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"I was born right here in Southern California. My old man had a chicken ranch, ‘bout ten acres. The white kids come to play at our place, an’ sometimes I went to play with them, and some of them was pretty nice. My ‘ol man didn’t like that. I never knew till long later why he didn’t like that. But I know now." He hesitated, and when he spoke again his voice was softer. "There wasn’t another colored family for miles around. And now there ain’t a colored man on this ranch an’ there’s jus’ one family in Soledad." (4.37)
At least Crooks has an excuse to be isolated: he's black, which makes him an automatic outcast. Even if we wanted to reach out and touch someone, he wouldn't be able to. You'd think that things like skin color would matter less on a ranch in the middle of nowhere—but somehow they seem to matter more.
"You’re nuts." Crooks was scornful. "I seen hunderds 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. Hunderds of them. They come, an’ they quit an’ go on; an’ 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. It’s just in their head. They’re all the time talkin’ about it, but it’s jus’ in their head." (4.64)
No wonder Crooks doesn't have any friends: no one likes a Negative Nancy. But Crooks knows what he's talking about. George and Lennie aren't the first ones to have the American Dream, and they're not going to be the first who don't get it.
Candy leaned against the wall beside the broken collar while he scratched his wrist stump. "I been here a long time," he said. "An' Crooks been here a long time. This's the first time I ever been in his room."
Crooks said darkly, "Guys don't come into a colored man's room very much." (4.76-77)
Prejudice works both ways: Crooks may be isolated because of his skin color, but the white guys might also be missing out on a good friend. (And, we have to ask: do you think Steinbeck is making a point by having the black man speak "darkly"? Too much of a stretch?)