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Questions & Answers

How would you analyse 'narrative voice' in poetry/fiction?

Tracking the narrative voice is pretty simple. It empowers the reader to understand the story in an even better way, so one must have some control over doing so.

In order to determine the type of narrative voice at work, one simply needs to pause and consider the way in which the story is being told, and then fit it in any one of the below given categories:

First Person Narrative: 

This voice narrates the story in first person singular, using pronouns like I and me. This would be narrated as the person’s story usually; however, the reader has to be aware of the fact that the first person doesn’t necessarily refer to the writer of the story.

For instance, The Book Thief has been written as the first person narrative (with the narrator being the Death!) but that doesn’t mean that ‘I or me’ in the story refer to Mark Zusak (the writer of the book).

Second Person Narrative:

This is a much less common style of writing (as compared to the first and third person voice); however it exists as an extremely interesting style of writing!

In this voice, the reader is also included in the actions taking place in the story. The reader is directly referred to by the pronoun ‘you’ by the narrator; this, of course, enables the reader to feel more involved in the story.

Examples of this could include mainly advertisement texts that refer directly to the target audience.

Third Person Narrative:

This voice narrates the story using the pronouns ‘he/she/her/him/they/them’. So basically it tells the story from a distance, using the third person style. 

Many stories are based on this type of narration. Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling could be one of the many examples. One of the passages could clarify this:

'Harry had taken up his place at wizard school, where he and his scar were famous … but now the school year was over, and he was back with the Dursleys for the summer, back to being treated like a dog that had rolled in something smelly. The Dursleys hadn't even remembered that today happened to be Harry's twelfth birthday. Of course, his hopes hadn't been high…

There are quite a few other examples as well as this is quite a preferred voice for writers to base their story/poem in.

Each voice can have its own share of pros and cons, like the first can go deep inside the thoughts and feelings of a particular character but lack on doing the same for the rest. The third person might lack in knowing a lot about each character, to counter this techniques could be used. For instance, Harry Potter uses the third person ‘limited’ voice where the narrator voice knows a lot more about the main character, as compared to the other ones.

So, the voice can be discovered by closely observing who the story/poem is being narrated by and the person should be good to go with the decision then!

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