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Literary Terms: Characterization. Mr. Myers CP English 9. Direct and Indirect Characterization. An alert writer might recognize that the two methods of characterization fall under the decision to “ show ” or to “ tell ”. Indirect characterization “shows” the reader.

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Direct and IndirectCharacterization

An alert writer might recognize that the two methods of characterization fall under the decision to “show” or to “tell”.

Indirect characterization “shows” the reader.

Direct characterization “tells” the reader.



Type of characterization where the author tells the reader exactly what the character is like.


Direct Characterization Examples:

Excerpt from The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway:

That winter Robert Cohn went over to America with his novel and it was accepted by a fairly good publisher. His going made an awful row I heard, and I think that was wherer Frances lost him, because several women were nice to him in New York, and when he came back he was quite changed. He was more enthusiasitc about America than ever, and he was not so simple, and he was not so nice. The publishers had praised his novel pretty highly and it went to his head. Then several women had put themselves out to be nice to him, and his horizons had all shifted.

Ed Johnson scratched his head in confusion as the sales rep explained Dralco’s newest engine performance diagnostic computer. The old mechanic hated modern electronics, preferring the old days when all he needed was a stack of manuals and a good set of tools.


Write a sentence or two using DIRECT CHARACTERIZATION TO DESCRIBE HOMER SIMPSON or another famous character from literature or television.


What is going on in this picture? What is this girl feeling? Why do you think she is feeling this way?



The type of characterization where the reader must infer what a character is like from what the character does, says, or thinks.


Julie held up six different outfits in front of the mirror and pondered which would go best with her navy blue shoes, pastel eye shadow and the diamond earrings she’d already procured from her overflowing vanity. After ninety minutes of mixing and matching, and cell-phoning her sister three times for advice, Julie finally made up her mind. She’d give the navy blue skirt and white sweater a try, hoping Trent would love it.

What can you INFER about Julie?



“Father Kavangah was praying, his Irish mumble amplified by the PA system into the voice of God. He pinched the Host out of the chalice and raised it like a man admiring a silver dollar, Tim’s cue to shake the bells. He thrashed them, brass clashing brass so harshly that heads flinched. Kavanagh flung Tim a thunderbolt glare. Tim stiffened his face” (Furhman, 1).

What can you INFER about

Father Kavanagh?