The third-person narrative perspective is a literary style in which the narrator tells a story about a variety of characters.
The writer uses third-person pronouns in these stories to describe what a number of different characters are thinking and feeling. Depending on whether the narrator is omniscient or semi-omniscient, the reader will get varying amounts of detail about the men and women in the story, novel, or poem. It’s likely that writers will focus on one main character in the story but allow other bits of narration to give details on secondary characters.
Explore Third Person Point of View
Definition and Explanation of the Third Person
The third person perceptive involves using third-person pronouns and a less personal account of events than in the first-person perspective. But, the third person does allow the writer to look into the minds of multiple characters rather than sticking with the “I” and “mine” of the narrator. Narrators in third-person narratives might be omniscient, meaning that they have the ability to look into the meds of all the characters in the story and convey their emotions. Alternatively, they might be semi-omniscient or limited, meaning that they can only see into the minds of one or two of the characters.
Why Do Writers Use Third Person Perspective?
Writers use the third person perceptive in order to tell a story from a number of different perceives. These stories use “he,” “she,” and “they” to create well rounded and believable men, women, and children. The characters in third-person stories are usually more interesting and complex than those in a first-person narrative due to the fact that the narrator can only intuit so much about someone. The third person also gives the reader more flexibility. The narrator can be anywhere at any time or even jumping through time. Additionally, the third-person narrator, especially if they are objective, is more trustworthy than a first-person narrator.
Examples of the Third Person Perspective in Poems
Example #1 Eldorado by Edgar Allan Poe
‘Eldorado’ is a short poem that follows that try of a “gallant knight” who seeks out the lost city of Eldorado. The entire poem is a metaphor for life and death, ending with the knight’s failure. While there are few details in regards to how the knight felt about the journey, aside from tired, the narration is perfect for this short piece. Here are a few lines from the second stanza:
But he grew old—
This knight so bold—
And o’er his heart a shadow—
Example #2 Cinderella by Anne Sexton
‘Cinderella’ is a retelling of the popular fairy-tale that focuses on the cruelty of men and the disappointing “happily ever after.” The narrator calls Cinderella by name or uses “she” or “her” to refer to the young woman. There are moments where Sexton allows the reader access to Cinderella’s personal experience and those where she gives more detail to the prince’s quest to find her. Here are a few lines from the middle of the poem:
As nightfall came she thought she’d better
get home. The prince walked her home
and she disappeared into the pigeon house
and although the prince took an axe and broke
it open she was gone. Back to her cinders.
Examples of the Third Person Perspective in Novels
Example #1 Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Pride and Prejudice is a great example of a third-person narrative due to the fact that the story focuses on one character, Elizabeth Bennet, but describes her with “she” and “her” pronouns. The novel follows the life and character development of Elizabeth as she deals with her role as a woman in nineteenth-century England and meets Mr. Darcy. Readers are aware of her first judgments of the man as well as her developing opinion.
Example #2 Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
Catch-22 is a statical novel about the Second World War. It is written in third-person omniscient, meaning that the narrator can be looking to the minds of all the characters in the story. These various points of view are what makes the novel such an interesting read. This is especially true for those characters who are losing their grip on reality.
Other Narrative Perspectives
The third person, as stated above, is one of the most popular literary perspectives. It occurs when the narrator is telling the story of several different people. Third-person pronouns like “she,” “he,” and “they” are used. The most common narrative perspective is first-person, followed by third-person, and then finally second-person. The first-person perceptive occurs when the writer uses first-person pronouns like “I,” “my,” and “me.” The second-person narrative perspective includes a narrator addressing someone specific or the audience. The writer only uses third-person pronouns like “you,” “yours,” and “your.”
Related Literary Terms
- Audience— the group for which an artist or writer makes a piece of art or writes.
- Colloquial Diction— the use of informal words that represent a specific place or time.
- Characterization— a literary device that is used to detail and explains the aspects of a specifically crafted character in a novel, play, or poem.
- Prose— a written and spoken language form that does not make use of a metrical pattern or rhyme scheme.
- Read: Eldorado by Edgar Allan Poe
- Read: Cinderella by Anne Sexton
- Watch: The first person vs. the Second person vs. the Third person.