Lennie arrives at Crooks' room looking for his pup. At first, the black man, who is a loner on the ranch, is hostile towards him, saying that black men do not mix with white ones. His proud attitude changes, however, when he observes Lennie's childish conduct. He finally invites Lennie into his well-kept room, but he does not know how to treat him. Crooks is at first cruel to Lennie, teasing him about George not returning from the city. Lennie protests that such a thing would never ever happen. Lennie then tells Crooks about the plan to buy a farm, and Crooks speaks about himself, telling of his childhood. Lennie then turns the conversation to his dream of owning rabbits. Crooks tells him that his dream is never going to be a reality, explaining that many men have the same dream but never save enough money.
Searching for Lennie, old Candy makes his way to Crooks' room. He is invited inside, where he and Lennie have a conversation about the farm. When Crooks learns that they have saved almost enough money to buy some land, he becomes interested in the dream and expresses a wish to join them, working for his keep.
Curley's wife walks in, looking for her husband. The men tell her he is not around and ask her to leave. She desperately tries to strike up a conversation with them and complains about her loneliness and how people treat her. She also says that she does not believe that Curley's hand was caught in a machine. In the conversation that follows, Candy reveals the dream of owning a farmhouse to her. She reacts in a discouraging and condescending manner. She also finds out the truth about her husband's crushed hand.
The private Crooks grows upset about all the people in his room. He demands that Curley's wife leave immediately, which upsets her. Before she departs, she threatens him with a charge of attempted rape.
After she leaves, George arrives, looking for Lennie. He is upset to find
Candy and his friend in the black man's room, telling him about the plans
for the farm. He insists that they leave. As they walk back to the bunkhouse,
Crooks shouts to Candy that he can forget about him going with them to
the farm. The black realizes that his dream of comradeship can never be
realized with a white man.
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.