I need an example of direct characterization and an example of indirect characterization from To Kill a Mockingbird.

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laurniko eNotes educator| Certified Educator

To understand direct versus indirect characterization in To Kill a Mockingbird, consider Jem Finch, Scout's brother. He's shown to move past problems quickly and love football via direct characterization. Jem is shown to miss his mother, require solitude to mourn, exhibit bravery, and respect and fear his father via indirect characterization.

Direct characterization is something the author or narrator tells us about a character. We don't have to observe the quality for ourselves; we're told it exists in a person. Scout says "Jem was not one to dwell on past defeats" and "Jem was football crazy." The reader then knows something about Jem directly from Scout. Though the reader didn't experience those qualities, they still know those qualities exist.

Indirect characterization is something the reader is shown about the character through their actions, thoughts, or impact on others. Scout thinks about her mother and says:

I did not miss her, but I think Jem did. He remembered her clearly, and sometimes in the middle of a game he would sigh at length, then go off and play by himself behind the car-house. When he was like that, I knew better than to bother him.

Though she doesn't know for sure that Jem misses their mother—and doesn't directly say Jem is a person who deals with that via solitude—Scout's impressions of his actions give an indirect characterization that reveals these truths to the reader.

Another example of indirect characterization for Jem is his bravery, shown the night after he, Scout, and Dill escape from Nathan Radley, who was shooting at them for being on his property—though he didn't know it was them. Even though Jem is scared to return to the Radley property to obtain the pants he lost, he sneaks out at night to do so. The action also shows respect and fear for his father, whom he and Dill lied to about what happened to the pants.

Jem's character is revealed through his actions as well as Scout's direct observations about him in Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird.

e-martin eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Atticus Finch is often given direct characterization. Miss Maudie repeatedly tells Scout and Jem about their father. 

In one case, Miss Maudie tells Scout that Atticus is "the same on the public streets as he is in his own home". She also describes Atticus in his abilities in general and in his specific ability with a gun. Each of these conversations is an example of direct characterization. 

An example of indirect characterization can be found in Atticus response to the verdict of the Tom Robinson case. 

He must have wanted to go home the short way, because he walked quickly down the middle aisle toward the south exit. I followed the top of his head as he made his way to the door. He did not look up.

Through a description of Atticus' behavior and demeanor, his disappointment is expressed concisely and clearly, though indirectly. 

Also at the trial, Tom Robinson's character is indirectly characterized. Robinson's willingness to cooperate and to please are expressed through his repeated attempts to place his crippled left arm on the bible to be sworn in as a witness. 

A further example of direct characterization occurs when Atticus, Jem and Scout have a conversation about what happened outside the jail the night before Tom Robinson's trial. They discuss Mr. Cunningham. 

Atticus placed his fork beside his knife and pushed his plate aside.  “Mr. Cunningham is basically a good man,” he said, “he just has his blind spots along with the rest of us.”

This passage is a clear example of direct characterization, as Mr. Cunningham's character is directly described in dialogue spoken in the person of Atticus Finch. 

Read the study guide:
To Kill a Mockingbird

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