Narrator definition: A narrator is the speaker of a literary text.
What is a Narrator?
Who is the narrator? A narrator is the person from whose perspective a story is told. The narrator narrates the text.
A narrator only exists in fictional texts or in a narrative poem. A narrator may be a character in the text; however, the narrator does not have to be a character in the text.
The point of a narrator is to narrate a story, i.e., to tell the story. What the narrator can and cannot see determines the perspective of the text and also determines how much the reader knows.
Types of Narrators
In different types of stories, different types of narrators exist. The type of narrator determines how much the audience knows since the audience can only “see” what the narrator sees.
First Person Narrator
What is a first person narrator? A first person narrator speaks from the first person point of view. The first person narrator’s commentary uses the pronouns “I/we,” “my/our,” “me/us,” “mine/ours.”
The first person narrator is a character in the text because he is telling it from his point of view. Consequently, he is involved in the action of the story or participates in it in some way.
The first person narrator can only tell the audience what he sees. He cannot comment on action that he does not see or experience directly.
Second Person Narrator
What is a second person narrator? A second person narrator speaks from the second person point of view. The second person narrator’s commentary uses the pronouns “you,” “your,” and “yours.”
The second person narrator is a character in the text because he is telling the story to another person. Consequently, he is involved in the action of the story or participates in it in some way.
The second person narrator is very rare in literature. When used well, the second person narrator makes it seem like he is talking directly to the audience, making the reader feel as though he is a part of the story.
The second person narrator can only tell the audience what he sees. He cannot comment on action that he does not see or experience directly.
Third Person Narrator
What is a third person narrator? A third person narrator speaks from the third person point of view. The third person narrator’s commentary uses the pronouns “he/she/they,” “his/her/their,” and “his/hers/theirs.”
Third Person Limited:
The third person limited narrator is not usually a character in the text because he removed from the action—that is, he does not participate in the action of the text.
He is called a limited narrator because he can only comment on the actions of some individuals. That is, there is some “behind the scenes” action that he does not see. Therefore, his narration is “limited.” He cannot comment on action that he does not see or experience directly.
Third person limited is not a common type of narrator in literature.
Third Person Omniscient:
The third person omniscient narrator is not a character in the text because he completely removed from the action—that is, he does not participate in the action of the text.
He is called an omniscient narrator because he can comment on everything every character experiences. Therefore, his narration is “omniscient”. The third person narrator is someone outside the story looking down at everything that is happening.
Third person omniscient is the most common type of narrator.
The Effect of a Narrator
Narrators are integral to many stories. While they may or may not be characters within the action, they develop a voice of their own.
The way an author writes a narrator determines how the text is received. If the narrator is written well, the book will be well written, and vice versa.
A good narrator makes the reader want to continue with the text. Furthermore, a good narrator makes the reader feel like he is fully submerged in the plotline and the lives of the characters.
How Narrators are Used in Literature
Every story has a narrator. Let’s look at a couple popular texts to understand this concept.
The Catcher in the Rye
This text is written with a first person narrator. The main character, Holden Caulfield, is the narrator.
Author J.D. Salinger’s choice to use a first-person narrator determines the course of the text. Since the story is only viewed through Caulfield’s eyes, it is very difficult to distinguish truth from fiction (because Caulfield is a self-proclaimed “terrific liar”).
The choice to use Caulfield as the narrator has spurred great interest in this novel. Because it is hard to determine truth from Caulfield’s brilliant imagination, the reader is left with many questions as he concludes the text. This is one of the many reasons this text considered a “classic.”
The Grapes of Wrath
This text is written with a third person omniscient narrator. The narrator has access and insight to every character’s thoughts and actions.
John Steinbeck chose this type of narrator specifically for this text. One reason this narrator works effectively is because the text includes intercalary chapters.
The text oscillates between the intercalary chapters and the fictional narration. These intercalary chapters require an omniscient perspective.
Summary: What are Narrators?
Define Narrator: the definition of narrator in literature is the person who narrates or tells the story.
- A narrator tells the story.
- There are different kinds of narrators.
Narrators can greatly benefit or greatly harm a story.