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Barron's Booknotes-Cry, The Beloved Country by Alan Paton

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POINT OF VIEW

Novels are written in either the first or the third person point of view. In first-person point of view, someone in the story is narrating it. In third-person narration, an unnamed person outside the story is telling it. Two kinds of third-person narration are used in Cry, the Beloved Country. One type of third-person narration is by an omniscient or all-knowing viewer who sees everything. The opening and closing paragraphs of most chapters are of this type and so are the chapters composed of a dozen or more bits and pieces of the dialog of many different people.

In other parts of the novel the point of view is what is called third-person limited-the narrator has you focus on events through the eyes and ears and mind of one specific character. That character is usually Stephen Kumalo, but there are places in the novel where the focus shifts, and you find yourself looking through the eyes of Mrs. Lithebe or James Jarvis. Each time the focus shifts, you will probably feel it. It's slightly jarring, and can be confusing until you figure out whose mind you've entered. Watch for lines of asterisks in the text and the beginnings of chapters. These are visual cues that the point of view may be shifting.



Paton accomplishes two things by using a combination of third-person omniscient and third-person limited point of view. First, he lets you get to know, care about, and appreciate Stephen Kumalo as a person. Second, he presents an overview of what many people in South Africa are thinking and saying, whether they are black or white, Afrikaans or English.

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Barron's Booknotes-Cry, The Beloved Country by Alan Paton
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