Second Person Narratives

Here’s a random thought that came to my mind: why aren’t there stories written in the second person narrative? (i.e. stories involving, “you”).

I’ve not seen any literature out there are employs this mode of writing.

If you think about it, it can be – and in fact, it is! – very exciting. When you read or tell stories from a second person narrative, it’s as if the subjective phenomenal experience of life unfolds before YOU! Yes, even if it is very very mundane, the fact that life unfolds before your very mind is an intriguing experience. It seems that the mind works very differently when you read in the second person.

To demonstrate this, I shall recount a brief description of the start of my day in the second person narrative: (Ready? Let’s go!)

You regain consciousness. You experience darkness. You hear a continuous stream of sound. As you slowly gain more consciousness, you begin to perceive it as classical music. Ah, you remember it as the sound of your radio alarm.

You open your eyes. You experience the fading of darkness into light. You see the sun shining through the curtains. Your body aches. You experience the sour, aching sensation in your shoulders and your calves. You wonder why they are aching, and you slowly remember that last night, you were busy doing some household chores.

You reach for your phone to look at the time. You press the button on the side of your phone: the time now is 6.55am. You try to get up but your aching body doesn’t agree with your decision. You continue to lie in bed. You close your eyes and continue listening to the music.

You’re too tired to think. Nothing goes through your mind. You feel as if you are going back to sleep. You hear a voice. You awake once more and pay close attention to the voice. You realise the radio station is now broadcasting the news. You continue lying in bed with your eyes open. After a while, you try again to get up. You succeed. Now, you are sitting upright on your bed.

You turn to the right and you stand up. You feel the coldness of the floor. You stretch your arms and your legs, and you begin walking towards the toilet. You stand by the urinal and pee. You feel a sense of relief. Now, you turn to the tap, and turn on the water. You feel the cold water flowing onto your hands. You stretch out your hands, you reach for the soap, you lather it up, and put the soap back. You rinse your hands. Now, you reach for the toothbrush and the toothpaste. You brush your teeth…

Well, you get the picture.

Try reading the passage above in an excited tone. It makes for a very thrilling story.

Anyway, yes, we should have more stories like this. It’s very intriguing. Life unfolds before your very eyes.

Pretty cool, isn’t it? Why don’t you try narrating a story in the second person narrative?

Author: Jonathan Y. H. Sim

Jonathan Sim is an Instructor with the Department of Philosophy at the National University of Singapore. He is passionate about teaching and he continues to research fun and innovative ways of engaging students to learn effectively. He has been teaching general education modules to a diverse range of undergraduate students and adult learners at the University.

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