Chapter four begins in the novel's third setting-Crooks' room. It is the next night. After a long description of the room and Crooks himself (see the profile section for more details), Lennie enters. Crooks (who is called such because of a crooked spine as a result of being kicked by a mule) is in the process of rubbing liniment on his back and angrily tells him that he has no right coming into his room. Lennie has been left alone by the other men, including George, who have all gone into town. Lennie explains that he was on his way to see his puppy and saw the light in Crooks' room and just wants to come in and sit. Crooks eventually agrees to letting Lennie sit a while, and Lennie immediately tells him of his and George's and Candy's plan to get a place and have a farm, and the secret dream, once Lennie and George's only, continues to be spread. Crooks laughs at Lennie, saying that George just talks and Lennie is too stupid to remember, so it doesn't matter what George talks about.
Crooks begins sewing doubts as to whether or not George will come back to him. Lennie grows scared and confused, then angry, and threatens Crooks, asking who hurt George. Crooks backs down, sensing Lennie's anger, and assures him that George will be back. He then welcomes Lennie's company and admits to being lonely: "Books ain't no good. A guy needs somebody-to be near him. A guy goes nuts if he ain't got nobody" (80). Lennie mentions the secret of the piece of land again and Crooks responds that he's seen hundreds of men come through the ranches "an' every damn one of 'em's got a little piece of land in his head. An' never a God damn one of 'em ever gets it" (81). No longer does the dream of George and Lennie seem so unique.
Candy, who is too old to go into town, enters Crooks' room. Crooks irritably lets Candy come in and Candy begins to talk to Lennie about the farm, also forgetting about the promise to keep it a secret. Crooks again chides them: "You guys is just kiddin' yourself" (83). But Candy and Lennie stubbornly assert that they have the money and that they're actually going to get a place. Crooks finally becomes convinced and, allured by the reality of the dream, asks for a share in it: "If you . . . . guys would want a hand to work for nothing-just his keep, why I'd come an' lend a hand" (84).
Suddenly Curley's wife comes to the door, looking for Curley. Steinbeck has now assembled for us the outsiders of his cast of characters-the old cripple, the Negro, the idiot, and the woman-all of them gathered in Crooks' room while the men are out of town. Crooks and Candy act coldly toward her while Lennie stares, fascinated. Curley's wife knows that the others, including her husband, have gone to the brothel, and grows angry at the treatment she receives from the three remaining men. She indignantly confesses to being lonely up in the house all the time and to not liking Curley's company: "Spends all his time sayin' what he's gonna do to the guys he don't like, and he don't like nobody" (85). She asks what really happened to Curley's hand and when Candy stubbornly tells her that he got it caught in a machine, she grows angry again. Candy defends the three against her contempt and triumphantly announces that they are going to have a house of their own. Curley's wife scoffs at Candy's indignation and doubts what he says: "If you had two bits in the worl', why you'd be in gettin' two shots of corn with it and suckin' the bottom of the glass" (87).
Candy controls his temper and orders Curley's wife to leave, telling her that she's not wanted. Before she leaves she notices the bruises on Lennie's face and realizes what really happened to Curley's hand. Crooks tries to make her leave, but she is undaunted, threatening to hang him if he acts up against her, at which Crooks retreats to his servile self. At the sound of the other men coming back, Curley's wife leaves, not before telling Lennie that she is glad that he busted Curley's hand.
George enters and orders everyone out of Crooks' room. Crooks tells Candy to forget what he said about working on their farm: "I wouln' want to go no place like that" (91). They leave Crooks alone and he returns to rubbing liniment on his back.