Point of View

This quarter I’m taking a class on Dickens, and the first book we are reading is David Copperfield. I’d heard of this book, of course, and had some vague idea that it was about a little boy and how he grew up. I also knew there was a magician called David Copperfield, but I was pretty sure that wasn’t related. All the other Dickens books I’ve read have been in third person, so when I opened* David Copperfield, I was almost shocked to see it in first person.

A quick Wikipedia search tells me this isn’t Dickens’ only book to do this, but I still found it a wonderfully pleasant surprise. Instead of getting the somewhat removed, observant narrator who always has a comment up his sleeve, I got a narrator who is so much in the moment that it’s hard to know whether his version is really what happened. It sucked me right into the book.

The reason I mention this is that oftentimes writers struggle with choosing whether to write in first or third person (most people don’t consider second person). Not many modern writers assume the type of third person I’m accustomed to from Dickens, but first person can still offer more of a connection with, and more of an insight to, a character than third person, especially if that character is the focus of the story (as in, the title character) or has a particularly interesting viewpoint (as in, a child’s).

*I say opened somewhat metaphorically because I am reading my Dickens books on my new Kindle, which is wonderful, and I recommend it to everyone. It’s especially nice carrying to class instead of a thick hardcopy of David Copperfield.