I talked about narrative perspectives in my previous piece. I mentioned that I use first person narration in most of my work. I would like to explain the reason for the use of this perspective in order to inspire others to consider following in my footsteps.
The importance of first person narration became apparent during my philosophical studies. Philosophers often raise epistemic issues, emphasizing the limits of human knowledge. They warn their audience that a person is limited in knowledge to what he or she has in her mind in a sense that the person does not have an ability to look inside another person’s mind. Basically, I know what goes on in my mind, but I can only infer what goes on in anybody else’s mind based on the other person’s testimony and behaviour. Thus, I have a natural limit to how I know what I know. Having pointed out the existence of this limit, philosophers have a tendency, then, to turn around and use a third person perspective to describe this limitation in their examples. To be specific, they use a third person omniscient. This means that they freely enter into the characters’ minds in their examples, describing their thoughts and knowledge, as if they had full access to them. As writers, philosophers adopt a bird’s eye-view or God’s eye-view to argue their points. Of course, most of the time, they are blind to the fact that they break the limits, when they adopt the all-knowing view, that they claim human beings have. The result is that their arguments are less than convincing for those who are aware of their shortcomings.
I use the first person narrative view to stick to the natural limits of human knowledge in cases when the story challenges the person’s ability to know or gain information. Basically, if the question is epistemic in nature, I find it advisable to keep the perspective realistic. Recently, I have written a short story called “The Hermit’s Journal,” which will be part of my short story collection coming out by spring. The story takes place on a mountain at a remote location. The protagonist is a psychology professor who isolates himself for the winter months to write a book. He is alone, living in absence of any human contact. In this story, I found it necessary to use first person narration. The professor has a special experience with the world around him in this isolated place that can only be properly communicated from the angle that he himself sees the world. The world needs to be presented through his eyes to understand his fears, doubts, impressions and general comments. The third person perspective could never capture the limits of his perceptual and analytic abilities on an intimate level required. The first person view is the only perspective that is capable of expressing the knowledge and understanding he possesses with all their limitations and, the psychological and philosophical consequences that result from them.
I believe that the first person narrative perspective is the most accurate view to capture the natural limitations of the human mind. After all, all other perspectives are just fictional representations that cannot be had by other than a supernatural being who can see into the mind of more than one person at once or hover above the characters to view them from above. Therefore, I encourage other writers to employ the first person narrative perspective that truly represents the actual human viewpoint of knowledge in real life.
M. J. Mandoki