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Third-person narrators

When a story is told by someone outside the action, he is called a third-person narrator (because, refers to everybody in the story in the third person: 'he', 'she', 'they'). In this form of narration the person who telling the story is like an observer, an onlooker who sees what is happening, but plays no pan in the events.

The third-person narrator can be

omniscient ()

omniscient limited

objective (dramatic)

The omniscient third-person narrator is a kind of god; he is all-knowing, sic knows everything about the fictional world he has created: he can read other characters' thoughts, he can be in several places at once, and he knows exactly what is going to happen and how each character will behave. He is free to tell us much or as little as he wishes.

The limited omniscient third-person narrator knows the thoughts and feelings of only one character in the story.

An omniscient third-person narratorwho interrupts the narrative and speaks directly to the readers called intrusive. He may use these intrusions to summarise, philosophise, moralise or to guide the readers interpretation of events. This kind of narrator was particularly popular in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. It is also popular in today's post-modernist literature.

Here's an example of such intrusion:


When George first went to school and was asked his name in front of the other boys, he replied. "George Elephant."

"Olliphant?" said the master.

"No, sir, Elephant."

"What, Elephant? Like the animals?"

"Yes, sir, like the animals."

After that at school he was called by the names of all known, and some unknown, animals.

You Smiths and Robinsons, who have never suffered in this way, may smile... But change you to a foolish one even for two weeks and see what happens to you. ....


Very often the narrator's intrusions are entertaining:

I offer this advice without fee: it is included in the price of the book. (M. Spark)

How could you, Madam, be so inattentive in reading the first chapter? (L. Stern)


The third-person objective narratorcan report only what he sees and hears. He cannot tell us what the characters think and how they feel. When an author uses an objective point of view, the story seems to be told by no one. This narrative technique has often been compared to a video camera left running. The third person narrator steps aside and allows the story to present itself through setting, action and dialogue. The reader is presented with material which he alone must analyse and interpret.

Although this narrator does not actively take part in the storytelling, he has an important to play in this type of narrative. It is the narrator who decides when to turn the video camera on and off and where to point it.

(See Ernest Hemingway's short story).




What kind of narrator tells the story? Is it a first-person or third-person narrator?

Is the first-person narrator reliable? Justify your answer.

Is the third-person narrator omniscient?

Is the point of view objective? Does the narrator of the story pass judgment on anyone?

Find examples in the text when the narrator interrupts the story and addresses the reader directly. Which of the purposes listed below do the intrusions serve?

to summarise or philosophise

to involve the reader more directly into the story:

to guide the reader's interpretation of events

to add humour.

Does the author try to represent the thoughts of a character? What technique does he use to achieve this effect?

What effect does the author's choice of narrator have on the impact of the story'.'


Date: 2015-12-17; view: 126

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