How to Read and Enjoy the Classics

Tag: third person narrator

All About Narrators: Who’s Telling This Story, Anyway?

Tere Marichal, storyteller from Puerto Rico, telling the Afro-Caribbean folktale of Anansi at Biblioteca Juvenil de Mayag during a Multicultural Childrens Book Day.

How to Read Fiction Step  5: Narrators and Point of View 

Wading into a new fiction, it’s natural to size up the characters and get a bead on the story line. Who’s the central character? What is her problem or goal? Then off we go, following the storyline up and down until we find out how it all comes out in the end.

But before launching out into the plotline, there’s one big question we need to ask first, and keep asking all the way through: who is telling this story, anyway?

Is it someone who is in the story with a limited view of events, or someone outside looking omnisciently down? Is it someone we can trust or someone we must question?

A work of fiction is not just a description of a series of incidents; it is a description of a series of incidents as told by a particular teller. Sometimes a fiction is more about the teller than it is about the events in the storyline itself. Whatever the narrator choice or mode of telling, this important aspect of great fiction is something we don’t want to miss.

In this post I’m going to talk about the many different types of narrators an author could choose when constructing a fiction, and how that artistic choice influences the story that we experience as readers.

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Trollope’s “The Warden”: Empathy v. The Media

View of Medieval almshouses in yellow stone with roofed walk and row of arched supports.

St. John’s Almshouses in Sherborne could be a model for Hiram’s Hospital in “The Warden.”*

Do you like taking quizzes? Try this one:

  • What famous novelist attacked false news and the unbalanced power of a money-driven mainstream media, and in what novel?
  • What famous novelist, in this same novel, faulted popular storytellers for creating blind emotion and simplistic portrayals of “good” or “bad” people?
  • What famous novelist attacked a famous public intellectual for his bombastic cynicism about everything in the modern world?
  • What novelist thought the central character of a work should be neither a faultless victim nor a morally pristine super-person, but rather an ordinary man, weak but well-meaning, a “mixed” character with good and bad, noble and foolish characteristics all mixed together?

As contemporary as these ideas may sound, the answer to all these questions is not someone writing today, but a writer whose 200th birthday was celebrated in 2015, along with his novel that was published in Victorian England back in 1855: writer Anthony Trollope and his sweet little gem of a book, The Warden.

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An open book lying on the grass, surrounded by fallen leaves, brings to mind the widespread focus on nature in the works of many writers during the American Romantic era.

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