Homework Help

Is this quote from Of Mice and Men an example of direct or indirect characterisation?...

user profile pic

andreauni1 | (Level 1) eNoter

Posted July 15, 2011 at 5:39 PM via web

dislike 1 like

Is this quote from Of Mice and Men an example of direct or indirect characterisation? "He ain't mean. But he gets into trouble alla time because he's so goddamn dumb."

Im struggling because of the definitions I have for both. For Direct characterisation it says that through the narrator, the character him/herself or through another character, 'the writer makes direct statements about a character's personality and tells what the character is like'. For indirect I have 'the writer reveals information about a character and his personality through that character's thoughts, words, and actions, along with how other characters respond to that character, including what they think and say about him.

3 Answers | Add Yours

user profile pic

mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted July 15, 2011 at 6:06 PM (Answer #1)

dislike 1 like

Direct characterization involves a direct statement or statements that give the writer's opinion of the character.  For instance, in his short story "The Necklace," Guy de Maupassant begins,

She was one of those pretty and charming girls, born as if by an accident of fate, into a family of clerks.

This statement is clearly the writer's opinion of the character of Madame Loisel as he is the omniscient narrator in this story.

Now, in John Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men, Steinbeck employs indirect characterization throughout his novel as he develops his characters with these methods:

  1. through physical descriptions of the characters
  2. through the characters' actions
  3. throught the characters' thoughts feelings, and speeches
  4. throught the comments and reations of other characters

The last method (4) is the one used to describe Lennie Small.  It is George Milton, his companion, who speaks of Lennie, not the writer.  In this line from Chapter 3 of Steinbeck's novella, George converses with Slim, in answer to his "invitation to confidence."  When Slim asks why George and Lennie "go around together," George explains that after Lennie's aunt died, he became Lennie's caretaker because they were accustomed to each other.  Then, they discuss how men who are alone and alienated become mean.  Slim remarks that he can tell that Lennie is not mean, and George then reveals that although Lennie is not mean, he is mentally challenged.  Because exchange of ideas and description of Lennie is all developed through George and Slim's conversation, it is considered indirect characterization.

user profile pic

andreauni1 | (Level 1) eNoter

Posted July 15, 2011 at 6:16 PM (Answer #2)

dislike 0 like

I understand what you are saying but I am still confused as Direct characterisation can use another character in the story (or indeed the character him/herself) to make a direct statement about a character and his/her personality - the direct statement doesnt just need to come from the writer in the form of a narrator as is the case in the eg cited above. This is why I thought the quote was possibly an eg of direct characterisation because it could easily be Steinbeck's direct statement about Lennie (that is, that he isn't mean but a nuisance, etc) put to us via George's dialogue with Slim. "He ain't mean" certainly reads like a direct statement to me.

user profile pic

funnygirlthomas | Student, Grade 10 | eNotes Newbie

Posted August 1, 2011 at 2:17 AM (Answer #3)

dislike 0 like

That quote is an example of indirect characterization because it is someone else saying something about him, not the author coming out and saying it. Simple as that! :)

Join to answer this question

Join a community of thousands of dedicated teachers and students.

Join eNotes