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Barron's Booknotes-Of Mice And Men by John Steinbeck
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CANDY AND CROOKS

Candy and Crooks are the two ultimate misfits in the novel. Each is an outcast, and each suffers discrimination. Their presence in the book provides Steinbeck with a forum for discussing his feelings about discrimination because of old age or race. Candy has a lot going against him. Not only is he old, but he is missing a hand. Hands seem to be very important in the novel (Lennie crushes Curley's hand with his hand, Curley is described as "handy" and Lennie as "not handy"), so Candy's lack of a hand shows how impotent he is. He is worried that he soon will be seen as being as useless as his dog. Then he, too, might be disposed of.

Candy plays a significant role in the novel in relation to George and Lennie's dream. By offering his life savings to help finance the farm, he brings the dream close to coming true. At the end of the book he marks the death of the dream when he suggests that he and George, without Lennie, can still get the place. George seems not even to hear what Candy has said.

Candy is the only character besides George to have a partner: his friend and longtime companion is his dog. This partnership, like George and Lennie's, is doomed to fail. There are several connections made between George and Candy and Lennie and Candy's dog. Both George and Candy state that they have no relatives. Each is upset by the prospect of being all alone, and yet each participates in the death of his partner. Candy gives his consent to Carlson to kill the dog and regrets only that he didn't shoot the dog himself. George does shoot his "dog" (Lennie), using the same gun and same method that was used for Candy's dog. Steinbeck's descriptions of the shootings of the dog and Lennie are almost parallel. Partnerships are never permanent in the world of Of Mice and Men. Steinbeck seems to be saying that laborers are always going to be lonely and rootless.

Candy also gives us a sense of what will ultimately happen to all ranch hands-they will get old and powerless and have no place to go. After all these years, Candy has just $300 to his name, and $250 of that total he received because his hand was cut off. He doesn't have any more body parts to use as insurance to protect him in his old age.

Complementing Candy in the novel and contrasting with him as well is Crooks, the black stable worker. Crooks is properly named, for his body is bent and crooked. Crooks is a proud and independent man compared to Candy. He makes a point of stating that he is not a Southern Negro, a direct descendant of slaves; his father was a California landowner. Yet Crooks too is an outcast-because of his race. Crooks is the only one of the ranch hands who has a place of his own. This "honor" may be the result of discrimination, but Crooks' pride has allowed him to turn things around. He not only doesn't seek the society of the bunk house, he also objects to Lennie and the others coming into his sanctum.



Crooks does have a big chip on his shoulder because of his racial discrimination. He reveals his anger in his attack on Lennie when the big man "invades" his room. First, Crooks challenges Lennie's right to hold onto his puppy. Then he presents a frightening vision of Lennie's life should George desert him. Yet Lennie's friendliness and innocence slowly change Crooks' attitude, and he becomes kinder toward Lennie. Even his doubts about whether the farm vision can come true slowly fade. Like Candy, Crooks asks to be part of George and Lennie's dream. He offers to work without pay in return for the companionship and independence the farm promises. All four men are misfits in the normal ranch world, and they seem to fit together. But unlike Candy, Crooks gives up on the dream. Candy still tries to get George to hold onto the vision, even after Lennie is cut off. Crooks deserts the dream when he feels George is putting him down like all the others. For Candy, a man must have a home to grow old in. To Crooks, pride is the most important thing a man can have.

What function does Crooks play in the novel? One obvious role is to give Steinbeck a way to make a statement against racial discrimination. A black man is also a necessary element if Steinbeck is attempting to create a microcosm of the larger world with his ranch community. Crooks' presence also gives us a little better understanding and respect for Lennie as a person. All the other men on the ranch look down on Crooks. "If I say something, why it's just a nigger sayin' it," he tells Lennie. But Lennie accepts Crooks as an equal, someone to "come in an' set" with. George, on the other hand, is uncomfortable that Crooks has been let in on the dream. George is not quite as liberal as we might have thought.

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Barron's Booknotes-Of Mice And Men by John Steinbeck
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