The Waste Land

by Alan Paton

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Is "The Waste Land" written in first, second, or third-person?

Quick answer:

“The Waste Land” is written almost entirely in third-person. Alan Paton employs third-person limited point of view, in which an unnamed narrator writes from the protagonist’s perspective.

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In his story “The Waste Land,” author Alan Paton primarily uses third-person point of view. The particular type that the author employs is third-person limited, as contrasted to third-person omniscient, point of view.

“Third-person” narrative perspective or point of view means that the narrator is a person who is outside the events that they are relating. They refer to the other characters as “he,” “she,” or “they.” This perspective is divided into “limited” and “omniscient” types. The narrator is often unnamed, but in some cases a character relates events that another character had related to them. That type of third-person narrator is often used with a frame device. The limited type of third-person narrator is strongly identified with one character, usually the protagonist. The omniscient type is often called “god-like,” as they know the actions and thoughts of all the characters.

The third-person limited perspective in “The Waste Land” provides the thoughts of the unnamed man who is the main character. The unnamed narrator expresses the man’s fear as he alights from the bus into the dark, deserted area and sees the young men waiting nearby. “[H]is heart was pounding on his breast.” The focus on the man and his emotional reactions continues as he runs through the waste land trying to escape the youths: “he was filled suddenly with strength and anger.

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