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Memoir & Point of View. More work with Tone, Pathos, and Stance. Journal #29.

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memoir point of view

Memoir & Point of View

More work with Tone, Pathos, and Stance

journal 29
Journal #29

What is your earliest/first memory? About how old were you? What happened? What do you really REMEMBER about it (be honest with yourself, what parts are really your memory? what parts are what people have told you about it?) Why do you think you remember it?

You will have 10-15 minutes, GO DEEP into that memory and write as much as you can.

memoir point of view1

Memoir & Point of View

More work with Tone, Pathos, and Stance


“It is necessary to remember and necessary to forget, but it is better for a writer to remember.”

-William Saroyan

  • A memoir isan account of the personal experiences of an author. Often it is called an autobiographybut can also be a biography or biographical sketch. Typically they will remember an experience or place
elements of memoir
Elements of Memoir

Common elements we look at when we read memoir are:

  • Nostalgia
  • Point of View
  • Stance
  • Tone
  • Pathos
  • Other Rhetorical Devices
  • Nostalgia is a tone of fond recollection—looking back on the past “through rose-colored glasses” a a perfect time of innocence and happiness.
  • How many of you felt nostalgic when answering the Journal #29 prompt? How would you describe this feeling or why do you think you felt that way?
journal 30
Journal #30
  • What did you bring for “Show-and-Tell”? Why is this a nostalgic item for you? Why did you choose to bring this item? What is its significance?

(If you forgot to bring something, answer the

questions above anyway. What WOULD you bring?


point of view stance
Point of View & Stance

When we analyze fiction, we make the assumption that the Narrator is NOT the author, but a character invented by the author for that particular piece of fiction. Thus, Mark Twain is not Huck Finn. The term Point of View is then used to refer to the relationship between this character and the story s/he tells:

  • If the Narrator is a participant in the story, we have First Person Point of View.
  • If s/he is “on the outside looking in”, we have Third Person Point of View.

Generally speaking, we don’t worry about the author’s relationship to the material, but only about the message s/he is trying to convey (the theme).

point of view stance1
Point of View & Stance

In non-fiction, the assumptions are different. The Voice we identify behind the words IS the writer, but the writer assumes a particular role. Sometimes this is called a mask but that term is somewhat misleading because it implies that the writer is pretending to be something s/he is not. Most of the time, in personal essays at least, this is not the case. The writer is truly as s/he presents him/herself, but we only get a part of the complex personality that makes up a human being. Thus, the Persona is genuinely but not completely the writer. Persona is the term AP prefers to use to describe the reader’s perception of the speaker in a personal essay.

point of view stance2
Point of View & Stance

Someone who writes a lot, for instance a professional writer, will often develop a style which s/he uses in all or most of his/her writing and part of this style may be a Persona. Patrick McManus, for example, uses the persona of the naïve country bumpkin in many of his essays. Most of the essays of Thoreau present the same basic Persona. This typical Persona is also part of the writer’s Narrative Stance. Narrative Stance is the term used to describe the author’s relationship to the material. It is a broader term than Point of View, which is only one element of Stance.

point of view stance3
Point of View & Stance

Since we are assuming that the writer IS the Narrator in a personal essay, we need to look at more than just his/her narrow relationship to the story (or Point of View). For one thing, there are many essays in which there IS no “story” per se and so no Point of View in the strict sense. Yet, the writer has chosen to present the material in his/her essay in a certain way and part of that choice involves his/her choice of Persona and choices about how to approach the presentation.


A writer chooses his/her stance based on his/her purpose, assumptions about the audience and understanding of the occasion – all elements of the Rhetorical Situation. For example, in “Letter from Birmingham Jail”, Martin Luther King ‘s purpose is to persuade a specific audience of Southern ministers to join with him in protesting segregation on the occasion of his incarceration for leading protests in the segregated South of the 1960’s. He chooses to present himself as a fellow minister who is calm, reasoned, logical and most especially non-threatening (mostly) because he thinks this is the best way to reach his audience.


Besides Persona, Narrative Stance can include choices about these:

  • Objective vs. Subjective – If the writer chooses to focus on the material itself, he is objective. If he chooses to focus on his own emotional reaction to the material, he is subjective.
  • Approving vs. Disapproving -- The writer may choose to make clear whether he thinks the subject he is discussing is a good thing or not. This is sometimes called bias. It can be blatant or subtle, or the writer may choose not to show his own feelings at all. News stories are supposed to have no bias, simply presenting the facts, but many critics say that in fact news reporters do ‘skew’ their reporting to reflect their own approval or disapproval.
  • Participant vs. Observer– While all personal essays would seem to be by definition First Person, writers love to play games with this. Some writers, Henry Adams for example, write about themselves in the Third Person in order to gain the appearance of objectivity. In a character sketch, the writer will often choose to present his subject from an observer perspective. In a memoir, the writer may present himself as both participant and observer by talking about his own past self as if it were a separate person: this is called Split Point of View. In some pieces, the writer is completely removed from the story, almost like the writer of a fiction piece. S/he may even present the thoughts of several characters, as if s/he is omniscient.
  • Intimate vs. Distant – Since many personal essays are based upon the writer’s own life, the Persona is obviously very closely connected to his material. He will know all the little details, the history and the causes. However, he may choose to “back off” and try to present the Big Picture instead.
  • Involved vs. Detached – Again, these terms are often used to discuss a writer’s emotional connection to his material, but they do cover a more general category. A writer who is involved has a personal stake in things. One who assumes a detached stance seems to have none. This is a particularly important consideration in Argument essays, where the reader needs to evaluate the writer’s personal involvement in the outcome of the debate in order to judge the validity of his arguments. Is the writer really as disinterested and civic-minded as he says, or are there ulterior motives lurking in the background?
  • Assured vs. Questioning – In most essays, the writer will want to present himself as an ‘expert’ on his subject (assured) so that his readers will be willing to accept what he says as true. In some kinds of essays, however, the writer may choose to present himself as a ‘fellow seeker’ after truth. He invites the reader to work through a problem with him so that when a conclusion is reached, the reader feels that it is his own conclusion as much as the writer’s.
narrative of the life by frederick douglas
Narrative of the Lifeby Frederick Douglas
  • Who was Frederick Douglas?
  • Turn to p. 931 and read Chapter 1
narrative of the life by frederick douglas1
Narrative of the Lifeby Frederick Douglas
  • Objective vs. Subjective
  • Approving vs. Disapproving
  • Participant vs. Observer
  • Intimate vs. Distant
  • Involved vs. Detached
  • Assured vs. Questioning
journal 31
Journal #31

Copy down the following and using the appropriate terms (as seen below) fill in this sentence:

Although most memoirs aim to create a tone of Nostalgia, Fredrick Douglas writes from a ____________, ____________ and ___________ stance, creating a _____________ tone in his “Narrative of the Life.”

  • Objective vs. Subjective
  • Approving vs. Disapproving
  • Participant vs. Observer
  • Intimate vs. Distant
  • Involved vs. Detached
  • Assured vs. Questioning