First vs. Third Person Narratives

How is the experience reading a first person narrative different from the experience reading a third person narrative? Do we have to think differently about first person narrators than third person narrators? How so, and why?

After reading The Tell-Tale Heart, a first person story by Edgar Allan Poe, I realized how different first person narratives are to third person narratives. First-person narratives make me feel like the author is talking directly to me, telling me exactly he is doing and how he feels, whereas third person narratives just seem like I am viewing the whole story from afar, and do not really feel like I am a part it. This makes me think differently about the two types of narrators because both project their own sense of how their story should be carried forward and portrayed by the reader. In the first person, I feel like the story is a bit more loose and I can mold the writing to fit my brain. For example, in The Tell-Tale Heart, Poe writes, “How, then, am I mad? Hearken! and observe how healthily-how calmly I can tell you the whole story” (Poe 38). Note how Poe writes directly to the reader about how he can tell the story. In this type of narrative, the reader is limited to mainly one character’s thoughts. Also, the narrator is usually biased towards others because there is a limited view of everything outside of the narrator. With third person, the author is describing someone’s actions from a distance; the story is already molded and given directly to the reader. Both types of narratives are different ways of telling a story and can change how the reader perceives the story.


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