This point of view is often compared to third-person limited, in which the narrator has some access to the characters’ thoughts. But, they may not have insight into the primary antagonist’s mind or another character or group of characters.
Explore Third Person Omniscient
Definition of Third Person Omniscient
Third person omniscient is a popular point of view employed by many stylistically different writers. When it’s used, the narrator can provide insight into all the characters’ minds, emotions, and actions. They are “omniscient” or all-knowing. This applies to many examples of literature throughout the history of writing and is one of the most popular and important narrative perspectives.
It is important to remember that not all omniscient narrators are the same. Some may have more access to characters’ thoughts and emotions than others. It’s up to the writer to decide how “limited” their omniscient narrator is.
Types of Points of View
Third person omniscient is only one of several types of points of view that an author might choose to use in their poetry, short stories, or novels. Below are the other most commonly used points of view in literature:
- First Person: a literary style in which the narrator tells a story about him or herself. Uses first-person pronouns like “I,” “me,” and “my.”
- Second Person: a literary style in which the narrator tells a story about “you”. The writer might use lines like “And then you went to the store and bought yourself some groceries.”
- Third Person: a literary style in which the narrator tells a story about a variety of characters. They use third-person pronouns like “her,” “him,” and “them.”
- Third Person Objective: a narrative point of view that uses the pronouns “he,” “she,” “they,” “them,” etc. The narrator does not, unlike the other third-person perspectives, have any insight into the characters’ thoughts and feelings.
Examples of Third Person Omniscient
While commonly considered a story about Elizabeth Bennet’s experiences with Mr. Darcy, Austen uses a third person omniscient narrator throughout. Below is an excellent example of Austen’s skillful third person omniscient style of writing that allows readers access to multiple character’s points of view:
The evening altogether passed off pleasantly to the whole family. Mrs. Bennet had seen her eldest daughter much admired by the Netherfield party. Mr. Bingley had danced with her twice, and she had been distinguished by his sisters. Jane was as much gratified by this as her mother could be, though in a quieter way. Elizabeth felt Jane’s pleasure. Mary had heard herself mentioned to Miss Bingley as the most accomplished girl in the neighbourhood; and Catherine and Lydia had been fortunate enough never to be without partners, which was all that they had yet learnt to care for at a ball.
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
This well-loved novel is another example of a story written in the third person omniscient point of view. Like Pride and Prejudice, it follows a group of sisters. Alcott uses the third person omniscient to provide readers with insight into each character’s mind. This includes information that some characters know and others do not. Below is a good example of Alcott’s style:
Margaret, the eldest of the four, was sixteen, and very pretty, being plump and fair, with large eyes, plenty of soft brown hair, a sweet mouth, and white hands, of which she was rather vain. Fifteen-year-old Jo was very tall, thin, and brown, and reminded one of a colt, for she never seemed to know what to do with her long limbs, which were very much in her way. She had a decided mouth, a comical nose, and sharp, gray eyes, which appeared to see everything, and were by turns fierce, funny, or thoughtful.
This famed science fiction novel is written in the third person omniscient. The main characters’ thoughts are provided to the reader, allowing them insight into information critical to understanding what everyone in the novel wants and wants to accomplish. For example:
She was feeling her age this morning, more than a little petulant. She blamed it on space travel and association with that abominable Spacing Guild and its secretive ways.
The nuances of Paul’s greeting were not lost on the Reverend Mother. She said: “He’s a cautious one, Jessica.”
Jessica’s hand went to Paul’s shoulder, tightened there. For a heartbeat, fear pulsed through her palm.
Some movies in third person omniscient include Spectre (2015), Minority Report (2002), and The Circle (2017). All of these films allow audiences insight into the minds of various characters.
Third person omniscient is evident through the way that authors allow readers access to the thoughts and emotions of various characters. This often means that readers have information not shared by all the characters.
Examples include: “Their powers are omniscient. There is nothing they don’t know or don’t understand.” Another: “Her boss is omniscient in their office environment. You can’t get away with anything.”
The narrator will provide readers with the feelings and thoughts of more than one character. This helps readers empathize with and generally better understand the most important characters in a book or poem.
Related Literary Terms
- Impressionism: refers to stories dependent on a character’s subjective point of view. These stories are based on the character’s impressions of their experiences.
- Point of View: what the speaker, narrator, or character can see from their perspective.
- Subjective: refers to a particular point of view. It is based on someone’s personal opinions and beliefs.
- Voice: the specific style an author writes in. This includes the way they use point of view, tone, rhetorical devices, syntax, and more.
- Free Indirect Style: a type of third-person narrative perspective that includes the thoughts of a character while maintaining the narrator’s control over the story.
- Narrator: the voice that tells the story, whether that story is in the form of a poem or novel.