Third-Person Omniscient Point of View

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, as opposed to third-person limited, which adheres closely to one character's -- usually the main character's -- perspective. 

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

This is an especially useful literary device in complicated stories with many characters. The narrator might let the reader know information about each character that some of the characters might not know about each other.

Third-Person Omniscient in 'Anna Karenina'

For instance, Leo Tolstoy's renowned and character-heavy novel "Anna Karenina" is told from multiple points of view.

Some sections 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."

But many other points of view are given equal importance. Here's some inside information for the reader about another major character in "Anna Karenina," 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."

Novels Told in Third-Person Omniscient

This point of view is a commonly used literary device. Here is 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