The Moment Before the Gun Went Off

by Nadine Gordimer

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What is the point of view in "The Moment Before the Gun Went Off"?

Quick answer:

The point of view from which "The Moment Before the Gun Went Off" is told is third person limited. The focus of the narration is on Marais Van der Vyver, who finds himself at the center of a great tragedy.

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You can identify first-person point of view by the use of first-person pronouns throughout the narrative. This story doesn't reflect that usage, so we can eliminate first-person point of view.

We thus have to consider third-person limited and third-person omniscient points of view. An omniscient narrator is all knowing, privy to the thoughts of various characters in the story with an equal depth. Third-person limited narration focuses on a particular character, revealing more about that character's thoughts than other characters in the story.

This story focuses on the experience of Marais van der Vyver, who suffers a tragic loss. There are numerous places where readers gain insight into Van der Vyver's thoughts:

There are accidents with guns every day of the week: children playing a fatal game with a father's revolver in the cities where guns are domestic objects, and hunting mishaps like this one, in the country. But these won't be reported all over the world. Van der Vyver knows his will be.

At the funeral, the narrator does comment on the grief of other mourners; however, the focus of the story is on the experience of Van der Vyver, and for good reason. The third-person limited narration reveals the private fears of the farmer—namely, that the accident will be misconstrued in the courts of public opinion and that retaliation could befall his family and other white people.

This point of view is also key to developing the context for Van der Vyver's much greater tragedy: Lucas was not simply a farmhand, but Van der Vyver's beloved son. Third-person limited point of view is therefore key in developing a central theme of the story: that appearances are often deceiving.

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