Guide to Literary Terms

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What effects does the use of first person point of view cause on a story?

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When a story is written in first person point of view, the information the reader receives is seen only through the eyes of the narrator. Our perceptions are based on those of the speaker, so our understanding of the characters, conflict and plot development are based on what we learn from the narrator.

However, with this said, we sometimes have to ask if we can depend upon what the writer is saying: is he/she reliable? This can sometimes only be understood based on how the story is resolved. For example, to understand this, refer to Edgar Allan Poe's short story, "The Cask of Amontillado."

The story is told from Montresor's point of view. At the beginning of the story, he tells the reader that Fortunato has insulted him beyond bearing, but we never receive details of this and can only take Montresor's word for it:

The thousand injuries of Fortunato I had borne as I best could, but when he ventured upon insult I vowed revenge.

We are quickly made aware that Montresor has been planning his revenge but is sly, having given his victim no hint of his intent:

It must be understood that neither by word nor deed had I given Fortunato cause to doubt my good will.

As the story moves on, the reader begins to wonder at the validity of Montresor's intent as he comments on his family's coat of arms—this foreshadows the story's end:

“I forget your arms.”

“A huge human foot d'or, in a field azure; the foot crushes a serpent rampant whose fangs are imbedded in the heel.”

“And the motto?”

“Nemo me impune lacessit.”

The last line means "No one attacks me with impunity" or no one hurts me and gets away with it. This attitude makes us think again about Montresor's belief that...

(The entire section contains 608 words.)

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