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George patted a wrinkle out of his bed, and sat down. "[The boss gave] the stable buck hell?" he asked.
"Sure. Ya see the stable buck's a nigger."
"Yeah. Nice fella too. Got a crooked back where a horse kicked him. The boss gives him hell when he's mad. But the stable buck don't give a damn about that. He reads a lot. Got books in his room." (2.15-17)
Prejudice keeps Crooks isolated—but, by telling us that he "read a lot," Steinbeck seems to be suggesting that there's more to him than just skin color. It's a shame that none of the other characters—except maybe Lennie—seem to see that.
"Yes sir. Jesus, we had fun. They let the nigger come in that night. Little skinner name of Smitty took after the nigger. Done pretty good, too. The guys wouldn't let him use his feet, so the nigger got him. If he coulda used his feet, Smitty says he woulda killed the nigger. The guys said on account of the nigger's got a crooked back, Smitty can't use his feet." He paused in relish of the memory. (2.22)
Yikes. This is hard to read, but—to be fair to Candy—he seems to be "relishing" the fight as a fight, and not just because it involves a crippled black man. (We will point out that he doesn't ever use Crooks's name, however.)
"I wasn't kicked in the head with no horse, was I, George?"
"Be a damn good thing if you was," George said viciously. "Save ever'body a hell of a lot of trouble." (2.61-62)
It's a good think Lennie isn't actually George's kid, because we're pretty sure that Child Protective Services would have to get involved. Lennie's an adult—but does that make it okay? Or does his mental disability make him so childlike that George might as well be abusing a kid?