A Game of Thrones
by George R. R. Martin
Analysis: Narrator Point of View
Third Person (Limited Omniscient)
Talk about technique. George R.R. Martin definitely thought this one through. Our author uses a limited omniscient view for each chapter, which means that we see everything through one person's point of view (POV) – but like, over their shoulder. So we see what really happens, but we kind of see it through that character's biases. For example, when an Arya chapter tells us about Septa Mordane, it's only going to tell us what Arya knows about her: that Septa Mordane is annoying and makes Arya do her sewing over and over. And over.
But instead of just giving us one character's POV for the whole book, Martin uses a rotating cast of character perspectives. Six of them are Starks (Eddard, Catelyn, Jon Snow, Sansa, Arya, Bran, in order of age); one of them is a Lannister (Tyrion, who tells us all about what the Lannisters are doing); and the final one is Daenerys Targaryen (who tells us what's going on on the other continent).
The Prologue is actually told from the POV of a character named Will, but he never shows up again in this book. And we'll just straight up tell you that Martin likes this structure: the Prologues of the rest of the books in the series are all given through one character who then doesn't show up again. Why? How does that affect your reading?
Having all of these character points of view lets us get really get close to each of the character's experiences. So when Eddard figures out the mystery of Cersei's kids, we not only find out, well, the mystery of Cersei's kids (ew); we also hear Eddard's thoughts on that mystery. And because we have so many character perspectives, we can sympathize a little with all of them. That's what happens when you spend that much time inside someone's head.
Broadening Our Horizons
Another advantage of having so many character perspectives is that we get really direct contact with many different worlds. For instance, when we're with Eddard, we see how King's Landing really operates; when we're with Daenerys, we see how different the Dothraki are; and when we're with Jon Snow, we get an idea of what's going on in the north.
The way we see it, there are two major drawbacks to this narrative technique. First, Martin has to work extra to make all of the chapters relate to each other, so that we don't feel like these stories are too separate. How does he do that? Does he succeed?
Second, Martin can't give us the perspectives of people who are either villains or just super-secretive. That is, seeing the world through a villain's eyes might make them a sympathetic character, so in order to preserve someone's villain-ness, Martin has to hide their thoughts and feelings. After all, no one is a villain in their own mind. Jaime may be a monster when we see him on the outside, but let's put ourselves in his shoes: maybe he does what he does for good reasons, like he loves his family. (Ugh.) Martin also can't give us the perspectives of mysterious people (like Varys or Petyr Baelish) because that would ruin the mystery.
If you're curious (and too lazy to do the math), here's the breakdown of POV chapters:
Jon Snow: 9
Will: 1 (the Prologue)
Given that breakdown, how do you feel about what we learn in this book? Is this book too full of Stark character perspectives? Is there anyone missing whose perspective you would like to see?