Analysis of the Effects of First Person Narrative Point of View
A narrative is categorized as a story, and all narratives contain a narrator. The first-person narrator tells the story using the pronoun "I" or the pronoun "we," if the story is told from the perspective of two or more characters. The narrator may be the story’s main character, its protagonist or antagonist, or even a secondary character who simply relays a story that she has observed.
The first-person narrative point of view only gives the reader access to the narrator’s perspective of the events, characters and plot. It often includes the narrator’s experiences, observations, thoughts, feelings and motivations. Occasionally, the first-person point of view relays information the narrator has overheard or a memory of something from the past. It is important to understand that all information presented in this narrative mode is filtered through the narrator’s perspective and might not be entirely reliable.
First-person narrative points of view are found in a variety of short stories, novels and other types of writing, and they appear in a variety of forms. Forms vary according to how the first-person narration actually relays the story. In general, there are four types of first-person points of view: detached autobiography, observer narration, subjective narration and interior monologue.
Detached Autobiography/Observer Narration
A reliable narrator who typically reflects on his past is a detached autobiography type of first-person narration. An example of this type is a story in which the main character tells the readers about the hardships of his life, commenting and analyzing on what he did right and where he went wrong. The observer narrator relays the story from the point of view of an observer. The observer may be the story’s inactive participant or a secondary character like the main character’s friend or sister. Observer narration may be reliable or unreliable, depending on the effect that the writer is trying to achieve.
Subjective Narration/Interior Monologue
The subjective narrator is an unreliable narrator who spends most of the story trying to convince the reader of something. This narrator has a firm position about a particular event or person and uses the time in the story to argue in favor of her position. Subjective narration is often used by anti-hero main characters to justify their actions or positions and to convince the reader of their values or views. Interior monologue often avoids complete sentences and aims to present the narrator’s views and experiences as a train of thought. It is also called stream-of-consciousness narration and it can be reliable or unreliable.
Kate Prudchenko has been a writer and editor for five years, publishing peer-reviewed articles, essays, and book chapters in a variety of publications including Immersive Environments: Future Trends in Education and Contemporary Literary Review India. She has a BA and MS in Mathematics, MA in English/Writing, and is completing a PhD in Education.