Writing

Margaret Atwood Recommends 12 Examples of Point of View in Literature

Written by MasterClass

Jul 25, 2019 • 2 min read

Point of view is the “eye” or narrative voice through which you tell a story. When you write a story, you must decide who is telling the story, and to whom they are telling it. The story could be told by a main character who is involved in the story, or from a perspective that sees and knows all of the characters thoughts, but is not one of them.

There are three primary points of view:

1. First person point of view
2. Second person point of view
3. Third person point of view (which includes third person limited and third person omniscient)

Find our complete POV guide here, including writing prompts and examples.

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Margaret Atwood’s Reading List for Different Points of View

In Margaret Atwood’s MasterClass on writing, the acclaimed author recommends the following stellar examples of various narrative points of view.

For first person POV, Atwood recommends:

  • Treasure Island (1882) by Robert Louis Stevenson: “A model of clean, clear narration by Jim Hawkins.”
  • Wuthering Heights (1847) by Emily Bronté: “Narratives within narratives, but all related by first persons. You can learn a lot from seeing how she does it.”
  • Jane Eyre (1847) by Charlotte Bronté: “The first in-depth first person account of female childhood and youth.”
  • Wide Sargasso Sea (1966) by Jean Rhys. “The mad wife from Jane Eyre has her say.”
  • Lolita (1955) by Vladimir Nabokov: “A tricky, devious snake of a narrator.”
  • The Murder of Roger Ackroyd (1926) by Agatha Christie: “The first person point of view creates narrative irony.”

For third person POV, Atwood recommends:

  • Any of Jane Austen’s works.
  • Madame Bovary (1856) by Gustave Flaubert: “Third person allows you to see the character in ways that she or he cannot see him or herself.”
  • Mrs. Dalloway (1925) and To the Lighthouse (1927) by Virginia Woolf: “These show stream-of-consciousness at its most supple.”
  • Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy (1974) by John Le Carré: “Excellent third person narration. He learned a lot from the 19th century many-charactered novel.”
  • In the Skin of a Lion (1987) by Michael Ondaatje: “This is a very complex plot, but the narrative gets you from A to B to Z, and you can follow the dots.”

Or, for multiple points of view, try The Sound and the Fury (1929) by William Faulkner: “A quartet of narrative styles that move us increasingly back from the scene. The first section is right up close. The second is further back, but still first person; stream of consciousness. The third section is narrated by Jason and in a linear story. The fourth section is third person, and at yet one more remove—we move back to see this crumbling white family from the point of view of the black servants.”

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