Characterisation example

Character can be shown through the things characters do, what they say, what they look like, and what they own.

What do you find out about Crooks, the stable-hand in Of Mice and Men, from the extract below?

Crooks’ bunk was a long box filled with straw, on which his blankets were flung. On the wall by the window there were pegs on which hung broken harness in process of being mended; strips of new leather; and under the window itself a little bench for leather-working tools, curved knives and needles and balls of linen thread, and a small hand riveter. On pegs were also pieces of harness, a split collar with the horsehair stuffing sticking out, a broken hame, and a trace chain with its leather covering split.

Crooks had his apple box over his bunk, and in it a range of medicine bottles, both for himself and for the horses. There were cans of saddle soap and a drippy can of tar with its paint brush sticking over the edge. And scattered about the floor were a number of personal possessions; for, being alone, Crooks could leave his things about, and being a stable buck and a cripple, he was more permanent than the other men, and he had accumulated more possessions than he could carry on his back.

Crooks possessed several pairs of shoes, a pair of rubber boots, a big alarm clock and a single-barrelled shotgun. And he had books, too; a tattered dictionary and a mauled copy of the California civil code for 1905. There were battered magazines and a few dirty books on a special shelf over his bunk. A pair of large gold-rimmed spectacles hung from a nail on the wall above his bed.

Of Mice and Men, John Steinbeck

Analysis

  • Crooks has quite a lot of possessions, emphasising his permanence. Unlike the other men, he doesn’t have to be able to carry everything he owns ‘on his back’.
  • He seems to do odd jobs around the place. This is shown by the ‘broken harness’, the ‘tools’ and the ‘cans’.
  • He’s poor – he keeps his things in an ‘apple box’.
  • His own medicine and that of the horses is in the same place. Is he of equal status with the animals?
  • Crooks is surprisingly educated. He owns ‘books’, including a law book, which suggests he is interested in what’s right, or at least in getting what he’s owed.
  • He isn’t used to people being in his space. He’s messy and has belongings ‘scattered about the floor’.
  • Crooks has his own room. However this seems to show that he is cut off from other people, rather than being a sign of privilege.