Point of View in Of Mice and Men

Instructor: Liz Breazeale
Point of view is an important part of any work, because the way a story is narrated can communicate just as much info as the words themselves. In this lesson, learn about point of view in Steinbeck's famous work ''Of Mice and Men''.

What Is Point of View?

When somebody uses the term 'point of view', what do you think of? Probably an argument with a friend or family member where one of you throws your hands up in frustration and says, 'That's just your point of view, not everyone else's!' When you say this, you're referring to someone's particular worldview, the way he or she looks at things.

A literary work's point of view (POV) refers to who is telling a story or poem. There are three categories of point of view: first, second, and third person. For the purposes of this lesson, you need to remember third person narration. This means the narrator uses 'he' or 'she' to refer to the characters in the story and is aware of the thoughts and actions of one or more characters. This is the POV used in John Steinbeck's famed novella Of Mice and Men.

One version of the cover for the novel Of Mice and Men
Of Mice and Men

Third Person Omniscient

Third person omniscient is the more specific type of POV used in this work. With third person omniscient narration, the reader is privy to the thoughts and feelings of several characters, maybe even all of them. The narrator flits from character to character, giving you, the reader, the ability to see the actions and thoughts of more than one person. It's almost like a superpower, except one you don't control.

The narrator of Of Mice and Men doesn't have much of a personality, like most third person omniscient narrators. The third person narrator is very detached and unemotional here. You can tell this because even though this third person omniscient narrator knows the actions of each character, you're never given much indication as to how these people actually feel.

Here's an example from the novella of this technique in action: 'The small man stepped nervously beside him.' A different narrator might tell you how this man is actually feeling and might just say straight up, 'This man is very nervous.' Steinbeck has done something a bit more complex with this narration in that he hints at emotions through action.

Why Use this POV?

There's a method behind Steinbeck's madness: This type of third person omniscient narrator allows for more interpretation on the part of the reader. Steinbeck isn't giving you any handouts, and he's sure not going to tell you what to think or how to feel at any given moment as you read his work.

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