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Of Mice and Men

John Steinbeck

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Chapter 4

Course Hero's video study guide provides in-depth summary and analysis of Chapter 4 of John Steinbeck's novel Of Mice and Men.

Of Mice and Men | Chapter 4 | Summary



Crooks lives alone in a harness room in the barn. The room is filled with tools and with Crooks's personal possessions, including books. Crooks is a "proud, aloof man" with a lean face and a crooked spine. It is Saturday night, and most of the men are in town. Crooks is rubbing liniment on his back when Lennie quietly appears in the doorway. Crooks tries to chase him away, saying that Lennie has no right to be in this room. Lennie says he just wants to look at his puppy. Crooks softens somewhat and lets Lennie sit on a keg in the room. Crooks asks Lennie what he would do if George never came back from town. This idea scares Lennie, and he gets mad at Crooks for supposing George might get hurt. Crooks says he didn't mean to scare Lennie and claims he was talking about himself. Lennie settles down and reasserts that he and George are going to get a farm and raise rabbits. Crooks claims that most migrant workers have the dream of getting some land but never do.

Candy approaches the doorway and says he's looking for Lennie. Crooks invites him in. Candy says he's been figuring on how to get money by raising rabbits. Lennie becomes excited, but Crooks insists their dream won't happen. He has seen guys who were crazy for their own land but "ever' time a whore house or a blackjack game took what it takes." Candy argues that things will be different this time. He, George, and Lennie already have a lot of money saved in a bank. Crooks is surprised they have some money and asks if he might help out doing odd jobs at their farm.

Curley's wife enters looking for Curley. Candy and Crooks try to get her to leave, but she wants to talk to people. She then complains about her husband and wonders what happened to his hand. Candy says that Curley got his hand caught in a machine. She doesn't believe it. Then Curley's wife becomes indignant and complains about not having anything better to do on a Saturday night than talking to "a bunch of bindle stiffs." Lennie seems fascinated by her, but Candy gets angry at Curley's wife, telling her that he and his friends are going to get a place of their own. She says they'll waste their money. Curley's wife then asks Lennie how he got the bruises on his face. Lennie doesn't know how to respond. He talks about tending rabbits. She flirts with Lennie, replying, "I might get a couple rabbits myself." Crooks angrily tells her she has no right being in a black man's room. She gets furious at Crooks, causing him to back down. Candy says he can hear the men coming back from town. Curley's wife tells Lennie that she's glad he broke her husband's hand. She then leaves. George comes in, wonders what Lennie is doing in Crooks's room, and scolds Candy for blabbing about their plan to get a farm. Crooks tells Candy to forget about his request to work for them on their future farm. Lennie, Candy, and George leave Crooks alone in the room.


In Chapter 4, Steinbeck explores the theme of loneliness and friendship through the depiction of four outcasts: Crooks, Candy, Lennie, and Curley's wife. Being black makes Crooks an outsider in society. He has contact with others mainly when his job requires it. He spends most of his free time alone in his room, reading books. He is not welcome in the bunkhouse. Crooks accepts this rejection with a bitter pride. He does not allow any white people in his room, except for Slim and the boss. If white people refuse to treat him respectfully, then he will act the same way toward them. When he was growing up, Crooks had more contact with white people. "White kids ... play at our place, an' sometimes I went to play with them," he relates. As an adult, Crooks has faced the full brunt of racial prejudice, making him angry and resentful. His need for friendship allows him to overcome these feelings, however, and leads him to ask if he can work on Lennie and Candy's future farm.

In previous chapters, the reader learns that Candy is old and crippled, having lost his hand in a farm accident. As soon as he proves unable to sweep the bunkhouse, Candy expects to be kicked out. Candy, therefore, is an outsider because he has little usefulness. Lennie is an outsider because he is mentally disabled. As a result, he doesn't talk much and doesn't understand malicious motives. Curley gets angry at Lennie for not answering his questions like other workers do. Later, when Curley apologizes to Slim, Curley catches Lennie smiling. He assumes Lennie is mocking him, but Lennie is just thinking about his rabbits. He is unaware of any malicious reason to mock Curley. This is evidence of Lennie's mental handicap and social naivety, two of the traits that keep Lennie from fitting in with society. Curley's wife is an outsider because she's a woman. The ranch is a world dominated by men. She needs friendliness and affection and isn't getting it. She receives positive reinforcement because of her physical appearance, saying things like, "An' a guy tol' me he could put me in pitchers." She uses her looks to attract attention, but this approach only goes so far. When she is alone with a man, he's friendly, but "just let two of the guys get together," she says, and neither will speak to her. Curley's wife, therefore, is treated by men as a sex object. She is not even given a name and is referred to only as Curley's wife.

Steinbeck returns to the theme of entrapment by adding social and psychological elements. The ranch can be seen as a microcosm of society in general. This society is ruled by powerful men who use other people to achieve their goals. As soon as the subordinate people are no longer useful, they are cast out. If people want to break out of this system, as do George and Lennie, they will face many obstacles, such as low pay, difficult bosses, and a lack of sympathy and understanding from others. The author also shows how many of the workers self-destruct. As Crooks mentions, most of them have dreams of obtaining their own land but never get it. Instead, they spend their money on prostitutes and drink: "They're all the time talkin' about it, but it's jus' in their head."

Documents for Chapter 4

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Questions for Chapter 4

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