A strong character analysis will:
- identify the type of character it is dealing with.Â
- describe the character, using various measures as detailed below.
- discuss the conflict in the story, particularly in regards to the character’s place in it.
To describe the character:
Consider the character’s name and appearance.
- Is the author taking advantage of stereotypes? The hot-tempered redhead, the boring brunette, the playboy fraternity guy.
- Is the author going against stereotypes? The brilliant blonde, the socially adept professor, the rich but lazy immigrant.
- Is the author repeating a description of the character? If so, then it is important. For example, Kathy inÂ East of EdenÂ is described as rodent-like and snake-like, “sharp little teeth” and a “flickering tongue.”
- Is their name significant? Is it a word that means something, like Honor or Hero? Does it come from a particular place or time and make reference to that? Scarlett, Beowulf.
- Appearance and visual attributes are usually far less important than other factors, unless their appearance is the pointâ€“Â such as inÂ The Hunchback of Notre Dame. Clothing also rarely matters, except to make him/her easier to visualize.
Consider if he/she a static (unchanging) or dynamic (changing) character. If the character has changed during the course of the story:
- Was the change gradual or rapid?
- Was it subtle or obvious?
- Are the changes significant to the story or are they a minor counterpoint?
- Are the changes believable or fantastic?
- What was his/her motivation to change?
- What situations or characters encouraged the change?
- How does the character learn from or deal with the change?
Consider how the author discloses the character:
- By what the character says or thinks.
- By what the character does.
- By what other characters say about him/her.
- By what the author says about him/her.
- The short form for this is STAR (says, thinks, acts, reacts).
Look for these things within the creation of the character:
- Do these characteristics aid in the character being consistent (in character), believable, adequately motivated, and interesting?
- Do the characteristics of the character emphasize and focus on the character’s role in the story’s plot?
- Is the character ethical? Is he/she trying to do the right thing, but going about it in the wrong way?
- Â Is the motivation because of emotion (love, hate) or a decision (revenge, promotion)?
- Does the character act in a certain way consistently?
- Or is the character erratic?
- Could one pluck the character from the story, put them in another story, and know how they would react?
- With other characters in the story
- How others see/react to him/her
- Typical tragic weakness is pride. Â Oedipus is proud.
- Weakness could be anything. Â In “Little Red Riding Hood,” the girl talks to a stranger. Â That’s a weakness.
- There are many different strengths and virtues.
- One strength/virtue is being good in trying times, like Cinderella.
- Another strength/virtue is caring for family, like Little Red Riding Hood.
- Another strength/virtue is being smart, like Oedipus.
- Most protagonists have more than one strength/virtue.
- Often a character will agonize over right and wrong.
- If a character doesn’t agonize and chooses one or the other easily, that is also significant.
- Does the story revolve around this characterâ€™s actions?
- If so, is the character the hero (protagonist) or villain (antagonist)?
- Personalities are more likely to be simple in children’s stories, fairy tales, and short stories.
- Personalities are more likely to be complex in longer works.
- Even in short works, such as “The Story of an Hour,” the character’s personality can be complex. Â Then it depends on what the author was focusing on.
history and background
- Sometimes a character analysis looks at the history of the individual character. Â Was that person mistreated? abused? well-loved? liked?
- Sometimes the history of the work matters more. Â Is the story set in World War II? Â In ancient Greece? Â That makes a difference because culture changes stories. Â If you don’t know the culture, though, you may not be able to comment on this.
similarities and differences between the characters
- This could be the foil aspect again. Â (SeeÂ How to write a character analysis for a longer discussion.)
- It could be looking at how characters complement each other.
- It could be looking at why characters would be antagonistic.
character’s function in story
- Is the character an integral character? Â (Cinderella)
- Is the character a minor character? (The wicked stepmother in “Cinderella”)
- Is the character someone who could have been left out or is gratuitous? (The second wicked stepsister in “Cinderella.”)
If this post was helpful to you, please leave a note in the comments to let me know. You could point out what was most helpful, so that I will know what I might want to expand later.
Besides the links in the first paragraph, other sources on the website on this topic include:
How to Write a Character Analysis: Introduction
How to Write a Character Analysis: Body Paragraphs
How to Write a Character Analysis: Titles
How to Write a Character Analysis: Conclusion
Questions for Literary Analysis: Theme
Questions for Literary Analysis: Setting
Questions for Literary Analysis: Point of View