PART 6 LITERARY CRITICISM: CRITICIZING TECHNIQUE (FICTION)
--- THE EFFECTIVE POINT OF VIEW
Point of view in fiction means the angle through which the story is told so that it may create the illusion of believable reality. This “believable reality” may not necessarily be an “imitation” of external reality as we know it. It is a reality which comes naturally from the logical dictates of the subject matter as well as the nature of the characters, plots, and settings as they were constructed.
For instance, if the character is insane, he cannot now be acting like a sane man in the story unless a specific change in the course of the story has been introduced to justify this. An unwarranted vitiation of a character’s nature would be violation of the purpose of creating a verisimilitude out of the artist’s chosen experience.
Point of view may be omniscient or all knowing; objective or third-person witness; protagonist or first person.
Omniscient Point of View. The omniscient point of view is generally demanded by stories where the author must see all the actions occurring, internal and external, so he could explain the process of action in the plot as he tells the story.
Protagonist Point of View. This view is where any of the major characters recount the story because the author believes that the closer the narrator of story is to the actions, the more convincing the story would become.
Objective-Witness Point of View. The objective-witness point of view uses a narrator who does not actively participate in the actions of the story although he is a character, and he simply relates the actions as he sees them externally without commenting on the implications or significance of the actions. He relates only those aspects known to him. His limited viewpoint may also make certain stories believable in that these are normal occurrences seen by a witness who happens to have been there when the events took place.
Choice of point of view is ordinarily governed by:
1. Demands of the Subject Matter. Example: Psychological subject matter might demand the omniscient point of view because the author has to see through the minds of the characters. For instance, in “Candido’s Apocalypse” by Nick Joaquin, the author has to see through the disturbed mind of Bobby Heredia in order to tell the story of how this adolescent reacts to his convictions that finally identify him with the “phoney” world he disdains as a schizophrenic idealist. 1
2. Believability. Is it qualified as a point of view by virtue of the competence of the story teller? For instance, “The Cask of Amontillado” by Edgar Allan Poe uses a protagonist point of view because it is about the commission of a perfect crime (the narrator's crime). If somebody else told it aside from the perpetrator of the crime --- maybe the author in his characteristic omniscience, or a third person as a witness --- it would no longer be a perfect crime because somebody else knew about it.
3. The Objectification of the Subject Matter. A narrator who is considered competent goes a long way in creating a story that could stand on its own in that it is palpable, probable, and credible. It is an objectified theme or idea that has a verifiable being in terms of the actions in the plot, the characterization through acts of commission or omission, its possible occurrence in a locale, and its objective existence as a “virtual reality” that has a life of its own.
4. The establishment of a verisimilitude. Example: In “The Killers” by Ernest Hemingway, the point of view is that of a disinterested witness who matter-of-factly tells the story of a plot to slay a resigned Ole Andreson. This point of view lends credence to the general mood of indifference and diffident non-involvement of the characters in the affairs of their neighbours. The witness point of view helps in creating the theme of “ineffectuality of human relationship” into a palpable reality so pervasive one can almost feel it.
1 Nick Joaquin, “Candido’s Apocalypse,” The Philippine Free Press, December 11, 1965. Page 9 etseq.
Next: Part 7 Literary Criticism: Criticizing Fiction – What is an Effective Plot?
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