A Mystery of Heroism

by Stephen Crane

Start Free Trial

Student Question

What is the point of view in "A Mystery of Heroism"?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The story is in the third person omniscient point of view.

The story is about a young soldier named Fred Collins. 

Fred Collins, of A Company, was saying: “Thunder! I wisht I had a drink. Ain’t there any water round here?” Then somebody yelled, “There goes th’ bugler!”

There are three common points of view in literature.  You can have first person, which would mean that Fred was the one telling the story about himself and using words like “I” and “we” to tell it.  You could also have third person limited, in which the story never told the perspective of others in the company.  Instead, we shift from soldier to soldier and feel the emotions of each.  This is known as third person omniscient. 

A lieutenant of the battery rode down and passed them, holding his right arm carefully in his left hand. And it was as if this arm was not at all a part of him, but belonged to another man.

Throughout the story, you will see how different soldiers feel.  Crane jumps around, though he does return to Collins.  Collins is the focus because he is the one the story is mainly about.  You can tell by the third person pronouns like “he” and the names that it is third person.  An omniscient narrator is free to be above the action, and tell you not just what Collins is thinking but what others think about him.

The colonel and the captain looked at each other then, for it had suddenly occurred that they could not for the life of them tell whether Collins wanted to go or whether he did not.

This point of view distances the reader from the subject of the story, which in this case is mostly Collins and his experiences with the war, but it also allows is to get a fuller picture.  It is more objective in some cases, because if the story was told from the Collins perspective in either a first person or third person limited perspective (where we did not know what all of the other characters were thinking), we would not have a full understanding of the situation as young Collins suffers through his first experience with war.

With the incident in this story, a young man who is frightened by battle and not sure what it means to be a hero, Crane shows us the intimate moments of war.  The third person omniscient narration allows him to show us this incident from the perspective of both the boy and the unit.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial