Literary Points of View—Part 2

In Part 1, I explained the meaning of the term literary of point of view (POV). I pointed out that:

  • Every character in a literary work must have a POV.
  • A character’s POV is critical for how a literary work turns out.
  • Only a small number of possible POVs exist.
  • No complete consesus exists among literary scholars on what the POVs are or on how to define each of them. Different scholars disagree with one another.
  • I identified the scholarly source I use for defining POVs.

In Part 1, I expressed my intention to explain the ten scholarly POVs I like to use in a series of postings to follow. To see Part 1 now, click here.

In this posting, I’m going to cover the first two of these ten literary POVs: 1) interior monologue, and 2) dramatic monologue. 

Interior monologue

A monologue a form of dramatic entertainment, a comedic solo, or similar prolonged talk or discourse by a single speaker, especially one dominating or monopolizing a conversation. Or, it’s any composition, such as a poem, essay, novel, play, or screenplay in which a single person speaks; or it’s a part of a drama in which a single actor speaks alone, as in a soliloquy.

An interior monologue is a special form of monologue arising in the field of literature and in writing generally. It’s a monologue that narrates a character’s inner thoughts. Hence the word interior.

In any writing in which an interior monologue takes place:

  • If an interior monologue is being delivered by an actor on stage who is expressing his thoughts, the actor speaks the words aloud.
  • If the speaker or thinker is reacting to his immediate surroundings, his interior dialogue tells the story of what is going on around him.
  • If the speaker of thinker’s thoughts are memories, the train of thought will review some past events associated with something in the present.
  • If the speaker or thinker is mainly reflecting on something, the train of thought does not record the present or recall the past; his train of thought is the story itself.

Stream-of-consciousness writing is one of the most important kinds of interior monologue. The term stream-of-consciousness is borrowed from the filed of psychology, where a stream-of-consciousness is a person’s train of thought or a succession of ideas and images constantly moving forward in time.

In stream-of-consciousness writing, a character’s thoughts or perceptions are presented as occurring in random form, without regard for logical sequences, syntactic structure, or distinctions between various levels of reality.

Edouard Dujardin is credited with inventing the stream-of-consciousness technique in his 1887 novel, We’ll to the Woods No More.

Novels, short stories, poems, or other literary forms may be written using the stream-of-consciousness technique.

Many stories written in the 20th and 21st centuries contain stream-of-consciousness interior monologues, but few of them are told entirely in this way. Two outstanding exceptions are James Joyce’s Ulysses and Virginia Wolf’s The Waves. The interior dialogue in William Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying  rotates among the minds of the characters.

A closely related kind of interior monologue appears in moving picture or television writing. In this kind of interior monologue, a character on screen does not appear to speak, although the character’s voice is heard on the soundtrack to create the illusion that the audience is hearing the character’s thoughts.

Dramatic monologue

A dramatic dialogue is a literary form in which a single character reveals himself and his dramatic situation by addressing a silent auditor at a critical moment.

The character addressing the silent auditor is a particular person telling a particular story to a particular audience for a particular reason. As in real conversation, his speech is spontaneous and unrehearsed.

The silent auditor may be another character who appears in the work or he may not be a specific person at all–he may be the world in general, an abstraction.

Those of us who are overhearing what the character is saying to the silent auditor are eavesdropping. We can determine where the speaker is and to whom he is talking from the references he makes in his monologue.

A dramatic monologue occurs in a theatrical play whenever one character takes over the stage and talks for a long time uninterruptedly. Depending on circumstances, these kinds of monologues can have a variety of dramatic functions. Some of a character’s speeches may provide information about what has taken place offstage; others may permit the character to explain himself, reveal himself, or betray himself.

Despite the term drama, many works containing dramatic monologues are not intended for the stage. For instance, many poems are dramatic monologues. Two examples are Browning’s My Last Duchess and Marvell’s To His Coy Mistress. Joseph Conrad uses this technique in his long short story, The Heart of Darkness. And Albert Camus uses this technique throughout his entire novel, The Fall.

What’s next?—Part 3

So far we’ve briefly explored two of the ten different kinds of literary point of view. Next time, in Part 3, we’ll examine two more POVs: letter narration and diary narration. Visit Part 3 now: click here.

Good Reading, Writing, and Theater-Going!

The Muse Of Literature

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