Narrator and point of view


The short story “Autumn Evening” by Langston Hughes is told from the point of view of a third-person narrator, who has access to the thoughts of both characters, although we are mainly given Mary’s perspective.

The narrator offers little information about Mary and Bill’s background. For example, we do not know why they ended their relationship. According to the narrator: “something not very important had come between them, and they didn’t speak.” Here, it seems that the narrator downplays the seriousness of the cause of the break-up, especially if we take into consideration the outcome.

At times, the narrator offers an insight into what the characters are thinking:

‘You’re looking very…’ (he wanted to say old) ‘…well,’ he said.
She understood. Under the trees in Washington Square, she found herself desperately reaching back into the past. She had been older than he then in Ohio. Now she was not young at all. Bill was still young.

The narrator here has access to the minds of both characters, and readers know what Bill wanted to say as well as what Mary is feeling. 

Most of the story follows the polite small talk between Bill and Mary without comments from the narrator. The narrator leaves a lot unsaid, as the situation betw...

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