The following is excerpted with permission from Form and Meaning in Fiction by Norman Friedman, copyright 1982, published by the University of Georgia Press. I present it as a resource for writers whose interest in process leans toward the analytical, and as a reference for my blog entries on point of view.
Be forewarned that Friedman is writing for the academic crowd, and as such his writing is largely descriptive, not prescriptive. I have highlighted passages that I see as pertinent to the concerns of writers.
Before you tackle this excerpt, please read my blog entry The Point of View Perplex, which attempts to frame Friedman’s material for the writer.
This part of the Chapter 8 - Point of View contains Friedman's breakdown of the various point-of-view modes. Feel free to skim down until you get to the first mode: Editorial Omniscience.
Form and Meaning in Fiction by Norman Friedman
Chapter 8 - Point of View (part 2)
Chapter 8 - Point of View (part 2)
Having traced the development of this key concept, we may now attempt a concrete and coherent definition of its parts and their relationships. Such a definition will, I think, be produced if we can manage to codify the questions of which these distinctions are answers, and if we can arrange these answers into some semblance of logical sequence.
Since the problem of the narrator is adequate transmission of his story to the reader, the questions must be something like the following: (1) who talks to the reader? (author in third or first person, character in first, or ostensibly no one); (2) from what position regarding the story does he tell it? (above, periphery, center, front, or shifting); (3) what channels of information does the narrator use to convey the story to the reader? (author’s words, thoughts, perceptions, feelings; or character’s words and actions; or character’s thoughts, perceptions, and feelings); and (4) at what distance does he place the reader from the story? (near, far, or shifting). Since our major distinction is between subjective telling and objective showing, the sequence of our answers should proceed by degrees from the one extreme to the other: from statement to inference, from exposition to presentation, from narrative to drama, from explicit to implicit, from idea to image.
No value judgment is intended here, however, in thus going from less objective to more objective points of view: I of course agree with Wayne Booth that one method is not inherently better than the other. We are more aware now that the issues are not as simple as they at first appeared: narrative intrusions may be dramatic, while even the most objective mode implies an authorial stance. My procedure is purely descriptive and analytical. The way I frame the question nevertheless differs from Booth’s approach. Where he is concerned primarily with the way in which the author imposes his values upon the reader, I am mainly concerned with how he embodies his plot in effective form. Booth’s framework is, as he clearly shows, rhetorical, while mine is, as the organization of this book makes evident, technical. It is certainly legitimate to relate techniques to meanings as he and Schorer do, which is why he is interested in the moral and intellectual qualities of the narrator, but for my purposes it is more useful to treat such larger problems after considering the more strictly artistic questions first. In this way I shall be able to bring to bear upon the problem of meaning a fuller and more coherent theory of form, involving not only point of view but also other techniques, and not only techniques but also structures and ends.
Regarding the modes of transmission of story material, we have first therefore to define concretely our major distinction: summary narrative (telling) vs. immediate scene (showing). This distinction is based on whether the point of view is subjective or objective and on whether the scaling is condensed or expanded. The tendency of the objective point of view, as we have seen, since it brings the reader closer to the story, is toward the expanded scale, while that of the subjective point of view, since it takes the reader away from the story, is toward the condensed scale That is, when there is a narrator telling the story, he naturally leans toward summarizing, but when the story “tells itself,” there is a natural leaning toward step-by-step presentation. Thus telling is equivalent to subjective summarizing, while showing is equivalent to objective detail. Objectification implies concrete particularity, while subjectification implies abstract selection. Further, telling implies retrospective removal from the action in time, while showing suggests being present within it.
Ben Franklin on his way as a lad to Philadelphia came across a copy of Pilgrim’s Progress in Dutch and commented somewhat unhistorically: “Honest John was the first that I know of who mix’d Narration and Dialogue, a Method of Writing very engaging to the Reader, who in the most interesting Parts finds himself, as it were, brought into the Company, and present at the Discourse. De foe in his Cruso, his Moll Flanders, Religious Courtship, Family Instructor, and other Pieces, has imitated it with success. And Richardson has done the same in his Pamela, etc.” While this is our distinction, I am not so sure that for our purposes dialogue is the crucial factor. Edward Overton, the narrator in Samuel Butler’s The Way of All Flesh, informs us in the opening chapter that “My father’s face would always brighten when old Pontifex’s name was mentioned. ‘I tell you, Edward,’, he would say to me, ‘old Pontifex was not only an able man, but he was one of the very ablest men that I ever knew.’ This was more than I as a young man was prepared to stand. “My dear father,’ I answered, ‘what did he do?’”18 It can hardly be said that the dialogue here constitutes a scene; other factors would seem to be required. Notice that the verb form is imperfect, and that as a result the time and place are indefinite.
In order then that the event be placed immediately before the reader, there is required at least a definite point in space and time. The chief difference between narrative and scene is accordingly of the general-particular type: summary narrative is a generalized account or report of a series of events covering some extended period and a variety of locales (the condensed scale) and seems to be the normal untutored mode of storytelling; immediate scene emerges as soon as the specific, continuous, and successive details of time, place, action, character, and dialogue being to appear (the expanded scale). Not dialogue alone but concrete detail within a specific time-place frame is the sine qua non of scene.
Butler again will supply us with an example of pure summary narrative: “Old Mr. Pontifex had married in the year 1750, but for fifteen years his wife bore no children. At the end of that time Mrs. Pontifex astonished the whole village by showing unmistakable signs of a disposition to present her husband with an heir or heiress. Hers had long ago been considered a hopeless case, and when on consulting the doctor concerning the meaning of certain symptoms she was informed of their significance, she became very angry and abused the doctor roundly for talking nonsense” (opening of chapter 2). Notice here that, in spite of the specific date (1765), it is the narrator’s tone rather than the event itself which dominates: “unmistakable signs,” “certain symptoms,” and such phrases reveal Overton’s delight in the irony of the situation rather than the situation itself. We are not shown Mrs. Pontifex’s appearance directly (although we can of course infer its general outlines), nor her visit to the doctor, nor her words of anger and abuse.
For an example of immediate scene we might as well select the obvious—Ernest Hemingway is its master: “The rain stopped at Nick turned into the road that went up through the orchard. The fruit had been picked and the fall wind blew through the bare trees. Nick stopped and picked up a Wagner apple from beside the road, shiny in the brown grass from the rain. He put the apple in the pocket of his Mackinaw coat” (“The Three-Day Blow”). Here, although no one has yet spoken, we have Hemingway’s typically patient presentation of sensory detail: setting (weather: rain, wind; background: road, trees, apple, grass); action (Nick turned, stopped, pick up, put); and character (Nick and his Mackinaw coat). The event itself rather than the overt attitude of the narrator dominates.
These modes of rendering, the one second hand and indirect, the other immediate and direct, rarely occur in their pure form. Indeed the chief virtue of the narrative medium is its infinite flexibility, now expanding into vivid detail, now contracting into economical summary; yet one might hazard the loose generalization that modern fiction is characterized by its emphasis on the scene (in the mind or in speech and action), while conventional fiction is characterized by its emphasis on narration. But even the most abstract of narrations will have embedded somewhere within it hints and suggestions of scenes, and even the most concrete of scenes will require the exposition of some summary material. The tendency, however, in editorial omniscience is away from scene, for it is the author’s voice which dominates the material, speaking frequently as “I” or “we.” (Let it be understood here that by author I mean the authorial narrator, in order to preserve Booth’s valuable distinction between the literal person who wrote the book and the disembodied narrative voice which tells the story.)
Here omniscience signifies literally a completely unlimited—and hence difficult to control—point of view. The story may be seen from any or all angles at will: from a godlike vantage point beyond time and place, from the center, the periphery, or front. There is nothing to keep the author from choosing any of them, or from shifting from one to the other as often or rarely as he pleases.
The reader accordingly has access to the complete range of possible kinds of information, the distinguishing feature of this category being the thoughts, feelings, and perceptions of the author himself, the author is free not only to inform us of the ideas and emotions within the minds of his characters but also of his own. These may or may not be explicitly related to the story at hand. Thus Fielding in Tom Jones and Tolstoy in War and Peace have interpolated their essays as separate chapters within the body of the work, and hence they are easily detachable. Hardy makes no such formal distinction, commenting here and there in the midst of the action as he sees fit.
One may indeed investigate this sometimes ambiguous relationship between the author’s commentary and the story itself. The results are almost always interesting, if not enlightening. Hardy in Tess of the D’Urbervilles indulges in one of his characteristic editorializing passages: “In the ill-judged execution of the well-judged plan of things, the call seldom produces the comer, the man to love rarely coincides with the hour for loving.” He continues on the general unlikelihood of this uneven situation ever improving and then attempts explicitly to relate this observation to the story at hand: “Enough that in the present case, as in millions, the two halves of an approximately perfect whole did not confront each other at the perfect moment…. Out of which maladroit delay sprang anxieties, disappointments, shocks, catastrophes—and what was called a strange destiny” (1891: chapter 5).
We may therefore expect the story to illustrate this cause and effect relationship: if Tess’s misery has its source in plain bad luck, then it should properly have no cause in her temperament; either the fault is in ourselves or in our starts. Yet Hardy in his analysis of the motivation of his people seems at times to be implying something quite different. Tess has screwed up her courage, for example, to tell Angel the horrible truth, but ends (as usual) but ducking the issue: “At the last moment her courage failed her she feared his blame for not telling him sooner; her instinct of self-preservation was stronger than her candor” (middle of chapter 30). Here is an internal conflict, one which she cannot resolve. Apparently it is more than mere clumsy mischance. Again, she decides to visit his parents in an effort to settle things, but again quails at the crucial moment: “She went her way without knowing that the greatest misfortune of her life was this feminine loss of courage at the last critical moment” (chapter 44).
Things need not have been so bad for her, on the other hand, if Angel’s character had been different: “Within the remote depths of his constitution, so gentle and affectionate as he was in general there lay hidden a hard logical deposit, like a vein of metal in soft loam, which turned the edge of everything that attempted to traverse it. It had blocked his way with the Church; it blocked his way with Tess” (chapter 36). If the moment had been correct—that is, if Tess and Angel had come together before her seduction by Alex—would their relationship, given their respective character defects, have been any more successful? Or would the right moment perhaps have attenuated the damaging effects of these weaknesses? Or would their defects, dormant during the successful establishing of their relationship, have been made manifest by means of some later difficulty? Either way, it is certainly more than blind luck or mischance; it is rather, as usual, a combination of character and circumstance.19 It is obviously an open question whether a novelist can create characters wholly devoid of significant motivation, even in the service of a naturalistic fatalism.
At any rate, it is a logical consequence of the editorial attitude, in addition to such commentary, that the author will not only report what goes on in the minds of his characters, but he will also criticize it. Thus Hardy depicts poor Tess wandering disconsolately about the countryside after her disastrous encounter with Alex, imagining natural sights and sounds as proclaiming her guilt. He then overtly informs the reader that the unfortunate girl was wrong in feeling this way: “But this encompassment of her own characterization, based upon shreds of convention, peopled by phantoms and voices antipathetic to her, was a sorry and mistaken creation of Tess’s fancy—a cloud of moral hobgoblins by which she was terrified without reason” (chapter 13). Because she never discovers this, all we can say is that it is just too bad she has less perception than her creator.
Editorializing need not, of course, have such unfortunate effects, and Booth and others have shown how it may make for an accuracy and consistency of its own. Fielding, Thackeray, Dickens, George Eliot, George Meredith, Theodore Dreiser, and even D.H. Lawrence, among others, often make successful use of this device, not only to clarify and reinforce the meanings of a story, but more significantly to develop an ironic tension between the mind of the narrator on the one hand and the characters in their situations on the other. Commentary and analysis need not merely be a substitute for dramatizing, but may also be part of what is being dramatized. In Joseph Andrews and Tom Jones, as Robert Alter shows, all the devices of editorial omniscience—wit, irony, parody, style—are bent toward the objective rendering of the action and its significance. It would seem then that narrative commentary and analysis may not necessarily be detachable but rather should be read, as in the case of the story materials themselves, within the formal context of the whole. 29
The next step toward objectification differs from editorial omniscience only in the absence of direct authorial intrusions: the author speaks impersonally in the third person. The absence of overt intrusions does not mean that the author necessarily denies himself a voice when using the neutral omniscient frame: such people as Mark Rampion and Philip Quarkes in Point Counter Point are obviously projections of one or another of Huxley’s own attitudes (at that time), as we know from the external evidence, even though Huxley never editorializes in his own voice.
Although an omniscient author may have a predilection for scene and consequently may allow his people to speak and act for themselves, his predominant tendency is to describe and explain them to the reader in his own voice. Thus Tess meets Alex for the first time, hesitating uncertainly before him: “a figure came forth from the dark triangular door of the tent. It was that of a tall young man, smoking.” Although Tess is standing there and observing, Alex is described as seen by Hardy and not by his heroine: “He had an almost swarthy complexion, with full lips, badly moulded, though red and smooth, above which was a well-groomed black mustache with curled points through his age could not be more than three- or four-and-twenty, yet despite the touches of barbarism in his contours, there was a singular force in the gentleman’s face, and in his bold rolling eyes” (chapter 5).
By way of illustrating this characteristic indirection concretely, I have rewritten the passage by placing this description more directly within Tess’s sensory frame: “She saw a figure come forth from the dark triangular door of the tent. It was that of a tall young man, smoking. She noticed his swarthy complexion, his full lips, badly moulded though red and smooth, and above them a well-groomed mustache with curled points. Though he cannot be more than three- or four-and-twenty, she thought, yet despite the apparent touches of barbarism in his features, she sensed a singular force in the gentleman’s face and in his bold rolling eyes.”
Similarly the mental states and the settings which evoke them are narrated indirectly as if they have already occurred—discussed, analyzed, and explained—rather than presented scenically as if they were occurring now. If we return to the passage where Tess is wandering guiltily about the countryside, we read: “On the lonely hills and dales her quiescent glide was of a piece with the element she moved in…. At times her whimsical fancy would intensify natural processes around her till they seemed a part of her own story…. The midnight airs and gusts, moaning among the tightly wrapped buds and bark of the winter twigs, were formulae of bitter reproach.” In contrast, I have again tried revising the scene by showing it occurring directly within Tess’s mind: “At times she felt the scenery as part of her own story. She heard the midnight airs and gusts, moaning among the tightly wrapped buds and bark of the winter twigs, reproaching her bitterly.”
Of course in both of these illustrative revisions the changes have been merely mechanical, and in order to bring out the real difference I would have had to imagine—and rephrase accordingly—how things would look in terms of Tess’s own sensibility. Alex, no doubt, would not have appeared to Tess exactly as he appeared to the authorial narrator, nor would the styles appropriate to each of the same. So, too, when she feels the scenery as a part of her story, her awareness of what she sees and how she sees it would no doubt have been different. And that to be sure is precisely the question: the difference between one point of view and another is not simply a matter of changing a few words and phrases—it is more a matter of what sort of sensibility shall serve as the medium through which the reader receives the story.
Finally, since summary narrative and immediate scene are equally available (the latter largely for external speech and action), the distance between the story and the reader may be near or far, and it may shift at will, often whimsically and without apparent design. The prevailing characteristic of omniscience, however, is that the author is always ready to intervene himself between the reader and the story and that even when he does set a scene, he will render it as he sees it rather than as his people see it.
Here again it is not necessarily the case that the sensibility embodied in omniscient narration is an obstacle between the story and the reader, for it may be an essential part of the whole, not only for greater flexibility and range but also for a more encompassing evaluation of things, as in Tender is the Night or The Lord of the Flies. The difference between successful and unsuccessful techniques is not a matter of objectivity versus subjectivity per se, but rather of whether the objectivity or subjectivity is an effective part of the whole or not. And effectiveness here is a question of which point of view is needed to get certain things done which must be done, as well as of whether it relates dramatically to the story itself. In Lord of the Flies, for example, we need not only access into the minds of Ralph, Piggy, Simon, and others, but also a narrative medium embodying a more inclusive awareness of things than that found in any one of the boys. Objectivity and subjectivity, then, must refer not merely to some aspect of the whole but rather to the whole itself. If subjective narration is expendable, inconsistent with the story, or an impediment, then it is subjective in the bad sense; if it is not these things, then its subjectivity fits into a larger objective pattern.
“I” AS WITNESS
Our movement toward more direct techniques charts the course of surrender; one by one, as the concentric rings of an onion are peeled, the author’s channels of information and his possible vantage points are given up. As he denied himself personal commentary in moving from editorial to neutral omniscience, so in moving to the “I” as witness he hands his job completely over to another. Albeit the narrator is a creation of the author, the latter is from now on denied any direct voice in the proceedings at all. The witness-narrator is a character on his own right within the story itself, more or less involved in the action, more or less acquainted with its chief personages, speaking to the reader in the first person. The witness has no more than ordinary access to the mental states of others. The reader, having available to him only the thoughts, feelings, and perceptions of the witness narrator, views the story from what may be called the wandering periphery.
What the witness may legitimately transmit to the reader is not as restricted as may at first appear: he can talk to the various people within the story and can get their views on matters of concern (notice how carefully Joseph Conrad and F. Scott Fitzgerald have characterized Marlow and Carraway as men in whom others feel compelled to confide); particularly he can have interviews with the protagonist himself; and finally he can secure letters, diaries, and other writings which may offer glimpses of the mental states of others. At the utmost limit of his tether, he can draw inferences as to how others are feeling and what they are thinking. Thus Nick Carraway speculates, after Gatsby’s solitary death, about what went on in Gatsby’s mind before he was shot: “No telephone message arrived…. I have an idea that Gatsby himself didn’t believe it would come, and perhaps he no longer cared. If that was true he must have felt that he had lost the old warm world, paid a high price for living too long with a single dream. He must have looked up at an unfamiliar sky through frightening leaves and shivered as he found what a grotesque thing a rose is and how raw the sunlight was upon the scarcely created grass” (chapter 8; italics mine).
On the other hand, Fitzgerald is much less certain in his use of the witness narrator in The Last Tycoon, but perhaps had he lived to complete this novel, he would have ironed out some of the more obvious difficulties. What he did complete, however, in combination with his notes, does serve to indicate very well what is involved in this technique. Cecilia Brady’s point of view was to have provided the book with a combination of first-person immediacy plus a certain amount of omniscient detachment, but her personal involvement with Stahr is much greater than Nick’s with Gatsby, and her handling of material of which she was no first hand knowledge is much more clumsy. Maybe she was indeed a poor choice to begin with, and Fitzgerald would have had ultimately to recast the whole in some other terms.
Samuel Butler also wanders uncertainly beyond his limits in The Way of All Flesh more often than one could wish. His witness-narrator does, in fact, explicitly inform us of his boundaries: “But what were the feelings of Theobald and Christina when the village was passed and they were rolling (in their honeymoon carriage ) quietly by the fir plantation?... For some time the pair said nothing: what they must have felt during their first half hour, the reader must guess, for it is beyond my power to tell him.” What then, are we to make of this passage immediately preceding? “Christina and he [Theobald] had got on, he thought to himself, very nicely for a great number of years; why—why—why should they not continue to go on as they were doing now for the rest of their lives” (chapter 13) Or again, “‘I hope,’ said Theobald to himself, ‘I hope he’ll [Ernest] work—or else that Skinner will make him’” (chapter 24; italics mine).
It is true that Overton is a contemporary and close friend of Theobald, as well as the godfather and guardian of Ernest, and that Theobald in these instances might have told him later about what went on in his mind, but Overton too frequently gives us no clue whatever as to his authority for such information.
Since the witness-narrator can summarize his narrative at any given point as well as present a scene, the distance between the reader and story may be either near or far, or both. We may note here that the scenes are usually presented directly as the witness sees them, although he may, like an omniscient authorial narrator, summarize and comment as well. Other examples are The Good Soldier, The Sun Also Rises (if Brett is the protagonist), Moby Dick (if Ahab is the protagonist), and All the King’s Men (if Willie is the protagonist). Also here and in the next category are found, of course, such various first-person modes as the memoir novel, the diary novel, and the epistolary novel.21
“I” AS PROTAGONIST
With the shift of the narrative burden from a witness to the chief character, who tells his own story in the first person, a few more channels of information are given up and a few more vantage points are lost.22 Because of his subordinate role in the story itself, the witness narrator has much greater mobility and consequently a greater range and variety of sources of information than the protagonist proper, who is centrally involved in the action. The protagonist narrator, therefore, is limited almost entirely to his own thoughts, feelings, and perceptions. Similarly, the angle of view is that of the fixed center.
But since the protagonist narrator can summarize or present directly in much the same way as the witness, the distance may be near or far, or both. One of the best examples of this mode is to be found in Great Expectations. Others are Huckleberry Finn, The Heart of Darkness (in combination with the nameless narrator who introduces us to Marlow), Farewell to Arms, “Notes from Underground,” The Catcher in the Rye, The Stranger, and Pastoral Symphony
MULTIPLE SELECTIVE OMNISCIENCE
In spite of the fact that both the “I” as witness and the “I” as protagonist modes are limited to the narrator’s mind, there is still someone doing the talking. The next step toward the objectification of the story material is the elimination not only of the author, who disappeared with the “I” as witness frame, but also of any narrator whatsoever. Here the reader ostensibly listens to no one; the story comes directly through the minds of the characters as it leaves its mark there. As a result, the tendency is almost wholly in the direction of scene, both inside the mind and externally with speech and action; and narrative summary, if it appears at all, is either supplied unobtrusively by the author by way of “stage direction” or emerges through the thoughts and words of the characters themselves.
In effect, as we have seen, it is as if the character were talking in the first person and in the present tense, although grammatically it may be related in the third person, past tense. Mental states of people in the story, that is, may be presented directly or indirectly, but either way are the medium through which action is rendered. The appearance of the characters, what they do and say, the setting—all the story materials—can be transmitted to the reader only through the mind of someone present. Thus Mrs. Ramsay’s age and appearance are rendered in Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse: “They must find a way out of it all. There might be some simpler way, some less laborious way, she sighed. When she looked in the glass and saw her hair grey, her cheek sunk, at fifty, she thought, possibly, she might have managed things better—her husband; money; his book” (Harbrace ed., pp 13-14). Although this is in the third person and past tense, it is also rather direct. The point is that it represents Mrs. Ramsay’s way of seeing and thinking rather than the unobtrusive narrator’s, who is limited to giving stage directions (which I have italicized).23
As we have seen, selective omniscience differs from normal omniscience in that in the latter all is seen through the sensibility of the authorial narrator, and when he chooses to dip into the minds of his characters, he reports what he sees there in terms of his own idiom and awareness. In the former, all is seen through the sensibility of the characters, and thus all—including, of course, mental states—is rendered in terms of their idiom and awareness. There is no detached angle of vision above the story in selective omniscience, in spite of the third-person, past-tense construction which it sometimes may have in common with ordinary omniscience. A “translation” of another passage from Mrs. Woolf will illustrate the precise point of difference: “Such was the complexity of things [thinks Lily Briscoe]. For what happened to her, especially staying with the Ramsays, was to be made to feel violently two opposite things at the same time; that’s what you feel, was one; that’s what I feel, was the other, and then they fought together in her mind, as now. It is so beautiful, so exciting, this love, that I tremble on the verge of it” (p. 154). Notice here that grammatically the style progresses toward the first person and the present tense. A normally omniscient author, on the other hand, would have summed it all up (condensed the scale), and would have put it in his own terms (rendered it subjectively): “Lily felt ambivalent about love, especially with the Ramsays.”
Other conspicuous examples of the use of multiple selective omniscience are found in Mrs. Dalloway and Ulysses.
Here the reader instead of seeing the story through several minds, is limited to the mind of only one of the characters. Instead of being allowed a composite of viewing angles, he is at a fixed point, whether center, periphery, or somewhere in between. The other questions are answered as they were for the previous category.
Let us explore this matter of selective omniscience a bit further. A vivid example of exactly how the story materials are transmitted directly to the reader through a character’s mind is found in Joyce’s A Portrait: “Consciousness of place came ebbing back to him [Stephen] slowly over a vast tract of time unlit, unfelt, unlived. The squalid scene composed itself around him; the common accents, the burning gasjets in the shops, odours of fish and spirits and wet sawdust, moving men and women. An old woman was about to cross the street, an oilcan in her hand. He bent down and asked was there a chapel near?” (chapter 3).24
The abrupt beginnings and much of the distortion characteristic of modern stories and novels are due to the use of multiple and selective omniscience; for if your aim is to dramatize mental states, the logic and syntax of normal daytime public discourse begin to disappear as you descend farther into the mind. Indeed, one may chart the stages through which the rendering of mental states may go in terms of whether direct or indirect discourse is used, whether the present or past tense is employed, and whether the expanded or condensed scale is called upon. Generally, the closer one comes to actual mental states, the more characteristic will be direct discourse, the present tense, and the expanded scale (scene), while the farther one goes from actual mental states, the more characteristic will be indirect discourse, the past tense, and the condensed scale (summary narrative or panorama). “Such was the complexity of things” is more direct, while “Lily thought that things were quite complex” is less direct.
What is called the stream-of-consciousness technique, it seems to me, is simply a sustained effort to render mental states from as much within the mind of the character as possible—directly and in his own style, in the present, on an expanded scale—and at a level of awareness somewhere below that of the rational, verbal, intellectual, conscious mind. Stream-of-consciousness is merely a subdivision of selective omniscience. Filtering the story through the sensibility of a character may be direct or indirect, conscious or subconscious, but it will still be selective omniscience. All that is needed is seeing the story through a character’s awareness. James, staying on the upper levels of his characters’ minds, which are usually of the highly articulate type anyway, and using the third person, past tense, although he practically invented selective omniscience, cannot be called a stream-of-consciousness writer.25 Woolf, who might be said to dwell on the middle level of her characters’ minds, which are typically chaste, and using a mixture of first and third person, present ad past tense, is relatively more difficult. While Joyce, who knows no bottom, and using the first person and present tense extensively, is most difficult.26
Other examples of the use of varying degrees of selective omniscience are found in For Whom the Bell Tolls, Across the River and Into the Trees,27 and “The Metamorphosis” (at least until Gregor dies).
THE DRAMATIC MODE
Having eliminated the author and then the narrator, we are now ready to dispose of mental states altogether. The information available to the reader in the dramatic mode is limited largely to what the characters do and say; their appearance and the setting may be supplied by the author as in stage directions; there is never, however, any direct indication of what they perceive (a character may look out of the window—an objective act—but what he sees is his own business), what they think, or how they feel. This is not to say, of course, that mental states may not be inferred from action and dialogue.
We have here in effect a stage play cast into the typographical mold of fiction. But there is a difference: fiction is meant to be read, drama to be seen and heard, and there will be a corresponding difference in scope, range, fluidity, and subtlety. The analogy, however, does largely hold, in that the reader apparently listens to no one but the characters themselves, who move as it were upon a stage; his angle of view is that of the fixed front (third row center), and the distance must always be near (since the presentation is wholly scenic). Hemingway comes into his own here (mainly in short stories such as “Hills Like White Elephants”), and mention might be made of James’ The Awkward Age (1899), which is something of a tour de force, the gains in immediacy hardly compensating for the difficulties of sustaining a full-length novel within this mode (compare also his The Europeans  and The Sacred Fount ). Henry Green, however, in such works as Loving has revealed the possibilities of this technique for novels a bit more flexibly and successfully.28
Part 1 contains Friedman's introduction to the topic of point of view.
Part 3 contains Friedman's conclusions and other thoughts related to point of view.
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