Subjectiveness is influenced by feelings, morals, personal experience, and more. It is the opposite of “objective.” The latter refers to a point of view only based on facts and reality. Feelings or desires do not influence it. Subjective writing is based on the writer’s personal view of the world. This means that they might cast events, people, ideas, and experiences in a certain light, intentionally or not.
Definition of Subjective
A subjective point of view is based on feelings and desires, rather than facts and reality. When writing is subjective, the author has tapped into their individual opinions about life and people to craft it. This is usually not an issue unless the writer is changing facts and attempting to obscure the truth of a situation.
A wide variety of literary works are subjective in nature, even those which are more academic. Literary analysis and criticism, for example, are based on the writer’s subjective opinion of what they’ve read. Opinion editorials, literary interpretations, reviews, etc., are also subjective.
Examples of Subjective Writing in Literature
She Walks in Beauty by Lord Byron
This is one of Lord Byron’s best-known poems. In it, he demonstrates the style of verse for which he’s celebrated. The poem was inspired by a brief meeting Byron had with his cousin Mrs. John Wilmont. Here are the first few lines:
She walks in beauty, like the night
Of cloudless climes and starry skies;
And all that’s best of dark and bright
Meet in her aspect and her eyes;
Thus mellowed to that tender light
Which heaven to gaudy day denies.
In these lines, Byron’s opinion of this woman comes through clearly and immediately. No one is going to walk away from this piece, unsure how Byron feels about “her.” His speaker, who is usually considered to be the writer himself, poetically describes this woman in such a way that it’s clear he’s feeling something quite personal. He doesn’t use objective language to describe what she looks like. He taps into his feels to describe how her looks influence him and what they remind him of. Someone else who saw the same woman might have a very different reaction.
Read more Lord Byron poems.
In ‘Spring in War Time,’ the poet provides readers with questions regarding the nature of war, especially when seen alongside spring. The narrator is confused about how spring continues to bloom despite the horrors that are going on in the world. She is experiencing the world in a very specific way. Here are a few lines:
I feel the spring far off, far off,
The faint, far scent of bud and leaf—
Oh, how can spring take heart to come
To a world in grief,
By conveying her experience, (seen directly through the words “I feel”), she’s able to deliver an image of war as something powerful that should, but doesn’t, stop the world in its tracks. No matter how terrible humanity acts, the trees continue to grow, and flowers bloom.
Explore more of Sara Teasdale poems.
In this personal poem, the speaker, who may very well be the poet herself, outlines her experiences with a teacher who helped transform her as a writer. The poem includes allusions to the past and the ways this person influenced the speaker. As in the Teasdale poem cited above, the poet emphasizes how the world continues to spin despite this enormous loss she’s suffered. Here is an excerpt from the poem:
[…] the smoke from your black cigarette
braided itself with lines from Keats. Teaching
is endless love; the poems by heart, spells, the lists
lovely on the learning tongue, the lessons, just as you said
for life […]
The speaker has a very personal view of this situation. Her opinion about the teacher’s death and how it should (but doesn’t) influence the world is entirely subjective.
Discover more Carol Ann Duffy poems.
One of the most common ways that subjective points of view are used in literature is in fiction writing, in which a writer crafts a first-person narrator. This narrator will tell the story as they experienced it. This means their personal experience is going to influence what they’ve seen and felt. They won’t have access to anyone else’s thoughts, opinions, or ideas. This is also known as limited narration. Unreliable narrators, such as Holden Caulfield in The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger, are examples. His opinion of the world influences what the reader hears about characters and events.
Why Do Writers Use Subjective Writing?
There are examples of subjective writing in all genres of literature. It’s used to convey personal experiences, ideas, beliefs, and opinions about the world. Someone might choose to write a memoir of a specific experience in their life, which is unavoidably subjective. The same can be said for opinion pieces in newspapers, most examples of poetry, some narrative perspectives in fiction (and even non-fiction). Some writers use subjective writing in the guise of objective writing. This is one of the only times that this kind of writing can be damaging. That is when someone reads something subjective and takes it as fact.
Subjective writing is based on the author’s personal feelings, experiences, beliefs, morals, etc.
If someone is subjective they’re basing their opinions on their feelings rather than facts.
‘She Walks in Beauty’ by Lord Byron is an example of subjective writing. It conveys the speaker’s opinion of a woman he sees as particularly beautiful and moving
Objective writing is based only on facts, while subjective writing is based on the author’s feelings. They might deliver facts tinged by their personal experience and opinion.
The best way to avoid subjective writing is to ensure that only facts are present in one’s writing. There shouldn’t be any assumptions, opinions, or personal beliefs.
Related Literary Terms
- Ad Hominem: uses irrelevant information in an attempt to discredit someone’s opinion or argument.
- Hypothetical Question: a question based on an opinion or personal belief rather than facts.
- Propaganda: a type of information spread to influence opinion. It can be negative or positive, depending on the source.
- Conflict: a plot device used by writers when two opposing sides come up against each other.
- Connotation: the feeling a writer creates through their word choice. It’s the idea a specific word or set of words evokes.
- Context: the setting in which a story, poem, novel, play, or other literary work is situated.
- Listen: Objective vs. Subjective
- Watch: Philosophical Distinction Between Objective and Subjective
- Watch: Objective Writing