From What Point of View Is the Story "Of Mice & Men" Told & Why Is That Important?
“Of Mice and Men,” John Steinbeck’s celebrated novel, is more than just a tale of two migrant workers 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.
Third Person Point of View
“Of Mice and Men” is told from 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 does not provide reader's access to the character’s thoughts and feelings.
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, but this information is told in neither a condemning nor condoning manner.
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.
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.
Cara Batema is a musician, teacher and writer who specializes in early childhood, special needs and psychology. Since 2010, Batema has been an active writer in the fields of education, parenting, science and health. She holds a bachelor's degree in music therapy and creative writing.