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


Consider the following versions of part of a well-known fairy tale.

Third-person omniscient:

Goldilocks was a proud and defiant little girl who’d been told many times by her mother to stay out of the woods, but she paid little attention to others, especially her elders, giving lots of attention instead to herself and her own desires. One day, just to show that she could, she wandered deep into the center of the forest, farther from home than ever before. In a clearing she noticed a small cottage, smoke issuing from the chimney. She thought it was quite an ugly little cottage, but she also thought it might be a place where she could get a little something to eat and drink.

The front door swung open when she touched it. “Hello,” she said. “Is anyone home?“ No one answered, but she stepped inside anyway. Immediately the smell of fresh-cooked porridge drew her toward the kitchen, where she saw three steaming bowls sitting on the counter.

First person:

Make your bed, she says. Read your lessons. Fold your clothes. Stay out of the woods. Blah blah blah. Ha! I'm in the woods now, dear mother, and going deeper. As if anything out here would dare to harm a girl like me.

I've followed the weaving trail through the trees farther than ever before, and what can she do about it? I'm deep in the woods now, and there's a cottage in a clearing, a muddy-looking wooden thing so small I almost miss it. What a hovel! Who could stand to live there? I want to get inside and see. Besides, I'm thirsty, and a little bit hungry after the long walk, and these country folk do so love to share.

They don't use locks out here, of course, and as soon as I touch the door it swings wide open for me. I say hello, but no one answers. Even if they catch me here, who would care? A proper little girl like me can't harm a thing. I step inside.

They must have known I was coming, because someone’s made a tasty-smelling porridge. When I see the brown bowls steaming on the plain wooden counter, I feel so hungry I could eat all three.

Compare and contrast these two perspectives in terms of their style, content, character development, and overall effect on the reader.

Why do you think most traditional fairy tales are expressed in the third person?

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