What is Third Person Omniscient

Third person omniscient is a narrative point of view where the narrator knows all the thoughts and emotions of all the characters in the story. The narrator has knowledge of all times, people, places, and events. It is not limited to a single character’s perspective.

What is Third Person Omniscient Narration

In third person omniscient narration, readers can see the same event in different perspectives. Experiencing the story through different perspectives may enable the readers to understand the story in depth. These perspectives may be an adult, child, man, woman, villain, protagonist, secondary, characters, etc. The readers can also get a better understanding of the characters through this narrative style since they know the thoughts and feelings of each and every character. This will also bring different characters closer to the reader. But some readers might find it disorienting since the narrator keeps shifting from one person’s thoughts to another.

Third Person Omniscient vs Third Person Limited

Third person narrative is the most common used narrative style in literature. Each and every character is referred to as he, she, it or they and the narrator is not a character of the story. There are two different styles in the third person narration: third person omniscient and third person limited.

The third person limited narration only focuses on one central character; thus, narrator’s knowledge is limited to that character and cannot describe things unknown to the focal character.

In third person omniscient narration, the narrator is not limited to one character and knows the thoughts and feelings of all of the characters in the story.

What is Third Person Omniscient

Examples of Third Person Omniscient

But old Rory Brandybuck was not so sure. Neither age nor an enormous dinner had clouded his wits, and he said to his daughter-in- law, Esmeralda: “There’s something fishy in this, my dear! I believe that mad Baggins is off again. Silly old fool. But why worry? He hasn’t taken the vittles with him.” He called loudly to Frodo to send the wine round again. 

Frodo was the only one present who had said nothing. For some time he had sat silent beside Bilbo’s empty chair, and ignored all remarks and questions. He had enjoyed the joke, of course, even though he had been in the know.
        – “The Fellowship of the Ring” by J. R. R. Tolkien

R. R. Tolkien uses the third person omniscient narration in his Lord of the Rings trilogy. In this excerpt, we can see the thoughts of two characters – Frodo and his relative Rory Brandybuck.

The use of third person omniscient narration gives the readers a better understanding of different characters and what they are thinking. It has also allowed Tolkien to describe events that are happening in different locations with different characters. 

If he could have heard what her parents were saying that evening, if he could have put himself at the point of view of the family and have heard that Kitty would be unhappy if he did not marry her, he would have been greatly astonished, and would not have believed it. He could not believe that what gave such great and delicate pleasure to him, and above all to her, could be wrong. Still less could he have believed that he ought to marry.
  – “Anna Karenina”
by Leo Tolstoy

Leo Tolstoy has used third person omniscient narration in his great novel Anna Karenina. In this excerpt, we see the thoughts of the character of Vronsky, but at the same time, the narrator recounts the thoughts of Kitty and her family, which are unknown to Vronsky.

Summary:

  • Third person omniscient is a narrative viewpoint where the narrator has knowledge of all places, times, events and characters, including their thoughts and feelings.
  • This narration technique allows the readers to get familiar with many characters and to see an event in different perspectives.
  • However, some readers might find it disorientating since the perspective keeps shifting.

About the Author: Hasa

Hasa has a BA degree in English, French and Translation studies. She is currently reading for a Masters degree in English. Her areas of interests include literature, language, linguistics and also food.


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