Point of View

Point of View Definition: the vantage point from which a story is told

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The point of view an author chooses to write a narrative from is one of the most important decisions they can make. Each point of view changes the reader’s access to the information coming from the characters, and may change the story completely, depending on important factors such as bias and experiences. The three most common types are first person, third person limited, and third person omniscient. In first person, the reader sees the events of the story through the eyes of the narrator, which limits the plot to the experiences and motivations of the narrator using pronouns such as “I”, “me” and “we”. In third person limited, the story is told from the point of view of the narrator who reveals the protagonist’s thoughts, emotions, and motivations from the outside, using pronouns such as “he”, “she”, and “they”. In third person omniscient, the narrator has access to the thoughts, emotions, and motivations of any character at any time throughout the story and not just the protagonist.

Notable Examples of Point of View in Literature

The Color Purple by Alice Walker is a series of letters to God written by Celie in first person, which highlights her naivety, her growth and understanding of the world around her, and her relationships with other characters.

Night is a memoir by Elie Wiesel told in first person which highlights Wiesel’s own personal experiences in a concentration camp during the Holocaust.

The General History of Virginia by John Smith is told in third person omniscient, which allows Smith to write about his own heroic deeds while trying not to sound like a braggart.

The Odyssey is told from two different points of view: part I is told in first person, and part II is told in third person omniscient. Part I shows Odysseus’ thoughts of longing to get home, and part II shows the lengths he will go to in order to protect his home once he arrives.

1984 by George Orwell is written in third person limited, which limits Winston’s ability to fully understand the ramifications of his decision to rebel against the oppressive government of Oceania.

Be sure to check out our article, "Point of View vs. Perspective"!
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