Tips and tricks for character analysis

Every piece of literature has a character. Stories, like the ones here, revolve around characters; characters catalyze a story to move forward; and more importantly, they make people love or hate them. If you ask any bookworm, they certainly have a character (or two, or three) whom they love. These characters, whether we love or hate them, are crucial to every story. This is why fiction writers carefully craft and present their characters, in the process called characterization.

When analyzing a character, it is important to keep in mind that everything that the character does, sees, says, and feels are part of characterization. These are deliberate; and while some of these are pivotal to the plot, they still play a big part in building character.

Character Analysis

A character analysis is a sub-type of a literary analysis essay. However, this is also employed in writing book reports and movie reviews. Character analysis involves observing the character and analyzing them and how they relate to the story as a whole. Character analysis requires meticulous analysis as the most crucial detail can be so subtle, or even unnoticeable. Moreover, fiction writers use characters in various ways. Some characters are allegorical figures for a particular person, while others are allegorical figures for entire peoples; similarly, characters have been used to make a commentary about an idea or ideal. The role and significance of a character in a literary work is unpredictable. The best we readers can do is to analyze them with a meticulous eye through the help of available empirical proof.

How to analyze a character

Step 1: Describe your character

The first and most basic step in character analysis is describing the character. How old is this person? Where do they live? What do they do? Are they nice, innocent, or witty? You could try to describe your character as you would a friend. This serves as the foundation for your understanding of the character.

Then, take it a step higher: what are their hopes or goals? What is their motivation? Are they going through a conflict, internal or external? Do they undergo a change as a result of an event in the story?

You may need to go back to the story and take note of the character’s thoughts, feelings, and actions.

Step 2: Determine the type of character

It is time to get into the technical literary terms. Aside from the protagonist, antagonist, and ancillary characters, there are four types of characters that typically appear in a fictional story. Understanding what type your character is will help you determine their role in the story as well.

Dynamic character – this type of character is one who experiences a change in their personality or perspective in life or about a thing. This change is often propelled by an event in the story. Often, for the protagonist, the event is the main conflict of the story.

Static character – the opposite of a dynamic character; a character can be well-fleshed out and still not undergo a change throughout the story.

Round character – this type of character is fully fleshed out in the story. We know their personalities, their thoughts, and their motives.

Flat character – the opposite of a flat character. As suggested by its name, a flat character is not fleshed out in the story. Little effort is devoted to this character’s characterization. They also do not undergo any change throughout the story, but they remain crucial to the plot or to the entirety of the story.

Foil character – this is a character whose characteristics contrast those of another character in the story. Foil characters are often minor characters that are simply there to highlight a characteristic of the main character. (Note: the foil character can be classified as any of the four types of characters.)

Step 3: Describe the character development

It is quite easy to point out what happens to the plot of a story, but what happens to a character is often more subtle. The character analysis draws you to be more conscious of the changes that happen to a character. Take note of their thoughts and feelings after the climax or after a significant event—how is it different from how they thought, felt, and acted prior? Did this character grow stronger or weaker? Did they develop new relationships? Did they tap into a new aspect of themselves?

Once you have the character development figured out, you can proceed to analyze the character in relation to the bigger picture of the story.

Step 4: The big picture

Most everything in the story boils down to the message or theme of the story. Thus, the character and their developments can best be understood in the context of the story’s theme. For instance, you can talk about how the character further expounds on the story’s theme. What does the character or their development say about the theme or topic of the story? These are just some typical angles through which you can analyze a story. You may also opt to employ theories in analyzing a character, especially if the author used it or is a proponent of the said theory.

Character analysis example - Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby

Final notes

We completely understand that you love these characters, but do be wary of making groundless assumptions or projecting your own biases or hopes onto them. However else you relate to the character is irrelevant to your character analysis. Don’t let it cloud your analysis! Always refer back to the story and look for concrete evidence for your analyses. As long as you can find sound, concrete evidence, and you can justify or explain it logically, you are free to write whatever you please.

Which character would you love to analyze?

Too busy to read for pleasure?

The intricacies of literature do not end with the plots of classic literary gems. Truth is they only commence once the stories end. Adeptness at literary criticism requires not only interest in literature, but reading and analytical skills, a wide vocabulary, and unparalleled keenness to detail. So to speak, total immersion in the work is imperative to come up with sound, logical, and compelling literary criticism. Ask a literature major and they will likely tell you the same thing. Much to the disappointment of all, it appears like the more we go deeper into the 21st century, the busier students become. So busy that they do not even have time to enrich themselves reading Literature, and as a result, they fall short at honing their skills at literary criticism. Delegate your time to more important things in your education with the help of CustomEssayMeister. You can expand your writing skills and your intellectual horizon better if you do not drown yourself in writing and other coursework.