Point of view gets a section all its own. It’s that important!
Identifying a piece of literature’s point of view is crucial. We need to know the direction from which the narrative is being told. If a narrator plays a role, their perspective alters our experience of the events being told, right? Here are the basic narrative points of view:
Omniscient (all seeing): This narrative perspective gets into any characters’ thoughts. Readers are given details that no one person could know or see. Works with this point of view allow readers an “all access pass” to events.
First person: This narration adopts the point of view of one character. Usually, we identify with that character. You can tell firstperson narration by looking for “I” and “you” in the story. Readers often lump in the author and the narrator of first person pieces; avoid conflating (confusing) the author and the narrator. For example, readers of Edgar Poe all too often assume that he is speaking when the bizarre narratives occur. Or readers of Native American literature assume that the author is the speaker.
*Third person: According to Merriam Webster’s Reader’s Handbook: Your Complete Guide to Literary Terms, third person:
[. . .] is the voice in which a story is presented when the narrator is not a character in the story. The term actually refers to either of two narrative voices. A story told in the third person singular is one in which the narrator writes from the point of view of a single character, describing and noticing only what that character has the opportunity to see and hear and know, but not in the voice of that character, as in Henry James’ What Maisie Knew. A third person omniscient narrator is not limited in viewpoint to any one character and thus can comment on every aspect of that story. (4001)
Think of third person narration as a third option, then.
Each of the narrative perspectives allows authors to depict lived reality. This is an impossible task, though, using only language. Just think of the many times you were unable to convey exactly what you meant through words. Words let us down, however brilliant their descriptive capabilities.
*There are only fine distinctions between third person narration styles.
This quote is from my old lit text, Literature: An Introduction to Fiction, Poetry and Drama (8th ed.), by Kennedy and Gioia:
“Third person: A type of narration in which the narrator is a nonparticipant. In a third-person narrative the characters are referred to as ‘he’, ‘she’, or ‘they’. Third-person narrators are most commonly omniscient, but the level of their knowledge may vary from total omniscience (the narrator knows everything about the characters and their lives) to limited omniscience (the narrator is limited to the perceptions of a single character” (G31).