What is the omniscient narrator?
We explain what the omniscient narrator is, its characteristics and examples. Also, what is the equiscious narrator and the witness narrator.
What is the omniscient narrator?
An omniscient narrator or directive narrator is a form of narrative voice (that is, narrator) often used in literary stories such as stories and novels , which is characterized by knowing in its smallest detail the story it tells . This implies that he knows the most secret details of it, such as the thoughts of the characters (not only the protagonists) and the events that occur in all places of the story.
The omniscient narrator is frequent in fables , children’s stories and in the epics of antiquity, but is not too frequent in contemporary literary forms (with notable exceptions). In general, it is characterized by the following:
- It tells in the third person . That is, it relates everything as if it were watching it happen, talking about the characters like him / her or by their names. Sometimes he can refer to himself, say what he thinks, etc., but the story itself is normally told without involving the narrator.
- It has u BICU ness . That is, he is everywhere at the same time, like God, and he knows absolutely everything about the story . It is even inside the characters’ heads and knows their thoughts and motivations.
- Offer explanations . Instead of suggesting, as other forms of narrator do, the omniscient explains to the reader what is happening and the motivations of it, since he has all the information about it.
- It can be changing . Not being subject to any character or any perspective of the story, the omniscient narrator can jump in time, can vary his location or be in two or more places at the same time, according to his whim.
- It is usually authoritarian . The omniscient narrator cannot be contradicted by the story and the characters, that is, he always tells what is happening, and has some authority over the story, so he is often disguised as the “voice of the author” (although he does not it is never) or it is allowed to make judgments and give opinions regarding what it narrates, more than anything in the texts that pursue a final moral.
Examples of omniscient narrator
A couple of examples of omniscient narrator are:
- Extracted from: A Happy World (novel) by Aldous Huxley:
«Inclined on their instruments, three hundred fertilizers were
delivered to their work, when the director of Incubation and Conditioning
entered the room, submerged in absolute silence, only interrupted by the
distracted humming or solitary whistle of who is concentrated
and abstracted in your work
A group of newly admitted students, very young, ruddy and imberbes,
followed with excitement, almost abjectly, to the principal, stepping on his heels.
Each of them carried a notebook in which, every time the great man spoke, he was desperately tickling.
Directly from the lips of personified science.
It was a rare privilege. The DIC of central London always had a great interest in personally accompanying new students to visit the
various departments. ”
- Excerpted from: “Tallow Ball” (short story) by Guy de Maupassant:
“After a few days, and the fear of the beginning dissipated,
calm was restored . In many houses a Prussian officer shared a family table.
Some, out of courtesy or having delicate feelings, sympathized with the
French and said they were disgusted to be forced to take an
active part in the war.
They were grateful for these demonstrations of appreciation, thinking, in addition,
that their protection would ever be necessary. With flattery, perhaps they
would avoid the disorder and the expense of more accommodation.
What would have led to hurt the powerful, on whom they depended?
Be more reckless than patriotic. And the recklessness is not a defect
of the current bourgeois of Rouen, as it had been in those
times of heroic defenses, which glorified and gave luster to the
It was reasoned – by studying it in French chivalry – that
extreme attention could not be judged inside the house, while
in public each one expressed little deference to the foreign soldier.
On the street, as if they did not know each other, but at home it was very different, and in such a
way they treated him, that they held their German gathering together
at home every night , as a family. ”
This is the name of a type of false omniscient narrator: one who seems to know everything about the story and not be involved in it, but as the plot goes by , it reveals itself as a disguise that a first-person narrator hides.
Therefore, it is distinguished from the true omniscient in that it does not know the thoughts of all the characters in the story , but only those of the main character; but he can well describe the other characters from things he knows “from ears” or from stories that, we assume, he learned later. It is, therefore, a narrator half witness and half omniscient.
The witness narrator is one who, as the name implies, tells a story he witnessed , without having much more than his own observation experience. He does not know what the characters think, he does not know what happens in secret, only what he could witness, whether it is part of the narrative plot (that is, whether it is a character) or not.