Characters from Of Mice and Men. Plus, Importance of Point of View in the Story

American author John Steinbeck published Of Mice and Men in 1937.

“Of Mice and Men,” John Steinbeck’s celebrated novel, is more than just a tale of two migrant workers, Lennie Small and George Milton, who live in California during the Great Depression. The novel also covers stories of friendship, living as a minority, growing old and dreaming big. The depth and impact of these elements of the story come through the narrator’s descriptions and the reader’s interpretation. The use of foreshadowing and motifs are used in this short story to tell the story of two young men and their journey together. This novella isn’t non-fiction, but it tells a story that could very well be real and have many real implications.

Third Person Point of View

“Of Mice and Men” is told from the third-person, omniscient point of view, so characters are referred to as “he” or “she.” The narrator isn't a character in the story, and since the narrator is omniscient, he knows everything about the characters and story. While many omniscient narrators go inside individual characters’ minds, this is not true of the narrator of “Of Mice and Men.” This narrator wouldn’t provide readers access to the character’s thoughts and feelings, so these soft things are meant for the reader to determine themselves through inferences.

Objective Storytelling

The third person narrative of “Of Mice and Men'' allows the story to be told in an objective manner. According to the San Jose State's Martha Heasley Cox Center for Steinbeck Studies, Steinbeck wanted the story to be an objective view of the characters’ social positions and the circumstances in which they live without their control. The two main characters, George and Lennie, are simple migrant workers who dream of bigger lives, like the American dream, but this information is told in neither a condemning nor condoning manner. Other characters, like Curly, Slim, Crooks, Curley’s wife, Carlson, Aunt Clara, Candy’s dog, Whit, and the other ranch hands and farm workers are talked about in this same way and their thoughts and feelings are not known either.

Characterization

The objective nature of the narrator gives the reader a detached tone, but Steinbeck allows the reader to gain insight into characters through their actions and dialogue. George and Lennie’s vocabulary is indicative of their social status, and the reader can see from their interaction that George acts as a dominant, big brother figure to Lennie. While the narrator does not specifically state that George is the leader of the two characters, these details are revealed through the narrator’s linear storytelling and wasn’t meant to be confusing.

Reader’s Choice

The objective third-person narrative of “Of Mice and Men” implies that every character’s story is important, and it gives readers a chance to draw their own conclusions. Since the narrator provides readers information about characters in an impartial manner, readers must make assumptions about the characters and how they feel about them. If the narrator did provide details about the character’s thoughts, the novel would be a different experience for the reader and risks becoming overly sentimental.

This story explores many difficult things, and using a study guide or quizzes to study if you are reading this book in an English class in high school for the first time. You might also read another book by Steinbeck – “The Grapes of Wrath.”

The title of this book compares man to a mouse, and is based on a poem “To a Mouse” by Robert Burns. This is one of the best laid schemes that happen along the Salinas River.

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