Third-Person Omniscient Point of View and Anna Karenina

This Viewpoint Allows the Reader Inside the Minds of Several Characters

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The third-person omniscient point of view is a method of storytelling in which the narrator knows the thoughts and feelings of all of the characters in the story. The third-person is not the same as the third-person limited, a point of voice that adheres closely to one character's perspective, usually the main character's. 

Through the use of the third-person omniscient viewpoint, a writer is able to bring to life an entire world of characters and give them significant depth and meaning.

As such, it's an excellent literary device to aid in character development. This is an especially useful literary device in complicated stories when the writer is introducing the reader to a plethora of characters. Using the third-person omniscient point of view, the narrator is able to relate information to the reader about each character that some of the characters in the story might not know about each other.

This device takes what might be a difficult and complicated writing endeavour and turns it into a more manageable one.

Third-Person Omniscient in 'Anna Karenina'

A prime example of the third-person omniscient point of view is Leo Tolstoy's renowned and character-heavy novel "Anna Karenina" which is told from multiple points of view.

Learning About a Character From Anna's Point of View

Some sections of the novel are told from Anna's point of view:

'"All the same, he's a good man, truthful, kind and remarkable in his sphere,' Anna said to herself, going back to her room, as if defending him before someone who was accusing him and saying that it was impossible to love him.

'But why do his ears stick out so oddly? Did he have to have his hair cut?"'

"Exactly at midnight, when Anna was still sitting at her desk finishing a letter to Dolly, she heard the measured steps of slippered feet, and Alexei Alexandrovich, washed and combed, a book under his arm, came up to her."

"'It's time, it's time,' he said with a special smile, and went into the bedroom."

"'And what right did he have to look at him like that?' thought Anna, recalling how Vronsky had looked at Alexei Alexandrovich."

Learning About a Character From the Narrator

In "Anna Karenina" many other points of view (besides the character Alexei Alexandrovich) are given equal importance. Here's a look at another major character in the classic novel, Konstantin Levin, told entirely by the narrator, without dialogue:

"The house was big, old and Levin, though he lived alone, heated and occupied all of it. He knew that it was even wrong and contrary to his new plans, but this house was a whole world for Levin. It was the world in which his father and mother had lived and died. They had lived a life which for Levin seemed the ideal of all perfection and which he dreamed of renewing with his wife, with his family."

Other Novels Told in Third-Person Omniscient

If you want to expand your knowledge base about writing in third-person omniscient point of view there are many excellent examples in literature to choose from. Here are a handful of well-known classic examples.

"Anna Karenina" by Leo Tolstoy

"Little Women" by Louisa May Alcott

"The Scarlet Letter" by Nathaniel Hawthorne

"1984" by George Orwell

"Pride and Prejudice" by Jane Austen