novel: Points of View

Critics have also classified the numerous experiments at reader manipulation carried on by novelists who relate their stories from different points of view. The omniscient point of view is that of the all-knowing author who is also the narrator. Thus Fielding's voice is heard in Tom Jones as is that of Dickens in A Tale of Two Cities (1859). Point of view can be limited in a variety of ways. Indeed, much of the development of the novel in the 20th cent. involved such limitation. And as the importance of point of view has increased, the importance of plot in many instances diminished.

In The Golden Bowl (1904), James used a narrator-observer who filters the events and emotional climate of the story for the reader, but whose own knowledge of other characters' motives and of the outcome of events is restricted. Since he talks about others, he uses the third person. For Remembrance of Things Past, Proust created a narrator-participant who analyzes the lifelong development of his own intellectual, emotional, and aesthetic faculties in the first person. In Ulysses, Joyce composed interior monologues for his characters, which ran simultaneously with their ordinary conversation with other people. Faulkner's Sound and the Fury is told from the point of view, successively, of an idiot, a neurotic, and an egoist. Later, the French new novelists like Butor in The Modification (1957) experimented with the second-person narrative, which creates a deliberate, unexpected yet not unpleasant tension for the reader who wonders to whom the narrator's remarks are addressed.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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