First-person narrative

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First-person narrative is a narrative mode where a story is narrated by one character at a time, speaking for and about themselves. First-person narrative may be singular, plural or multiple as well as being an authoritative, reliable or deceptive "voice" and represents point of view in the writing.

The narrators explicitly refer to themselves using words and phrases involving "I" (referred to as the first-person singular) and/or "we" (the first-person plural). This allows the reader or audience to see the point of view (including opinions, thoughts, and feelings) only of the narrator, and no other characters. In some stories, first-person narrators may refer to information they have heard from the other characters, in order to try to deliver a larger point of view. Other stories may switch from one narrator to another, allowing the reader or audience to experience the thoughts and feelings of more than one character.

Contents

Forms

First-person narratives can appear in several forms: interior monologue, as in Fyodor Dostoevsky's Notes from Underground; dramatic monologue, as in Albert Camus' The Fall; or explicitly, as in Mark Twain's Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.

Point of view device

Since the narrator is within the story, he or she may not have knowledge of all the events. For this reason, first-person narrative is often used for detective fiction, so that the reader and narrator uncover the case together. One traditional approach in this form of fiction is for the main detective's principal assistant, the "Watson", to be the narrator: this derives from the character of Dr Watson in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes stories.

In the first-person-plural point of view, narrators tell the story using "we". That is, no individual speaker is identified; the narrator is a member of a group that acts as a unit. The first-person-plural point of view occurs rarely but can be used effectively, sometimes as a means to increase the concentration on the character or characters the story is about. Examples: William Faulkner in A Rose for Emily (Faulkner was an avid experimenter in using unusual points of view - see his Spotted Horses, told in third person plural), Frederik Pohl in Man Plus, and more recently, Jeffrey Eugenides in his novel The Virgin Suicides and Joshua Ferris in Then We Came to the End.

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