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Point of View

In literature, the point of view is a narrative mode by which an author tells a story. Point of view determines the perspective of how the story is told, and can be done in several different ways. Traditionally, there is first-person, second person, and third-person points of view.

In a first-person point of view, the story is told by one of the characters. The use of the words “I” or “we” are quite common. For example, Moby-Dick is told from a first-person point of view (“Call me Ishmael”). Point of ViewFirst-person narrative point of view can also open the story up to reliability issues, allowing the reader to guess if the narrator is factual or bends the story. The Great Gatsby is a novel told from a questionable first-person point of view.

Second-person point of view is perhaps the rarest form of literature. In this mode, the story is told as the narrator refers to “you.” One of the more famous novels told from a second person point of view is Jay McInerney’s Bright Lights, Big City. Robert O’Connor’s Buffalo Soldiers, set on a U.S. Army base in Germany, is another example of second-person point of view.

Third-person point of view allows the writer to present a story from the position of an omniscient outsider. Characters are referred to as “he” or “she” and their inner thoughts and motivations are revealed to the reader.

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