What is point of view in Carver's short story, "Neighbors"?

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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The point of view used in Raymond Carver's "Neighbors" is termed third-person limited.

With this point of view, the narrator is privy only to one character's thoughts and feelings; otherwise, it is simply like a camera on the wall through which the narrator observes what the characters do and say. In Raymond Carver's story, "Neighbors," the character whose thoughts, in addition to his actions, are known, for the most part, is Bill. The narrator does include Arlene in his point of view when he remarks that Bill and Arlene Miller seem to wish that they, too, were able to take a vacation from their tedious lives as a bookkeeper and a secretary.

It seemed to the Millers that the Stones lived a fuller and brighter life.

When Bill goes across the hall to the Stones' apartment in order to feed Kitty, he does what many people do. He looks in the medicine cabinet. When he finds a bottle of pills prescribed for Arlene, he puts them into his pocket. Then, on the following day, Bill goes over to the neighbors' and stays longer. Acting as though he is worried Kitty may witness his behavior, Bill puts her in the bathroom. As Bill lies on the bed of Mr. and Mrs. Stone, the reader is, then, privy to Bill's thoughts:

He tried to remember when the Stones were due back, and then he wondered if they would ever return. He could not remember their faces or the way they talked and dressed. He sighed and with effort rolled off the bed to lean over the dresser and look at himself in the mirror.

Bill tries on clothing belonging to both Jim and Harriet; he even steps into Harriet's underwear and a skirt of hers. Standing behind a curtain, he looks out the window. At other times while he snoops in the Miller's apartment, Bill gazes at himself in the mirror because he has been violating his neighbors' identities and is, perhaps, not certain of his own after stealing part of the Stones'. The reader is not told Bill's thoughts at this point.

Arlene also stays longer in the Stones' apartment than is necessary to feed Kitty, but the reader is not privy to her feelings and thoughts because the point of view is limited to just the objective reporting of the third-person narrator.


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epollock's profile pic

epollock | (Level 3) Valedictorian

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The speaker of Raymond Carver's "Neighbors," a story with a theme that it is not appropriate to spy on other people's belongings or intrude on other's property when one has permission, but is not admirable to do, is an unnamed observer whose attention is focused on Bill Miller, the major character, and his wife Arlene. The point of view is thus third-person limited. This is discovered early on in the narrative when the speaker discusses objective and factual things about the Millers, but is also able to tell what is happening in Bill Miller's mind. This characteristic of the point of view of third-person limited.

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