Point of View: 50+ Famous Examples of POV in Literature
Before you write a single word of your future masterpiece, you need to make one of the most important decisions of your story’s life. You need to decide which POV you’ll use to tell your story.
The good news is that you can choose between four point of views: first person, third person limited, third person omniscient, and second person. The challenge: picking which one best suits your story.
To help, this post lists 50 examples of what each POV looks like in text. Let’s dive in.
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Examples of the First Person Point of View
From Robinson Crusoe (the first “modern novel” to be written in history) to Hunger Games (a more recent chart-topper), the first person POV is an evergreen viewpoint in literature. Just why is it so popular? Let’s take a look at the benefits of this perspective, illustrated by a number of examples.
When used correctly, the first person POV can create an immersive reading experience, as you’ll see in the first few examples in this section.
1. Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
It’s this detail, the untucked blouse forming a ducktail, that brings me back to myself.
“Prim!” The strangled cry comes out of my throat, and my muscles begin to move again. “Prim!”
I don’t need to shove through the crowd. The other kids make way immediately allowing me a straight path to the stage. I reach her just as she is about to mount the steps. With one sweep of my arm, I push her behind me.
“I volunteer!” I gasp. “I volunteer as tribute!”
2. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon
This is a murder mystery novel.
Siobhan said that I should write something I would want to read myself. Mostly I read books about science and maths. I do not like proper novels. In proper novels people say things like, 'I am veined with iron, with silver and with streaks of common mud. I cannot contract into the firm fist which those clench who do not depend on stimulus.’ What does this mean? I do not know. Nor does Father. Nor do Siobhan or Mr Jeavons. I have asked them.
3. Room by Emma Donoghue
Today I'm five. I was four last night going to sleep in Wardrobe, but when I wake up in Bed in the dark I'm changed to five, abracadabra. Before that I was three, then two, then one, then zero. "Was I minus numbers?"
"Hmm?" Ma does a big stretch.
"Up in Heaven. Was I minus one, minus two, minus three — ?"
But it doesn’t mean we should believe everything they’re saying just because someone is telling us a story. Sometimes the first person narrator forces its audience to read between the lines. Let’s see some more point of view examples for this so-called unreliable narrator now.
4. Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
My name is Kathy H. I'm thirty-one years old, and I've been a carer now for over eleven years. That sounds long enough, I know, but actually they want me to go on for another eight months, until the end of this year. That'll make it almost exactly twelve years. Now I know my being a carer so long isn't necessarily because they think I'm fantastic at what I do. There are some really good carers who've been told to stop after just two or three years. And I can think of one carer at least who went on for all of fourteen years despite being a complete waste of space. So I'm not trying to boast.
5. The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie
Five a.m. I am very tired - but I have finished my task. My arm aches from writing.
A strange end to my manuscript. I meant it to be published some day as the history of one of Poirot's failures!
Odd, how things pan out.
First person can also bring the narrating character to life by allowing us to hear how they speak and think. Look no further than these next books to see how quickly we become their confidants and learn to recognize their voices.
6. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
Tom's most well now, and got his bullet around his neck on a watch-guard for a watch, and is always seeing what time it is, and so there ain't nothing more to write about, and I am rotten glad of it, because if I'd a knowed what a trouble it was to make a book I wouldn't a tackled it, and ain't a-going to no more. But I reckon I got to light out for the Territory ahead of the rest, because Aunt Sally she's going to adopt me and sivilize me, and I can't stand it. I been there before.
7. Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes
Progris riport 1—martch 5 1965
Mr. Strauss says I shud rite down what I think and evrey thing that st happins to me from now on. I dont know why but he says its importint Is so they will see if they will use me. I hope they use me. Miss Kinnian says Ie maybe they can make me smart. I want to be smart. My name is Charlie Id Gordon. I am 37 years old and 2 weeks ago was my brithday. I have nuthing more to rite now so I will close for today.
8. Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
I was dreadfully frightened, and so giddy that I clung to him with both hands, and said, “If you would kindly please to let me keep upright, sir, perhaps I shouldn't be sick, and perhaps I could attend more.”
In a plot twist, the first-person narrator is sometimes not the main character. Instead, he or she cleverly serves as the reader’s mirror to the real protagonist of the book. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes series, wherein John Watson documents Sherlock Holmes’ triumphs, is perhaps the most famous instances of this technique. But let’s see what else is out there.
9. The Red-Headed League by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
I had called upon my friend, Mr. Sherlock Holmes, one day in the autumn of last year and found him in deep conversation with a very stout, florid-faced, elderly gentleman with fiery red hair. With an apology for my intrusion, I was about to withdraw when Holmes pulled me abruptly into the room and closed the door behind me.
"You could not possibly have come at a better time, my dear Watson," he said cordially.
10. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
I said if he wanted to take a broad view of the thing, it really began with Andrew Jackson. If General Jackson hadn't run the Creeks up the creek, Simon Finch would never have paddled up the Alabama, and where would we be if he hadn't? We were far too old to settle an argument with a fist-fight, so we consulted Atticus. Our father said we were both right.
11. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me some advice that I’ve been turning over in my mind ever since.
“Whenever you feel like criticizing any one,” he told me, “just remember that all the people in this world haven’t had the advantages that you’ve had.”
12. Moby Dick by Herman Melville
Call me Ishmael. Some years ago — never mind how long precisely — having little or no money in my purse, and nothing particular to interest me on shore, I thought I would sail about a little and see the watery part of the world.
More point of view examples of first-person texts:
13. The Catcher in the Rye, by JD Salinger
14. Sense of an Ending, by Julian Barnes
15. Life of Pi, by Yann Martel
16. The Sun Also Rises, by Ernest Hemingway
17. On the Road, by Jack Kerouac
18. The Martian, by Andy Weir
19. Gone Girl, by Gillian Flynn
Examples of the Third Person Limited Point of View
As you might already know, third person limited restricts the narrator to the thoughts, emotions, and feelings of one character. Therefore, the reader is “limited” to that character’s mind. You can watch Brandon Sanderson, bestselling fantasy author of Mistborn, explain the technique in a lecture:
Now, without further ado, let’s move onto the point of view examples!
When used correctly, the third person limited POV has the benefit of building great intimacy and trust with the reader, as we’ll see in the next few books.
20. The Giver by Lois Lowry
It was almost December, and Jonas was beginning to be frightened. No. Wrong word, Jonas thought. Frightened meant that deep, sickening feeling of something terrible about to happen. Frightened was the way he had felt a year ago when an unidentified aircraft had overflown the community twice. He had seen it both times. Squinting toward the sky, he had seen the sleek jet, almost a blur at its high speed, go past, and a second later heard the blast of sound that followed. Then one more time, a moment later, from the opposite direction, the same plane.
21. Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card
But Ender knew, even as he thought it, that Peter wouldn't leave him alone. There was something in Peter's eyes, when he was in his mad mood, and whenever Ender saw that look, that glint, he knew that the one thing Peter would not do was leave him alone. I'm practicing piano, Ender. Come turn the pages for me. Oh, is the monitor boy too busy to help his brother? Is he too smart? Got to go kill some buggers, astronaut? No, no, I don't want your help. I can do it on my own, you little bastard, you little Third.
22. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling
Something very painful was going on in Harry's mind. As Hagrid's story came to a close, he saw again the blinding flash of green light, more clearly than he had ever remembered it before -- and he remembered something else, for the first time in his life: a high, cold, cruel laugh.
Hagrid was watching him sadly.
Writers who use third person limited also have the luxury of controlling “camera angles.” The neat thing about this perspective is that (unlike in the first person) you’re not obligated to perpetually remain right next to the character’s head. So how do writers take advantage of this?
23. 1984 by George Orwell
In its second minute the Hate rose to a frenzy. People were leaping up and down in their places and shouting at the tops of their voices in an effort to drown the maddening bleating voice that came from the screen. The little sandy-haired woman had turned bright pink, and her mouth was opening and shutting like that of a landed fish. Even O’Brien’s heavy face was flushed. He was sitting very straight in his chair, his powerful chest swelling and quivering as though he were standing up to the assault of a wave.
24. The Lie Tree by Frances Hardinge
In Faith’s mind, it was always that. She never gave it another name, for fear of yielding it yet more power over her. That was an addiction, she knew that much. That was something she was always giving up, except that she never did. That was the very opposite of Faith as the world knew her. Faith the good girl, the rock. Reliable, dull, trustworthy Faith.
Then you’ve even got the option to write third person limited from multiple POVs! Authors such as George R.R. Martin, Ken Scholes, and Justin Cronin made this practice famous in fantasy, so let’s see it in action.
25. A Storm of Swords by George R.R. Martin
‘‘Mercy!’’ Catelyn cried, but horns and drums and the clash of steel smothered her plea. Ser Ryman buried the head of his axe in Dacey’s stomach. By then men were pouring in the other doors as well, mailed men in shaggy fur cloaks with steel in their hands. Northmen! She took them for rescue for half a heartbeat, till one of them struck the Smalljon’s head off with two huge blows of his axe. Hope blew out like a candle in a storm.
26. Cuckoo Calling by Robert Galbraith
The knowledge that he would be sharing his office again on Monday added piquancy to Strike’s weekend solitude, rendering it less irksome, more valuable. The camp bed could stay out; the door between inner and outer offices could remain open; he was able to attend to bodily functions without fear of causing offense. Sick of the smell of artificial limes, he managed to force open the painted-shut window behind his desk, which allowed a cold, clean breeze to wipe the fusty corners of the two small rooms.
We’ve reserved a special note for third person objective. Though this technique is more rarely seen, third person limited can allow for a narrator who is entirely objective. In practice, this unbiased narrator would simply report the events as they occur and allow the readers to interpret what they mean, as Hemingway does in our next example of this POV.
27. “Hills Like White Elephants” by Ernest Hemingway
The American and the girl with him sat at a table in the shade, outside the building. It was very hot and the express from Barcelona would come in forty minutes. It stopped at this junction for two minutes and went to Madrid.
More point of view examples of third-person limited texts:
28. How to be a Normal Person by TJ Klune
29. The Ambassadors by Henry James
30. The Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan
Examples of the Third person Omniscient Point of View
Third person omniscient narrators use third-person pronouns to narrate the story. However, they’re all-knowing — meaning that they’re able to reveal the thoughts and motivations of multiple characters.
Though this God-like perspective is generally considered to be one of the hardest to pull off, it’s also one of the most rewarding and fun. So let’s take a look at it now!
When used correctly, the omniscient narrator knows everything about everyone — presenting a unique opportunity to conduct multiple character studies, which you’ll see in these books.
31. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Elizabeth, having rather expected to affront him, was amazed at his gallantry; but there was a mixture of sweetness and archness in her manner which made it difficult for her to affront anybody; and Darcy had never been so bewitched by any woman as he was by her. He really believed, that were it not for the inferiority of her connections, he should be in some danger.
32. “Brokeback Mountain” by Annie Proulx
During the day Ennis looked across a great gulf and sometimes saw Jack, a small dot moving across a high meadow, as an insect moves across a tablecloth; Jack, in his dark camp, saw Ennis as night fire, a red spark on the huge black mass of mountain.
33. Hard Times by Charles Dickens
In truth, Mrs. Gradgrind’s stock of facts in general was woefully defective; but Mr. Gradgrind in raising her to her high matrimonial position, had been influenced by two reasons. Firstly, she was most satisfactory as a question of figures; and, secondly, she had ‘no nonsense’ about her. By nonsense he meant fancy; and truly it is probable she was as free from any alloy of that nature, as any human being not arrived at the perfection of an absolute idiot, ever was.
The simple circumstance of being left alone with her husband and Mr. Bounderby, was sufficient to stun this admirable lady again without collision between herself and any other fact. So, she once more died away, and nobody minded her.
If you’ve built a huge world, omniscient narrators can also make it easier to explain it all because they’re supposed to be all-knowing. They have the license to explain the world to readers, as the next few point of view examples illustrate.
34. Discworld by Terry Pratchett
Killing off a wizard of a higher grade was a recognised way of getting advancement in the orders. However, the only person likely to want to kill the Bursar was someone else who derived a quiet pleasure from columns of numbers, all neatly arranged, and people like that don’t often go in for murder*.
*At least, until the day they suddenly pick up a paperknife and carve their way out through Cost Accounting and into forensic history.
35. Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
And then, one Thursday, nearly two thousand years after one man had been nailed to a tree for saying how great it would be to be nice to people for a change, one girl sitting on her own in a small café in Rickmansworth suddenly realized what it was that had been going wrong all this time, and she finally knew how the world could be made a good and happy place. This time it was right, it would work, and no one would have to get nailed to anything.
Sadly, however before she could get to a phone to tell anyone about it, a terribly stupid catastrophe occurred, and the idea was lost forever.
This is not her story.
Authors who write in this POV also have the choice of crafting a voice for the omniscient narrator. Sometimes the omniscient narrator takes on a snarky, observational tone in books. Other times the omniscient narrator sounds suspiciously like Death himself, as you’ll see in Salman Rushdie’s Satanic Verses.
36. Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke
Mr Segundus had not told Mrs Pleasance that Mr Norrell was old and yet she fancied that he must be. From what Mr Segundus had told her she thought of him as a sort of miser who hoarded magic instead of gold, and as our narrative progresses, I will allow the reader to judge the justice of this portrait of Mr Norrell’s character.
37. Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie
Out of thin air: a big bang, followed by falling stars. A universal beginning, a miniature echo of the birth of time . . . the jumbo jet Bostan, Flight AI-420, blew apart without any warning, high above the great, rotting, beautiful, snow-white, illuminated city, Mahagonny, Babylon, Alphaville. But Gibreel has already named it, I mustn't interfere: Proper London, capital of Vilayet, winked blinked nodded in the night. While at Himalayan height a brief and premature sun burst into the powdery January air, a blip vanished from radar screens, and the thin air was full of bodies, descending from the Everest of the catastrophe to the milky paleness of the sea.
Who am I?
Who else is there?
More point of view examples of third-person omniscient texts:
38. Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett
39. Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf
40. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
41. Middlemarch by George Eliot
42. A Room with a View by E.M. Forster
43. Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert A. Heinlein
44. The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne
45. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
Examples of the Second Person Point of View
Out of all the POVs, this POV is the least popular — in part because it requires such a large suspension of disbelief on the part of the reader. Rob Spillman, the editor of Tin House, once said: "I have a pet peeve against the second person that I call the second–person accusatory: 'You are walking down the street.' I go, 'No, I am not walking down the street!'"
But it can become something else entirely in a skilled writer’s hands. Author Jay McInerney, one of its most famous practitioners, once described the second-person as an unspoken invitation: “Come on in.” Let’s see some more examples of authors who have wielded the second person point-of-view impressively in the past.
When used correctly, the second-person POV makes the reader an active participant in the story, which these next few point of view examples will show.
46. Bright Lights, Big City by Jay McInerney
You have friends who actually care about you and speak the language of the inner self. You have avoided them of late. Your soul is as disheveled as your apartment, and until you can clean it up a little you don’t want to invite anyone inside.
47. If On A Winter’s Night A Traveller by Italo Calvino
You are about to begin reading Italo Calvino’s new novel, If on a winter’s night a traveler. Relax. Concentrate. Dispel every other thought. Let the world around you fade.
The second-person POV is also a brilliant way for writers to drive home ideas and reinforce realities, as How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia shows next.
48. How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia by Mohsin Hamin
The whites of your eyes are yellow, a consequence of spiking bilirubin levels in your blood. The virus afflicting you is called hepatitis E. Its typical mode of transmission is fecal-oral. Yum. It kills only about one in fifty, so you’re likely to recover. But right now you feel like you’re going to die.
Your mother has encountered this condition many times, or conditions like it anyway. So maybe she doesn’t think you’re going to die. Then again, maybe she does. Maybe she fears it. Everyone is going to die, and when a mother like yours sees in a third-born child like you the pain that makes you whimper under her cot the way you do, maybe she feels your death push forward a few decades, take off its dark, dusty headscarf, and settle with open-haired familiarity and a lascivious smile into this, the single mud-walled room she shares with all of her surviving offspring.
More point of view examples of second-person texts:
49. The Diver’s Clothes Lie Empty by Vendela Vida
50. Stolen: A Letter to My Captor by Lucy Christopher
51. Half Asleep in Frog Pajamas by Tom Robbins
52. Booked by Kwame Alexander
Did we miss any of your favorite books in our point of view analysis? Leave your suggestions in the comments! If you have a book recommendation for us, we love those, too.