Call The Police

How come Don DeLillo's first person narrators get to be omniscient on occasion? I added all this emphasis to a paragraph from White Noise:

'Steffie walked in saying "I'm the only person I know who likes Wednesdays." Wilder's absorption seemed to interest her. She went and stood next to him, trying to figure out what attracted him to the agitated water. She leaned over the pot, looking for an egg.'

Some fruit is so low-hanging that you can pick it with your teeth: "Because he's Don DeLillo," which means something completely different: "Because Don DeLillo is skilled enough in other areas that we can assume he had a careful purpose in committing the crime freshman fiction students in Septembers are annihilated by the POV police for committing." So what is the purpose? Just assuring ourselves that one exists is not enough.

I could never get behind a third person narrator not being allowed omniscience. Third person narrators are magic beings anyway, like the "ogre" or the "goblin." So putting one's foot down at omniscience--it's hard for me to keep track of what is supposed to be wrong about a third person narrator who switches from omniscience to focus &vv. Also just because an omniscient being doesn't at all times present all knowledges simultaneously doesn't mean that it lacks those knowledges and can't present just some of them in a relevant succession.

But now is the mind-jumping of a first person narrator like in White Noise supposed to make the narrator, Jack, out as an assumey sort of guy? Where/how else does this characterization manifest? I'm not totally sure that that's the plan & I begin to wonder whether we're making excuses for one instance of this narrative crime and we unjustly punish other instances, all based on who committed them. I'm not saying there's much likelihood that Don DeLillo and a fiction 101 B- getter--not that fiction is necessarily academic and everything--could offer equally fertile conversation about their usage of first person omniscient point of view, just that we make the call based primarily on who is responsible for the crime's commission rather than based on the artistic effects the crime has on the book.

We don't normally answer the question "How come the author wanted the first person narrator here to venture into omniscienciness?" with "Because it characterizes the narrator as an assumey guy who wants to be in control of his situation to stave off the deep and fearsome certainty that basically everything is out of his control." No, we say, "Because this is Don DeLillo we're talking about here and he can do whatever he wants," and just trust that he didn't err, and then afterwards find out in what way he didn't err, when really we should see the purpose and the purpose is what should tell us that he didn't err. Same with freshman kid only reversed. We just say the kid must have screwed up the POV in their story. We don't say "this technique is confusing and makes me wonder whether this character is assumey or in control or what...?" and then accept that the author erred.

On the other hand maybe we do do that and I'm an internet fool, plus there are only so many hours in a day and if we give accomplished writers the benefit of the doubt we'll save time and if we don't give beginners the BotD they'll be made to defend/analyze what they put on the page which will help. My only worry is that we'll give the benefit otD to what is truly just a plain old slip up from an otherwise able writer--because God forbid.

The paragraph itself is entirely third person, which at first blush reads a little slip uppily, or would if it weren't written by someone whose work we define as slip up proof. He also says "seemed," so maybe the narrator's guessing or whatever.

But Don't Take My Word For It