Persona: The speaker in a literary work, often a first-person narrator. The term derives from the Latin word for “mask” and literally refers to that through which sound passes. Some critics equate the persona with the narrator, others with the implied author. Although the persona often serves as the “voice” of the author, the two should not be conflated, for the persona may not accurately reflect the author’s personal opinions, feelings, or perspective on a subject.
EXAMPLES: Notable literary personae include the wife-murdering Duke who speaks in Robert Browning’s poem “My Last Duchess” (1842); Pip, the selfish young social climber who narrates Charles Dickens’s novel Great Expectations (1861); J. Alfred Prufrock, who wonders if he “dare[s] to eat a peach” in T. S. Eliot’s “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” (1917); and Tashi, who submits to genital mutilation in order to experience cultural unity with her people in Alice Walker’s Possessing the Secret of Joy (1992).