Third-person omniscient narrative

Third-person omniscient narrative

The third-person omniscient is a narrative mode in which the reader is presented the story by a narrator with an overarching point of view, seeing and knowing everything that happens within the world of the story, regardless of the presence of certain characters, including everything all of the characters are thinking and feeling. "Third-person omniscient" should not be confused with "third person limited" or "third person intimate" in which the narration is restricted to relating the thoughts, feelings about knowledge of a "point of view character." Third-person omniscient is the most common narrative mode chosen for sprawling, epic stories such as J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings, George Eliot's Middlemarch, or Stephen King's The Stand, It and Under the Dome.

The godlike, all-knowing perspective of third-person omniscient, allows the narrator to tell the reader things about the main character that the reader does not know, and things that none of the characters know, or, indeed, things that no human being could ever know (e.g., what the first conscious creature felt like as it climbed out of the primordial ooze, in Douglas Adams' Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy). Hence, third-person omniscient is most often associated with sweeping, epic stories, while third-person limited narratives do not stray beyond the characters' knowledge and experiences and so are most often associated with more intimate stories, or epic stories experienced from the intimate perspective of the individuals involved. Nevertheless, Jane Austen's novels are third-person omniscient, sometimes giving us information of which the character of focus (as against point of view character) could not be aware, but Austen's novels typically focus closely on a very small number of characters and their milieu.

Third-person omniscient point of view maintains the omniscient narrator's viewpoint throughout the piece, by contrast with the third-person limited point of view, which limits narration to what can be known, seen, thought, or judged from a single character's perspective at a time (the point of view character), but may change that point of view many times during the piece ("third person multiple" is the term sometimes used to describe this variation of "third-person limited").

See also


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