An Ultimate Guide to Understanding Point of View

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Before going into the details of the point of view and its types, we must understand what it really is and how can we define it.


There should be a plot, characters, setting, and other aspects in a narrative. However, it also needs to have a compelling narrator who tells the story to the audience in their own words. The narrative voice is the point of view which is the technique of narration that specifies the position or angle from which the story is given to the readers. Point of view is the technique an author uses to present his work to the reader and draw them in. The readers’ access to the story and how much of the action they are aware of at any given time are likewise controlled by point of view.

Point of view is crucial since, once selected, it will influence how everything else is perceived. Any changes to the point of view would have an impact on the entire narrative.

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Choosing a point of view involves deciding who will tell the tale and how it will be presented to the audience. In order to expose his subject matter to the viewers of a literary work, the author chooses this method of storytelling. The author wishes to tell his narrative from his own point of view. In a particular story that an author employs to deliver his information, there are three different sorts of point of view that are available. Below, we go into further depth about them.

Unrestricted point of view

In this point of view, the narrator has complete freedom to describe whatever they like. The omniscient narrator effectively puts himself between the plot and the readers, giving himself complete power over events. From this vantage point, the narrator knows everything there is to know about the story. The narrator has complete discretion over what we are told and how the events, actions, and characters are portrayed.

The narrator is not constrained in any way, and is free to go through time and space as well as into the heads of the characters. The narrator can easily express the innermost sentiments, ideas, desires, and inclinations of the characters to the readers, as well as tell them about the nature of the characters and why they are as they are and why they behave as they do.

Unrestricted point of view allows the narrator to reveal information beyond that which the characters themselves are privy to. The narrator puts on an act of complete openness. Unrestricted point of view allows the narrator to skip around from scene to scene, jump around in time, and drop comments anywhere they like.

Since the narrator is an invention of the author, he or she may represent the writer’s own values and ideas. Novels written in the 18th and 19th centuries, such as Henry Fielding’s Tome Jones and William Makepeace Thackery’s Vanity Fair, frequently featured such a point of view.

In Tom Jones, Fielding has established a nameless narrator who acquires god-like character, for the purpose of relaying the story. While talking to the readers, he is frank, tosses intrusive comments and immediately addresses the audience as clear from the following passage:

“‘Reader, take care, I have unadvisedly led you to the top of a hill, and how to get you down without breaking your neck, I do not well know. However, let us venture to slide down together, for Miss Bridget rings her bell, and Mr Allworthy is summoned to breakfast, where I must attend, and, if you please, shall be glad of your company”.

He talks about big ideas and criticizes things as if he were a serious philosopher. His presentation of the story is unrestrained by convention. The following sentence makes it quite evident that the narrator has assumed a godlike role, is refusing to play by the rules, and is deciding to convey the story in his own way.

  “I shall not look on myself as accountable to any Court of Critical Jurisdiction whatever: For as I am, in reality, the Founder of a new Province of Writing, so I am at liberty to make what Laws I please therein”

The Mayor of Casterbridge by Thomas Hardy is a classic example of an unrestrained point of view. The narrator can reveal the mood of the characters, the setting, and the plot in a single paragraph. Hardy’s narrator is able to provide detailed descriptions of the environment, insights into the motivations of the individuals, and insightful philosophical commentary thanks to the novel’s unfettered point of view.

Internal point of view

In internal point of view, the narrator says only about the things that a given character knows. Events, situations, and action are related to the reader from the point of view of the focalizer.

Story-telling through internal point of view usually takes two forms. In the first form, the author presents a single narrator, whereas in the second form, he introduces several. The second format has the benefit of allowing readers to experience the story from several points of view.

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For a story to be told from an internal point of view, the narrator must be either an integral part of the action or an objective bystander. His point of view is used throughout the narrative, usually using the pronoun “I” but not always. An omniscient narrator can be a character who has extensive knowledge of the past and can therefore analyse the current situation. But if his background information is scant, his perspective will be narrow.

Dialogues, internal monologues, and streams of consciousness may all be used to provide the reader insight into this character’s interior state of mind. Most of the time, however, the readers only gain access to the story secondhand through this character who acts as narrator, describes the events, conveys information, and provides analysis.

Point of View

William Faulkner’s novel The Sound and the Fury is an example of the narrative approach known as “internal point of view.” Think on the following text:

“Through the fence, between the curling flower spaces, I could see them hitting. They were coming toward where the flag was and I went along the fence. Luster was hunting in the grass by the flower tree. They took the flag out, and they were hitting. Then they put the flag back and they went to the table, and he hit and the other hit. Then they went on, and I went along the fence”

As you can see, it is a hard nut for readers to crack in order to make sense of the events in the preceding paragraph. It is not clear and there is a lot of ambiguity. This is due to the fact that the story is being told from the perspective of a mentally handicapped narrator. Since he has no frame of reference to put the actions of the characters in, the reader is left in the dark.

When telling a story, authors will sometimes utilise a technique wherein numerous characters take on the role of narrator. In The Poisonwood Bible, by Barbara Kingsolver, for instance, the story is told by five different women. Having characters with varying points of view helps the author tell a more nuanced story while also providing readers with a wider range of viewpoints.

Henry James in What Maisie Knew, popularised the idea that a story’s internal point of view can be ‘fixed’ if it is recounted from the perspective of a single character/narrator. If, however, multiple characters’ points of view are used to show the same events, we say that the internal point of view is “variable.” Assigning the term “multiple” to an internal point of view indicates that the same event is being recounted from more than one angle.

External point of view

In stories told from external point of view, the audience is not privy to the innermost thoughts, sentiments, hopes, desires, emotions, or inclinations of the characters. Readers are only privy to the characters’ external manifestations of emotion, such as their facial expressions, movements, words, and looks. No one knows what is going on in the characters’ heads, and it leaves the readers guessing.

As a result, the characters are privy to more information than the narrator passes to the readers. The narrator can describe the character’s actions and outward characteristics, but he cannot convey the character’s inner thoughts and emotions. Since the narrator in this perspective exists outside of the characters’ consciousness, the readers are free to form their own interpretations and judgments and come to their own conclusions.

The majority of films use a external perspective. In this case, the narrator stays out of the way and lets the audience figure things out on their own based on what they see and hear. Fiction written from an external point of view typically centres on conversations between the characters.

Ernest Hemingway’s The Killers is an example of the usage of external point of view. The narration describes the environment, character descriptions, and dialogue. As a result, he is unable to convey the characters’ motivations and mental states.

Unless the characters actually say something, the readers have no idea what they are thinking. Characters’ emotions are inferred by their actions and the words they exchange with one another. The story is told straight, without any interpretation or assumptions made about the perpetrator or killers.

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