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First Person Narration

1. What is it?

First person narration is the using of the self (‘I’) as the storyteller.

2. Why use it?

Better describe feelings and thoughts, as these seem to actually come from the narrator’s own mind.More authentic and personal, especially for non-fiction, autobiography and poetry.
Focus on one character’s perspective and feelings.Reader feels like they live the events through the narrator.

3. Examples

The stranger looked at me, his eyes with a sudden intent, and his face taking on an expression that I neither understood nor found pleasant.
“Now we begin.”
It was at this moment that I knew what had I failed to see before. Oh, I had been so foolish, and so enamoured with his bravado, that I had ignored the one danger: his purpose. I was to be the guinea pig, the test subject, and I had walked willingly into it! I looked around for a door, or any type of exit, but found only locks and the knowledge that my sole escape was to fight. Without checking my bravery, my upbringing, or my lifelong reticence to engage in violence of any nature, I ran at him with arms outstretched.


Woodham Road has always held a special place in my heart. It was here that, during my childhood, I played games with those who would become friends for years to come. Later, during my teenage pains, it was also the space where I hid when escaping my parents and the pressure cooker of home. At the end of the street, outside the post office, is where I had my first kiss. Being back there now, walking between the buildings that were much the same but noticing the small changes that had occurred in a few corners, I felt a sort of longing for those days lost to the past. I am not a person who usually embraces nostalgia, but there was something odd about this road that felt like I was spying on a person I knew, a stranger lost in history that I barely accepted was actually me.

4. Examples in literature

I am Malala
by Malala Yousafzai with Christina Lamb

Know Your Book

Title: I Am Malala: The Story of the Girl Who Stood Up for Education and was Shot by the Taliban
Authors: Malala  Yousafzai (1997- ); Christina Lamb (1965- )
Published: 2013
Language: English
Genre: Non-fiction;  autobiography
Synopsis: Malala Yousafzai gives an account of her campaign for girls education in Pakistan. The campaign, assisted by her father, led to an assassination attempt by the Taliban during which a gunman shot her in the head on a bus when she was aged just 15. The incident drew increased global attention to her cause, resulting in Malala speaking at major summits and, at 17, becoming the youngest ever recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize. Her story is told to journalist Christina Lamb.
Setting: Swat Valley, Pakistan
Characters: Malala Yousafzai; Ziauddin Yousafzai; Toor Yousafzai

Excerpt from Chapter 20:

The air smelt of diesel, bread and kebab mixed with the stink from the stream where people still dumped their rubbish and were never going to stop despite all of the campaigning by my father and his friends. But we were used to it. Besides, soon the winter would be here, bringing the snow, which would cleanse and quieten everything.
The bus turned right off the main road at the army checkpoint. On a kiosk was a poster of crazy-eyed men with beards and caps or turbans under big letters saying WANTED TERRORISTS. The picture at the top of a man with a black turban and beard was Fazlullah. More than three years had passed since the military operation to drive the Taliban out of Swat had begun. We were grateful to the army but couldn’t understand why they were still everywhere, in machine-gun nests on roofs and manning checkpoints. Even to enter our valley people needed official permission.
The road up the small hill is usually busy as it is a short cut but that day it was strangely quiet. ‘Where are all the people?’ I asked Moniba. All the girls were singing and chatting and our voices bounced around inside the bus.
Around that time my mother was probably just going through the doorway into our school for her first lesson since she had left school at age six.
I didn’t see the two young men step out into the road and bring the van to a sudden halt. I didn’t get a chance to answer their question , ‘Who is Malala?’ or I would have explained to them why they should let us girls go to school as well as their own sisters and daughters.
The last thing I remember is that I was thinking about the revision I needed to do for the next day. The sounds in my head were not the crack, crack, crack of three bullets, but the chop, chop, chop, drip, drip, drip of the man severing heads of chickens, and them dropping into the dirty street, one by one.

Skimming, Scanning and Basic Comprehension

1. What event is the passage describing?
2. What is the name of the most wanted terrorist?
3. What is Malala’s mother doing on this day?  
Identifying Techniques

4. Scan the passage and highlight the cases in which the writers use the first person. Although the passage is in the first person, other characters appear in the story. How many other people can you see mentioned in the given passage?
5. Why do you think Malala’s story is told in the first person?
6. What would be different if it was told in the third person (using ‘he’, ‘she’, ‘it’, ‘Malala’ etc)?  
Text Analysis

7. What words or phrases are used to try to create a picture of the streets Malala lived on? What sights, smells and sounds are described?
8. How does the second paragraph contrast with the first. What information is included in the second paragraph that helps you understand more about Malala’s hometown?
9. A contrast exists between the joy of the schoolgirls and the violence around them. What words or phrases depict joy? Which ones hint at violence
10. Compare the first paragraph and the final paragraph. Both describe the street, but the tone has changed. What is the difference in tone?
11. The last paragraph uses onomatopoeia adjectives in groups of three (crack, crack, crack; chop, chop, chop; etc.). Why? Does this affect the writing? 
Provoking Opinion

12. What other autobiographies have you read? Did you find them enjoyable? Informative? Exciting? Underwhelming? How do you think Malala’s autobiography would compare to them?
13. Do you believe that Malala Yousafzai could be considered a normal person in extraordinary circumstances; an inspiration; a hero; or something else? Why?
14. If you were to write your own autobiography, how would you map it out? Which events would you include, and how would you order it?

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
by Mark Twain

Know Your Book

Title: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
Author: Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens) (1835-1910)
Published: 1884
Language: English
Genre: Fiction; picaresque novel
Plot: Huckleberry Finn, a southern adolescent, takes a journey along the Mississippi river in an effort to escape his alcoholic father. He meets a runaway slave, Jim, and two conmen, The Duke and The King. Along the journey Huckleberry learns about the diverse and prejudiced lifestyles of the south. However, Jim’s freedom is threatened by the conmen seeing him as a sellable commodity.
Setting: Mississippi river
Characters: Huckleberry Finn (narrator); Jim; The Duke; The King; Tom Sawyer

Excerpt from Chapter 12:

Mornings, before daylight, I slipped into corn-fields and borrowed a watermelon, or a mushmelon, or a punkin, or some new corn, or things of that kind. Pap always said it warn’t no harm to borrow things, if you was meaning to pay them back, some time; but the widow said it warn’t anything but a soft name for stealing, and no decent body would do it. Jim said he reckoned the widow was partly right and pap was partly right; so the best way would be for us to pick out two or three things from the list and say we wouldn’t borrow them any more – then he reckoned it wouldn’t be no harm to borrow the others. So we talked it over all one night, drifting along down the river, trying to make up our minds whether to drop the watermelons, or the cantelopes, or the mushmelons, or what. But towards daylight we got it all settled satisfactory, and concluded to drop crab-apples and p’simmons. We weren’t feeling just right before that, but it was all comfortable now. I was glad the way it came out, too, because crab-apples ain’t ever good, and the p’simmons wouldn’t be ripe for two or three months yet.

1.The narrative voice of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn may be described as:

a) formal
b) vernacular
c) impersonal
d) objective
e) mature

Answer
b
2. The use of first person narration allows an insight into:

a) the narrator’s family’s opinions
b) Jim’s motivations
c) the writer’s background
d) the politics of the time
e) the narrator’s thinking

Answer
e
3. In the passage, ‘borrowing’ can be seen as a euphemism for:

a) stealing
b) buying
c) choosing
d) picking
e) trading

Answer
a
4. ‘So we talked it over all one night’. What was the purpose of this talk?

a) To discuss the ethics of stealing
b) To give moral justification to their actions
c) To improve their friendship
d) To consider whether their actions are legal
e) To decide where they will go next

Answer
b
5. Compared to I Am Malala, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is more:

a) mysterious
b) realistic
c) serious
d) comical
e) logical

Answer
d

5. Tasks

Task 1: Write a paragraph using the first person. It can be fiction or non-fiction, but should include thoughts and actions.
Task 2: Construct a scene with multiple characters, but told through first person narration.

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