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Non P.O.V. Protagonist

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Some written works feature a consistent Point of View: namely, through the eyes of The Protagonist. Other works throw in additional points of view and pass the POV around to present each of their respective views on the transpiring events. Sometimes, however, a single main character (usually the one with the most ambiguous/mysterious motivation) is conspicuously denied POV and their impact upon the plot is only ever seen through the eyes of other main characters. This character is the Non-POV Protagonist of the book.

The main purpose of the trope is to create dramatic tension. When a story is told from the perspective of a character, readers become very familiar with him or her, and can make some predictions as to their feelings and reactions. When a story does not give the perspective of a character, readers are left peering in, wondering just what is going through that person's head. That can be quite a tense experience if said character is The Chosen One, the Big Bad, or even just a Supporting Leader who will nonetheless be making decisions that the narrator characters have to live with.

Due to the nature of the medium, this is primarily a literary trope, though media closely related to literature may also use it.

Related tropes (that often accompany this) include Supporting Protagonist, a POV-character who plays a supporting role in the narrative, and First-Person Peripheral Narrator, a narrator character who isn't a protagonist. In those terms, this trope is a major character who doesn't get a P.O.V.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • The Dangers in My Heart is told mainly from the perspective of the male lead Kyōtarō Ichikawa, the only character whose thoughts are presented to the audience through text boxes. The life of his Love Interest Anna Yamada is explored through his eyes and interpretation of her. The most explicit peek we get into Yamada's head is the occasional Imagine Spot, along with the dialogue of other characters (including Ichikawa himself) coinciding with her facial expressions to convey what's on her mind.. Otherwise, her reactions and thoughts are a strong case of Show, Don't Tell.
  • Medaka Box: Bar perhaps one instance in an arc where her mind was reverted to her original cynical self, the reader almost never sees things through Medaka's eyes. Instead, we usually see things through Supporting Protagonist Zenkichi. This seems to emphasize Medaka's sheer inhuman nature beyond many normal and extraordinary humans despite being The Hero of the series.

    Fan Works 
  • The Mountain and the Wolf: The story is told entirely from the POV of Westeros characters, never from the Wolf, who serves as the Villain Protagonist. Eventually we get the POV of his henchman Akkarulf (formerly known as Theon Greyjoy) when the Chaos forces are away from Westeros, but the Wolf's mind remains a mystery to him as well.
  • What a Strange Little Colt never takes Gabriel’s Point of View, despite his prominent role.

  • Addie Bunsen, the mother, in As I Lay Dying narrates only one chapter while the rest are narrated by her family or other folks.
  • The character Kitai in Codex Alera is arguably one of the most important characters in the series (let's count the number of times she saves Tavi's life...) and faces many important and interesting decisions throughout the series. However, the reader always sees her actions through Tavi's and once, Isana's eyes. Bernard is like this as well.
  • Devin, the title character of Devin and the Teacher, has his story narrated by an acquaintance.
  • Carrot Ironfoundersson from Terry Pratchett's Discworld books. He's an important character, yet we never see what he thinks. Other main characters' POV are frequently presented. There's a theory that this might be due to the fact that he's not exactly as innocent and simple-minded as he appears to be, and Pratchett doesn't want to show it. Carrot does get occasional POV sequences; the first little bit of Guards! Guards! and the odd page or two in other books are through his eyes. Vimes is just a much more interesting character.
  • This is frequently done with the Doctor in the Doctor Who Expanded Universe novels, with the POV character being, of course, the companion. For the Doctor Who New Adventures, there was an official rule that you don't show what the Doctor is thinking (well, hardly ever), and the novel Conundrum lampshades this, as what starts out as Omniscient Third Person Narration is actually the Master of the Land of Fiction, and the fact his omniscience stops at the Doctor's mind (and only the Doctor's) frustrates him.
  • Dr. Abraham Van Helsing is the Big Good who leads the manhunt for the title villain of Dracula, but we never get to see his POV, except for brief glimpses of it from the narrators' accounts and his sparse letters.
  • Similarly, Erast Fandorin has only been the POV character in five out of thirteen books about him.
  • In the Gears of War novels, a Switching P.O.V. is used and the audience sees from the perspective of multiple characters...except for Marcus Fenix, the central and main playable character in the video games. This likely serves to highlight his nature as The Stoic and the way in which he constantly suppresses his feelings and emotions from others, even the audience.
  • A similar thing happens in Handle with Care, when, until the last chapter, everyone but Willow (the main reason for the plot) narrates.
  • Haruka Nogizaka's Secret is about the secret of a character named Haruka Nogizaka. However, the story isn't told from her P.O.V., but the one of Ordinary High-School Student Ayase Yuuto and is about how his life changed after learning the secret.
  • In the Heralds of Valdemar books, Heralds always have a Companion with them, sharing their adventures and giving occasional commentary. Over the run of the series, Companions have been shown interacting with non-Herald characters and displaying more personality than just a 'voice' in their Herald's head, but even then no book has ever been written from the perspective of a Companion.
  • In the Horus Heresy books, almost every major player in the conflict is given at least some perspective in one novel or another to allow the reader to understand what makes them tick. The one ironclad exception is the Emperor of Mankind, who even in his own dedicated novel (The Master of Mankind) is still only ever viewed through the eyes of other characters, leaving the reasoning behind his actions fully up to interpretation by both them and the reader.
  • Many important characters in The Lord of the Rings are narrated by hobbits. (Not that the hobbits are unimportant, but since a Supporting Leader is often a Non-POV Protagonist and Aragorn son of Arathorn is the original Supporting Leader, it bears mentioning.)
  • Malazan Book of the Fallen: While the author almost zealously ensures that most named characters are given a point of view section regularly — not a mean feat, considering that there are usually hundreds of characters that qualify — Adjunct Tavore Paran is a notable exception. Throughout the series we are given only a single paragraph from her point of view, and a vague one at that. This is deliberate; she is one of the series' greatest mysteries.
  • The Sister of My Sister's Keeper is, until the very last chapter, the only main character that doesn't narrate a chapter. The book only has a few characters, and asides from Kate, the only characters who don't get to narrate are the Judge, a bartender named Seven, and a dog.
  • The Poisonwood Bible alternates POV between all the members of the Price family except the patriarch, Nathan. Given that Nathan's impenetrability and single-mindedness are the catalyst for most of the book's drama and conflict, it makes sense that the reader is alienated from him just like everyone else.
  • Roque Alva is arguably the central character of the Reflections of Eterna cycle, yet there has never been a single chapter describing what exactly is going on in his head. Likewise, Valentine Pridd has never held the POV so far — probably because he knows too much about the Myth Arc (e.g. one short sequence from Mellit's POV shows that he is no stranger to magic, despite his young age).
  • In the first book of The Shattered Kingdoms, the Mongrel/Meiran/Lahlil is probably the most important character (and is central to the trilogy), but there's almost nothing from her point of view, and we instead see her mainly through the eyes of other characters. This helps preserve the uncertainty as to what she actually wants (and before it's revealed, what her origins are). In the second book, though, we start to get substantial sections from her point of view.
  • We only get Sherlock Holmes's point-of-view in two of his mysteries, with Watson's shown in the rest. Consensus is that this is for the best; apparently Holmes was a crap writer.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire:
    • Robb is the only Stark child besides 4-year-old Rickon to never have his own narrative, despite having major events in A Clash of Kings and A Storm of Swords revolve around him. Most of the chapters involving Robb are told from the P.O.V. of his mother.
    • Interestingly, no character in any real, permanent position of power or understanding is ever given a POV chapter, which are handed out easily from AFFC. Thus the reader can never get into their head and quickly and easily understand the whole situation, which would reveal plot elements early. The two exceptions are the two archetypical fantasy heroes, Daenerys Targaryen and Jon Snow, who grow into their power.
    • Played straight in books 2 and 3 but subverted in book 5 with Melisandre (who only had one chapter as POV). Her lack of narration in 2 and 3 contributes to the overall mysteriousness of the character.
    • Aegon VI Targaryen, AKA Young Griff, is a character with massive plot significance, but his story is narrated from the P.O.V.s of Tyrion, Jon Connington and later Arianne Martell.
  • Caddy from The Sound and the Fury is the only one of the Compson children without her own chapter.
  • Happens in Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli. Leo talks about his Manic Pixie Dream Girl friend Stargirl, but she never narrates. Sort of inverted in the sequel, Love, Stargirl, where Stargirl narrates and discusses her relationship with Leo but he never narrates.
  • The Secret History: The novel's narrator is the Richard, the latecomer and Sixth Ranger of the classics clique, but really he's just the eyewitness to the unfolding tragedy; the real protagonist is Henry.
  • Star Wars Legends:
    • Grand Admiral Thrawn in Timothy Zahn's stories, including The Thrawn Trilogy, the Hand of Thrawn duology, Outbound Flight and the post-Legends Thrawn novels. He's an Anti-Villain antagonist, to be precise (except in the post-Legends novels), but we have narration from the POV of various characters — except him. Never from his point.
    • Ben Kenobi is the central character of Star Wars: Kenobi, and though the conflicts of the book are not his, his arrival and actions catalyze them, bringing long-running tensions to the surface. However, except for his meditations to Qui-Gon, the novel never shows his point of view, instead showing his actions through the eyes of others (typically Annileen, Orrin, and A'Yark), preserving his character role as the mysterious Drifter. While Star Wars fans know that when mysterious things happen around him,note  he is using the Force to protect his secret, a neophyte reading the book (and skipping the meditations) would be just as confused as the other characters.
  • Andrew Jackson is treated like this in Trail of Glory. It might be argued that he is the most important character in the story, but we always see him from the outside.

    Live-Action TV 
  • While Will is Character Narrator and viewpoint character of The Inbetweeners, it's his friend Simon whose romantic endeavors tend to take precedence when it comes to the plot. Simon also fulfills the "relatable everyman protagonist" niche often associated with coming of age teen comedies much better than the stuck-up and studious Will does. Notably, the final episode of the series focuses primarily on Simon and the possibility of him moving away and leaving his friends.

    Video Games 
  • Thanks to some Leaning on the Fourth Wall in the Baten Kaitos series, the player him/herself is the point of view character, being cast as the "Guardian Spirit" of Kalas (EWatLO) and Sagi (Origins). While the two are the main characters of their game, they are not the POV characters, a distinction that has some very interesting effects in Eternal Wings and the Lost Ocean as it allows Kalas to be The Mole and betray the party, you included.
  • Masterfully played in Heavy Rain: you can overhear the thoughts of every character but one of them never shows their true feelings even when thinking. So, in effect, you get a protagonist whose POV you think you know but you really don't until the end.
  • Princess Ashe is, ultimately, the central hero/protagonist of Final Fantasy XII, but the game's story is told through the eyes of Vaan, a street rat who stole the right MacGuffin. Vaan plays a large role in the early plot, but quickly steps out of focus.
  • Final Fantasy Tactics: Delita, despite being the deuteragonist and having plenty of screen time, is largely left a mystery as most of his scenes are seemingly seen from the perspective of other people present, most prominently the Princess Ovelia. There are a handful of exceptions, and he does have a few scenes which focus on his personal affairs, but even then very little is revealed about his true self.
  • For The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, the writers/developers originally wanted to have the story focus on a character with a Dark and Troubled Past who had to grow up and accept his responsibility as the heir of the Septim line in order to save Tamriel from Mehrunes Dagon. This being The Elder Scrolls series, with it's propensity for Featureless Protagonists in a Wide-Open Sandbox world, this sort of linear storytelling simply didn't fit. Instead, they transferred this role onto the NPC Martin Septim, who from a wider perspective, is really The Hero and The Chosen One of the main storyline. The Player Character, meanwhile, serves as Martin's Hypercompetent Sidekick and Lancer, doing much of the heavy lifting in the plot so that Martin can save the world. (Most Guild and Faction questlines as well as both major expansions, Knights of the Nine and The Shivering Isles, make the PC the undisputed hero of their storylines instead.)
  • As one its many subversions of video game conventions, Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty places players in the shoes of Solid Snake for the prologue tanker chapter only. The main story follows new character Raiden, and its through his eyes that we see the events of Big Shell and Arsenal Gear. But when you examine the story and its movers and shakers it becomes clear that Raiden was being manipulated by everyone... including Snake, who used him to gain access to Arsenal Gear. Raiden may be the player character, but it's the Solid Snake Show (with special guest star Otacon) throughout Sons of Liberty.
  • In Ōkami, the central character is the Sun goddess Amaterasu in the form of a white wolf. You seldom get even a glimpse of her true thoughts even though you play as her the entire game; the main story is told by her Celestial Envoy, Issun.
  • Photopia: While the perspective jumps around constantly and anachronically, the true protagonist is Alley. Almost all the mundane story segments are from the perspective of her family/friends and center on their interactions with her, and even the bizarre Science Fantasy astronaut story is revealed to be a bedtime story Alley tells to a young girl she is babysitting. Yet Alley is never the "you" in any of the controllable sections.
  • Touhou Project: Reimu Hakurei, main character of the series, has plenty of dialogue but conspicuously has never been a narrator. This is deliberate, and the actual viewpoint characters tend to describe her in very different ways depending on the context they usually meet her in. It's been noted that Reimu is lazy but dutiful, and displays her emotions strongly yet seems incapable of lasting love or hate.

    Visual Novels 
  • Higurashi: When They Cry has a unique way of letting you see through the character's eyes. You get to see it through the new kid's eyes, the twin sister's, the crazy girl's, etc. But you never get to see Sonozaki Mion's point of view. Or Satoshi's. Or Hanyuu's.


    Western Animation 
  • The main characters of Steven Universe are Steven, Garnet, Amethyst and Pearl. However, the show is exclusively told from Steven's perspective, meaning we never get to see the Crystal Gems on their own without Steven around, except as stories told to Steven by another character.
  • The Simpsons: "Trilogy of Error" features three segments showing the events of the day from Homer's, Lisa's, and Bart's perspectives, in that order. The main character of the episode, however is Marge, who kicks off the plot by cutting Homer's thumb off, does much of the driving, and in the end saves the day.