Essay on Point of View

Joanna D.
2/30/07

Point of View;
The Author’s tool
An Explanatory Exposition

When one begins to read a book, he is reading a composition which is told from the story-teller‘s point of view. The point of view from which the story-teller tells the story is called the narrator. The story-teller may choose from which point of view he tells the story, because it is the narrator, not the story-teller, who is telling the story. The narrator does not have to be the story-teller. The narrator may be the story-teller, as in autobiographies told from the perspective of the author; but often the story-teller will tell a story for which he was not present as if he were there. A story-teller has several basic choices which form a distinctive point of view. These choices are the decisions of which person, which number, and which tense the narrator will use.

The first decision which a story-teller must make is which of the choices of person he will use. Person is the determination of where the story-teller will have the viewpoint to come from.
First person is told from the viewpoint of someone who is in the story and who talks about their own movements, using the words I and We to describe themselves. For example, the sentence, “’I thought you were dead!’” is stated from the viewpoint of first person.
Second person is rarely ever used to any great extent in stories. It is told from the viewpoint of the reader, as if someone has done what you do and is telling you about it, as in this sentence, “’So next time you come you have only to find the lamp-post and look for those two hills and walk through the wood till you reach my house.’”
Third person is told from the viewpoint of someone who is watching the story take place. In this example, “Zorro rushed along the last rooftop.” the story-teller is using third person; although the use of the pronoun he is slightly more common than simply using a character’s name.

The second way a story-teller may clarify which point of view he is using or customize his narrator’s voice is by number; he may use either the singular or the plural form.
With singular, it sounds as though the author is talking about only one person. That person may be part of a group, but the narrator’s use of tenses will not tell us that. The narrator uses singular tense (first person view) in this sentence, “’Altogether I thought of him, at the first sight, that here was a man I would rather call my friend than my enemy.’”
When the writer uses the plural form, he refers to the characters as a group, as in this passage, “There they crouched listening.” (third person, singular) Clearly, the story-teller is referring to more than one person.

Tense explains from which time the narrator is telling the story.
In past tense, the narrator takes the form of someone who has already seen these things take place and is telling you the story now, later. This part of point of view is evident here, “Suddenly Frodo noticed that a strange-looking weather-beaten man, sitting in the shadows near the wall, was also listening intently to the hobbit-talk. “ (told in third person, singular, past tense)
“Eliza looks at him darkly; then rises suddenly and leaves the room.” (third person, singular) This sentence is a beautiful example of present tense, which is a form in which it sounds as though someone were standing on the scene of the story, telling you the events as the progress.
Future tense is somewhat strange, as it tells the hearer what will happen, when, from the viewpoint of the narrator, the events have yet to take place. “’But will it answer? Will not the old prejudice be too strong?’” This sentence is told from future tense. (third person, singular)

The story-teller has three distinguishable selections which he can make to tailor his narrator’s voice to fit the story. He may choose who is telling the story, how he will refer to his characters, and when he wants the narrerator to be telling the story. Thus, the story-teller, through the narrator, can begin to form a background for the story before he even leaves the first page.

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