What is point of view?
As well as choosing a first or third-person narrator, the author also has to decide through whose eyes we are going to see the events unfold. This is called point of view. According to Fowler, “in traditional novels, short stories, epic and other forms of narrative writing, it is usual to draw a distinction between the story and the point of view the story is narrated from” (Fowler, 1996). However, Simpson’s caveat should also be taken into consideration when discussing point of view: “Much has been written on point of view by stylisticians and narratologists, such that there is now a proliferation of often conflicting theories, terms of models.” (Simpson, 2004:28).
2.2 Is point of view different from narration?
Simpson answers this question quite eloquently when he argues that the “mode of narration specifies whether the narrative is relayed in the first person, the third person or even the second person, while point of view stipulates whether the events of a story are viewed from the perspective of a particular character or from that of an omniscient narrator, or indeed from the mixture of the two” (Simpson, 2004:21).
2.3 Fowler’s approach to point of view
In introducing the concept of point of view, the perspective the fictional world is presented from, I will follow Fowler’s three-dimensional approach. Fowler distinguishes three dimensions of points of view and these are the spatial/temporal, ideological and psychological points of view (Fowler, 1996:161). However, it should be noted that it is not the only possible approach listed in the literature. For example, Fowler discards Boris Uspensky’s “phraseoligical point of view” as not an independent level but as a level which should be included in the psychological point view.
2.3.1 Spatial point of view
This most basic of Fowler’s three dimensions describes the positions from which we are viewing events or characters in the fictional world. As Fowler points out, “this dimension corresponds to the viewing position in the visual arts” (Fowler, 1996:162). Deixes – the concept of referring to distance from the position of the speaker – is an important indicator of a spatial point of view, as well as other expressions of social relation such as those relating to time.
2.3.2 Temporal point of view
The temporal point of view “is about the way relationships of time are signalled in the narrative” (Simpson, 2004:81). This dimension has two main aspects. One of them focuses on whether time is moving fast or slowly in the story. The other aspect is the sequencing of events. This envelops a whole series of stylistic techniques such as analepsis (flashbacks), prolepsis (prevision or flashforward) and repetition (Simpson, 2004:21).
2.3.3 Ideological point of view
The ideological point of view refers to the various linguistic devices used by characters to express their beliefs or worldviews as they try to understand and interpret the world around them. It also refers to various assumed values and value judgements which influence the behaviour and attitude of the characters when they interact with each other during the story. For example, this point of view is concerned with the ethical question of what is right and/or wrong. Fowler summaries it as follows: “When we speak of point of view on the plane of ideology in a narrative text, we mean the set of values or belief system communicated by the language of the text” (Fowler, 1996:165).
2.3.4 Psychological point of view
Fowler’s own definition of the psychological point of view is to some extent ambiguous. He states that it “concerns the question of who is presented as the observer of the events of a narrative, whether the narrator or a participating character; and the various kinds of discourse associated with different relationships between narrator and character” (Fowler, 1996:170). What this definition means is that the psychological point of view shows the reader whose mind events in the story are presented through. It also allows readers to understand the extent to which they will be granted access to the minds of the characters. Fowler divides the notion of psychological point of view into two major divisions: internal and external. As part of the internal psychological point of view we are allowed access to the characters’ minds, whereas in the external psychological point of view we are not granted privileged access. Semino points out in her audio lecture on point of view that “the vast majority of narratives are told from an internal perspective” (Semino, 2017: Narrative and Point of view, audio lecture). Fowler further divides the Psychological point of view into four subdivisions as Type A, B, C and D.
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