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Barron's Booknotes-Of Mice And Men by John Steinbeck
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POINT OF VIEW

Of Mice and Men is told from an objective, third-person point of view. Since the book is really a play in novel form (see the Form and Structure section), we get to see the characters reveal themselves slowly through their dialogue. Only late in the book do we begin to realize that some events have been foreshadowed, or hinted at, by earlier happenings. in a sense, Steinbeck allows us to observe the action from our own point of view and develop our own opinions about the characters.

FORM AND STRUCTURE

In his letters, Steinbeck wrote that he planned to try out a new form with Of Mice and Men. He called this form a play-novelette, that is, the novel would be a lot like a play. There should be a lot of dialogue, not a lot of description, and the action should take place in only a few locations.

Each chapter of the book is like a scene from a play. It opens with a description of the setting. Then the action is presented mostly through dialogue and builds to a dramatic moment or a calm resolution, followed by the curtain's coming down. You can therefore look at each chapter as a separate piece in which the action starts slowly, builds, and then falls (quickly or slowly). You might want to look for this pattern within each chapter as you read and even draw a diagram to trace the rising and falling movements of events in each scene. Then notice how the events follow similar patterns in later scenes.

The repeating pattern of events is part of another technique, called foreshadowing. Foreshadowing involves having early events in a book hint at later events. For example, the death of Candy's dog foreshadows Lennie's death. They are shot with the same gun in the same way. And Candy's comment that a man shouldn't let a stranger shoot his dog gives us an understanding of why George knows he must shoot Lennie himself.



Steinbeck's use of foreshadowing is at times obvious, and some readers think he overworks the technique. As you read the novel, you might think about how effective Steinbeck's foreshadowing is as a device for keeping the story moving along. You should also decide if the technique increases your appreciation of Steinbeck's skill as a writer or if it makes what happens later on seem too obvious.

The structure of the novel also follows a circular pattern. This was pointed out in the discussion of the book's settings a few pages ago. The book opens and closes in the same location. The changes in the description of that setting show us just how much has changed in the lives of George and Lennie since the beginning of the story.

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Barron's Booknotes-Of Mice And Men by John Steinbeck
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