Author's Point of View and Cultural Context
When you read a textWords that make up a book, essay, article, poem, or speech. and try to understand its meaning, you must consider various items, including the topicThe subject of a reading. and purposeThe reason the writer is writing about a topic. It is what the writer wants the reader to know, feel, or do after reading the work. of the piece. Two additional items that are also important to consider are the authorA person who wrote a text.'s point of viewThe perspective from which an author considers a subject or issue. and the cultural contextInformation about the setting, time, place, community, customs, and beliefs that surround a writing. Thinking about the cultural context helps readers understand what is happening and why. of the readingA piece of writing to be read. A reading can either be a full work (i.e., a book) or partial (i.e., a passage)..
Point of View
Point of view refers to the perspectiveThe point of view from which an author considers a subject or issue. used by the writer in a storyA description of fictional events that tells how something happened with a beginning, middle, and end., articleA non-fiction, often informative writing that forms a part of a publication, such as a magazine or newspaper., or essayA short piece of writing that focuses on at least one main idea. Some essays are also focused on the author's unique point of view, making them personal or autobiographical, while others are focused on a particular literary, scientific, or political subject. . It lets the reader know who is telling the story or making the argument. Point of view can be broken down into three types: first personA narration style where the writer uses personal pronouns such as I, me, and we. This point of view is often taken when a writer chooses to share personal information or experiences. Example: It took me years to get used to the sounds of the city at night; I couldn't sleep with the police sirens blaring at all hours., second personA narration style where the writer uses pronouns such as you and yours. This point of view is often taken when a writer wishes to directly address or instruct the audience. Example: It could take you years to get used to the sounds of the city at night; you might have trouble sleeping with the police sirens blaring at all hours., and third personA narration style where the writer uses pronouns such as he, she, one, it, they. This point of view is often used in academic or professional writings. Example: Some people find that it takes years to get used to the sounds of the city at night; they often have trouble sleeping with the police sirens blaring at all hours.. Each type has its own perspective about the events within the writing.
First-Person Point of View
In the first-person point of view, the writer uses the word I when writing. You, as the reader, get to read the story from the perspective of one person—the narratorThe "voice" of the person who is telling a story. Sometimes the narrator is the author, other times it is a character within the work.. When the narrator shares his or her thoughts of what is happening, he or she has a limited point of view because that story is coming only from that person's perspective. First person is usually used in autobiographicalA form of writing where the author writes a story about his or her own life and experiences. or other personal writing, such as a journal.
Second-Person Point of View
In the second-person point of view, the writer uses the pronounsA part of speech that substitutes for a noun or noun phrase. Examples include: I, he, you, they. you or your, which generally refer to the reader. It is most often used for instruction manuals and lessons, such as this course, where the writer directly refers to the reader. An author may also choose to write in a second-person point of view to purposely draw the reader into the story. Although it is not seen as often as first- or third-person, second-person point of view can be a very effective type of writing when the writer has a specific purpose in mind.
Third-Person Point of View
Finally, in the third-person point of view, the writer uses the pronouns he, she, it, and/or they and can write from either an omniscient (all knowing) perspective or from a limited perspective. Using third-person omniscientA narration style where the narrator knows everything about the story and all its characters, including their thoughts, feelings, and motives. This is also called the "God's eye" perspective., the writer takes on the "God's eye" perspective and shares information about all characters and all the action taking place. The third-person limitedA narration style where the narrator only knows one character's thoughts about the story and is told from that perspective. point of view follows the perspective of one person. As a reader, you know you are reading third-person omniscient when the writer lets you know what is going on inside the mind of multiple characters in the text. In third-person limited, the writer lets you inside the mind of only one character. Most formal academic writing is written in the third person.
The cultural context of a text helps the reader understand what is happening and why. It is made of up several factors including setting/location, background, cultures, beliefs, and community. Each of these items affects how a reader looks at and understands what is happening in that text.
For example, to understand the plotThe main idea and events of a story, specifically, how major and minor supporting details are structured and how events lead to changes in characters. of the book To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, the reader must think about where the story is taking place (setting/location), when the story is taking place (year/time), who is involved (the characters), and what values and beliefs those characters have. The setting of the book is in the racially divided Deep South of the United States during the Great Depression in the 1930's. The main character, Atticus Finch, is a lawyer who is also a widowed father of two children. Mr. Finch is called upon to defend an African-American man who is accused of raping a white woman. Knowing the cultural context of the book makes the plot and what Mr. Finch is doing all the more significant, given how African-Americans were viewed and treated at that time and place. In this way, cultural context becomes just as important to understanding the plot of the novel as is knowing about the characters and from what point of view the story is being told.
Note: Keep in mind that your instructor may have a different approach to the information in this lesson. Please be sure to follow your instructor's directions if they differ from the provided information.+ PRACTICAL APPLICATION
Understanding point of view and cultural context are vital components of reading and understanding any piece of writing or communication. As part of the audience, you can determine what you need to know by understanding who is telling the story (and from what point of view), how much information you are receiving as a result (omniscient or limited), and how the setting or situation affects the information (cultural context). Only when you have all the information can you determine how to interpret it, which is a useful skill to have when reading academic texts during school or when reading reports or emails in the workplace.
Read the following memoA short written message from one person to another or to a group of persons, usually containing business information. to employees and consider the author's point of view and other information that describes the cultural context.
TO: InfoTech Employees
FROM: Vice President J.P. Jones
SUBJECT: Casual Fridays
DATE: July 10, 2014
It has come to my attention that there has been some confusion about the recent change to the "Casual Friday" dress code. In order to make that clear, I am providing the details as outlined by upper management.
At this time, the following items are deemed appropriate to wear on these days. For men: khakis; short-sleeved collared shirts (e.g. polo shirts) and button-down shirts; and loafers or casual dress shoes. For women: khakis; knee-length or longer skirts; short-sleeved collared shirts (e.g. polo shirts) and button-down shirts; and loafers or casual dress shoes/sandals. Employees are not allowed to wear shorts, jeans, T-shirts, or "beach" shoes, such as flip-flops.
As a law office, our job is to represent the law profession and our dress and professional presentation must reflect that. Thank you for your cooperation.
Point of View
This memo is written in the first-person point of view. The vice president of the company is writing to the employees. You can see this is first person because of his use of the word I.
The memo is written to employees in a law firm that has a very professional dress code. Knowing this, we can inferTo reach a conclusion based on context and your own knowledge. from the writer's first and last sentences that the dress code has been misunderstood by some employees and some have perhaps worn inappropriate clothing, which is unacceptable. The culture of the office is one of strict professionalism, as evidenced by the writer's reminder that their duty as law professionals is to "look the part." The writer's tone appears firm and almost disciplinarian, which may reflect the workplace tone, and that, in turn, affects the cultural context of the memo and how the reader should understand it.
Review the following paragraphs. Then identify the author's point of view and the reading's cultural context.
Andy pulled his chair up to his desk. It was his first day of work at the advertising agency and he wasn't really sure what to expect. As he looked around the room, he saw several cubicles with young men and women – probably in their early twenties like him – focusing on the screens in front of them. Some even had white wires hanging down from their ears, a telltale sign they were listening to music on their iPods or other devices as they worked. Some even bobbed their heads a bit as though the music was driving their productivity. Phones rang in the distance and the hum of the copy machine told him that work was being done all around him.
Shifting his eyes back to his own cubicle, he couldn't help but notice that he didn't have a computer yet, and his desk looked eerily bare in comparison to other work stations. He knew that his first job would present some challenges, but he didn't realize how out of place he would feel. Even though he was surrounded by colleagues who seemed close in age to him, he was still the "new guy" and would have to find his place in this new corporate world that was so different from the small town he came from.
What is the point of view?
The story is being told in the third-person point of view. It appears to be limited, as opposed to omniscient, since the reader is only brought into the mind of the lead character, Andy.
What is the cultural context?
The setting is in a business environment, specifically an advertising agency. The reader can tell that it is taking place in a relatively current time since it mentions computers and iPods. The main character is a young man from a small town who is starting his first job in the "big city," which also gives the reader some perspective on his background and what beliefs/ideals he is bringing with him to this experience.
Why might a writer choose to write in first person rather than third person?
Even though the third-person point of view allows multiple perspectives, a writer might use first person if he or she wants to connect with the reader on a personal level.
How can the cultural context of a piece support a reader's understanding?
Cultural context gives the reader clues about what is happening and why it is important. In the passage about Andy, the reader learns about where Andy comes from, how old he is, and the timing of what is happening. Each of these items helps the reader understand what is going on with Andy, which will become important as the story progresses.
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