This Is What It Means to Say Phoenix, Arizona Questions and Answers
by Sherman Alexie

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What is the POV in “This Is What It Means to Say Phoenix, Arizona”?

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Christine Friedlander, M.F.A. eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Sherman Alexie’s short story “This Is What It Means to Say Phoenix, Arizona” is told primarily through the third-person multiple perspective of Victor and Thomas.

Remember, point of view is the perspective the author chooses from which to tell the story. Through point of view, knowledge, feelings, and experiences can be shared. But how do we know that this story is told in third-person multiple perspective, versus third-person limited perspective or third-person omniscient perspective?

To begin, we can ask ourselves, Who is telling the story? We soon realize that this story is told in the third person, as the narrator is not a character in the story but is telling the story of other characters using pronouns such as he and him. To determine whether the third-person narrator is limited (only following the experience of one character), multiple (following the experience of multiple characters), or omniscient (knowing everyone and everything in the story), let's examine this passage from the story:

Victor waved his arms to let Thomas know that the deal was good. It was a fair trade. That’s all Thomas had ever wanted from his whole life. So Victor drove his father’s pickup toward home while Thomas went into his house, closed the door behind him, and heard a new story come to him in the silence afterward.

In this excerpt, we can tell that the narrator is attached to both Victor and Thomas’s perspective, as we can discern Victor’s inner thoughts (that their agreement was a fair trade) as well as Thomas’s (he hears a a new story in the silence afterward).

Lastly, we can tell that the narrator is not a third-person omniscient narrator, as the narrator can only express the internal thoughts and feelings of Victor and Thomas, not of any other character in the story.

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