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Seniors Study Point of View in Appreciation of Literature

October 08, 2014


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Senior English students are taking Appreciation of Literature this semester, which is offered for dual credit through Peru State College for those who wish to take the class for college credit.  One of the elements of literature they have been studying is Point of View.  At the end of this unit, students wrote about the point of view in one of the short stories or poems we studied.  In the writing they were asked to identify specifically the point of view the author used and analyze how the point of view affects elements such as the situation, form, content, and language.  They addressed the major influence of the point of view on the work, supported that claim, explored how a different point of view might affect the work, and evaluated the success of the point of view.

You are invited to read the students' writing about point of view:


 In story “You Need to Go Upstairs” by Rumer Gooden, the point of view is presented in second person. The use of this method allows the reader to be immersed into the story. Seeing is something many of us take for granted, and we have trouble imagining how one who is lacking sight interacts with the world on a daily basis. The second person point of view unveils a whole new side of everyday life. A slight ledge, a sharp scraper, and a trees are to be feared. Gooden opens a window that allows the reader to be immersed into the terror that lies in wait for the character as she struggles upstairs without the benefit of sight. By utilizing second person, the author creates a blindness to the rest of the situation, just as Ally experiences. Using another point of view, however, would not give the reader the same personal relationship with the main character. The account of the happenings from the visitor would not relate the same urgency that the character feels as she moves through the yard and into the house, even if it was third person limited. Third person omniscient would give the feelings of everyone, which shifts focus from just the main character and distracts from the feeling of helplessness Ally feels on her way upstairs. First person would allow us to know Ally’s thoughts, but doesn’t give us the same feel as the point of view used in the story. Second person is able to perfectly capture the emotions experienced by the main character each step of her journey, and it makes it personal enough to put the reader into her shoes.



The author, Shirley Jackson, chose to use 3rd person objective in the short story “The Lottery”. She also uses a dramatic point of view for the readers. Because she uses these points of view she is able to give details about the lottery without fully explaining it. This allows her to make the story dramatic and keep the reader interested. In the story she describes the little boys picking up stones. Most people would think they are just playing when in all actuality they are getting ready for the stoning, showing the horrors of how the little boys are desensitized killing people they know personally and closely. Had she chosen any other point of view she would have lost the dramatic and horror side of the story. She was able to explain the events that were happening without reviling to much before she needed to. Had she chosen to write it in 1st person or any other person she would have had to explain the lottery. Jackson was able to make the rules of the lottery clear but not reveal that the winner received instant death. In the very first sentence of her story she describes the day very non-emotionally. “The morning of June 27th was clear and sunny, with the fresh warmth of a full-summer day; the flowers were blossoming profusely and the grass was richly green.” This offers almost no emotion and no clues to what is going to happen, this again might not have been possible if she had chosen to write this story in anything else other than 3rd person. Jackson chose the best point of view for this story, because she did not want to unveil too much about the Lottery before it happened and the horror of it.



 The short story “You Need to go Upstairs” by Rumer Godden is written in second person point of view. The reading becomes interesting because being in second person he is making “you” about yourself and making it feel like you’re the person they are talking about. With not knowing exactly what is going on in the beginning with her being blind makes it very mysterious. It is being told in second story but it’s talking about a young blind girl trying to get upstairs on her own. The author makes good descriptive feeling with the characters and shows he has a passion for blind people and cares about them. He made the atmosphere in the story very clear and mysterious about the little girl being blind. He didn’t come out in the story and state out she was blind, he gave you hints and made you come up with the conclusion of what was happening. Eventually when she got to the stairs there were more details showing she had to feel things to get up them. There was a wooden heart at the top telling her she was there and to walk towards the loo. This writing could be written in third person limited because it is talking about one person. Rather than the actions happening to the author, the author was telling what the actions were and what she was exactly doing. This writing is very effective because it shows exactly what blind people do and feel because this author puts you in their position. It gives you a clear sense on everything their feeling and doing. 



In the poem “The Ballad of Birmingham,” author Dudley Randall, used third person objective point of view. Some examples of this type of point of view is that in the first stanza the daughter asks her mother if she could go to town to march in the Freedom March but the mother says no in the second stanza. Also in the each stanza it switches from daughter to mother. The point of view is from the mother because it describes her child wanting to go March but then tells her to go to the church instead, even though she still ends up getting hurt.


I feel if you would’ve used a different point of view like the daughter’s it wouldn’t have stated the fears of the mother like the guns and dogs. If you would’ve used second person point of view it might have stated more actions of the mother and daughter. Also you would’ve seen the word you used more often in this story but with using this type of point of view I feel it has the perfect amount of action when they describe the mother combing her daughter’s hair and dressing her to go to church. If the author would’ve used third person omniscient it would’ve stated everything the mother and daughter were thinking but might have taken away the suspense of wanting to put yourself into the story. It would’ve made the story less personal. If the author would’ve used third person limited, the focus would have had to have been on one specific person the whole time and I feel that would have made me wonder more about the daughter. Lastly I feel if the author would’ve used first person it would’ve had to be through the eyes of one person and telling the actions of one person, also by using the word I it would’ve made it first person but you don’t see that word used in this type of story. The way it is written now it shows a little bit of the mother and daughter’s actions.


In conclusion, I like the third person objective point of view that is used now because the narrator shows what is seen and heard by stating the guns will fire and then describing dressing her daughter for church. Also the thoughts of the mother are included when it states that she smiled knowing her child was in the church and then when she heard the explosion and she raced through the streets looking for her child. I feel this is the best point of view to use for this type of poem and the explanations and examples are quite helpful to get the feel of the third person objective point of view. 



The story that I have decided to do my point of view essay on is ‘’You Need to go Upstairs’’. In this story the point of view is in second person. Second person really fits this story well and it really makes you understand the feelings of the girl in the story.

By using second person in this story it really makes you feel what the little girl is feeling through the story and I think that if you made it third person limited it would sort of let you see and feel what the little girl does but it doesn’t give you the full feelings of the girl.  With 3rd person limited you would see different parts and pieces of the story but you wouldn’t get the full effect and feelings like the second person gives you in the story. Third person limited would give you thoughts and Ideas and make you think more but with second person the words are you, and your it makes you just really imagine yourself in that position and makes you really feel and think about what she is feeling not just your ideas and thoughts it really makes you get the feel of the little girl.

This point of view works very well because it describes what the story is and how the girl’s feelings are. Second person also gives the girls main feelings and makes you feel what the girl is feeling and it also makes you see what the other people think and feel in the story without interrupting the main thoughts and feelings of the little girl.  




In the story “You Need to Go Upstairs”, the author uses second person point of view. Rumer Godden’s, use of second person really helps the reader see how the main character feels, as well as put their own thoughts and emotions into the story. The reader really get to experience the story. One example would be “Mother is looking at you – you cannot look yourself, yet you can always feel mothers look; now she is doubtful, but she is proud, and after a moment she says, “Very well, dear.” You understand what she does not say, “Be careful! Be careful!”” This little section gives you the inner thoughts of the girl in the story, but you also know how you would feel if you have never actually seen your own mother give you a worried look, but you can feel it. You understand the girl’s emotion now because you though to yourself, what if I was blind and people tried talking to me. I wouldn’t see their emotion in their face, but maybe you can hear the tone of their voice. Maybe you would get this strange feeling of someone staring at you. Whatever you are thinking gives the story a personal experience.

If the story was written in a different point of view, the only one I could see as a good second would be first person. This is because the story would be written exactly the same, with the exception of having to change the “you” format to an “I” format. The big difference is that you wouldn’t have that personal feeling with the first person. You still have the thoughts and feelings of the main character, but you would be so focused on just the characters feelings, that you would have any reason to think about your own. The second person view helps push us to think that way. By using “you” as the subject we tend to think, “Would I react this way.”




The literature piece that I have decided to write about is (The Story of an Hour) by Kate Chopin. The point of view for this story is third person. But what it falls under in third person is what makes this story unique. You could read one paragraph and believe that it’s limited and then read the next paragraph and believe that its objective. The author did a great job of switching between objective and limited throughout the story to give us a unique point of view from paragraph to paragraph.


(The Story of an Hour) is told from the point of view of Mrs. Mallard, though third person, who has just been told that her husband has been killed in train accident. Now the paragraphs are broken up from this point on into paragraphs in limited and objective form and alternate back and forth though out the story till the end. For example, one paragraph is obviously objective with no sign of being limited, “She was young, with a fair, calm face, whose lines bespoke repression and even a certain strength.” This paragraph is objective because is it just states what you can see and observe if you were there, not thoughts. Now if the author starts to describe what is running though the characters head and thoughts, then it becomes limited, which is shown in the next paragraph. “There was something coming to her and she was waiting for it, fearfully. What was it? She did not know; it was too subtle and elusive to name. But she felt it, creeping out of the sky.” This is a great example of one of the paragraphs that is written in limited because it goes in depth to what she is thinking and feeling, something that we would not be able to see if this story was written in just objective. But because it contains both objective and limited it is third person limited.




 “You Need To Go Upstairs” by Rumer Godden is written in second person. Godden’s use of second person point of view makes you feel as though you are Alice, the blind girl. You experience what she’s experiencing, you feel what she’s feeling, and you smell what she’s smelling. The sense of sight is as if it doesn’t exist, which would make sense, because she’s blind. You learn to rely on all your other senses. It opens your eyes to how others have to live because of limitations they have. Alice knows where different rooms are in her house because of smell. Godden states, “This is the hall and in it are the smells and sounds of all the rooms: furniture cream and hot pipes: carpet and dried roses from the drawing room, tobacco and a little of pickles from the dining room: mint and hot cakes from the kitchen, and down the stairs comes soap from the bathroom.” I think that this being in second person makes me feel this way because of the use of the word “you”. It puts you in Alice’s shoes. I think that using second person point of view is the best option here for this story. If you used first person, for example, you would see the word “I” used more commonly. You would see a different story because it would be all about what the narrator saw or did. The narrator could possibly be the lady that visited. She would explain what she saw with Alice. Learning things such as how Alice knew where the path was and feeling for the heart to know she was at the top of the stairs would not be known to the reader.  If third person omniscient were to be used, then you would only be able to make assumptions of the characters thoughts. You wouldn’t know how Alice felt or how the mother worried about her daughter. Using second person point of view was very successful in this writing. Learning how to rely on senses other than sight was shown very well here. You were able to see inside the girl that couldn’t see. For just one moment you are able to visualize how that might possibly be. In this story you could experience what Alice was experiencing, feel what she was feeling, and smell what she was smelling.



The poem “Ballad of Birmingham” by Dudley Randall is in third person objective. The author uses a familiar voice to make you feel for the characters and make you closer to them. Even though the poem is in third person objective, we have a lot of knowledge about how the mother character feels because of the facts the author gives us about her physical reactions to emotions. Randall gives in great detail, not how the mother felt, but how she responded. “Her eyes grew wet and wild,” or “She raced through the streets of Birmingham” don’t tell us her exact emotions and thoughts, but the reactions he does tell us lets us infer. The dialogue doesn’t give specific indication of who the speaker is, but we can tell that it is a daughter and mother having the conversation in the beginning of the story. This beginning part of the story is tricky, because the quotes could confuse you into thinking that the story is written in first person. I think that Randall didn’t continue the first person theme from the quotes into the rest of the story because he wanted the reader to feel like another person looking in on the situation, stirring up feelings of concern and empathy for the mother searching for her child. The “explosion” that is mentioned in the story is not explained fully because the author expects you to know that he is referring to the Birmingham church bombing during the Civil Rights movement. This vagueness makes the mother’s search for her child and our search for answers more frenzied. Overall, the use of third person objective is very successful in achieving the closeness to characters, and by giving us the right factual information, he tells us how the character feels