Study Guide

A Clash of Kings Narrator Point of View

By George R.R. Martin

Narrator Point of View

Third-Person Limited Omniscient Narrator / Several Characters

To write A Clash of Kings, Martin continues to use the third-person limited omniscient technique from the first novel. Fair enough, but now let's break down what this means.

Those in the literature biz call the technique third-person because the narrator telling us the story isn't a part of the story. Rather, he's got a bird's-eye view of the action and looks over everybody's shoulder like a creeper in order to tell the reader what's going on. Consider this sample:

He had a moment to think how pretty it was before Ser Mandon blocked out the view. The knight was a white steel shadow, his eyes shining darkly behind his helm. Tyrion had no more strength than a rag doll. Ser Mandon put the point of his sword to the hollow of his throat and curled both hands around the hilt. (62.Tyrion.31)

Every image and detail is from Tyrion's perspective, but Tyrion is not the one relaying the information. If he was, then the above passage would read something like, "I had no more strength than a rag doll" (we would call this first-person). Instead, some other narrator is looking in on Tyrion's story, his perspective, and his thoughts and then telling us the story through him.

But Doesn't Limited Suggest a Limit?

We know; it's kind of weird to suggest that anything in a thousand-page book is limited, but it's true. The narrative technique is limited omniscient but not because it is restricted to a single character. Martin employs ten—count'em, ten—different point-of-view narrators in A Clash of Kings, but we call it limited omniscient because each chapter focuses on a single narrative perspective.

In an Arya chapter, the narrator views the story from Arya's point of view only—we never jump into Gendry or Hot Pie's perspectives, for example. This said, it's still an omniscient narrator because we are given Arya's thoughts and feelings in addition to her actions.

The advantage to this narrative perspective is that it provides the story with both a worldly and personal scope all at the same. By having characters spread across the world, Martin can tell his epic story from multiple locations and show how events in King's Landing affect the people in Winterfell, hundreds of miles away. Even in the age of planes, trains, and automobiles, a single person could never cover that much ground.

On the other hand, limiting each chapter to the thoughts, emotions, and actions of a specific character keeps the story grounded. Great scope can sometimes lead a story to sound like a series of details, disconnected from the human element. By focusing in on individual characters, we see the small consequences of the great battles and world-altering events. In other words, it helps us care.

The Breakdown

Here's the breakdown of point-of-view characters and how many chapters they narrate:

  • Tyrion Lannister 15
  • Arya Stark 10
  • Sansa Stark 8
  • Jon Snow 8
  • Catelyn Stark 7
  • Bran Stark 7
  • Theon Greyjoy 6
  • Daenerys Targaryen 5
  • Davos Seaworth 3
  • Maester Cressen 1 (the Prologue)

As you can see, there are more non-Stark characters in the lineup than in A Game of Thrones, though the Winterfell warriors still dominate the proceedings with half of the spots. But Tyrion Lannister takes home the MVN (most valuable narrator) with a whopping fifteen chapters, while Cressen takes home the dubious Prologue Narrator recognition. Finally, note that none of the so-called kings appear in this lineup.

Here are a couple questions we've been pondering that we thought we'd pass on to you: Why do you think Martin continues to favor the Stark perspective? Why does Tyrion receive so many more chapters than any other character? Are there any characters you really wish would have gotten a point-of-view chapter? Finally, what's Martin's deal with killing off the prologue narrators? Seriously, did a prologue narrator steal his goldfish or something?