I've seen discussions about distance in point of view on some blogs, and I've also heard some of my past writing teachers talk about it. They might say, for example, that a story is written from a close third person point of view. Something like this:
Ana didn't like to have soup with dinner. The hot and insubstantial liquid always took up too much space in her belly, as if the hostess (or host, in the case of David Harvey's Sunday dinners in Tempee) were trying to ensure that she wouldn't ask for a second helping of any other course...not that she would; she had too much pride to ask for seconds, just as she had too much pride ask for anything.
Even thought the narrator of this passage isn't Ana, we are still provided with information about Ana's thoughts and feelings.
This contrasts with a more distant third person point of view:
Ana always rolled her eyes when the host or hostess served soup for dinner. While the other guests ate, she would sit in front of her steaming bowl and wait, not even bothering to dip her spoon into the hot liquid.
Here we're further away from Ana, learning about her by watching her, as if through a movie camera.
Yat-Yee Chong talks a little bit about distance in this blog post as well.
I felt fairly aware of this difference between close and distant points of view, but as I was reading The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne this weekend, I noticed a more unusual distance, something that was sort of in between close and distant:
In this passage the narrator is describing why Hester Prynne, the book's protagonist, did not leave the town that had just punished her for taking part in a crime.
[I]t may seem marvellous, that this woman should still call that place her home, where, and where only, she must needs be the type of shame. But there is a fatality, a feeling so irresistible and inevitable that it has the force of doom, which almost invariably compels human beings to linger around and haunt, ghost-like, the spot where some great and marked event has given the color of their lifetime...It might be, too,--doubtless it was so, although she hid the secret from herself, and grew pale whenever it struggled out of her heart, like a serpent from its hole,--it might be that another feeling kept her within the scene and pathway that had been so fatal. There dwelt, there trode the feet of one with whom she deemed herself connected in a union, that, unrecognized on earth, would bring them together before the bar of final judgment, and make that their marriage-altar, for a joint futurity of endless retribution.
In this passage (shortened substantially to showcase the point), I thought it was really interesting the way Hawthorne created a bit of uncertainty in Hester's actions. As the creator of the book, Hawthorne could have been more definitive. Instead, he chooses to delve into the gray area of Hester's mind, not too close and not too far away, a technique that makes her seem much more human to me.
I haven't ever experimented with this mid-distance point of view before, but it makes me want to try. Have you ever used an unusual distance in your point of view? How do decide which distance you'll use?