Tap to Read ➤

What’s the Second-person Point of View in Literature?

Anup Patwardhan May 12, 2019
The point of view in which a story is presented by its creator changes the way in which the audience receives and perceives it. Here are the characteristics and examples of second-person point of view in literature.

Generally Used in...

A second-person point of view in literature is mainly used in the non-fiction genre of books, in categories like self-help, do it yourself, adventure, travel, etc.
In the flow of a story, narration can help in conveying the story to the audience, along with creating a background and giving them a better idea of the time period in which the story is set.
Now, this narration can be done by a character who has a significant or a minor role in the story. Maybe this can be a stand-alone viewer of the proceedings, or it can even be the author. There can also be the use multiple narrators in the story to introduce varying point of views.
Second-person narration is a part of narration that is being used more often in modern and post-modern works, that is, the literature of the recent past. It is more often used in business and technical writing, and rarely in the fiction genre.
Fiction writing can efficiently sustain this style of narration, but only in intermediate parts. This, however, can be useful in the creation of poems that tell a tale.
This point of view, by definition, can be stated as the narration style that relies heavily on the use of second-person pronouns like 'you', 'you're', 'your', etc. Through this, the author speaks directly to the audience. This helps a long way in establishing a connection with the audience, which can ease the process of having a conversation with them.

Why Do Authors Use Second-person Point of View?

Writers can improve the involvement of the audience by making use of this technique. This also gives them control over the information that reaches their audience through the narration. When the writer has to address the readers directly, this narration technique is very effective and comes into the picture.

Examples of Second-person Point of View in Literature

You are not the kind of guy who would be at a place like this in the morning. But here you are, and you cannot say that the terrain is entirely unfamiliar, although the details are fuzzy. You are at a nightclub talking to a girl with a shaved head.
- 'Bright Lights, Big City' by Jay McInerney
This type of narration has also been used in 'Happy Endings' by Margaret Atwood, though the use has been only intermittent. Another writer who made use of this style of narration is William Faulkner. He used this point of view of narration in his novel 'Absalom, Absalom'.
This literary technique can also be seen in 'If on a Winter's Night a Traveler' by Italo Calvino, and in the poem 'Degrees of Gray in Philipsburg' by composer Richard Hugo.

Why Limit the Use in Fiction?

When used regularly in fiction, there are some unwanted effects of the second-person point of view on the readers, along with restricting the options available for an author. As for the readers, it can become a hindrance from completely getting lost in the world created by the writer.
When using it intermittently, switch over from the first-person, or the third-person point of view in a gradual manner. If the change is rather abrupt, it will distract the attention of the audience from the story. It will also break the general rhythm of the reader, which can lead to them pondering upon as to who from the story has addressed them.
Remember, the 'how' part of the narration of a tale makes more difference than the 'who' part of it. As a writer, just be sure that the flow of narration is not holding back the audience from having their interest spiked during the course of the tale.