Last updated: March 26, 2019
Topic: SocietyRacism
Sample donated:

Note: This essay intends to explain the differences in first and third person narratives, highlighting examples within the two stories “Let them call it Jazz” and “A sense of shame”, both of which deal with racism and its subcultures in a first and third person perspective, respectively. The arguments presented are limited to that of first and third person perspectives only. The differences between first and third person perspectives are detrimental when making the decision on which to use when writing. They are almost exactly polar opposites of each other, ones advantage being the others disadvantage and vice versa.

In the aspect of the two short stories “Let them call it Jazz” and “A sense of shame”, we are able to compare one to the other, identify their key features and ultimately understand when and where they are they should be used to bring a bout the strongest effects possible. We see throughout “Let them call it Jazz” how the focus is very narrow, linking most thoughts, feelings and interpretations of the central idea of racism mostly with the main character herself as the ability to swap point of views in not present.

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Using the first person narrative, the author develops the story in a way that limits these ideas to that of the main character’s only. Whereas in “A sense of shame”, the idea and taboo of an interracial relationship is widely affected and diluted by multiple characters viewpoints. The level of intimacy with the characters is also affected by the use of different narratives. In “Let them call it Jazz”, we have this strong understanding and coherent feel with and for the Protagonist as the story completely revolves around her, having no external factors changing her ideas conveyed to us.

Whereas in “A sense of shame”, the point of view constantly shifts from character to character, giving us this lack of chance to get “involved”, yet opening new and interesting ideas. Both affect the idea of racism in their own ways. The use of diction (I, me) and the humorous choice of English throughout the story, mimicking the accent/ habits from foreign language cannot be shown in “A sense of shame” simply because the “narrator” is someone other than the main character- First person perspectives also allow for a interesting narrator, not being limited to a unbiased, non-influenced narrator of the Third person narrative.

The course a story takes is influenced by everything the narrator experiences. However, this also limits us to a viewpoint of the narrator and the narrator only. In the third person narrative, though it lacks the “fun” aspect, it makes up with the fact that it can expose multiple ways of interpreting a situation. In this case, it is able to show detailed insights to the narrator’s idea of racism. Then, we consider the aspect of posing an argument. As in any arguments, a premise is significantly weakened when factors are affected by personal opinions, judgments and experiences.

When using the first person narrative, the fact that its structure relies on the use of words relating to ones self, an argument can be significantly weakened. In this case, since it is the protagonist expressing her own ideas/ rebelling against racism, her stand is significantly weakened. Comparatively, in “A sense of Shame”, the idea of multiple people taking a stand does help to bring about a much more stronger idea of “social norm” and “making a stand”. However, when used correctly, the first person narrative can also show how it is only one person rebelling, creating the idea of strong oppression.

The important factor of characterization is also affected by different narrative viewpoints. How we understand and interpret the character(s) may change- first person is better suited for singular and is less obvious where third person is better for multiple characters and is direct in character development. The way we characters reveal more about themselves differ where in first person it is more implicit, requiring us to analyse how the person speaks against third person where the narrator can just explain how Lorraine “was deeply in love with Mohammed”.

Lastly, the development of sub-plots that help to increase suspense also changes as we use first and third person narratives, the latter being the easier of the two to develop, as we do not need to “hang on” to the main character. This plays a part in the family conflicts in “A sense of shame”, where the protagonist is threatened to be “thrown out”. Whereas, in “Let them call it Jazz” none is available as we are too closely linked with the protagonist, reducing the opportunity to open a new sub plot for the story, commanding the need for a more interesting plot to replace the possible tension lost.

Ultimately, the two stories are able and a suitable choice to be placed against each other to show the differences between first and third person narratives. The contexts whereby they are put to use are suitable and effective to not only give insights into the theme of racism, but are well used to make the stories interesting. Comparing the two, I feel that there are both distinct and subtle differences, both of which play an enormous role on the outcome of the story.