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Sunday, October 24, 2010

Using First Person POV

There are many reasons for using a first person POV character-narrator. One of the best examples is Mark Twain's Huck Finn.

Without Huck as the POV narrator, the story wouldn't be a classic. It's his innocence about life that is part of the charm. Here are a few words the POV narrator (Huck) says right after composing a note about Jim, the runaway slave:

"I studied a minute, sort of holding my breath, and then says to myself?

'All right, then, I'll go to hell' - and tore it up.

It was awful thoughts, and awful words, but they was said. And I let them stay said; and never thought no more about reforming."

A kid narrator simply doesn't know all that's going on in the story and can't process what's happening the way adults do. That's the charm of child narrators.

Authors use first person POV for adult narrators, too, and this is done for a number of reasons.

1) The author wants some parts of the story to remain mysterious and the POV character-narrator doesn't know all that's going on.

2) The POV narrator is hiding something like a mental illness, a murder, a secret jealousy.

3) The POV narrator is unreliable and thus complicates the story further.

4) The POV narrator is recovering from some emtotional or physical disaster and healing from the inside out.

5) The author is revealing only one reality in a story that contains several realities.

6) The POV character-narrator is really the antagonist, the villain, the despicable Humbert Humbert in Lolita or one ot Poe's short story characters or the cuckolded husband who winds up murdering his cheating wife.

The POV narrator is telling the story from his or her point of view but is actually misinformed about the truth. Think of Poe's Tell-Tale Heart or Nabokov's Lolita, and it's easy to understand the brilliance of an unreliable first person POV character-narrator.

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