seen hundreds of men come by on the road an’ on the ranches, with
their bindles on their back an’ that same damn thing in their heads
. . . every damn one of ’em’s got a little piece of land in his
head. An’ never a God damn one of ’em ever gets it. Just like heaven.
Ever’body wants a little piece of lan’. I read plenty of books out
here. Nobody never gets to heaven, and nobody gets no land.
In this passage from Section 4,
after Lennie shares with Crooks his plan to buy a farm with George
and raise rabbits, Crooks tries to deflate Lennie’s hopes. He relates
that “hundreds” of men have passed through the ranch, all of them
with dreams similar to Lennie’s. Not one of them, he emphasizes
with bitterness, ever manages to make that dream come true. Crooks
injects the scene with a sense of reality, reminding the reader,
if not the childlike Lennie, that the dream of a farm is, after
all, only a dream. This moment establishes Crooks’s character, showing
how a lifetime of loneliness and oppression can manifest as cruelty.
It also furthers Steinbeck’s disturbing observation that those who
have strength and power in the world are not the only ones responsible
for oppression. As Crooks shows, even those who are oppressed seek
out and attack those who are even weaker than they.