If you are a student of literature, then when learning text, you would have come across the question ‘what is the point of view of a story?’. This one of the basic and important subject. Understanding the point of view of a story can give you an insight about the story. Understanding the point of view of the story also lets you decide what you should believe and what you should not. There are also several types of points of view authors use when writing a story. In this article, we will first pay attention to the definition of a point of view and then we will move on to discuss the different types of points of view.
Definition of Point of View
Point of view is from whose perspective a story is told. If you take a movie, you get to see all the images through the pictures caught by the camera. So, in a story, you get to see what takes place through the eyes of someone. This someone can be a character of the story or the author himself. Different writers use different points of view to realize their intention through their story. If you ask a writer, you will get to know that point of view is one of the deciding factors of a story. It tells you how you should prepare the story, what can be included in your narration and what cannot be. So, before writing a story, a writer definitely thinks about the point of view he or she should use in his or her story.
Types of Point of View
There are mainly three types of point of view. Namely, they are first person point of view, second person point of view, and third person point of view. The last one, third person point of view, is again divided into two sub-topics as third person limited and third person omniscient. So, let us see what each point of view is all about.
First person point of view
First person point of view is the narration where you use the first person pronouns. Usually, first person point of view uses first person singular pronoun ‘I.’ Rarely, you will see an author using the first person plural pronoun ‘we’ in the opening passages. But, of course, there are some such as in ‘Madame Bovary’ by Gustave Flaubert. Look at the opening line of that book.
“We were in the class when the head-master came in, followed by a “new fellow,” not wearing the school uniform, and a school servant carrying a large desk. Those who had been asleep woke up, and every one rose as if just surprised at his work.”
The author uses we as the point of view here. However, this is only used for a part of the story while the main story goes in the third person point of view.
When using the first person point of view, as mentioned before, most of the authors use ‘I.’ It allows the author to tell a story as if one is telling a story to his friend in the real life. The reader gets the feeling that this person is addressing to him or her. Also, when first person point of view is used the author gets to explore all the actions of one person. We also get to know his or her thoughts. However, everything that a first person narrator tells cannot be taken as the truth. His or her actions can be biased. So, the reader has to keep an open mind. Also, sometimes the narrator does not fully understand what is going on. Then, the reader has to be alert to understand what the narrator does not understand.
An example for the first person point of view is ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ by Harper Lee. In this story the author uses the pronoun ‘I’ for narration. We get to hear the story from the point of view of a Scout, who is a small girl. There are deeper social and ethnic problems in the book such as racism, discrimination of the black people, but Scout does not fully understand this. However, the author provides us with information that helps us to understand what Scout does not, as she report everything she see or hears.
Second person point of view
Second person point of view is very rarely used in literature as it means the author has to tell the story using the second person pronoun ‘you.’ This is not easy. Now, if you take a do-it-yourself guide or articles that explain how to do different things, that writing uses second person point of view as it makes a connection between the reader and the author as if the author is addressing the reader. For example,
To make tea you have to first boil water.
In the above sentence, second person point of view is used. Since this is hard to apply for literary work, you will rarely see people using second person point of view for narration. Here is an example from literate for second person narration.
“You are not the kind of guy who would be at a place like this at this time of the morning. But here you are, and you cannot say that the terrain is entirely unfamiliar, although the details are fuzzy.”
This is the opening lines of the book ‘Bright Lights, Big City’ by Jay McInerney. If you notice the ‘you’ in the above lines, then, you will identify that this is second person point of view.
Third person point of view
Third person is one of the most used forms of narration. This means using the third person pronouns ‘he’ or ‘she’ when you are telling the story. This means that we get to hear the story from someone who is standing outside and looking at what is going on. Third person point of view can be limited or omniscient.
Third person limited
If it is third person limited, we get to see the story as the narrator focuses on one character. This can be throughout the story or in a specific part of the story. If you take Harry Potter series, the story is written in the third person limited point of view as it focuses on Harry’s character. We get to see and know what Harry gets to see and know. Then, there is the third person omniscient narrator.
Third person omniscient
A third person omniscient narrator knows all the feelings and actions of every character. If you take Madame Bovary, though the story most of the time focuses on Emma’s character we also get to see the deep feelings and actions of other characters as well at times. For example, Emma does not know that Rodolphe only wants her to satisfy his lust for her. We get to see this when Rodolphe is thinking how ridiculous Emma is being when she is speaking about all the romantic things. We get to see what Rodolphe is thinking because it is in the third person omniscient point of view.
Point of view of a story is how a story is presented to the reader. There are three points of view: first person, second person, and third person point of view. First person point of view is the narration where the author uses the first person pronoun, I or we. Second person point of view is the narration where the author uses the second person pronoun ‘you.’ The third person point of view uses pronouns ‘he’ or ‘she’ when you are telling the story. Third person limited is when the narration focuses on one character. Third person omniscient is when the narration knows the feelings and actions of every character.