Crooks stared hopelessly at her, and then he sat down on his bunk and drew into himself...Crooks seemed to grow smaller, and he pressed himself against the wall. “Yes, ma’am...Crooks had reduced himself to nothing. There was no personality, no ego— nothing to arouse either like or dislike...his voice was toneless... but Crooks sat perfectly still, his eyes averted, everything that might be hurt drawn in"(Steinbeck 119).
Crook in the novel faces discrimination and hate in the novel for being a black person but Crooks doesn't try and do much about it since he is aware of his surroundings and the way he is looked at by others. So when Curly's wife threatens Crooks with lynching, Crooks back down and is obedient. He knows he doesn't have any power over her due to his place in the world so he reduces himself and simply complies to what they say to him. This is both an external and internal force that shapes Crook to do what he did and retailate.