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The Second Person Identity Essay

1128 words - 5 pages

Different perspectives in writing and speech provide distinct moods and tones to relay information to the audience. The four categories of narrative perspective in literature are first person, second person, third person partial, and third person omniscient (Wyile 185). The first person uses the personal pronoun “I” to connect the audience with the narrator intimately, and the third person uses the personal pronouns “he” and “she” to describe the lives of other people through the perspective of an omnipresent narrator. The second person forms a bridge between first and third person, the most common perspectives used in literature.

You are not the kind of guy who would be at a place like ...view middle of the document...

The text must meet the classical definitions of a narrative, which state that the text must be logical and must have duplicity of time (Schofield 14). While second person narration is contingent on the five qualities, second person also proves blurry enough to allow for overlaps. In texts such as Albert Camus’ The Fall, the perspective of the text differs from the narratee who differs from the reader; however, in novels like the afore-quoted Jay McInerney’s Bright Lights, Big City, the perspective of the text is that of the narratee, and also of the reader on some occasion. In these texts, and in other second person narratives, the author implements the use of direct speech, whether or not the addressee hears it (Mildorf 87). Someone always speaks to someone else. The sheer fluidity of second person in its structure mirrors the ambiguity of its grammar and technicalities.
In narrative, the second person addresses a protagonist or a character central to the plot of the story with you (Schofield 13). In some cases, it’s difficult for readers to understand who you refers to (Schofield 5), which makes second person narration one of the hardest modes to evaluate. “Put most simply, it is a mode in which it is unclear whether the ‘you’ is a character, the narrator, a reader/narratee, or no-one in particular--or a combination of these--so that its utterances are at once familiar and deeply strange, its engaged readers at one and the same time identifying with and repudiating a seeming direct, even intimate, address” (Schofield 5). The obscurity that surrounds second person and its interpretations deals most closely with the reader’s ability to connect with the story (Richardson 21).

You are my age in a way, with the sophisticated eye of the man in his forties who has seen everything, in a way; you are well dressed in a way, that is as people are in our country; and your hands are smooth. Hence a bourgeois, in a way! But a cultured bourgeois! Smiling at the use of the subjunctive, in fact, proves your culture twice over because you recognize it to begin with and then because you feel superior to it. Lastly, I amuse you. (Camus 6)

The reader is not necessarily in his forties, and most certainly hasn’t seen everything. He doesn’t necessarily connect...

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