King of the Bingo Game
by Ralph Ellison
Analysis: Narrator Point of View
Who is the narrator, can she or he read minds, and, more importantly, can we trust her or him?
Third Person (Limited Omniscient)
The entire story is told from the point of view of a man we only know as "the protagonist" or "King of the Bingo Game." We stay with him throughout the story as he smells, hears, thinks, or moves. Most importantly, we fully enter into his consciousness as he presses the button controlling the spinning bingo wheel. Although we are able to follow his logic and train of thought, we are reminded by the interjections from the audience what it must look like from their point of view.
This is where the third person point of view becomes more effective than a first person point of view which would have put us in the protagonist's head all the time. Think also of the final moments of the story, when the protagonist is oblivious to the policeman moving in position to strike him. We see that policeman positioning himself; we know what the protagonist does not.
Now, there's also a meta-narrative at play here. Although we may empathize with the audience (we can see how they'd think the protagonist looks pretty odd up on stage, refusing to let go of the button), we are also given insight into the protagonist's thoughts. We experience his revelations concerning the wheel. We feel for him as he tries to share his secret with the audience, and we are sad and concerned for him at the end when he is brutally hit. In other words, the meta-narrator is accomplishing what the protagonist cannot.
As readers, we too are a type of audience. Unlike the audience in the bingo hall, however, we do have access to the protagonist's thoughts, and we are capable of empathizing with him. Neat, huh?