Another way to write a character analysis

A strong character analysis will:

  1. identify the type of character it is dealing with.
  2. describe the character.
  3. discuss the conflict in the story, particularly in regards to the character’s place in it.

A different approach to writing a character analysis

If you are having a panic attack, or its milder equivalent, of writing a character analysis, consider treating it as a personnel review. Pretend you are the manager and these three characters (or five or six) are working for you. What would you say about them?

Remember a personnel review will typically cover these items:

    quality of work
    job knowledge
    relationships with others
    customer service
    work habits
    dependability
    adaptability/flexibility
    promotability

Which of these can best be used (in character analysis of the play Oedipus Rex) to describe Oedipus? Creon? Jocaste?
A problem to avoid:

Many evaluations contain too few facts and too many opinions. What the evaluator believes to be true (opinion) is frequently accepted as truth without question, challenge or reservation. Corroboration backed by facts is often missing.

    from How to write better employee evaluations

And how to do a good job from the same source:

    Seek input from other observers when appropriate.Base written evaluations on multiple, first-hand observations.Know what you’re looking for. Evaluate the right things. Concentrate exclusively on factors directly related to job performance….Focus on improvement. Use the evaluation to set goals for better performance.

    …Be as specific as possible. Use examples. Glittering generalities don’t help much in targeting action or improvement plans.

    …Choose words carefully. The goal is clarity.

Just some thoughts for your character analysis on Oedipus.
An example of stock questions asked on an employee evaluation that you might use can be found here. It is from New York.

Another presentation on personnel reviews is this one from New Mexico.

Obviously not all of them will be relevant for the play, but they are still interesting to think about.

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.

4 thoughts on “Another way to write a character analysis”

  1. Thank you John, Dr. Davis for this very well represented piece on writing character analysis. The main point ofcourse is the purpose for which it is being done. It could well be for
    All the above mentioned purposes and
    Matrimonial purposes
    Lending or Tenacy purposes
    or
    simply literary purposes
    Literary criticism in itself is vast in its treatment since the college entry level student cannot be considered at par with the rest of the groups who have been there longer.
    Personally speaking as a teacher I would recommend a phased exposure to the different types of characters so that the students don’t get bogged down by the wide range.
    The main problem in Indian colleges being faced by the teachers is to get the students to write independently, their own opinions on things they read.
    Its easier to borrow from others and present the same market notes as assignments.
    They do not want to read the original texts. Its too time consuming and probably they would much rather be doing something else.

  2. Dear Dr. Davis,

    Thank you for the no-nonsense approach to writing character analysis. I am an English teacher (for 30 years) in a small private school and am teaching Sophomores for the first time in 25 years. Your article/blog has certainly made my job easier.

  3. This was very helpful. The interview skills perspective definitely helped me to look for examples throughout the book to back up the analysis.

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