The beliefs and feelings of a reader about certain characters or events in a story largely depend on who is telling the tale and how it is been told. Each story according to its theme, setting, characters, and plot development, requires a specific kind of narrative point of view. Assertion of each kind of point of view is going to have some advantages and disadvantages. However, the writer has to choose the most suitable one in which its advantages and benefits overcome the disadvantages. The point of view is a significant part in a story, and it plays an important role in the development of the story and the presentation of its characters.
In John Updikes’ “A & P” the narrator of the story, Sammy, is its main character. Sammy is telling his own story himself. The benefits of the first person point of view in “A & P” are that we understand the character and personality of Sammy more clearly. The clear explanations and detailed portrayal of girls, efficiently demonstrate the physical attraction of Sammy towards the girls. The conduct that Sammy relates to the place and people moving around in A & P indicates Sammy’s boredom and frustration from working in such a place. “I bet you could set off dynamite in an “A&P” and the people would by and large keep reaching and checking oatmeal off their lists and muttering “let me see, there was a third thing, began with A, asparagus, no, ah, yes, applesauce!” or whatever they do mutter”(16).
Sammy opens his mind to us, giving his views about the atmosphere and the people moving around him. He seems to be a little harsh on people and things around him. For example, he says about one of the customers that “She gives me a little snort in passing, if she’d been born at the right time they would have burned her over in Salem” (14). In a distinguished way, by the use of specific words and relating them to different people, he shows his approach towards them. For example, he calls one of the girls, who he likes the most, Quinee and he calls the people at the store, sheep. The erotic behavior of McMahon toward the girls makes an impact on Sammy as he says, “poor kids, I began to feel sorry for them, they couldn’t help it” (16). This incident shows a change in his attitude and develops a sense of maturity in him. He initially considers the girls merely as outsiders but gradually his view changes about them, and he starts to sympathize with them.
The story of “A&P” will be different if it were to be told in another character’s voice. It may provide some different features and surely, it will cause loss of some current aspects of the story. For example, assuming Stokesie in the role of narrator, the story is going to have different characteristics. Stokesie is unable to describe and express the inner feelings of Sammy. He is not able to carry out the depth of attraction of Sammy towards the girls that is clear to us through Sammy’s descriptive information and portrayal of the girls.
Stokesie is not able to provide adept description about Sammy’s attitude towards the place and people in the supermarket. On the other hand, Sammy’s position as the main character of the story raises the potential for a biased or unreliable presentation of characters and events in the story. Sammy being a young boy expresses his opinions freely and also with some exaggeration. Stokesie is married and he is older and more mature than Sammy. Considering this case, Stokesie can describe people and events in the store much nearer to reality.
Sammy is probably the most suitable choice for the role of narrator in “A&P”. As he is the main character of the story, and story builds up around him and revolves around his thoughts and the perspective from which he perceives the girls. Sammy’s transform and the change in his attitude is the key point of the story that leads to his unexpected behavior, quitting his job at “A&P”. Stokesie would observe and explain the things happening outside and on the surface, but he would be unable to reach to the imaginations and thoughts of Sammy and express them effectively.
“A Rose for Emily” is another remarkable story for its specific point of view. William Faulkner provides the information using first person objective description of things and the persons that move in the story. The narrator is observing the actions of everybody involved in the story, but he is not depicting any thing about their feelings and emotions. He leaves it to its readers to find the significance and conclusion of the facts, mentioned in the story.
If the story were told in a first person mode with its main character speaking, which is Miss Emily, all the surprise and secrecy of the story would have ruined. It would have spoiled the mystery of the murder of Homer Barron and taken the zeal and suspense from the story. Emily would not mention everything in the story due to some of her distinguished characteristics. For example, she was an aristocrat and she might not tell about her relationship with Homer Barron. She also would be unable to describe the events after her death and the discovery of Homer’s dead body.
On the other hand, if Emily were telling the story, maybe we can better understand Emily’s character, her feelings and the thoughts waving in her mind. It would have cleared some obstacles in the story, such as about the conversation between Emily and the Baptist minister. “…but at last the ladies forced the Baptist minister to call upon her. He would never divulge what happened during that interview, he refused to go back again” (33). The nature of the meeting is unclear to us. Emily could have provided us with some information explaining this event. Considering all conditions, we might find “A Rose for Emily” more beneficial by its non-participant point of view rather than main character’s point of view.
The distinguished perspectives in each story provide us with a certain insight to its characters and events taking place in the story. The participant and main character narrator in “A&P” and the non-participant point of view in “A Rose for Emily” are appropriate and suitable for each of the stories they carry. The examples of “A&P” and “A Rose for Emily” from the point of view of other characters participated in the story suggest the effective role of the point of view in these stories that can not be ignored. The story from any perspective would be able to cover some aspects and lose the others. Consequently, it is important to choose the position that best fits in the story’s situation, and goes in accordance with its theme.