Table of Contents | Message Board | Printable Version | Barron's Booknotes
This chapter emphasizes the theme of loneliness. Crooks, the only black man on the ranch, is forced to live in isolation in a shed in the barn. Because of his race, no ranch hand has ever come to visit him at his room, and he is routinely excluded from their activities. Because he feels the prejudice of the other workers towards him, he has grown proud, aloof, and defensive.
Because of his simplicity, Lennie does not “see” Crooks’s color. He accepts him only as another human being and thinks nothing about going to his room, looking for his pup. At first, Crooks will not allow Lennie to come inside, saying that black and white do not mix. When he first hears Lennie talk about the plan to buy a farm, he scoffs at the idea. When Candy reveals that they almost have enough money saved for the land, Crooks wants to join them, hoping to escape his isolation and loneliness.
Curley’s wife is also shown to be a lonely woman in this chapter. She craves an emotional attachment with somebody who is understanding. When she protests against the unfriendly attitudes of the men on the ranch towards her, she is actually complaining about the sense of isolation in her life. She obviously dislikes her husband and stays with him only because she does not have any alternative. She is also shown to be a very prejudiced woman. When Crooks demands that she leave his room, she threatens to charge him with rape, which would mean certain death for a black man.Steinbeck, through the comments of Crooks and Curley’s wife, states that most great American dreams are shattered, foreshadowing that George’s dream will not become a reality. Crooks tells Lennie about the thousands of ranchmen who dream of owning a piece of land and who fail to save the necessary money. Curley’s wife complains about the man who did not live up to his promise of obtaining her dream, getting her into the movies. It is important to notice that when Curley’s wife enters the room, she prevents the men from talking about their dream, just as her death at the end of the novel prevents them from obtaining their dream. She is also indirectly the cause of George having to face loneliness -- without Lennie for a friend and companion.