Character and Characterization by p9B4g4O

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									Character and Characterization
Characterization ranks among the most powerful elements of
literature. Characters attract us; we can identify with characters in a
story. Conversely, character can repel us; we can dislike a
character so much that we still feel a magnetism to what the
character experiences. Characters and characterization compel us
to turn the pages of a story and discover what happens.
Characters, particularly the protagonist drive the plot. Think about
your favorite stories and how you reacted to the characters. During
the last several years, Harry Potter and his friends, teachers, other
good characters and bad characters attracted innumerable readers.
Frodo and the fellowship of the ring have attracted readers for more
than half a century, and the recent Lord of the Rings films continued
to attract people. Characters, the persons in a story, poem, or
play, and the characterization created by an author drive us to
read about their lives and connect, evaluate, and judge them.

Characterization is the process of creating a character. The
author reveals the character to us through characterization,
including the character’s physical appearance and personality. When the writer does the job well, we can
see and hear the character, and at least in our imagination the character becomes real.

Generally there are six ways an author reveals a character to the reader. These six ways are subject to
two processes: indirect and direct characterization.

Direct characterization occurs when a writer directly tells a reader directly about a character’s
appearance or personality. The writer tells us directly what kind of person the character is in the story.

Indirect characterization often leaves the impression and judgment of a character to the reader and his
imagination. The writer gives us information about a character, but we must put the clues together and
form our own opinions. Generally, there are five ways for a writer to provide indirect characterization.

    1. The writer lets us hear the character speak. From the speech pattern and delivery (dialogue) of
       the character we can learn much characterization. Think about the words the character uses in
       dialogue and how the dialogue is delivered.

    2. The writer can describe how the character looks and dresses. Although the writer is giving
       this information, we must still take the information and decide for ourselves what it tells us about
       the character. We create the character in our imagination.

    3. The writer may reveal characterization by letting the reader listen to the character’s inner
       thoughts and feelings; sometimes this is accomplished with interior monologue. This method
       can reveal much about a character because we are basically hearing/seeing how (and what) he
       thinks and feels. The writer provides us with a look at the inner person.

    4. The writer often provides characterization by revealing what other people in the story think or
       say about the character. We can form impressions, opinions, and judgments about a character
       by watching the interaction between the character and other persons in the story.

    5. The writer can also show what the character does – how the character acts. How a character
       acts can reveal much about his disposition and helps us understand what motivates his behavior.

In a well-written short story, novella, or novel, a writer will use many, if not all, of the above methods of
indirect characterization. When reading a story, remain aware of the characters and their
                              characterization. What is the writer telling us about the characters and the
                              human condition? Among the most important aspects of knowing a
                              character is to understand the motivations of a character – the
                              psychological, intellectual, and physical motivations. Why does a character
                              say what he says? Why does a character make the choices he makes and
                              how does he react with the consequences of his decisions? Is the
                              motivation rational or irrational? Does the character use reason or emotion
                              when making decisions? Are both, reason and emotion used? Often
                              motivations of characters involve their fears and conflicts. How does a
                              character face fear? How does a character confront and resolve conflict?
                              Is the character’s conflict always resolved?

Additional terms used with characterization include dynamic, static, round, and flat. A dynamic
character changes during the story. We can feel and understand the changes as they occur. A dynamic
character usually confronts conflicts – internal or external – forcing changes in the characterization. A
static character does not change or changes insignificantly. Generally, a flat character has only one or
two traits and can be described in few words. A flat character has no depth and is difficult for us to react
with or against. He just seems to be there. Conversely, a round character has several traits or
dimensions to his personality and characterization. Much like a real person, the traits of a round
character can contradict one another. In other words, we feel and come to know the character as a real
person, with all of the complexities that we see in our family and friends.

The following table helps to illustrate the above concepts of characterization
Character                     Dynamic                                            Static
                                                              Development is considered well-done. Often
                Considered the best type of character
 Round                                                         found in protagonists in books for younger
                development. Usually the protagonist.
                                                                               children.
               Characters cannot be dynamic and flat,
                                                               In very simple books, or in fairy tales, the
             because in a flat character we do not know
                                                                protagonist may be flat and static. Also
   Flat      enough about them for them to recognize a
                                                               appropriate for minor characters in other
            change. If a flat character seems to change, it
                                                                                books.
                   is usually due to poor writing.



Two important terms to understand with literature and characterization are protagonist and antagonist.
The protagonist is the central character (person, animal, or personified object) in the plot's conflict; the
protagonist is the character who drives the plot – makes the plot happen. An important way the
protagonist drives the plot is through conflict, usually supplied by the antagonist. The antagonist is the
force in conflict with the protagonist. It may be society, nature, or fate, as well as another person. It can
also be the protagonist's own self, if he or she has an internal conflict. Too often readers think of the
protagonist as the “good guy” and the antagonist becomes the “bad guy.” This is not necessarily true with
fiction or drama. A classic example of the protagonist not being a “good guy” is Poe’s short story, The
Cask of Amontillado.

When you read for school or for your own enjoyment, think about the characters in the story. What are
they about? How would you describe their personality? Why do they do what they do? What does it
mean for you and how you look at life? In the best literature and drama, the characters make it work and
make it worth your time to read.

								
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