Character Reactions – Crooks's Quarters

Analyzing the Characters
Ongoing Activity
Grades 8–12
History, Language Arts
Individual, Small Group, Large Group, Writing


  • Students will be able to understand the broader historical and social messages behind the scene in Crooks’ quarters.
  • Students will be able to gain a broader understanding of race relations in America during the early 1900s.


Students tackle issues of race and gender in this activity centered around the scene in Crooks’s quarters. Students work together to create internal monologues for the characters present, challenging them to consider issues of race and gender, but in the context of the 1930s. Connections can be drawn between the scene in Crooks’s quarters, Jim Crow, and the Reconstruction period.

Materials Needed/Preparation

  • Prior discussions of Jim Crow and Lynch Law.
  • Copy or display on the board the following passage: “She turned on him in scorn. ‘Listen nigger,’ she said. ‘You know what I can do to you if you open your trap?’” (80).
  • Students have read at least through the end of page 83.
  • Copies of the Character Reactions Organizer handout and/or Conversation Map (optional).

Estimated Time

1 class period


  • Journal topic
  • ~Consider providing the journal topics as an advance organizer or conversation map (see materials needed/preparation, above).
  • ~Recall the scene in Crooks’s quarters once Curley’s wife arrives (pages 76-83), focusing on what happens after the passage quoted above. What is Curley’s wife threatening to do to Crooks? How did Crooks react? Why did he react this way? What do you think about his reaction? Should he have reacted differently?
  • ~How did Candy react? What do you think about his reaction? Should he have reacted differently?
  • ~How would you have reacted if you were Crooks? If you were Candy?
  • Share out/discuss student responses. Make sure students are being specific, particularly when they are critiquing the reactions of the characters and explaining their own, hypothetical, reactions. Consider allowing students time to pair share prior to opening up the class discussion.
  • Create student groups.
  • ~Assign each group one of the following characters:
  • ~~Crooks
  • ~~Candy
  • ~~Curley’s Wife
  • ~~Lennie (this one may be difficult; consider leaving out Lennie)
  • ~Or with a large class, consider assigning more than one group for each character.
  • Each group works together to write an internal monologue for their character.
  • ~Students are writing from the character’s perspective, not their own. Students should avoid writing what they feel the character should have thought/done.
  • ~What is the character thinking and feeling after Curley’s wife threatened Crooks?
  • ~Allow enough time for the groups to create their monologue
  • ~Monitor group work—challenge students to justify their monologues. Make certain that students are writing from the character’s perspective in the 1930s, and not in the present.
  • Share out to the class.
  • ~Discuss/react to the monologues.
  • ~~Focus on why students think their character would have felt and thought a certain way.

Post Activity/Takeaways/Follow-up


  • Students should have an understanding that race and gender issues played a large role in this scene as well as during this time period.
  • Students should be able to identify major differences and similarities between the characters.


  • As a homework assignment, have students write an internal monologue (just as they did with their group); this time they are writing as if they were a character in the scene. The same instructions apply, but individually this time (not a group assignment). In this exercise, students can write as themselves and react the way they feel the characters should have reacted.
  • Consider having a few student volunteers share at the beginning of the next class meeting.
  • See Understanding Lynching.


  • Written monologues (this can also apply to individually written monologues):
  • ~How well did the group portray their character through the monologue?
  • ~How well did the group explain why their character felt and thought a certain way?
  • ~Was the monologue accurate?

California State Content Standards Met

  • History and Social Science Content Standards 8
  • ~Students analyze the character and lasting consequences of Reconstruction: 3, 4
  • History and Social Science Content Standards 11
  • ~Students analyze the major political, social, economic, technological, and cultural developments of the 1920s: 2
  • ~Students analyze the development of federal civil rights and voting rights: 2, 4

Common Core State Standards Met

  • Reading Standards for Literature 6-12
  • ~Key Ideas and Details: 1, 2, 3
  • Reading Standards for Informational Text 6-12
  • ~Key Ideas and Details: 1, 2, 3
  • ~Craft and Structure: 5
  • Writing Standards 6-12
  • ~Text Types and Purposes: 1, 3
  • Reading Standards for Literacy in History/Social Studies 6-12
  • ~Craft and Structure: 6
  • Speaking and Listening Standards 6-12
  • ~Comprehension and Collaboration: 1
  • ~Presentation of Knowledge and Ideas: 4
  • Reading Standards for Literacy in History/Social Studies 6-12
  • ~Key Ideas and Details: 1

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