Character Aspect: Limited Point of View

One aspect of all fictional characters is their point of view, a view that is necessarily limited by their very participation in the fictional narrative. This limited point of view means that there are things inside the narrative that they can see and know, and there are also things that they can never know. If the fictional character is not the narrator, or at least not the sole narrator, the reader is exposed to knowledge that the fictional character does not have. This creates a sympathy in the readers as they watch a character who is necessarily removed from themselves by this difference of knowledge. However, in some fictional works, such as Invisible Man, the main fictional character is the sole narrator. In this case, the reader knows only as much as the fictional character, and is left curious and confounded about the same things that the fictional character is not allowed to know. Thus, the reader emphasizes rather than sympathizes with the fictional character, as they are confused together, with the same level of knowledge.

For example, throughout Invisible Man, there is the constant feeling for both fictional character and reader that there are things going on, forces at work, that involve the fictional character, but about which neither he nor the reader is given the full story. This is the situation of the factory hospital where the invisible man is given electrotherapy. He is confused and we are confused because things are happening to him about which he was never given full disclosure. Thus, he only has part of the story, and due to his being our only source of information, so do we. The situation is similar with the disappearance of Tod Clifton. How he went from being a leader in the Harlem community to selling dolls on a street corner will never be known to us. The narrator wants to know how it happened, and we want to know how it happened, but he will never be in a position to find out, so neither will we.