Point of View

1st, 2nd and 3rd Person Narration


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When a writer begins a new story, she must decide: Who will tell my story? Point of view is who tells the story, or the “voice” that the story is told in. It's the place from which a narrator sees and understands what is happening.

In the first person point of view , the narrator is telling a story and is a character in the story. He or she is directly involved in the events that happen. If you're writing an essay about your summer vacation, it might be in the first person. For example: “ I spent a lot of time at the beach, but I also read a lot of books.”

In the first person point of view , we sometimes encounter an unreliable narrator.This is a narrator who can't be trusted or speaks with a biased view of things. Just as we have friends who tell us stories that we cannot always believe are exactly true, we have narrators we cannot completely trust. Perhaps one of the most famous unreliable narrators in American literature is Huck Finn from Mark Twain's novel The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn .

In the second person point of view , the narrator is not a character in the story – but “you” are. Speeches and instruction manuals are often written in the second person. For example: “Before you nail the two boards together, you should sand the sharp edges off.” The Choose Your Own Adventure series is also written in second person. In these books, the reader takes on the role of the main character (like spy, doctor or race car driver).

In the third person point of view , the narrator is not a character in the story and exists completely outside of the story. All characters are described as “ he ,” “ she ” or “ it .” The lines below from Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland is an example of the third person. Note that Alice is not the narrator!

“So Alice began telling them her adventures from the time when she first saw the White Rabbit. She was a little nervous about it just at first, the two creatures got so close to her, one on each side, and opened their eyes and mouths so very wide, but she gained courage as she went on.”

There are 3 different types of the third person point of view:

Objective : From this point of view, the narrator isn't a part of the story. He can tell the reader what happens to the characters in the story. But he can't go into their heads and tell what they're thinking and feeling. For example, “Anne and Lisa biked through the park in search of their lost cat.”

Limited : Here, the narrator focuses his attention on one character. The reader knows what's going on with the other characters, but knows what one particular character is thinking . For example, “As Anne and Lisa biked through the park in search of their lost cat, Lisa worried they might not find him.”

Omniscient : From this point of view, the narrator is all-knowing. He watches all that is happening and can describe the innermost thoughts and feelings of all characters in the story. For example: “Anne felt sure they'd find their cat by sundown, but Lisa thought it might take even longer.”

Absolutely True Story of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie

The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling

The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros

The BFG by Roald Dahl

Choose Your Own Adventure: The Green Slime by Susan Saunders

The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain

You by Charles Benoit

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

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