Omniscient literally means "all knowing." When this term is used in a literary sense, it is typically used to refer to a narrator that is omniscient, or all knowing. This means that a third person narrator-a voice that is not in the story-is telling the story from a "birds-eye" view. The narrator knows everything, including the thoughts and feelings of multiple characters.
Using an omniscient narrator allows a writer to tell the story from various perspectives. The reader's view is not limited to one character, but we have information from multiple perspectives.
Examples of Omniscient Narrators:
Louisa May Alcott's novel Little Women is told from the point of view of an omniscient narrator:
Margaret, the eldest of the four, was sixteen, and very pretty, being plump and fair, with large eyes, plenty of soft brown hair, a sweet mouth, and white hands, of which she was rather vain. Fifteen-year-old Jo was very tall, thin, and brown, and reminded one of a colt . . . Elizabeth, or Beth, as everyone called her, was a rosy, smooth-haired, bright-eyed girl of thirteen, with a shy manner, a timid voice, and a peaceful expression, which was seldom disturbed.
The narrator of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice is sometimes limited because the third-person narrator follows Elizabeth Bennett for most of the novel. But, there are times when we get an omniscient point of view, such as this excerpt where we learn something about how Mr. Darcy perceives Elizabeth:
But no sooner had he made it clear to himself and his friends that she hardly had a good feature in her face, than he began to find it was rendered uncommonly intelligent by the beautiful expression of her dark eyes. To this discovery succeeded some others equally mortifying. Though he had detected with a critical eye more than one failure of perfect symmetry in her form, he was forced to acknowledge her figure to be light and pleasing . . .
Literary Terms Examples