In a recent review of "two novels about Alzheimer's disease," LaVonne Neff comments that in one of them the author "convincingly sees through [the protagonist's] eyes, even though she tells his story in the third person." Here is a paragraph she quotes in illustration:
He looks around his car and tries to remember what make it is; he cannot. He opens the window to feel what month it is. It isn't a month. There aren't months. There are just happenings, a lack of signposts … . He pulls up at the side of the road, lifts his glasses, and rubs his eyes. He has been doing this journey to and from work every day for thirty-five years. He pores over the map.
There is actually very little here that could accurately be described as being conveyed "through the eyes" of this character. Sentence one reports on an action from the outside and then offers a brief report of what's "going on inside" the character's mind. Sentence two does likewise, although in this case we are given the puzzling report that he wants to "feel what month it is," presumably a measure of his Alzheimer's-induced confusion. The next three sentences puport to be the character's thoughts, but as in most fiction using the free indirect method ("psychological realism") they're really just the narrator's coherent formulation of what might be happening, in a fleeting, incomplete sort of way as, in this case, the character looks out the car window. Certainly nothing like these articulated statements are really being fully-formed by the character himself.
The following sentence is again straight reporting: "He pulls up at the side of the road, lifts his glasses, and rubs his eyes." Indeed, this could just as easily be the perspective of someone peering in at the character through the car windows as of the character himself as he prepares to consult the map. The next sentence provides us with a piece of information that could be hovering in the back of his mind but again hardly seems to be the sort of thing the character would be thinking explicitly. It is the sort of thing the narrator would be offering as a way to fill out the scene, however. It's a summary statement, not a reflection of actual thought processes. The final sentence in this quoted passage returns to reporting what the character does.
In no way can I read this passage as an attempt to make us "see" through the character's "eyes." (Or if it is such an attempt, it certainly fails.) This would require a loosening of linguistic and rhetorical logic (as opposed to the loss of "logic" being experienced by the character) that we just don't find here. It would require the suspension of our own expectations of what "seeing" entails. I have not read either of the novels Neff is reviewing, and I could certainly imagine using cognitive anomalies such as Alzheimer's and dementia in such a way that something genuinely innovative in the application of point of view could be achieved, but from the passages quoted in the review and from the reviewer's account of the novels as a whole, it doesn't appear as if they are anything other than conventional, third-person central-consciousness narratives that happen to take cognitive impairment as a subject.
It is Neff's review itself that is most telling in its own confusion about the effects of point of view. It reflects a more general lack of attentiveness in many general-interest fiction reviews whereby the work at hand is mischaracterized as "getting inside" the minds of its characters when at best what it provides is some combination of omniscient reporting and mild inflections of those characters' perspective through by now shopworn narrative notations and manipulations of sentence length and structure ("It isn't a month. There aren't months."). It mistakes these facile and perfunctory devices for genuine exploration in point of view. And it thus reinforces the notion that what distinguishes fiction from visual forms of storytelling is primarily its ablity to delve into consciousness and reveal what it's like to "see through the character's eyes." What distinguishes fiction from other narrative forms is its existence in language, in writing, and the writing quoted by LaVonne Neff is just the same old boilerplate.