Point of View in 1984

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  • 0:00 What is Point of View?
  • 1:10 Third Person Limited POV
  • 2:39 The Point of POV
  • 4:35 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Liz Breazeale
Every piece of written work has a set point of view, and George Orwell's ''1984'' is no exception. In this lesson, learn what exactly is meant by point of view, and examine its function in this famous novel.

What Is Point of View?

'Everyone's got their own story to tell.' You've probably heard this saying, or some variation of it, sometime in your life. Or, maybe you've heard it another way. Maybe you've heard someone say, 'Well, you've got your own point of view.' In this case, your own point of view is your own way of looking at the world that is different than everyone else's. But what does point of view mean in a literary sense?

In literature, a work's point of view is the style or type of narration an author employs to tell a particular story. There are three types of point of view (which is often abbreviated as POV): They are first, second, or third person. Third person narration is the type most important for this lesson. Third person point of view means the narrator describes the action, using 'he' or 'she' to refer to all the characters. This is the type of POV employed in George Orwell's famous dystopian novel, 1984.

Third Person Limited POV

There are different types of third person narration: One is called third person limited, and the other is third person omniscient. You can probably guess the difference already. Third person omniscient narration occurs when the reader is privy to more than one person's thoughts in the story. You get to dip in and out of the inner worlds of multiple characters, learning things about them that they don't share with anyone else. A third person limited POV however, is different. We define a third person limited point of view when the reader only gets in the head of one person. That is why we call it limited point of view, because you are limited to only one person's thoughts.

Third person limited point of view is what we have here in 1984. The story is told from Winston's limited POV, and the reader only knows the world as it happens to Winston. You're not directly inside Winston's head (this would be first person, and Winston would be the narrator, referring to himself as 'I'). Still, you the reader, only know what he's going through, and you're aware of his feelings and no one else's. You get Winston's direct observations of those around him -- like his interpretation of O'Brien's trusting face, or Julia's beauty -- but you have no idea what these other people are truly thinking.

The Point of POV

So what's the point of filtering the story through only one character's perception? In the case of 1984, you're in the story with Winston, not just observing it. And in a world like the one presented in the novel, you'll be forced into Winston's paranoia, and you'll feel the constant surveillance of the government and police just as he does. You're a real part of the action, and it draws you into the plot.

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