Bedford/St. Martin's virtuaLit Interactive Fiction Tutorial Notebook VIEW SEND
Fiction in Depth Approaches and Contexts
Select a StoryElements of FictionCultural ContextsCritical Approaches
Point of View
Style, Tone, and Language
Symbolism, Allegory, and Image


Point of view in fiction refers to the source and scope of the narrative voice. In the first-person point of view, usually identifiable by the use of the pronoun "I," a character in the story does the narration. A first-person narrator may be a major character and is often its protagonist. For example, the point of view in Jamaica Kincaid's "Girl" becomes evident when the protagonist responds, "I don't sing benna at all on Sundays, and never in Sunday school." A first-person narrator may also be a minor character, someone within the story but not centrally involved, as in William Faulkner's "A Rose for Emily," which is told by a member of the town who is not active in the plot but has observed the events. The author's choice of point of view has a significant effect on the story's voice and on the type of information given to the reader. In first-person narration, for example, what can be shown is limited to the character's observation and thoughts, and any skewed perceptions in the narrator will be passed on to the reader. Third-person point of view occurs when the narrator does not take part in the story. "I don't sing benna at all on Sundays" might become, in the third person, "She never sings benna on Sundays." There are three types of third-person point of view. In third-person omniscient, the narrative voice can render information from anywhere, including the thoughts and feelings of any of the characters. This all-knowing perspective allows the narrator to roam freely in the story's setting and even beyond. In third-person limited, sometimes called third-person sympathetic, the narrative voice can relate what is in the minds of only a select few characters (often only one, the point-of-view character). In third-person objective, the narrator renders explicit, observable details and does not have access to the internal thoughts of characters or background information about the setting or situation. A character's thoughts, for example, are inferred only by what is expressed openly, in actions or in words. This point of view is also known as third-person dramatic because it is generally the way drama is developed. While the second-person point of view exists, it is not used very often because making the reader part of the story can be awkward: "You walk to the end of the road and pause before heading towards the river."

narrative voice: The voice of the narrator telling the story
point-of-view character: The character focused on most closely by the narrator; in first-person point of view, the narrator himself

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