[jahsonic.com] - [Next >>]

Omniscient narrator

Related: fiction - author - narrator - narratology

The third-person omniscient narrator is usually the most reliable narrator; however, the omniscient narrator may offer judgments and express opinions on the behavior of the characters. This was common in the 19th century, as seen in the works of Jane Austen, Leo Tolstoy or George Eliot. In some unusual cases, the reliability and impartiality of the narrator may be in question. [Jan 2007]


In literature, an omniscient narrator is a narrator who appears to know everything about the story being told, including what all the characters are thinking. Stories told by an omniscient narrator are usually narrated in the third person; in other words, no character is referred to as "I" or "you" except in dialogue. In some unusual cases, the reliability and impartiality of the narrator may be in question.

An omniscient narrator, as in more limited third-person forms, is also disembodied; it takes no actions and has no physical form in or out of the story. But, being omniscient, it witnesses all events, even some that no characters witness. The omniscient narrator is privy to all things past, present and future - as well as the thoughts of all characters. As such, an omniscient narrator offers the reader a birds-eye view about the story. The story can focus on any character at any time and on events where there is no character.


The third person limited omniscient is a narrative mode. In this mode, the reader and writer observe the situation from the outside through the senses and thoughts of a single character, although that focal character may shift throughout the course of any given narrative. Furthermore, there is no implied fictional intermediary between the reader and the story, as there would be in the case of a fictional newspaper article with an implied fictional reporter.

Although first person fictional narratives are popular as well, the third person is seen as the current preferred voice in fiction, with the prominent exception of most detective and some police procedural novels.

While an omniscient point of view can change viewpoint characters instantly, the limited omniscient point of view narrative limits narration to what can be known, seen, thought, or judged from a single character's perspective. Thus, the narration is limited in the same way a first person narrative might be, but the text is in third person.

Henry James, who used the third person limited omniscient narrative in his novel The Ambassadors and coined the phrase "effaced narration" to describe it, believed this could create high art, and contemporary literary writers seem to agree. The effaced narrator dominates contemporary literary art. James pointed out that in effaced narration, the art consisted of varying the reader's psychological distance from the action, bringing the reader in close for high drama, and further out for ordinary events. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Third_person_limited_omniscient [Dec 2006]

Film can have an omniscient narrator too, as in Jules and Jim and Y tu Mama Tambien.

your Amazon recommendations - Jahsonic - early adopter products

Managed Hosting by NG Communications