is confirmed when after this confession, Lennie asks Crooks a question about his puppy. Crooks says excitedly:
"I seen it over an' over-a guy talkin' to another guy and it don't make no difference if he don't hear or understand. The thing is, they're talkin', or they're settin' still not talking. It don't make no difference, no difference....It's just the talking." Chapter 4, pg. 71.
After a pause, Crooks quietly asks Lennie what he would do if George never came back from town. Lennie, confused, tells Crooks that George would never do that. Crooks proceeds cruelly, suggesting perhaps that George was hurt or killed, keeping him from returning. Crooks presses Lennie with this possibility until Lennie becomes threatening, demanding who hurt George. Crooks backs off, and tells Lennie that he was really talking about himself. Black and therefore alone, Crooks doesn't have anyone. As a child he had his brothers, who would all sleep in one bed, but today he is painfully lonely.
When Crooks mentions the chickens on his childhood farm, Lennie becomes interested. He tells Crooks how he and George will have rabbits and a berry patch on their farm. Crooks is doubtful, since he has seen men with this dream many times before. He pessimistically remarks:
"Nobody never gets to heaven, and nobody gets no land." Chapter 4, pg. 74.
Candy comes into the barn now, looking for Lennie. Though trying to appear angry, Crooks is secretly happy to have another companion. Candy wants to talk to Lennie about how they can make money off their rabbits. Crooks interrupts them, still skeptical about their plans. Candy corrects him, telling him how they already have the land picked out and they almost have all the money. Crooks touches his spine, imagining his life when he can no longer work. Haltingly, he asks Candy if they might need an extra hand.
They are interrupted by Curley's wife, who says she is looking for Curley. Candy says they haven't seen him. Curely's wife knows her husband went to a prostitute. Lennie watches her intently while Candy and Crooks look away. Crooks and Candy try to make her leave, telling her she shouldn't be out in the barn with them. She retorts that she needs something to do, since Curley is so boring. All he does is talk about guys he wants to fight. Lately he has been quiet, and she asks them what really happened to Curley's hand. Candy tells her it got caught in a machine, but she doesn't believe him. She becomes angry at the lie, and to show her superiority, she tells them how she could have been in shows. She proceeds to insult the men, and Candy becomes angry. He tells her it doesn't matter what she says or does, because they have land and friends. They don't need her or these jobs for anything. She scoffs at their talk of land, and Candy again urges her to leave. She turns her attention to Lennie and the cuts on his face. When he repeats the line about getting a hand caught in a machine, she realizes it was he who hurt Curley and answers him flirtatiously. Candy tells her George doesn't want her bothering Lennie, and Lennie "answers" by telling her George is going to let him tend the rabbits. When Curley's wife provocatively says maybe she should get some rabbits, Crooks coldly tells her to leave. She lashes out at him, reminding him what a white woman can do to a black man. She tells him if she wanted to he'd be hanging from a tree in no time. Crooks draws into himself as she continues to insult him. Candy tries to stand up for him, but Curley's wife reminds him that no one would believe him anymore than they'd believe Crooks. Curley's wife doesn't have much power, but she has enough to intimidate these three. Candy thinks he hears noise outside, and Curley's wife leaves, afraid Curley will find her in here.
Candy told Crooks how unfair that treatment was, but Crooks responds that it was nothing. In their company he had momentarily forgotten his color, and therefore his place. George comes in looking for Lennie, and scolds him for being in Crooks' room. When Candy starts to talk with George about the farm, George becomes angry that Candy mentioned their plan in front of Crooks. As the men are leaving, Crooks tells Candy that he wouldn't want to go to their farm after all. Curley's wife sufficiently crushed Crooks back into his place. Alone again, he resumes rubbing liniment on his back.