Within a literary work, the real person, the fictional character, or the impersonal voice who tells the story to the reader


•In Karen Hesse’s short memoir “Waiting for Midnight,” an older Hesse tells a story from her childhood:  

In the early 1960s, I lived in a neighborhood in Baltimore city where everyone pretty much knew everyone else. Our parents gathered on weekends for community barbecues while we kids, in shifting patterns, flocked from one friend’s yard to another.  

•In Sherman Alexie’s novel Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, the fictional character Junior tells the story of his youth and recent adolescence:  

I was born with water on the brain.

Okay, so that's not exactly true. I was actually born with too much cerebral spinal fluid inside my skull. But cerebral spinal fluid is just the doctors' fancy way of saying brain grease.

•In John Steinbeck’s novella The Pearl, an impersonal voice tells a story about a poor family:

In the town they tell the story of the great pearl—how it was found and how it was lost again. They tell of Kino, the fisherman, and of his wife, Juana, and of the baby, Coyotito. 

Additional discussion:

To identify a story’s narrator, one must consider the form of the literary work. In works of narrative non-fiction, such as memoir, the narrator is generally the same as the author, a person who exists in real life.  In works of narrative fiction, such as short story, the narrator is generally not the same as the author; instead, the narrator is a product of the author’s imagination.

The identity of a story’s narrator is also closely related to the topic of point of view. For example, Alexie’s narrator is a first-person participant in the story, while Steinbeck’s narrator is a third-person omniscient observer.