Copyright

Point of View in Fiction: First Person, Third Person & More

An error occurred trying to load this video.

Try refreshing the page, or contact customer support.

Coming up next: What is Theme in Literature? - Definition & Examples

You're on a roll. Keep up the good work!

Take Quiz Watch Next Lesson
 Replay
Your next lesson will play in 10 seconds
  • 0:01 What Is Point of View?
  • 0:46 First Person Point of View
  • 1:59 Second Person Point of View
  • 2:28 Third Person Point of View
  • 3:28 Point of View Practice
  • 6:01 Lesson Summary
Add to Add to Add to

Want to watch this again later?

Log in or sign up to add this lesson to a Custom Course.

Login or Sign up

Timeline
Autoplay
Autoplay
Create an account to start this course today
Try it free for 5 days!
Create An Account

Recommended Lessons and Courses for You

Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Amy Troolin

Amy has MA degrees in History, English, and Theology. She has taught college English and religious education classes and currently works as a freelance writer.

In this lesson, we will explore point of view in fiction. We will learn about several possible points of view (first person, second person, and third person) and practice identifying them.

What Is Point of View?

One of the first questions a reader must ask when picking up a new piece of fiction is, 'who is telling this story?' This is a question about the story's point of view.

Point of view is essentially the eyes through which a story is told. It is the narrative voice through which readers follow the story's plot, meet its characters, discover its setting, and enter into its relationships, emotions, and conflicts. Point of view allows readers to experience the story as it unfolds.

Authors can choose from the first person, the second person, or the third person point of view. We'll spend the rest of this lesson exploring each of these and practicing identifying them.

First Person Point of View

In the first person point of view, one of the story's characters serves as a narrator and readers watch the story unfold through that character's eyes. First person point of view is easy to identify because the character or narrator speaks to readers in his or her own voice, frequently using the pronoun 'I'.

The character or narrator is often a main character who is actively involved in the story's events, but sometimes authors choose to tell the story through the eyes of a minor character who merely witnesses the unfolding story or even through the eyes of a character who didn't directly witness the events, but retells them secondhand. In any case, this point of view allows readers access only to the narrating character's limited knowledge and understanding of the story and of his or her fellow characters.

Examples of famous works with a first person point of view include Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes stories, in which supporting character Dr. John Watson narrates the great detective's adventures; Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre, which is narrated by the title character; and Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird, in which a child character tells the story.

Second Person Point of View

The second person point of view is relatively rare because it makes the reader a character in the story and directly addresses the reader as 'you'. The Choose Your Own Adventure series of the 1980s and 1990s features the second person point of view and allows readers to make decisions that affect the story's plot and lead to various outcomes.

Third Person Point of View

In the third person point of view, the narrator is someone outside the story, who frequently uses pronouns, like 'he,' 'she,' and 'they,' to describe the characters. The third person point of view is divided into three subcategories:

1. The objective third person, in which the narrator knows or reveals nothing about the characters' internal thoughts, feelings, and motivations but sticks to the external facts of the story (as in Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter)

2. The limited third person, in which the narrator describes the internal thoughts, feelings, and motivations of one character, usually the main character (as in J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series)

3. The omniscient third person, in which the narrator knows and at least partially reveals the internal thoughts, feelings, and motivations of all the characters (as in E.B. White's Charlotte's Web)

Point of View Practice

Let's practice identifying points of view. For each of the following writing samples, decide whether the point of view is first person, second person, objective third person, limited third person, or omniscient third person.

1. You're walking along the street, wondering if you have enough time to stop for an ice cream cone on the way to your next appointment. It is hot, and you are dreading your meeting, so you decide that an ice cream cone might be just the thing to give you a boost.

Did you say 'second person'? If so, you're right! Notice how the narrator is addressing the reader directly as 'you'.

2. She walked along the street, wondering if she had enough time to stop for an ice cream cone on the way to her next appointment. It was hot and she was dreading her meeting, so she decided that an ice cream cone might be just the thing to give her a boost. The owner of the ice cream shop saw her peering through the window and wondered who was that beautiful girl he had never seen before.

To unlock this lesson you must be a Study.com Member.
Create your account

Register for a free trial

Are you a student or a teacher?
I am a teacher

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 30 million people use Study.com

Become a Study.com member and start learning now.
Become a Member  Back

Earning College Credit

Did you know… We have over 160 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 2,000 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.

To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page

Transferring credit to the school of your choice

Not sure what college you want to attend yet? Study.com has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.

Create an account to start this course today
Try it free for 5 days!
Create An Account
Support