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Racism Within of Mice and Men

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Autor:   •  May 17, 2017  •  Essay  •  1,091 Words (5 Pages)  •  483 Views

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Elijah Rego

English 11-H

Mr. Hansen

27 March 2017

Racism Within Of Mice and Men

Of Mice and Men is exemplary of the segregation and racism of the 1930s. Black Marginalization was a common practice during the time, especially in the south. Within the novel, it was shown that the segregation and racism extended beyond the south and into the setting of the story, rural California. As illustrated through the only African-American character Crooks, Steinbeck shows the influence racism had on all aspects of the lives of black people. Crooks was kept separate from the whites on the ranch that he worked on, and he accepted the segregation that surrounded his life. Although he and his coworkers are largely segregated, when he must interact with them, he regularly endures verbal abuse.

Although so called “Jim Crow” Laws, or segregation laws, were not necessarily formally enforced in California, their influence in the area, more specifically within this novel, are undeniable(Pilgrim). One of the first examples of the segregation within the story was when Lennie was speaking with Crooks in his shack and asked him to come back to the bunk, to which Crooks responded with, “...You go on get outta my room, I ain’t wanted in the bunk room, and you ain’t wanted in my room.”(Steinbeck 68). And later when Lennie asks why Crooks isn’t wanted in the bunk, he responds bluntly, “Cause I’m black. They play cards in there, but I can’t play because I’m black. They say I stink.”(Steinbeck 68). This gives insight on the direct separatism and segregation that occurs on the ranch. It goes with the idea of you have your place and I have mine, except mine is exponentially better and you better stay away from it, a common theme of the Jim Crow era.

Like many black children of the early 20th century, Crooks was taught to stay away from the white children in his neighborhood. He was scolded by his father for playing with the white kids, even though they were the only children who lived nearby, as Crooks’ family was the only black family in the area(Bellone Jr.). Throughout the U.S. during this time, blacks often fueled the fire of pro-segregationists by intentionally avoiding white people all together. They viewed it as safer to avoid interracial contact and stay within the lesser conditions given to the them. It wasn’t until the 1950’s and ‘60’s that the black community made true strives towards equality and pushed against the limitations brought by segregation. When Crooks speaks of his childhood and how he interacted with white people, he gave his thoughts on the situation he was in, “My ol’ man didn’t like that. I never knew till long later why he didn’t like that. But I know now...there ain’t a colored man on this ranch...If I say something, why it’s just a nigger sayin’ it.”(Steinbeck 70). Crooks told his childhood story as if it was a lesson he needed to learn. He had accepted that he was treated as a lesser, and understood his role as a second class citizen. He had learned to accept what was given to him and play the cards he was dealt, figuratively speaking of course.

Despite this segregation, verbal abuse was regularly inflicted upon Crooks, and it began with the name Crooks itself. Given to him presumably by the ranch hands or the owner of the ranch, it actually is inspired by the spinal injury that Crooks has been suffering from, which causes him to have a crooked back, thus the name Crooks. This is a derogatory name that becomes a replacement for whatever his given name is, and is what he is called for the majority of the time. This is not the only way he is addressed though. He is also repeatedly addressed by the term, “nigger”. The word has become one of the most ridiculed derogatory terms in the english language, but was once an everyday term used in reference to African-Americans. Crooks is referred to by this term many times throughout the story, the most significant time being when he was involved in an argument, along with Candy and Lennie, with Curley’s wife. Curley’s wife became angered after Crooks broke his timid


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