Race relations and the management of the mentally disabled were two severe issues in society during the Great Depression. Both of these groups were minorities hence the majority of society felt that they were in a dominant position to these people. In the novel Of Mice and Men, Crooks exemplifies racial prejudice and Lennie was an illustration of the preconceived idea about the mentally ill.
Black people were part of a minority in American society and were treated devastatingly by the remainder of white Americans. When the stock market crashed and people promptly started seeking new jobs, appallingly blacks were often segregated from white people in terms of occupation and position and some white people even forced black people out of their previous unskilled work in order to just obtain their own work. Steinbeck demonstrates this separation in his novel Of Mice and Men through the character of Crooks. He is independent of the other men in terms of work; he works with animals, contrasting the other men’s jobs of bucking barley.
As a result of these hardships, the unemployment figure of blacks swiftly inflated to 50 per cent staggeringly doubling the white people’s corresponding figure. This had a monumental impact on the black Americans and subsequently they were driven out of the city and down to California onto ranches and farmland. Out on the ranch, black people were treated as inferior beings by the remaining portion of the white ranch hands and they were extremely segregated from the white people. This negative attitude towards black people is depicted in Of Mice and Men through Crooks. Crooks is treated, once again, like an animal. They physically abuse him; “They let the nigger come in that night. Skinner name of Smitty took after him. Done pretty good, too;” and they use their white “superiority” against him; “Nigger. I could get you strung up on a tree so easy it ain’t even funny.” Crooks is detached from the other ranch hands in that he doesn’t sleep amongst the other men in the bunkhouse. “S’pose you didn’t have nobody. S’pose you couldn’t go into the bunkhouse, cus you were black.” He also sleeps on a straw bed which further exemplifies the mentality which the majority of society held, that black people were equivalent to animals.
Like the blacks the mentally disabled were a minority of society and were