Literature

Omniscient narrator definition literature/characteristics/types

Omniscient narrator in Literature

The omniscient narrator is one who acts like a god in a narrative text: he knows everything and sees everything, and tells us about each of the actions and what all the characters do, feel and think. Omniscient narrator definition literature

Narrator is the voice that tells the story in a story or novel; This voice may be first, third, and, less frequently, second person, from the point of view of one or more characters, or it may be omniscient, from the perspective of a narrator who sees and knows everything.

The omniscient voice is perhaps the oldest narrative voice of all, present in epic and foundational texts such as Homer’s Iliad or Odyssey , where the author invokes the muses to tell the story of Achilles and Troy or the misadventures of Ulysses. , and in which he informs us of everything that happens between gods and characters.

Characteristics of the omniscient narrator  Omniscient narrator definition literature

It is an authoritative and authoritative voice

Omniscience –knowing everything– is an attribute of divinity, and as such the narrator of this class behaves, who is the one who knows everything that happens, and the one who explains everything.

Total knowledge Omniscient narrator definition literature

The omniscient narrator knows and can present all the elements of a story: the past, present and future of the events and characters of the story.

Exposes events from an external view

The events are presented from an external point of view, unlike modern stories and novels, where the narrator is one of the characters in the story.

Get to know the inner life of the characters

The omniscient narrator knows and exposes what each of his characters think and feel.

The omniscient voice is ubiquitous Omniscient narrator definition literature

The omniscient narrative can jump from one place to another or to different scenes, as well as go backwards or forwards in the time of the story. In other words, it is in several places at the same time, and that is what it means to be ubiquitous. Omniscient narrator definition literature

Narrate in the third person

Usually the dominant voice in an omniscient narrative is the third person. Whoever tells the story does so impersonally, without identifying himself, although there may be one or more main characters.

The author’s voice

It is often possible to identify the voice of the narrator with the voice of the author, especially when he comments on the actions of the characters or gives his opinion about the events he narrates. In this sense, it can be compared with the voice-over of some films, or with the one that usually accompanies documentaries.

It is descriptive

In stories where the narrator is omniscient, description abounds as a resource: the appearance of the characters, the space where the events occur, and the way they think or reflect.

Types of omniscient narration Omniscient narrator definition literature

There are at least two types of omniscient narration: objective and subjective.

Objective narration

It is one where the narrator is a completely external factor, the voice that narrates may be that of the author, who in some works can comment on the facts, always from the outside, although he knows absolutely everything that happens. Most of the pre-eighteenth-century narrative is of this kind.

Subjective narration

There is also talk of a witness narrator, a character who knows all the facts that are going to be told, and who does not participate in the story, as may be the case of Sherezade in The Thousand and One Night , or that of Count Lucanor, in the book of the same name by Don Juan Manuel.

Examples of omniscient storytelling

Beginning of the Iliad , by Homer (8th century BC)

Sing, oh goddess, the fatal wrath of Pélida Achilles, who caused innumerable pains to the Achaeans and cast many famous souls of heroes into Hades, whom he made prey for dogs and all birds, while the will of Zeus it was being fulfilled, since for the first time, after arguing, the Atrid king of men and the divine Achilles had distanced themselves. Which of the gods prompted them to fight in discord? The son of Leto and Zeus. For irritated with the king, he raised a malignant disease on the army, and the troops perished, because the Atrida had dishonored the priest Crises ”. Omniscient narrator definition literature

  • Explanation: In these opening lines of the famous epic poem, Homer delegates the narration of the story to a goddess, who will tell us what they do, how they think and everything that is going to happen between gods and humans. Nothing is hidden from the narrator.

Fragment of “El brujo postponed”, by El conde Lucanor , by Don Juan Manuel (1335). Version by Jorge Luis Borges Omniscient narrator definition literature

“In Santiago there was a dean who had a greed to learn the art of magic. He heard that Don Illán de Toledo knew her more than anyone, and he went to Toledo to look for him.

The day he arrived, he straightened to Don Illán’s house and found him reading in a secluded room. The latter received him kindly and told him to postpone the reason for his visit until after lunch. He pointed out a very cool accommodation and said that he was very happy to see her. After lunch, the dean told him the reason for that visit and begged him to teach him magical science. Don Illán told him that he guessed he was a dean, a man of good standing and a good future, and that he feared that he would later be forgotten by him. The dean promised him and assured him that he would never forget that mercy, and that he would always be at his orders ”.

  • Explanation: Count Lucanor is a character who narrates this story to another, Patronio, and in addition to knowing what is going to happen, he also knows what both the magician and the dean think.

Fragment of Don Quixote de la Mancha , by Miguel de Cervantes (1605)

“In this, they discovered thirty or forty windmills that are in that field; And, just as Don Quixote saw them, he said to his squire: Omniscient narrator definition literature

–Good luck is guiding our things better than we were right to wish, because you see there, friend Sancho Panza, where thirty, or a few more, outrageous giants are discovered, with whom I intend to do battle and take from all the lives, with whose spoil we will begin to enrich; that this is good warfare, and it is a great service of God to remove such bad seed from the face of the earth.

“What giants?” –Said Sancho Panza.

“Those you see there,” his master replied, “with long arms, some of which are usually almost two leagues long.

–Look at your mercy –answered Sancho– that those that look alike there are not giants, but windmills, and what in them seem like arms are the blades, which, turned from the wind, make the millstone move ”.

  • Explanation: The narrator describes the scene, the dialogues and once again clarifies to the reader that it is about windmills and not giants.

Fragment of the Adventures of Rocambole , by Pierre Alexis Ponson du Terrail (1858)

Baccarat’s escape alarmed Sir Williams’ lieutenant. When Fanny was discovered gagged, she declared against her mistress and then ran to notify Colar, who thought of writing to the baronet , but considering that this would delay the wedding and the possession of the millions, he decided to act on his own. The important thing was that Baccarat did not find León ”.

  • Explanation: The narrator knows what Sir William and Colar’s lieutenant think and do.

Fragment of Madame Bovary , by Gustave Flaubert (1856) Omniscient narrator definition literature

“Emma, ​​who was giving him her arm, leaned a little on his shoulder, and looked at the disk of the sun that radiated in the distance, in the mist, its dazzling paleness; but she turned her head: Charles was there. His cap was pulled down to his eyebrows, and his thick lips were quivering, which added something stupid to his face; even his back, his calm back was irritating to the eye, and Emma saw all the simplicity of the character appear on the frock coat ”.

  • Explanation: The narrator describes the scene, Emma and Charles together, but also what she feels and thinks about him. Omniscient narrator definition literature

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