What is the point of view in Avi's novel Nothing But the Truth?

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Tamara K. H. | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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Point of view refers to who is telling a story in a narrative or through what speaker's eyes a reader views a piece of writing. Change in point of view results in change of tone and change of perspective. The three points of view are first person, second person, and third person. The three points of view are very easy to differentiate.

When a narrative is written in first person point of view, the reader sees the story unfold through the eyes of the character, as if the reader is the character. First person is created through the use of pronouns like I, me, and we.

Second person is not commonly found in narratives; it's more commonly found persuasive essays. When writing in second person, the writer wants the reader to see things only from the reader's own perspective, not from anyone else's perspective, in order to apply arguments personally. Second person is created through the use of the pronoun you and results in the writer giving the reader commands or admonishments. Ohio University gives us the following example:

You missed the bus again because you just couldn't convince yourself to get out of bed. The comforter made a cosy nest around you, and there was the cat, a warm ball of fur curled next to you. So you had to walk all the way to work. ("Point of View and Narrative Voice")

The most common point of view found in narratives, other than first person, is third person. In a narrative constructed using third person, the narrator of the story stands outside of the action in the story and apart from any of the characters. Third person is created through using third person pronouns such as he, she, or they, and the effect is that of the narrator watching and observing the action of the characters. Often a third person point of view is omniscient, which means the narrator sees all and knows all about the characters, even their thoughts and feelings. However, third person point of view can also be limited to focusing on just the perspective of one character. It can also be objective, which means the narrator only describes the actions seen and words spoken, not the private thoughts of the characters ("Point of View and Narrative Voice").

Avi's young reader's novel Nothing But the Truth is composed of an interesting mixture of school memos, diary entries of the protagonist Philip Malloy, letters written by Philip's teacher Miss Margaret Narwin, and even phone conversations, which means that the novel changes perspectives. However, though the novel changes perspectives between characters, it remains dominantly in the first person point of view. The greatest clue the novel is written in first person concerns the use of the pronouns me and I to allow the readers to get inside the heads of the various characters.

We see the use of the pronouns me and I in the very first chapter of the novel, which is an entry from Philip's diary. The very first sentence offers us one example: "Coach Jamison saw me in the hall and said he wanted to make sure I'm trying out for the track team!!!!" An example of the use of the pronoun I can also be seen in the last sentence of the first paragraph, following Philip's discussion that he needs new track shoes and will need to solicit his father's support to help pay for them: "Dad was so excited when I told him what Coach said that I'm sure he'll help."

The first time the novel changes to the perspective of a different character can be seen in Miss Narwin's letter to her sister. Yet, even this letter is written in the first person, as we can again see by looking at just the first sentence: "Yes, Anita, I suppose that after doing anything for twenty-one years a body does get a little tired."

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