What is the point of view in "The Girls in Their Summer Dresses" by Irwin Shaw?

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booboosmoosh | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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Point of view, of course, is the standpoint from which the story is told: "who tells the story and how it is told." It is important to note what a narrator does.

The person telling the story who may or may not be a character in the story.

First-person point of view is when a story is told using the pronoun "I" as the reader hears the thoughts of the narrator/speaker. In this case, the person sharing his or her thoughts is part of the story's action. What this character sees and/or knows is limited to what the narrator knows and observes.

With second-person point of view, the narrator speaks directly to the reader, as if the reader was a part of the story taking place at that moment.

Another popular point of view used by many authors is third-person. This is when a tale is told from the perspective of an unidentified narrator, or a character in the story, and the pronouns used are "he, she, it, they," etc. There are two kinds of third-person point of views: objective and omniscient. The objective point of view almost speaks for itself: the narrator is an observer, does not take part in the story, and reports what is apparent to an "observer." This point of view does not guide the thoughts of the reader at all.

Omniscient point of view refers to the narrator who is "all-knowing." The thoughts and feelings, as well as the actions, of multiple characters may be expressed by the narrator. It is not uncommon that this narrator may "shadow" a character for several pages or even a chapter, and then switch to do the same with another character. The third-person omniscient narrator may "evaluate" a character "in some meaningful way."

In Irwin Shaw's "The Girls in Their Summer Dresses," the point of view is third-person objective. The narrator simply reports what is noticeable to anyone observing the couple. A device that the author uses to share the character's ideas (other than having the character speak about them in the story) is to have a character speak as if he or she were speaking to him- or herself:

"I try not to notice it," Frances said, as though she were talking to herself. "I try to make believe it doesn't mean anything.

Another tell-tale characteristic of third-person objective is that the narrator never provides commentary on the character's actions. We are left to analyze them as each character speaks (or acts), drawing our own conclusions.

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