Literary Stylistics:
Workshop Notes no. 11

What's on this page:

Some Terms
Traditional Analysis
        Two Types of Narrator
First- and Third-Person Narrators
        First-Person Narrator
        Third-Person Narrator
Narrative Discourse Situation

Note: Sound Features in Prose has moved to another page.


You should read pp. 174-176, and 257-272 of Leech and Short's Style in Fiction in relation to the analysis of point-of-view in fiction.

Some Terms on This Page:

author discourse-situation first-person narrator implied author implied reader I-narrator
limited third-person narrator major character minor character narratee narrative production narrator
objective third-personnarrator omniscient third-person narrator personage point of view third-person narrator  

Some Important Terms in the Traditional Analysis of Narrative

In narrative theory, the person or personage who is the overall teller of the story is known as the narrator. The narrator should not be confused with the author. In a fictional work, the author is the real person writing the work, whereas the narrator is the fictional being or device who/which tells us the story. Arguably, there is an intermediary between the narrator and the author, and this personage is the implied author, who is a fictional being whose views cannot be appropriately ascribed to either the narrator or the author.

So we have the first three personages involved in the production of narrative here:
author implied author narrator

Two Types of Narrator

Traditionally, there are two types of narrators:

The premodifying noun phrase first- and third-person here should not be confused with similar words used in relation to the pronominal system. Although there may be some interesting stylistic links between first-person narratives and the use of first-person pronouns, and third-person narratives and the use of third-person pronouns, a first-person narrator actually refers to a narrator who is also a character in the world of the story, whereas a third-person narrator is not a character in the story.

First-Person Narrators:

Major or
Minor Character

Third-Person Narrators:

1. 'Objective'
2. Limited
3. Omniscient

First- and Third-Person Narrators: Characteristics

First-Person Narrator

The first-person narrator can either be

Third-Person Narrator

Depending on the degree that the narrative focuses, either physically or psychologically, on a character or characters in a story, three types of third-person narrators are traditionally distinguished:

  1. A third-person narrator who does not allow the reader an access into any character's consciousness, and who does not focus the story on any single character, but acts very much like a camera presenting us the scene as it actually 'is', is called an 'objective' third-person narrator.
  2. A third-person narrator who gives us access into a single character's consciousness or focuses attention on only one character, is known as the limited third-person narrator.
  3. Finally, a third- person narrator who either gives us access into the consciousness of more than one character or focuses attention on more than one character, is known as an omniscient third-person narrator.

Discourse Situation of Narrative

The discourse situation of narrative, as is evident from Leech and Short's discussion of the concept in chapter eight of their book, can be quite complicated. Before the author's story reaches us, it must go through, or is deflected by, a few elements in the narrative, as illustrated on below:

implied author narrator character {speaker(s)}
character {listener(s)}
narratee implied reader reader

The implied author is the seeming 'author' of the narrative who, however, cannot be identified with the real author, as they may have different beliefs and attitudes. The implied reader is the mirror image of the implied author. The implied reader is the 'reader' addressed by the narrative, but whose views, as they are indicated by the narrative, may be quite different from those of the flesh-and-blood reader.

The narratee is the mirror image of the narrator. It is the personage within the text addressed by the narrator. As such, it may be difficult to locate the narratee in third-person narratives. Arguably, the narratee is 'absent' in some texts, whereas all written narratives have narrators and can be classified in terms of one of the types of narrators mentioned above.

One question you may face is how to tell the difference between

The traditional classifications of the narrator above do not apply to the implied author, and as such, he or she (or it?) is clearly a different personage from the narrator. The presence of the implied author is a matter of degree and the personage is not classified in terms of type, unlike the narrator

The narratee however, cannot be classified like the narrator. The distinction between the narratee and narrator is more in terms of

Texts to Analyse

the beginning of Mrs Gaskell's Wives and Daughters
an extract from Mark Twain's Huckleberry Finn
an extract from Henry Fielding's Tom Jones
an extract from the beginning of Henry James' Portrait of a Lady
another extract which might be given during the workshop.

Further reading

Ismail S Talib, Narrative Theory, Chapter 7: The Narrator.

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Last revised: 12 May 2017
Ismail S. Talib 1996-2017.