Prof. Jessica Penner | OL05 | Fall 2020

Week 8: Discussion of POV, Continued

By this point, you will have responded to the POV document in Google Docs during Week 7. To refresh your memory (because hey, we’re all trying to remember a bunch of stuff we’ve read online, right?), the Google Doc had two examples of First Person and two examples of Third Person. (I’ve put the link in your email.)

We’re going to continue discussing POV with a few questions and an activity.

“The First Day” & “The Wife’s Story”

I’ve enjoyed reading your formal critiques of these stories, and, to continue our discussion of POV, I’d like to post some questions for you to consider Please respond to one of the three in the “reply” section of this post:

  1. “The First Day” is told in the First Person. Many of you commented in the Google Doc on POV that you felt the narrator was unreliable because of her age when the story happened. How about the narrator in “The Wife’s Story”? Do you feel the narrator is reliable or unreliable? Explain why!
  2. How would the story have changed if “The Wife’s Story” had been told in Third Person instead of First Person? Explain your answer.
  3. Why do you think Le Guin used the First Person to tell the story?

POV Activity

While there is perhaps a province in which the photograph can tell us nothing more than what we see with our own eyes, there is another in which it proves to us how little our eyes permit us to see.

Dorothea Lange
Photojournalist Dorothea Lange

Dorothea Lange was an American photojournalist. She might be best known for the “Migrant Mother” photograph. As a photographer, she certainly knew that POV can change in an instant, depending on who’s behind the camera and what story they are trying to tell.

For the past several weeks, we’ve been practicing the genre of memoir. In our first piece, we took an object and explained how it affected our lives and/or showed a part of our personalities. The second piece shared either a memory of when we felt “anonymous” or another moment in our lives that we felt was significant. In both pieces, we were “behind the camera.” We were telling our stories with our spin–our POV.

Now we’re working on our first short story in Third Person. We’re still behind the camera, but we must imagine the story from a POV that is different from “I.” And if the narrator is no longer “I,” the story we tell may (or may not) change.

We’re going to do a short exercise. We’ll look at a picture and write mini stories about the picture (150-300 words). Please post your story under Student Work: Assignment Posts.

I’ve divided the class into three groups and emailed the pictures to each group: Picture A, Picture B, or Picture C. Please take 15-20 minutes and do the following (seriously, set a timer for this activity):

  1. Look at your picture.
  2. Write a short (very short) story in the Third Person about the picture (again, 150-300 words).
  3. Answer the following questions in your story and post it under Student Work: Assignment Posts. Title it: Full Name, POV Story (DO NOT write whether you have used Picture A, B, or C anywhere in the post):
  • Who is involved?
  • What is happening?
  • Why is this happening?
  • When did this happen?
  • Where did this happen?

Here’s an example:

Example Picture

Evelyn and Maria are sisters. They’ve never spent more than a day apart. Neither of them drive anymore–Evelyn’s eyesight is pretty bad and Maria’s is even worse. Each Saturday, one of their grandchildren drives them to the supermarket so they can buy groceries. Evelyn sits up front because she’s a better navigator than Maria. Maria comments on the grandchild’s driving skills. The sisters often argue with one another about their purchases on the way home. Evelyn thinks that Maria buys too much red meat and Maria thinks Evelyn buys too much vodka.

(Obviously, many different stories could be drawn from this picture, but that’s what I wrote in about eight minutes.)

Please note: Your picture will be different from the Example Picture!

Have fun with this–answer the questions in your story as best you can! We’ll see how many different stories can be drawn from these pictures!

All the due dates and extra details for the week on the Assignment page for Week 8. Please check there for that information.

Come to an Office Hour if you’ve got questions!


  1. Mohammed Hashim

    1. I believe that “The Wife’s Story” is more reliable even though it’s a fiction. Le Guin didn’t have to search through her oldest memories to remember one of her earliest memories so she was more reliable unlike “The First Day”. “The First Day” can easily be exaggerated and miss a lot of other details because it’s hard to remember anything from the age of 5.

    • Jessica Penner

      Both stories are fiction–the authors are both telling a story that isn’t “true,” but I think you brought up a good point, Mohammed: in Le Guin’s work, the wife is telling a story that happened recently, so the details are fresh in her head, whereas any story about something that happened ten, fifteen, or twenty after the fact can be questionable.

  2. Marina Malak

    I think if the story was in the third person, it would have been less thrilling to the reader. as a reader, I was concerned about the wife and in my mind trying to warn her of what is going to happen. the story being told by a third person could have been less engaging. I feel like this way, the reader was the third person watching or imaging what could have been happening.

    • Jessica Penner

      Yes, the first time I read this story I was on the edge of my seat, trying to figure out the details and thinking “be careful”!

  3. Robert Rampersaud

    The “First Day” and “The Wife’s Story” were told in the first person. However, I believe the “The First Day” was unreliable because of the kid age. A kid will not be able to remember so much detail on how a person was dressed or people reaction. From “The Wife’s Story” it was more reliable because the wife is an adult talking about her husband even though she was a wolf. The wife can remember things in great detail.

    • Jessica Penner

      Yes, a child’s POV is certainly focused on things an adult is not (and vice versa), so we always need to be aware of a narrator’s age and distance from the event.

  4. Diana Rivera

    I believe if “The Wife’s Story” would have been told in third person rather than the first-person view that the author so brilliantly chose, it would have made a less suspenseful environment for the reader. While reading the story the reader is put into a roller coaster of a story wondering if the husband is cheating, doing something more with the things hunted, or even doing something sinister he does not want the wife to know. Well that’s at least what came to mind for me, it made me believe that maybe it was more of a horror movie rather than the casual ‘my husband is cheating on me’ story and that feeling was given by the first-person view of the story, it was given with such detail that can’t be given through third person. We would have never known the way the wife truly felt.

    • Jessica Penner

      Yes, totally! I mentioned in another comment that I was on the edge of my seat the first time I read this story!

  5. nickay82

    Question 2. The story would change if it was told in third person because the person telling the story would be telling it from an observational point of view and in that case it would lack the emotional element that it has coming from a first person point of view. Also, in a third person POV, the events that took place might be observed differently which would change the way in which the story is being told.

    • Jessica Penner

      Definitely the emotional element would be different. I think a writer could still create suspense, but it wouldn’t be quite the same.

  6. Leviza Murtazayeva

    Question 3:
    In my opinion I believe that “The Wife’s Story” was written in first person, first because it is initially titled as the wife’s story, where it was supposed to be initially told from the wife’s point of view. Le Guin chose to write in first person, because this was the reader can imagine how really the narrator felt and what was going through her mind while she was experiencing the changes in her life.

    • Jessica Penner

      Yes, it puts us in the situation where we empathize with the narrator–we see the fear and pain she’s going through.

  7. Angelica Salazar

    2. if “The Wife’s Story” was wrote in the third person, I think that the story would not have captured the emotion that the wife felt as she saw her husband change into something so unexpected to her. the story was filled with information about the husband that only the wife could tell us about like how nice he was with his kids and how before the event he was would not hurt anyone. It was a shocking for the wife to see the husband transform into a creature that would do them harm.

    • Jessica Penner

      Yes, I felt the emotional shock of the wife when she saw her husband transform into a man–and the natural fear of him, because of what humans do to wolves.

  8. Jozelyn

    2. How would the story have changed if “The Wife’s Story” had been told in Third Person instead of First Person? Explain your answer.
    If “The Wife’s Story” had been told in Third Person, the true emotion that the wife expressed throughout the story would have been lost. I believe if the story was told in Third Person then there would not be much of a suspense. As I read the story, I felt like I was on a rollercoaster of emotions with the wife. First I believed the husband was cheating then abusive, only to later find out he was a wolf turning into a human. I felt confused in a good attention grabbing way and then shocked at the twist in the end. The story being told in First Person allowed a connection between the reader and the writer, the story felt more personal. In my opinion all of these emotions for both the reader and author would have been lost if it was written in Third Person.

    • Jessica Penner

      I agree. The intense, intimate feelings wouldn’t have come through in the same way if it’d been in Third Person.

  9. Angelica Hernandez

    3.Why do you think Le Guin used the First Person to tell the story?
    I think Le Guin used first person to tell the story inorder to understand the disappointment and sadness that the wife was feeling. You get a better understanding of her feelings because its first person. It would be different if it was in third person because it would be less descriptive on her thought process but more descriptive of what is happening around her, her expressions and movements.

    • Jessica Penner

      Agreed. As I said in another comment, the feelings of being with the narrator, seeing what she saw in the moment, would’ve been lost.

  10. Angelica Hernandez

    3.Why do you think Le Guin used the First Person to tell the story?
    I think Le Guin used first person to tell the story inorder to understand the disappointment and sadness that the wife was feeling. You get a better understanding of her feelings because its first person. It would be different if it was in third person because it would be less descriptive on her thought process but more descriptive of what is happening around her, her expressions and movements.

    • Jessica Penner

      Yes, the emotional impact would’ve been different, had it been told in Third Person. It’s possible that a reader would feel sad, but wouldn’t feel the immediacy of the pain.

  11. Maria Mateo

    3-Why do you think Le Guin used the First Person to tell the story?
    I think Le guin uses the First Person to tell the story because it gives a better point of reality. Using first person gives intrigue and suspense, which Le guin uses a lot to keep us hooked throughout the story. When someone tells us a story that has happened to them, we put ourselves in their shoes. So, Le Guin wanted the readers to feel what the wife was feeling and see what she was seeing.

    • Jessica Penner

      Yes! I mentioned in a few other posts about how I was anxious and scared for the narrator–especially the first time I read the story!

  12. Amna Ahmed

    Question 3
    Le Guin told the story in first person rather than third person because the story would be more personal to read. From a first person point of view, the story not only has more emotion but also more details. Most likely, these things would not be found in third person point of view. Instead, third person point of view would be more factual and observational. In first person point of view, to the readers the story feels like it’s shared. In other words, the story feels like the event is being told by a friend. Where as, in third person point of view the story feels like it is being told.

    • Jessica Penner

      That’s true. I hadn’t thought about it that way. I can imagine the wolf is sharing this story to one of her best friends!

  13. Dylan

    I think Le Guin used first person to make the story more immersive. By making the reader experience everything through the wife’s eyes, the story becomes much more personal. If third person were used, the reader would be an outsider looking in from a neutral perspective, which would diminish the suspense of the story.

    • Jessica Penner

      Yes, third person can be more neutral. We probably would’ve figured out what the wife’s husband was sooner, and so the shock wouldn’t have been as strong when she finally sees the truth.

  14. Mamadou

    2. By making The Wife’s Story a first person piece, the thoughts of the narrator were clear to us and gave us a better understanding of her. If it was in third person, we would have lost a lot of the emotion and information that was given. The twist at the end of the story also would not have been as impactful if it were told from an omniscient view.

    • Jessica Penner

      Totally agree. If we knew right away that this was a wolf’s perspective, we might not empathize as much for her circumstances!

  15. Saja Musa

    3. I think Le Guin used the first persons to tell the story because she wanted it to be told from a descriptive point of view. When a story is written from the first person, the reader is able to visualize the same image that the person telling the story describes it as. For instance, everyone reads biographies, however it is more likely for a person to learn more about an individual when they tell us about their experiences, not the ones that are described by others.

    • Jessica Penner

      Yes, when we hear or read a person’s own description, we’re more inclined to care!

  16. Sarvinoz Erkinova

    1. I’ve mentioned in the google Doc assignment that “The First Day” narration is unreliable not because the character was young, it is because everyone has a different point of view. We cannot rely on it because it’s not valid, the same situation will never give everyone the same feelings, thoughts and emotions. So even though the character was older as in “The Wife’s Story” the information would not be reliable because not everybody experiences the same feelings and thoughts in the same situation.

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