English 475/Prof. Bartlett
July 14, 2005
Fiction Lesson on Point of View
(Approximately 50 minutes)
This lesson would be part of a unit of study of the
elements of fiction, including plot structure, setting, characterization,
symbols, and theme. It is designed as part of a first year college
level introduction to literature course. The entire unit would
consist of five weeks of classes, three days a week. The stories
that would be studied in this lesson would be "Girl"
by Jamaica Kincaid" and "Why I Live at the P.O."
by Eudora Welty.
Student Learning Goals:
- Students will understand how point of view influences the
effectiveness and understanding of short fiction.
- Students will understand how point of view affects the plot
and characterizations in short fiction.
- Students will analyze the significance and meaning of point
of view in several short stories.
- The Norton Introduction to Literature, eighth edition
- Student journals
- Assignment handouts
- Focus Activity
- Explanation/instruction of point of view in fiction
- Point of view in "Girl"
- Assignment: individual analysis of point of view in "Why
I Live at the P.O."
Have students write for two or three minutes on the
following: Recall an occasion when you and someone else (a friend,
family member, co-worker, classmate) disagreed about the details
or specifics of an incident. What is your version of the story?
What is theirs?
(The following definitions are adapted from the Norton
Anthology of Literature and Literature and the Writing Process).
Point of view is the position from which an author chooses to
relate a story. It affects the way we (the audience/readers)
perceive the story. It also provides access into the thoughts
and feelings of some of the characters. Some authors select
one character to tell the story firsthand, but these first-person
narrators can play quite different roles and sometimes provide
a distorted lens through which we view the action. Sometimes
the first person narrator is creating a sense of believability
by presenting the thoughts running through the character's mind.
When the focus centers on a single individual in the story,
or relies on that character's voice or thoughts, the point of
view is limited. When stories have several focal characters,
the point of view is unlimited. When you read a story, one of
the first questions you should ask yourself is "Who is
telling this?" and "Who sees and knows what?"
This is what makes each story unique. The events in the characters'
lives could be presented in a variety of ways, and a different
narrator or point of view would change the story entirely. Demonstrate
this by having students share the stories they wrote in the
focus exercise. (This part of the lesson should take approximately
Read the short story, "Girl," written by
Jamaica Kincaid. Although the girl seems to be narrating this
story as a collection of memories, the instructions and admonitions
are the mother's. Ask students to explain how the point of view
influences their understanding and effectiveness of the story.
Then have students (in groups of four) rewrite different sections
of the story from the girl's point of view, showing her reactions
to her mother's words. Groups will share their rewrites with
the class. How does this change influence our perception of
the characters? How is the story affected? Which point of view
is more effective? Why? This exercise should take approximately
Informal assessment will take place as students discuss
their responses to the class activity. A more formal assessment
will occur based on the extension assignment below.
Read "Why I Live at the P.O. " For homework,
have students write a response letter to Sister from one of
the other characters. Then have them answer the following questions
about their letter: How do your character's perceptions differ
from Sister's? Does this character's point of view challenge
Sister's version of the events that transpired in the story?
Whose point of view is more believable? Which is more effective?
Why? (Questions on handout).
Introduction to Literature: Point
Read Eudora Welty's short story, "Why I Live
at the P.O." Then type a one-page letter to Sister from
one of the other characters, responding to Sister's version
of events from his or her point of view.
On a separate sheet, answer the following questions about your
- How do your character's perceptions differ from Sister's?
- Does this point of view challenge Sister's version of the
events that transpired in the story?
- How would this change in point of view affect the way we
would characterize Sister?
- Whose point of view is more believable? Which point of view
is more effective? Why?