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Point of view in fiction

Point of view in fiction

Point of view in fiction is the narrative voice through which a story is presented. The story could be told by a character who is actively participating in the narrative, or from someone who is not one of the characters but knows all of the characters.

There are basically three types of point of view:

First person point of view– The pronouns I, me,we, our  and us are used in first person point of view to tell a story from the narrator’s perspective. Usually the “I” is a major character relaying their experiences. For example, in To Kill a Mockingbird  by Harper Lee,Scout is both the main character and the narrator. The “I” can be a minor character telling the protagonist’s story. For example The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald  where the story of Gatsby is told not by Gatsby himself but by a narrator named Nick, a friend and neighbor of Gatsby’s.First person point of view can be intimate and provides readers with a better understanding of a character’s thoughts and feelings,but it is also constrained by the character’s capacity for perception. They are confined to report only what they would realistically know about the story.

Second person point of view– This  point of view uses the pronoun you.It  is less common in fiction.It is used usually when the narrator is trying to talk to the reader directly.Second person can allow the writer to draw the reader into the story and make them feel like they are part of the action because the narrator is speaking directly to them. In a longer piece of work, it is the hardest point of view to maintain. Second-person point of view can be mostly seen in poems, speeches, instructional writing, and persuasive articles.Lorrie Moore’s short story collection Self-Help (1985) is a brilliant example of second person point of view.

Third person point of view– In this type of narrative third person pronouns he/his, she/her, they/them/their, and it/its are used.The readers get a panoramic view of both the actions and the inner feelings,thoughts or motives of the characters. This point of view is further divided into third person omniscient or all-knowing narrator and third person limited. All-knowing or omniscient narrator knows everything about the story and its characters. They have the ability to freely traverse time, enter anyone’s head, and share both their own thoughts and perceptions with the reader as well as those of the chracters.For example Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen.

The limited third-person narrator can only see into one character’s mind. They might see other events in the story but only knows the reasons of one character’s actions in the story.The story is presented either from the limited standpoint of one of the major or minor characters in the story.

As a writer one should try to stay consistent. Changing points of view frequently can create confusion however there are  certain situations where changing points of view makes sense.



Assistant Professor

Department of Communicative English and Media Studies