Study Guide

The Man in the High Castle Narrator Point of View

By Philip K. Dick

Narrator Point of View

Third Person (Limited Omniscient)—Rotating

Here's how to imagine a limited third person point of view: picture a camera sitting on a character's shoulder, one of those cameras that can look into that person's mind. (That's easy to imagine, right?) A limited omniscient POV can tell the reader what that one person sees and thinks. For instance:

The newspaper, flown in by Lufthansa and arriving at six in the morning, was the Frankfurter Zeitung. Reiss read the front page carefully. Von Schirach under house arrest, possibly dead by now. Too bad. (8.7)

This is Hugo Reiss's POV. He's the one who is reading the paper; he's the one who knows how the newspaper got to San Francisco and by when, and he's the one who thinks "too bad" about what's going on with von Schirach. Imagine Juliana reading this paper. She might not know that Lufthansa flies in the paper daily by 6 am. And she would probably be a little more moved by the news about von Schirach, since he's her favorite Nazi.

If you want to impress, you might want to describe Dick's technique here as "free indirect discourse". This sure sounds fancy, but basically means it what we just said: it's a way for the narrator to dip into a character's head to get their views without always using the words "he thought." It's a little trick that allows the reader to see inside the character's head and to make it feel more immediate. When Dick does that, it's like we're sitting in the person's head, hearing their thoughts directly.

And that's why Dick is so good with the limited third POV. He uses it to tell us about the world and about the POV character. For almost everything that happens, the POV character has some reaction, even if that reaction is just the muted "too bad" about someone's possible death. (This tells us that Reiss isn't too emotionally invested in von Schirach.)

But most books would choose one or two POV characters. But The Man in the High Castle has seven (!) POV characters. Here's the breakdown of how many sections each character has:

Frank Frink: 7
Tagomi: 7
Childan: 6
Juliana: 6
Baynes: 5
Hugo Reiss: 2
Wyndham-Matson: 1

With that many POV characters, Dick is able to give us a wide view of this alternate history; and he can throw out several different plotlines that only intersect slightly.

But why don't we call this POV technique "omniscient"? After all, limited omniscient is limited—it only shows us what a few characters see, whereas Dick shows us many characters. That's true, but since almost every scene sticks to one character and sticks so closely, we've decided to call this rotating limited omniscient. Don't try that at home without some practice.

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