Four Literary Point of View Examples

Whenever a story is told, the storyteller -- or narrator -- brings his own individual perspective to the events of the story, coloring the audience's opinions and controlling its access to the facts. Whether the narrator is an observer or a player, someone with intimate knowledge or simply a reporter of facts, determines the story's point of view. Four different major perspectives appear in literature, which can either use one point of view the entire time or shift among different points of view.

First Person

A text written in the first-person point of view is narrated by a character who is involved in the action. J. D. Salinger's "The Catcher in the Rye" is written from this perspective. The narrator, who is the novel's main character, begins his tale with the sentence, "If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you'll probably want to know is where I was born, and what my lousy childhood was like." The use of first-person pronouns such as "I" and "my" signal first-person narration.

Second Person

Used infrequently as a main perspective in storytelling, the second-person narrator directly addresses the reader, who is brought into the action through frequent use of the pronoun "you." R. A. Montgomery's "Choose Your Own Adventure" series of novels is written in the second person to involve the reader in the action. Nathaniel Hawthorne's "The Haunted Mind" uses the second person as well, including lines such as, "You sink down and muffle your head in the clothes."

Third-Person Omniscient

A work in the third-person point of view is told by a narrator who is not part of the action. This point of view is characterized by third-person pronoun usage: "he," "she," "it," and "they." Although the narrator is uninvolved in the story, he has some degree of access into the minds of the characters. A limited omniscient narrator, as in Ernest Hemingway's "For Whom the Bell Tolls," knows only the thoughts and feelings of an individual character. The protagonist in this case is introduced in the line, "The young man, whose name was Robert Jordan, was extremely hungry and he was worried." Throughout the text, readers get insight into Jordan's feelings, while the narrator reveals only the words and actions of other characters. An omniscient third-person narrator is god-like in his knowledge of every character's thoughts and motivations. In Hemingway's "The Old Man and the Sea," the narrator has access to the thoughts of both primary characters, the old man and the boy.

Third-Person Objective

Like the third-person omniscient point of view, the objective perspective is communicated by an uninvolved narrator who uses third-person pronouns. An objective narrator, however, has no insight into the thoughts and motivations of the actors in a narrative and can report only what the narrator can observe empirically. Newspaper reports are generally written in this manner. In fiction, Ernest Hemingway's "The Killers" is told by an objective observer who communicates only the actions and words of the characters, leaving readers to infer their thoughts and emotions.