Is Third Person More Personal?

The thing that struck me the most about this reading is the amazing way that the author portrays the life and character of Maria through a third person perspective. Though most books we have read have been in first person in order to give us the internal monologue of the character, Imogen Binnie’s third person perspective does not diminish those benefits. Despite the seemingly more distant way of speaking in the third person, Maria’s internal monologue is still very much apparent. We can see her confusion, pain, and sarcasm in every word. The first chapters are a masterpiece because they give so much insight into the internal workings of Maria while still describing the other people and environment in enough detail to really give the reader a good idea of all the story’s components. Marias conflicting feelings of being normal and her intense sarcasm and cynicism for the world she lives in shines through the text and the things she says. Speaking of which, it is of interesting note that the author does not actually use any quotation marks in their dialogue. This seems to open up the flow of speech in the novel by streamlining both the punctuation and the structure, as dialogue is folded right into every paragraph. Because of the dissonance between the book’s extremely blunt and straightforward subject matter and the new style of writing Binnie uses, Nevada serves as a unique example of modern gay literature.

Given that Binnie’s writing style struck out so much to me, my questions are as follows:

  1. What are some assumptions we have about first person and third person perspectives in writing? What feelings does Binnie convey about Maria by using third person language? How distant is the text made to feel from the story’s meaning?
  2. Does Maria seem distant from the reader, as well as from herself and her friends? What purpose does this serve in the telling of her story?
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3 thoughts on “Is Third Person More Personal?

  1. I think Binnie’s style of writing mimics Maria’s own personality and thought processes. Maria seems to have difficulties connecting to her own emotions and understanding herself, and Binnie’s narrative style seems to solve the problem of understanding a character’s emotions when they themselves do not. Particularly when Maria dissociates, a first person narrative would be hard to maintain but a typical third person style narrative would not convey the sarcastic tone to Binnie’s writing. But I also think that it might be a way to help the reader understand the way Maria views the world, in an off-beat sort of detached way.

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  2. Reading Nevada, the third person narration struck me as well. It’s unusual and uncommon for third person narration to still carry the unpredictable feeling that stream of consciousness first person narration does. I think Binnie uses this perspective to convey the idea that Maria isn’t living her life. She’s watching herself live it. I think this style also gives the reader insight into how Maria feels when she is dissociating, numb, and living outside of her body. As someone who has experienced dissociative episodes, they’re really weird, and it’s really hard to explain to someone who has never experienced it. Aside from making dissociation relatable, I think Binnie employs this narrative style to emphasize how impersonal Maria’s relationships are with everyone. She seems to talk at people, rather than converse with them (Example: Piranha’s apartment when Maria spills her life story but doesn’t hear Piranha’s struggles equally).

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  3. Oo yes, I wrote about this as well, how this type of third person feels very “abnormal” to the traditional style of third person, and is more of a mesh between the first and third person. The novel reads as sort of a rush of thoughts and ideas, which seems pretty consistent with Maria’s character, not really thought out but more of just thrown together, like the thoughts and actions we’ve seen her have and make. It feels almost like it’s thought out “enough” but just barely, like her decision to break up with Steph and then total abandonment of New York City. The internal third person (how I would define it) ties together how Maria relates to other characters and how she relates to the reader, where even though Maria is expressive of her thoughts, there is still this feeling of established “distance” that she has in all of her relationships.

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