Narrator and Point of View

Point of view refers to the way a story is told. The author selects a specific mode of presenting the characters, action, setting and events of his or her narrative. The choice of the point of view or perspective normally entails the setting-up of a narrator as mediator between story and readers, as someone who guides the readers and influences them in their reception of the text.

The degree of insight or penetration the narrators have into the characters and events of a text varies, forming a graded line from telling - the narrators know everything and impart their knowledge to the readers as they think fit - to showing - the narrators are practically absent and the readers have to infer everything from the events as they unfold. The narrators may either speak in the first or third person without any basic change to their roles. A classification according to their degree of insight would, therefore, appear to be most useful and relevant.

1. Omniscient or unlimited point of view

The narrators know everything that has ever happened or will happen. They have a complete insight into all their characters, their motivations and feelings. They do not themselves participate in the story, but view from outside, supplying their comments and evaluations and even directly addressing the readers from their vantage points.

They are not obliged to adhere to the chronology of events, and can employ elements of flashback and anticipation to heighten the tension. They can also move freely among the different locations and events.

2. Limited point of view

The narrators are the protagonists in the stories. They are restricted in their knowledge to what they can possibly know without violating the rules of probability. The function of narrating a story can also be split up between two or more characters in the text, who give different evaluations of the same events. This can also be achieved by means of letters and messages, for example.

  1. Central consciousness
    The narrators are the main protagonists of the stories. The events are told as they experience them. The readers acquire an insight into the protagonists´ states of mind, but not into those of the other characters. Everything is seen and evaluated according to its impact and effect on the consciousness of these leading characters through whose eyes the readers follow the course of events. In order to establish an increasingly close relationship between reader and protagonist the latter´s psyche can be revealed either in the form of reported thought (3rd person narrator, past tense), interior monologue (1st person narrator, complete sentences, logically structured and dealing with a coherent set of themes) or stream of consciousness (1st person narrator, violation of grammatically correct syntax structure; apparently erratic thoughts based on association).
  2. Minor characters
    The narrators are unimportant characters who do not themselves take an active part in the action but who view and evaluate everything from the stance of witnesses on the periphery. Since their task is primarily to report, they are not fully characterized.
  3. Eliminated narrator
    Characters, action, setting and events are presented directly without the interference of a narrator. The characters reveal themselves through action and speech. They can comment on one another in their speech, but it is left to the reader to decide on the justification or legitimacy of these evaluations.


1. The narrator views
stands back from the action and observes.
remains outside the plot, merely observing.
... from a distance.
2. His lack of involvement permits the narrator to maintain an analytical stance.
3. The narrator describes the action and characters objectively.
4. The story is narrated in the third person, and the narrator never surfaces.
5. There is no interference by the narrator throughout the text.
6. The narrator is not involved explicitly.
is a thinly-sketched character on the edge of the story.
7. The narrator plays a more active role in
intervenes in
pronounces judgment on
the text.
8. The narrator takes part in
is involved in
is one of
cannot escape from
9. The narrator is simultaneously a central character in the story.
10. The story is told from the narrator's angle.
11. The fact that the narrator is involved results in the narration being biased and slanted.
12. The narrator's views are committed because of his/her participation in the plot.
13. The narrator describes the event from the point of view of ...
14. The narrator's attitude towards his/her material is ...
15. The events are viewed from a subjective angle.
16. The description is restricted
to ...
17. The narrator's relation to the text is confined to ...
18. The narrator's views are as subjective as those of the others.
19. The narrator intends to
wants to
seeks to
the reader.
20. The narrator's introductory remarks also include
deal with
refer to
21. The points of view in the text shift from character to character.
22. The intention of this narrative approach is ...