Point of View in Animal Farm

Instructor: Liz Breazeale
Point of view is important to know and understand when reading a work of literature, whether it's poetry or prose. In this lesson, learn what POV is and how it's utilized in George Orwell's ''Animal Farm''.

What is Point of View?

You've probably heard the term, 'point of view' more than once in your life. For example, you might be having a heated political discussion and the other person says, 'Well, that's your point of view.' In this case, your own point of view is your own idea, your own way of looking at the world. But what does it mean in a literary sense?

In literature, a work's point of view (POV) refers to who is telling the story. There are three categories of point of view: first, second, and third person. Third person narration is the type most important for this lesson; it means the narrator uses 'he' or 'she' to refer to all the characters in the story, but still knows the thoughts and feelings of one or more characters. This is the type of point of view used in George Orwell's novella, Animal Farm.

Animal Farm

Third Person Omniscient

Third person omniscient POV is the specific type of narration Orwell uses in this particular novella. With third person omniscient storytelling, the reader is privy to the thoughts and feelings of several characters, maybe even all - hence the 'omniscient' tacked on the end. The narrator roves from person to person and is able to see into the heads of multiple characters, meaning you, the reader, can understand the thoughts of many characters throughout the book.

The narrator of Animal Farm, like most third person omniscient narrators, is kind of a nonentity. You don't know who it is, whether it's a person or another animal, but that's okay, because it doesn't really matter for the storyline. The narrator has no feelings about the proceedings one way or another, and you can tell this by the passive way the narrator phrases things, like, 'The work of teaching and organising the others fell naturally upon the pigs, who were generally recognised as being the cleverest of the animals.'

Well, that's cool, but who's recognizing the pigs as being clever? The narrator? The animals? With this type of narration, the narrator discerns the inner feelings of the ones who matter in this work: the animals of Animal Farm, not the narrator.

Why Use This POV?

You saw a glimpse of why Orwell used this particular point of view for this novella in the previous section - the narrator is impartial, and merely relays information to you, the reader, who can then make your own assessment of the proceedings. Here's another example of the narrator's passive impartiality:

'So the animals trooped down to the hayfield to begin the harvest, and when they came back in the evening it was noticed that the milk had disappeared.'

Again, who's doing the noticing here? The narrator? The animals? The reader? Well, it's implied by the passive sentence structure that the animals are doing the noticing, and the narrator is simply communicating this information. This puts the ball in your court, reader, because you're left to deduce what happened to the milk.

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