Many people in the novel suffer disappointment. Choose two characters and discuss what reasons they have be disappointed in their lives. 45 mins.
Disappointment suggests that hope has been experienced; it cannot exist without endeavour. Crooks and Lennie suffer disappointment throughout the novel as part of their status as being outsiders. They are not benefitted by material possessions, and they seek fulfilment through being self-sustaining. However, it seems by the climax of the novel that disappointment is perhaps alleviated through friendship.
Crooks’s material possessions, surprisingly, suggest he is more than a stablebuck. He owns a pair of ‘gold-rimmed spectacles.’ The spectacles, as a metaphor, might suggest he has perception and foresight beyond his peers. Furthermore their ‘gold’ might imply how they are rare – possessing an education and an appreciation of the world beyond the ranch is beyond perhaps all the characters, especially Lennie. Even Curley’s wife’s view of the world is a naïve one that sees her exploited by an unscrupulous man. In comparison to his spectacles, though, he reads ‘dirty books.’ In such pornography there is no disappointment as there is no endeavour or aspiration. In being separated from people, in that sense, Crooks cannot suffer disappointment. However, what is tragic is Steinbeck’s description of the ‘California Civil Code’ as being ‘mauled.’ Presumably it has been well read, and well used by Crooks, who is deeply aware of his outsider status. But ‘mauled’ connotes a wider-battle, that the civil code has been attacked and destroyed by his experiences with those around him. It is a evocative word that hints at his past suffering, and of the notion that he has education enough to appreciate its unfairness.
In comparison Lennie is uneducated, but still seems to be in near-perpetual state of torment. Throughout the novel he responds, like he does in section 1, by ‘look[ing] sadly’ at George. It is significant that that this sadness belies his ignorance: he does not demonstrate an awareness of the gravity of his situation (such as when he forgets the previous attack in Weed.) Instead he seems to live in a state of terminal guilt, repeatedly asserting when he has killed an animal (or crushed Curley’s hand) that he was “doing nothing bad.” This state of guilt is not quite disappointment for Lennie, as his only hope is to tend rabbits. And, unlike Crooks’s who has an education, Lennie is wholly responsible for George’s judgement upon whether he “deserves” to tend the rabbits or not. Therefore, Lennie perhaps does not suffer disappointment to the same extent as does Crooks.
Crooks is not an entirely despondent character, but he can affect Lennie negatively. When he reveals his past to Lennie, he speaks “dreamily.” Steinbeck, in using this word, wishes to equate Crooks’s imagination and past life with the dream farm that we first met in section one. Whether Crooks’s past was as idyllic as he remembers perhaps does not matter; he has no possibility of finding status or nourishing relationships in the atmosphere of the ranch. Indeed, his belligerent nature means that he takes some perverse joy, instead, in attacking Lennie. In response, Lennie speaks “miserably.” Like with George, Lennie is entirely reliant, without realisation, upon others for his moral guidance and sense of purpose. And, unlike George, Crooks’s lack of hope and aspiration (or, rather, crushed aspirations) means that he is not capable, or willing, to support Lennie.
It is not enough to have material possessions, or even the dream farm, to be happy. However, this is the notion throughout the novel. Crooks has a kind of autonomy in his shack: Candy suggests that it “must be nice to have a room to yourself.” Crooks bemoans its presence close to a “manure” heap. In doing so he is not capable of hope, perhaps so he does not suffer disappointment. Lennie, in contrast, dies in a state of hope. Before he is shot he declares, “let’s get that place now.” That Lennie does not “get that place” means he does not suffer the cycle of hope and disappointment from which Crooks seems to have retreated. Crooks’s lack of aspiration is reflected in the men on the ranch who similarly do not wish to better themselves, instead regularly “blow” their money on time in a “cathouse.”
As Lennie and George seem to prove, it is not a lack of material goods that holds back these men. It seems instead to be a lack of nourishing support and guidance that allows them to make present-day sacrifices and suffer present-day disappointments for a better future. Crooks, I think, alludes to this when he states that “a guy needs someone – to be near him.” For Crooks, the presence and love of your fellow man frames and gives meaning to your suffering, therefore making it worthwhile (and perhaps bearable.) Disappointment for Lennie is actually part of the rhythm of his relationship with George: their argument about Lennie leaving for the cave is repeated at the end of the novel, revealing to the reader that they have experienced this argument many times before (and therefore it is a safe way to suffer the hope and disappointment of being in a relationship.)
Crooks has ample reason to be disappointed. He lives at a time where despite his skills and education, he is separated from his fellow man. Perhaps it is this where disappointment is at its harshest. In contrast, Lennie, despite his tormented life, seems to not suffer disappointment to the same extent as Crooks. I think this because his relationship with George gives him meaning and support that makes his disappointment bearable.