First person vs. Second person vs. Third person - Rebekah Bergman

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“I am an invisible man.”

“Mrs. Dalloway said she would buy the flowers herself.”

“You are about to begin reading Italo Calvino's new novel.”

These three opening lines, from Ralph Ellison’s "Invisible Man,"

Virginia Woolf’s "Mrs. Dalloway,"

and Italo Calvino’s "If on a winter’s night a traveler,"

each establish a different point of view.

Who is telling a story, and from what perspective,

are some of the most important choices an author makes.

Told from a different point of view, a story can transform completely.

Take this fairytale:

"Rapunzel, Rapunzel," the Prince called, "let down your hair."

Rapunzel unbraided her hair and slung it out the window.

The prince climbed her tresses into the tower.

Rapunzel is typically told like this, with the narrator outside the story.

This point of view is called third person.

But Rapunzel can also be told by a character in the story—

a first person narrator.

The tail end of Rapunzel’s locks plopped down at my feet.

I grabbed on and began to climb… ugh!

I couldn’t untangle myself.