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Teaching Literature
Point of View

In short fiction, who tells the story and how it is told are critical issues for an author to decide. The tone and feel of the story, and even its meaning, can change radically depending on who is telling the story.

We should remember that someone is always between the reader and the action of the story, that someone is telling the story from his or her own point of view. This angle of vision, the point of view from which the people, events, and details of a story are viewed, is important to consider when reading a story.

Here are some Questions we should Ask Ourselves when we Read a Story:

  • Who is telling the story?
  • How much does the narrator know?
  • To what extent does the author reveal the inner thoughts and feelings of characters?
  • What is the amount of time lapsed between event and telling: as events occur or after they occur (which is more likely)?
  • Which are the mental processes of the narrator i.e. the attitude that underlies the telling, e.g. feminist, Marxist, existential?
  • What are the narrator's character and behavior? For example, a narrator may be revealing a changed attitude through reflection or maturity as in a story of childhood told by an adult looking back, or story of loss of innocence told by the mature person.
  • How does the point of view affect our responses to the characters?
  • How is our response influenced by how much the narrator knows and how objective he or she is?
              TYPES of Point of View:

              A- First Person

              • He is recognizable by use of first person pronoun, generally "I" but sometimes "we"
              • He offers a singularity of perspective
              • He asks reader to take into account the character of the storyteller
              • He may be a participant, a character involved in the events, or a non-participant, an observer-character not actually involved and therefore closely resembles third person .
              When reading stories in the first person, we need to realize that what the narrator is recounting might not be the objective truth. We should question the trustworthiness of the accounting.

              B- Third Person

              An outside force without any clear identity tells the story [described elsewhere as like the eye of God]

                1- Omniscient: narrator moves freely about in time and space and into charactersí thoughts and feelings . He knows everything about them , interprets and comments on their behavior, and even comments on the significance or meaning of the story.
                2- Limited omniscient: like omniscient, the story is told in third person, but the author tells it from the viewpoint of only one character. The author looks at events through the eyes, mind and emotions of that one character. The writer moves inside and outside the character and knows what that character sees, hears, feels, and thinks. However, nothing is revealed about the other characters except for what his chosen character knows or infers. This point of view is closer to the conditions of real life and may serve to unify the story since all details are seen through the eyes and experience of one person.
                3- Objective: narrator refrains from any editorial commentary . He can go anywhere, but can only record what is seen and heard . He tells what happens without stating more than can be inferred from the story's action and dialogue. He never discloses anything about what the characters think or feel, remaining a detached observer.

              Adapted From:
              Point of View
              Focus of the lesson: character, conflict, and point of view

Page Created on September 8, 1998
 Last updated on April 1, 2009
   Copyright © 1998/2009 by Nada Salem Abisamra

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