What Does the Omniscient Point of View Mean?

Updated April 17, 2017
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In literature, a novel is written from a particular perspective. When a character in the story tells his version, for example, the story is told from a first-person point of view. Another point of view is the omniscient point of view, which can be identified by various attributes.

The Narrator

The third-person omniscient point of view occurs when the story is told by a narrator who is all-knowing and all-seeing. An omniscient narrator knows everything about all characters in the novel, including their thoughts and can shift perspectives to tell the story from the points of view of other characters. An omniscient narrator knows everything that has happened prior to the story and knows everything that will happen. As a result, omniscient narration can move freely through various points in time and space when telling the story.

Characteristics of Omniscient Point of View

The omniscient point of view is different from the traditional third-person point of view, in which the story is narrated without opinion and told through the actions of the characters. In the omniscient point of view, the narrator offers insight beyond what the characters do and say, in terms of informing the reader about their thoughts, past deeds and even the secrets they may be keeping from other characters. An omniscient narrator can share opinions and attitudes with the reader and can also address the reader directly.

Limited Omniscient View

The limited omniscient point of view differs somewhat from the pure omniscient point of view, in that the narrator's omniscient knowledge is limited to one character as opposed to knowledge of all characters. In the limited omniscient perspective, the reader only enters the mind of one character, either throughout the entire novel or at specific points. In the limited omniscient point of view, descriptive passages are told through the point of view of the narrator.

Literary Examples

One of the more famous examples of a novel using the omniscient point of view is Jane Austen's "Pride and Prejudice." In this book, the all-knowing narrator presents readers with the thoughts of various characters and offers opinions throughout. The limited omniscient point of view is evident in John Updike's "Separating," in which the omniscient narrator only brings the reader into the thoughts of one character, Richard (the protagonist).

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