Second-person narrative

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The second-person narrative is a narrative mode in which the protagonist or another main character is referred to by second-person personal pronouns and other kinds of addressing forms, for example the English second-person pronoun "you".

Point of view[edit]

Traditionally, the second-person form is used less often in literary fiction than the first-person and third-person. Sometimes this kind of story has the narrator speaking to a younger version of himself.[1] The Fall by Albert Camus is written as dramatic monologue with the protagonist addressing the reader as "you".[2] In his use of the second-person narrative Mohsin Hamid (How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia, 2013), explores the author-reader relationship.[2]

Although not the most common narrative technique in literary fiction, second-person narration has been a favoured form in various literary works within, notably, the modern and post-modern tradition. In addition to many consistently (or nearly consistently) second-person novels and short-stories by, for example, Michel Butor, Marguerite Duras, Carlos Fuentes, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Georges Perec (A Man Asleep, 1967) the technique of narrative second-person address has been widely employed in intermittent chapters or passages of narratives by William Faulkner, Günter Grass, Italo Calvino (If on a winter's night a traveler, 1979), Iain Banks, Nuruddin Farah, Jan Kjærstad, and Kyung-Sook Shin.


You are not the kind of guy who would be at a place like this at this time of the morning. But here you are, and you cannot say that the terrain is entirely unfamiliar, although the details are fuzzy. —Opening lines of Jay McInerney's Bright Lights, Big City (1984)

The use of "you" as an addressee (as in poetry and song) is employed in the "Choose Your Own Adventure"[2] and "Fighting Fantasy" series of books that were popular in the 1980s. It is also usual in interactive fiction, where the reader controls at least some of the protagonist's actions.

The second person (you) is often used to address the reader personally and is therefore frequently used in persuasive writing and advertising.[3] It is, in many languages, a very common technique of several popular and non- or quasi-fictional written genres such as guide books, self-help books, choose-your-own-adventure books, do-it-yourself manuals, role-playing games, and gamebooks, musical lyrics, and also blogs.

See also[edit]


Further reading[edit]