What Is Point of View? Omniscient Point of View Third-Person-Limited Point of View First-Person Point of View Determining a Story’s Point of View Voice Tone Practice

Full text

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What Is Point of View?

Omniscient Point of View

Third-Person-Limited Point of View

First-Person Point of View

Determining a Story’s Point of View

Voice

Tone

Practice

Point of View

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Point of view is the vantage point from which a

writer narrates or tells a story.

What Is Point of View?

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Omniscient Point of View

In the omniscient point of view, the all-knowing

narrator

• knows and can tell what

any character is thinking

and feeling

• plays no part in the story

• knows what is happening

in all of the story’s

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How can you tell that this excerpt is

written from the omniscient point of view?

Omniscient Point of View

[End of Section]

Quick Check

The frown on the bachelor’s face was deepening to a scowl. He was a hard,

unsympathetic man, the aunt decided in her mind. . . .

The smaller girl created a diversion by beginning to recite “On the Road to

Mandalay.” She only knew the first line, but she put her limited knowledge to the fullest possible use. . . . It seemed to the bachelor as though someone had had a bet with her that she could repeat the line aloud two thousand times without stopping.

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Omniscient Point of View

The narrator knows the

thoughts of all three

characters.

Quick Check

How can you tell that this excerpt is

written from the omniscient point of view?

The frown on the bachelor’s face was deepening to a scowl. He was a hard,

unsympathetic man, the aunt decided in her mind. . . .

The smaller girl created a diversion by beginning to recite “On the Road to

Mandalay.” She only knew the first line, but she put her limited knowledge to the fullest possible use. . . . It seemed to the bachelor as though someone had had a bet with her that she could repeat the line aloud two thousand times without stopping.

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Third-Person-Limited Point of View

In third-person-limited point of view, the

narrator

• knows and can tell

what a single character

is thinking and feeling

• plays no part in the

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Third-Person-Limited Point of View

[End of Section]

Quick Check

So they parted; and the young man pursued his way until, being about to turn the corner by the meeting-house, he

looked back and saw the head of Faith still peeping after him with a melancholy air, in spite of her pink ribbons.

“Poor little Faith!” thought he, for his heart smote him. “What a wretch am I to leave her on such an errand! She talks of dreams, too.”

from “Young Goodman Brown” by Nathaniel Hawthorne

How can you tell that this excerpt is written from the

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Third-Person-Limited Point of View

The narrator knows the thoughts of only one character.

Quick Check

So they parted; and the young man pursued his way until, being about to turn the corner by the meeting-house, he

looked back and saw the head of Faith still peeping after him with a melancholy air, in spite of her pink ribbons.

“Poor little Faith!” thought he, for his heart smote him. “What a wretch am I to leave her on such an errand! She talks of dreams, too.”

from “Young Goodman Brown” by Nathaniel Hawthorne

How can you tell that this excerpt is written from the

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First-Person Point of View

In first-person point of view, the narrator

• knows and can tell only

what he or she thinks and

feels

• is a character in the story

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First-Person Point of View

[End of Section]

Quick Check

At three o’clock I cried, “Print off,” and turned to go, when there crept to my chair what was left of a man. He was bent in a circle, his head was sunk between his

shoulders, and he moved his feet one over the other like a bear. I could hardly see whether he walked or crawled. . . . “Can you give me a drink?” he whimpered. . . .

I went back to the office, the man

followed with groans of pain, and I turned up the lamp.

“Don’t you know me?” he gasped.

from “The Man Who Would Be King” by Rudyard Kipling

How can you tell that this excerpt is written from the

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First-Person Point of View

The narrator tells the experience as he witnesses it.

Quick Check

At three o’clock I cried, “Print off,” and turned to go, when there crept to my chair what was left of a man. He was bent in a circle, his head was sunk between his

shoulders, and he moved his feet one over the other like a bear. I could hardly see whether he walked or crawled. . . . “Can you give me a drink?” he whimpered. . . .

I went back to the office, the man

followed with groans of pain, and I turned up the lamp.

“Don’t you know me?” he gasped.

from “The Man Who Would Be King” by Rudyard Kipling

How can you tell that this excerpt is written from the

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Determining a Story’s Point of View

When you read fiction, ask the following five

questions about point of view:

1. Who is telling the story?

3. How much does the narrator want me to know?

2. How much does the narrator know and

understand?

4. Can I trust the narrator?

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Determining a Story’s Point of View

It is eight suns’ journey to the east and a man passes by many Dead Places. The Forest People are afraid of them but I am not. Once I made my fire on the edge of a Dead Place at night. . . .

from “By the Waters of Babylon” by Stephen Vincent Benét

Which excerpt is written

from the first-person point of view? Which is written from the

third-person-limi ted point of

view?

[End of Section]

Quick Check

They would hate him with cold and

terrible intensity, but it really didn’t matter. He would never see them, never know

them. He would have only the memories to remind him; only the nights of fear. . . .

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Determining a Story’s Point of View

Quick Check

It is eight suns’ journey to the east and a man passes by many Dead Places. The Forest People are afraid of them but I am not. Once I made my fire on the edge of a Dead Place at night. . . .

from “By the Waters of Babylon” by Stephen Vincent Benét

They would hate him with cold and

terrible intensity, but it really didn’t matter. He would never see them, never know

them. He would have only the memories to remind him; only the nights of fear. . . .

from “The Cold Equations” by Tom Godwin

Third-person limited

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Voice

A compelling narrator has a distinctive voice,

carefully crafted by the narrator’s

• use of language

• choice of words, or diction

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Voice

Listen to the description of a injured man in the

voices of two narrators.

My patient had clearly been through a painful ordeal

and required immediate surgery and long-term therapy to restore the full use of his injured arms, legs, and back.

The man’s doctor: The man’s wife:

I fought back tears, trying to be brave for him, but the sight of my strong, tall

husband so terribly injured and so weak was almost too much to bear. At last I gave way to grief.

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Tone is the attitude a narrator takes toward a

subject, another character, or the reader.

Tone

The narrator’s tone may be optimistic, sad,

curious, irritable, astonished, bitter, and so on.

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Take a story you’ve read recently, and

do the following exercises:

Practice

• Explain how changing the point of view affects

the story.

• Imagine the story as told from a different point

of view, and write the opening paragraphs.

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First-Person Point of View

Unreliable Narrators

Unreliable narrators mislead or misinform readers.

They may

• have a mental condition, such as memory loss,

that causes mistakes in the narration

• have reasons to tell only part of the truth or to

lie to readers

Figure

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