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Characterization

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  1. Characterization • Literary characters are those creations that permit artists to play deity – to populate a fictional universe with people and creatures of their own making. Characterization is the process by which an author fashions these fictional characters. • Through use of great detail, the author “paints a picture in the reader’s mind.”

  2. Major characters are the principal figures of the work; they are the protagonists in regard to conflict. If a major character changes as a result of an experience, he is dynamic or kinetic. DYNAMIC/KINETIC: The character changes (learns a lesson) through the course of the story. Ex: Scrooge STATIC: When a character remains the same Ex: Most villains (the Joker is evil all the way through the Batman series)

  3. Round Character • These individuals are complex, demonstrating many personality aspects, have believable motivations, and often surprise the reader. • Ex: Hester Prynne in The Scarlet Letter is a “round” character in that the reader is allowed to see many facets of her personality. She is human – neither totally good nor bad. She is capable of surprising the reader when, at the end of the novel, she returns voluntarily to the New England setting and resumes the wearing of the dreaded letter.

  4. Flat Character • These fictional beings are constructed around one central idea or characteristic and never change or surprise the reader. Ex: James Bond

  5. Stock Character • This character is a stereotype: conventional character representing a particular group, class, or occupation. Because his character is conventional, he acts according to patterns. His appearance is familiar, speech predictable, and actions standardized. • Ex: The typical coach The typical cheerleader

  6. Allegorical/symbolic figures • A character may be this when his/her actions and words seem designed to represent some thought or view or quality. Ultimately, a symbolical figure is one whose accumulated actions lead the reader to see him as something more than his own person. • Uncle Sam represents America

  7. Foil • A foil is a character who serves as a contrast to another, usually to work to the advantage of the protagonist. He may help to illuminate the protagonist’s positive qualities by showing his own negative attributes, thus providing a clear and understandable contrast for the reader.

  8. Confidant • Often used in drama, is a character to whom the protagonist reveals his inner thoughts; he becomes a convenient device for the protagonist to speak his thoughts to without addressing them to the audience in the form of a soliloquy.

  9. Appearance • This may be taken as a clue to a character’s real nature. This shows descriptions of physical details and dress, which serve as indicators of character and social station.

  10. Words • What a character says is one of the most revealing aspects of characterization. How does he say his words? What are his habits of speech? His tone? Does the occasion color the tone?

  11. Direct Characterization • When the writer tells the reader specific details about the character’s personality and looks • Example: The teacher was angry and frustrated with the class.

  12. Indirect Characterization • When the writer gives you details about the actions and words of the character and you draw your own conclusions about the character’s personality. • Example: The teacher slammed down her fist and frowned at the class.