I've now encountered this interesting and unusual PoV in multiple works of fiction:
The narration is in first-person plural. It uses the pronoun “we” to collectively refer to a small group of ordinary humans. And it mentions each of the individuals in the third person, so the reader can tell that it's not just one specific person talking about the group.
The first time I consciously noticed this PoV was in Karen Joy Fowler's Jane Austen Book Club. (I wrote about that in more detail in a 2006 blog entry.) The second time was in an as-yet-unpublished story in a writing workshop earlier this year. And the third was last night, in Theodore Sturgeon's 1970 story “Crate,” which I read long ago without noticing the interesting PoV.
(There's also something pretty similar to that in a Zenna Henderson story, “One of Them”; the narrator is one of a group of five women, but she isn't sure which one she is. But even though it has a similar effect, that's not quite the same thing; she is one specific one of them. See my abovelinked entry for more about that story too.)
I went looking for more information about “Crate” and found that the Wikipedia entry for First-person narrative includes a list of first-person-plural works:
- William Faulkner's “A Rose for Emily.”
- Frank B. Gilbreth and Ernestine Gilbreth Carey's Cheaper by the Dozen.
- Theodore Sturgeon's “Crate.”
- Frederik Pohl's Man Plus.
- Jeffrey Eugenides's The Virgin Suicides.
- Karen Joy Fowler's The Jane Austen Book Club.
- Joshua Ferris's Then We Came to the End.
But not all of those are exactly the kind of thing I'm talking about. In the Faulkner story, the “we” is the whole town; you could easily look at it as being from a specific not-named-in-the-story person's point of view. Cheaper by the Dozen is a memoir, so if you know the authors' names, you know which two specific kids they are. (But if you don't know the authors' names, then it does fit my category.) And I haven't read the rest of the works on the list, so I'm not sure whether they're quite what I'm talking about either.
I'm also told that the first section of Ed Park's Personal Days uses first-person plural, but I'm not sure whether it falls into my category or not.
So I'm curious whether any of you know of any other works that use this first-person-plural-indeterminate viewpoint.
Again, not talking about just use of “we,” which isn't terribly uncommon (and often appears in sf in contexts like an intelligence in multiple bodies); I'm talking specifically about use of “we” to refer to a specific group of individual humans, but where it's clearly not just one of the specific individuals talking on behalf of the group.