Yesterday, a new version of Fifty Shades of Grey was released, this one from the perspective of Christian instead of Ana. Apparently, fans of the series had long been clamoring for such a version, wanting to see the events from his point of view rather than hers (or, having seen hers, they wanted his to complete the sense of what happened).

And this got me thinking: What happened to our first person narrations? Are they so incomplete as to need another take, as it were, to show the other person’s perspective? Can we no longer imaginatively extrapolate, or are we just greedy (or nosy) to want to know every last detail, from both sides of the romantic couple.

Because authors used to write one book and call it good. We never get Mr. Rochester: Jane Eyre, where we see things from his point of view. It might have been interesting if we had, but I never felt the book needed such a “second edition.” It was full and complete, by itself.

If Charlotte Brontë had written his story, I don’t think it would’ve just been a second, retake of hers. His story could have been a story by itself, perhaps introducing us to him before he married Bertha, but most classic authors never felt this need to revisit a story in this way. They didn’t give us split-first-person narratives, and they don’t go back to show us things we might have missed. They let the story stand by itself, as they wrote it, and they expect the reader to fill in any blanks as they see necessary.

Of course, our first person is not the same as theirs. Our modern version tends to be far more idiosyncratic, with the spelling and formatting and syntax all influenced by the point-of-view character. Everything is filtered through them, and in that way, a revisit to the same story from a different point of view is a slightly different story.

But why do readers want this revisited story so much? Do they feel like the first version of Fifty Shades of Grey was incomplete? Or did they enjoy it so much that they just want any excuse to return to the world of that story?

Personally, I think perspective is part of the story. What makes something interesting is partly tied to who is telling the story, and if Christian would’ve made a more interesting storyteller, why not use him to begin with? Or, if he and Ana would together have improved the reading experience, why not split the narration between them, the first time?

Not having read the book, I can’t comment on whether it feels lacking or not, but I found it interesting. Twilight was going to do the same thing with its books, before the rough draft got pirated. Divergent did a split narrative, where we read Tris and Four’s point of views, as did Magonia. It seems to be a trend, beyond just romance books, and it makes me wonder what has changed? Is it the authors, the readers, the way our first person is so close to the POV character, or just another way to make money off a good story? After all, if the first version sold well, why not package up another version and sell that to your adoring public? 🙂

Copyright 2015 Andrea Lundgren
Photo courtesy of Gratisography, Creative Commons

5 thoughts on “What’s become of First Person Narration?

  1. I think in this particular story (50 Shades), the desire to know what he’s thinking is purely erotic. I haven’t read the book either, but I can imagine it would extend the thrill to know what the sadist is feeling as he tortures his lover.

    As for other books and changing the POV, if doing so added anything new to the story, go for it. But if not, then there are a thousand books I’d rather read.

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    1. I think you’re probably right. In an erotic or romance situation, having the story from his point of view may increase te reader’s proximity of him, as it were, making a mental replacement of the heroine all the easier. If she isn’t even telling the story, there’s very little separating the romantic hero and the reader.

      I think it can sometimes work, especially when combined in the same story. Then, you get the benefits of first person and third person all at once, almost, because you still get to change perspectives. But if it’s just a rehashing/revisiting of the first story, I wonder if such a story would come off like some movie sequels–an attempt to relive the magic of the first version or story all over again without anything new to offer.

      Liked by 1 person

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