What Is Narrative Voice in Literature?

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Narrative voice tells whose eyes the reader sees a story through. When identifying the narrative voice in literature, it is important to consider the point of view and the narrator’s degrees of omniscience, objectivity and reliability.

Point of view is divided into three types: first, second and third person. First person stories often are told by a narrator that is a main character in the story. This narrator utilizes the pronoun “I” and helps create a relationship between the narrator and reader. The reader can identify and sympathize with the narrator because the story is being told from that character’s perspective. Second person addresses the protagonist of the story as you and is generally uncommon in literature. A third person narrator refers to the characters in the story as he or she. The narrator may or may not be a character in the story.

The narrator’s degree of omniscience helps create the tone of a story. Both omniscient and limited omniscient narration are told in third person. An omniscient narrator knows unlimited information about a story’s characters, events and conflicts. He requires the reader to accept his authority as the narrator. A limited omniscient narrator can be a major or minor character in the story. The reader knows the narrator’s thoughts and feelings but is not given those of the other characters in the story. An objective or dramatic narrative voice sets the story in the present and gives little to no information about the past or future. Stories set in this format are generally told through events, actions and dialogue. A framed narrative creates a story within a broader story and helps give the reader a different perspective. Chaucer’s “Canterbury Tales” is an example of a framed narrative in which a series of stories are connected.