Is The Giver written in third person limited or third person omniscient?

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litteacher8 | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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The Giver uses third person limited point of view from Jonas’s perspective.

One of the reasons we can tell that the book’s point of view is third person limited and not third person omniscient is that the only perspective we have is Jonas’s.  We do not know anyone else’s thoughts and feelings.  The story follows Jonas, and Jonas is the main character.

When a book uses third person limited point of view, it focuses on a main character but does not use first person pronouns.  Jonas is telling the story, but it is not as if he is talking to the reader himself. There is a distance between Jonas and the reader created by the use of third person.  This means that instead of saying, “I felt,” the narrator would say, “Jonas felt” or "he felt."  Here is an example.

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.  (Ch. 1)

We have intimate knowledge of Jonas’s thoughts and feelings.  We can tell that Jonas is worried, for example, in the beginning of the book.  He describes his feelings for us.  He actually goes into quite a bit of depth about his feelings as he tries to come up with a word to describe the apprehension he feels about his upcoming Ceremony of Twelve.

The reason that we can tell that the book is told from the third person limited perspective and not third person omniscient is that we do not know what anyone else is thinking or feeling.  We only have Jonas’s interpretation of what other people must be thinking and feeling.

But it had been nothing. Within minutes the speakers had crackled again, and the voice, reassuring now and less urgent, had explained that a Pilot-in-Training had misread his navigational instructions and made a wrong turn. Desperately the Pilot had been trying to make his way back before his error was noticed. (Ch. 1)

In this passage, we do not know what the speaker is thinking or feeling, or what the pilot is thinking and feeling.  We only know what Jonas thinks that they are thinking and feeling.  Jonas knows that the pilot is going to be severely punished for making the mistake of flying over the community and frightening everyone (or at least making them uncomfortable), and so he thinks about what he would feel in that situation.  He also interprets the speaker’s feelings from the tone of his voice.

Third person limited is not as intimate as first person, but it makes the reader closer to the narrator than third person omniscient does.  In third person omniscient narration, we get the voices of many different characters, but we do not necessarily know what one character is feeling personally.  It would be interesting if The Giver had an omniscient narrator, so that we knew the perspectives of the elders, The Giver, and others.  It would be especially useful after Jonas leaves the community, because at this point our connection to the community is cut off and we have no idea what happens to them when the memories are returned to them.

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