Crooks, whose nickname stems from his crooked back, sits on his bunk in the stable. Lennie stops by Crooks' room, but Crooks demands he leave. Crooks shouts that if he's not allowed in the white men's quarters, then the white men aren't allowed in his. But Lennie's innocent loneliness (all the other men have gone into town to visit a brothel) wins Crooks over.
Crooks's race makes him even more trapped and alone than the other men. Crooks and Lennie are outcasts. Each is "weak." Each has suffered the unfair consequences of a "disability": retardation and race.
As they talk, Lennie forgets the farm is a secret and mentions it. Crooks thinks this just one of Lennie's fantasies.
Crooks has suffered too much to believe in dreams.
Crooks describes his childhood in California. As a black man he was always lonely. Even on the ranch he's forced to sleep apart from the other men.
All ranchers are lonely men. Crooks's skin color makes him even lonelier.
Suddenly angry and bitter, Crooks tells Lennie that George might not return to the ranch. In terrible fear, Lennie nearly attacks Crooks.
Crooks makes himself feel strong by making Lennie feel weaker.
Crooks says he was just trying to make Lennie understand what it's like to be black and, therefore, alone. "A guy needs somebody," Crooks says.
Crooks's fear is a reminder of how physically powerful Lennie is.
The conversation turns back to the farm. Crooks says all ranch hands dream about owning land, but nobody ever does, just like nobody ever gets to heaven.
Crooks, who's experienced so much suffering, sees all dreams as shams.
Candy wanders in. When Crooks again says they'll never own a farm, Candy replies that they have a spot of land picked out and nearly all the money they need. Crooks wonders if he might be able to go with them.
Crooks's sudden interest in the plan shows how powerful the dream can be to hope-starved ranchers.
Curley's wife walks in and starts mocking the men in the room as the "weak ones" not allowed to go to the brothel.
Now Curley's wife asserts her power by making the men feel weak
Despite the men's demands that she leave, Curley's wife starts talking about how sad she is. She claims she could have been a movie actress, but instead is so lonely she's in the bunkhouse talking to a bunch of losers. She asks what happened to Curley's hand, and gets angry when they deny he hurt it in a fight.
Curley's wife reveals her own failed dreams. Despite the fact that the men hate Curley, they cover for him, siding with men against women.
Candy tells her to leave. If she fires them, he says, they'll just buy their own farm. Curley's wife laughs at him. Crooks also demands she leave, but quiets when she curses him and threatens to have him lynched. Candy finally says he hears the men returning. Curley's wife leaves. On the way out, she thanks Lennie for beating up her husband.
Immediately after showing weakness, Curley's wife asserts dominance over all of the men. In doing so, she crushes their dream. She makes it clear that there's no room for such a dream in the reality of the ranch or the Depression.
The other men return. When George discovers Lennie was talking about the farm, he gets angry. But Crooks says Curley's wife was right, and that he's no longer interested in going to their farm.
Crooks's sudden claim that he doesn't want anything to do with the farm confirms the crushing impact of Curley's wife's verbal assault.