Published on March 14, 2014
Point of view in fiction: Point of view in fiction Jonathan Hall English 126 Brief Overview of Point of View in Fiction: Brief Overview of Point of View in Fiction Third person point of view First person point of view Who sees? Who speaks? Third person point of view: Third person point of view Three varieties Omniscient—God’s eye view, access to multiple characters’ thoughts, not involved directly in action Limited—only has access to one character’s thoughts: “focal character” Objective—has access to no character’s thoughts, can only describe actions from outside First person point of view: First person point of view First person point of view Narrator as protagonist Narrator as secondary character Narrator telling a story heard from someone else Reliable narrator We generally take the narrator’s account to be accurate—we don’t usually have much choice Unreliable narrator Sometimes an author will give us reason to doubt a narrator’s account, not usually because they’re outright lying, more because they interpret in a particular limited way, which we can see because, for example, of other characters’ reactions, even if the narrator is not conscious of being doubted. Who sees? Who speaks?: Who sees? Who speaks? Who sees? Who experiences the action of the story? The focal character in 3 rd person limited The narrator as character in 1 st person Who speaks? Who chooses the words? Who structures the story? Who interprets the story with benefit of hindsight? Third person narrator, of any kind 1 st person: the OLDER version of the character—not the same as the experiencing self, even if they have the same name. The Narrator knows what’s important because it’s already happened; at the time, things might not have appeared to have the same importance they assumed later. The Shifting Point of View in Ambrose Bierce’s “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge” (1890): The Shifting Point of View in Ambrose Bierce’s “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge” (1890) An unusual short story which makes use of multiple points of view Spoiler Alert!: Spoiler Alert! Have you already read “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge” and annotated it—that is, underlined important passages, written notes to yourself in the margin. If not, please stop here and come back after you have completed your reading of the story. There are major spoilers ahead, and I wouldn’t want to spoil your enjoyment of this particular story!