How is point of view important to the novel Of Mice and Men?

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mdelmuro eNotes educator| Certified Educator

John Steinbeck uses a third-person limited point-of-view in Of Mice and Men. Using this point-of-view, Steinbeck limits the reader in looking beyond what George and Lennie see. This point-of-view is very important because it allows the reader to focus on the struggles of two migrant workers among the million or so who migrated to California during the Great Depression.

Point-of-view is often one of the most overlooked aspects of a literary work. Each narrator has his or her own personality and interests. In this novella, the narrator wants George and Lennie to succeed. This is one of the reasons why Curley's wife is described only as "Curley's wife." The narrator is important because it shapes how people read a work. While third-person narration might seem more neutral, third-person limited generally leaves the reader rooting for the characters the narrator is following.

In addition, the adverb choices Steinbeck makes when describing Lennie, in particular, make him the character the reader sympathizes with the most. In Chapter 1, Lennie looks "timidly" and "innocently" and "triumphantly." While the narrator wants the reader to empathize with George who looks at Lennie "resignedly" and speaks to him "disgustedly." When it comes to Curley, the novella's villain, George speaks to him "coldly" and Lennie speaks to him "softly."

This type of narration allows for the intimacy of the opening of the first and last chapters in the novella. In each of these instances, the closeness of George and Lennie are revealed in a way that would be lost in a third-person omniscient narrator and a first-person narrator. 

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