What is Point of View?
The term “point of view” has many applications, from video game development to the interpretation of art. This page will discuss point of view as it pertains to the study of reading and literature. When studying the perspective of the narrator, the reader is concerned with the relationship between the person telling the story (the narrator) and the agents referred to by the story teller (the characters).
Modes of Narration
There are six key terms used in the study of narrative view point: first-person, second-person, third-person, third-person objective, third-person limited, and third-person omniscient. Each term refers to a specific mode of narration defined by two things: the distance of the narrator from the story (the pronoun case) and how much the narrator reveals about the thoughts and feelings of the characters (narrative access). Let’s take a closer look at each term.
In this mode, the narrator is usually the protagonist or central character in the story. But even if this character is not the protagonist, he or she is directly involved in the events of the story and is telling the tale “first hand.” First-person narration is easy to identify, because the narrator will be telling the story from “I’s” perspective. Readers should watch for the narrator’s use of first-person pronouns- “I, me, my, our, us, we, myself, and ourselves,” as these will usually indicate that the passage is narrated from first-person perspective. Remember, with this skill readers are trying to identify the perspective of the narrator; therefore, one must ignore the dialogue of characters (indicated by “quotation marks”) and solely focus on narration, otherwise one is not analyzing the narrator’s point of view.
In this mode narration “you” are the agent, such as in this example: you walked down the stairs. As it is generally awkward for a story to be narrated from “your” perspective, this mode of narration is not used very often in narratives and stories. There are some exceptions, however, and second-person perspective is the primary mode of narration for choose your own adventure books and similarly styled writings. More frequently, directions and instructions and usually narrated from second-person perspective. In most cases, directions will be written in short imperative sentences, where the implied subject is “you.” But even when “you” is not explicitly stated, it is understood that “you” are the subject of directions and instructions.
With this mode of narration, the narrator tells the story of another person or group of people. The narrator may be far removed from or not involved in the story, or he or she may be a supporting character supplying narration for a hero. Frequent use of “he, she, them, they, him, her, his, her, and their” by the narrator may indicate that a passage is narrated from third-person perspective. There are three distinct modes of third-person narration: objective, limited, and omniscient. Which mode the narrator is using is determined by a single variable- how much the narrator accesses the thoughts, feelings, and internal workings of the characters and shares them with the reader through narration. Characters’ feelings and motivations can be inferred and understood through their behavior and dialogue in each of the three modes of third-person narration; however, in determining which mode the narrator is operating, readers should be concerned with finding instances where the narrator explicitly reveals a character’s thoughts or feelings.
Third-Person Objective Narration
In this mode of narration, the narrator tells a third-person’s story (he, she, him, her), but the narrator only describes characters’ behavior and dialogue. The narrator does not reveal any character’s thoughts or feelings. Again, readers will be able to understand characters’ thoughts and motivations based on characters’ actions and dialogue, which are narrated; however, the narrator will not explicitly reveal character’s thoughts and/or motivations in narration.
When a narrator uses third-person limited perspective, the narrator’s perspective is limited to the internal workings of one character. In other words, the narrator reveals the thoughts and feelings of one character through explicit narration. As with objective narration, readers may be able to infer characters’ thoughts and feelings based on the behaviors and dialogue of those characters, which are narrated, but the narrator also directly reveals the central character’s internal perspective.
In this mode of narration, the narrator grants readers the most access to characters’ thoughts and feelings. With third-person omniscient narration, the narration will reveal more than one characters’ internal workings. The base word omni means “all,” and scient means “knowing,” so omniscient roughly translates to “all knowing.” In this case the etymology is accurate, because in omniscient narration, the narrator is all knowing.
Point of View Worksheet - Students read the passages and determine the narrative perspective based on clues in the passages. Then they should explain how they were able to identify the narrator’s point of view. 4 pages with 15 problems.
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Point of View Worksheet 2 - Students read the passages and determine the narrative perspective. Then they should explain how they were able to identify the point of view. 4 pages with 15 problems.
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Point of View Worksheet 3 – Read the passages, write the narrator’s point of view, and explain your answer. 2 pages and 6 problems.
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Point of View Worksheet 4 - Read the passages and determine the narrative perspective, then explain how you were able to identify the point of view.
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Point of View Student Examples Worksheet – Read the passages, underline the narrator’s thoughts and feelings, and determine the narrative viewpoint. Then explain your answer.
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Point of View Flash Cards - Create a set of note cards to help you understand narrative perspective. Cards should include an example on one side and the name and definition on the other. Underline thoughts and feelings in your examples.
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Point of View Practice - Students pass around copies of books and attempt to identify the narrator’s perspective. You choose the 8 books they will be passing around. It is helpful if you have multiple copies of each book so that students may work in groups.
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Point of View Lesson - Slide show covering the five narrative view points. Includes a practice activity at the end of the slide show with five questions.
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Point of View Practice Questions - Students identify the narrative perspective in 10 examples from popular teen fiction. Students identify the narrator’s perspective and explain their answers.
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Point of View Manual Project – A project where students create a manual defining and demonstrating each point of view. Then they provide readers with instructions on how to identify the narrator’s perspective.
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Point of View Tests
Point of View Quiz – A fifteen question multiple choice quiz with two forms assessing how well students can identify first, second, and third-person narration.
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Point of View Quiz 2- Fifteen question multiple choice quiz assessing understanding of narrative perspective. Students identify the narrator’s view point in a variety of examples and then match definitions to point of view terms. This quiz covers first-person, second-person, and all three modes of third-person narration.
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