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carol-davis eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Understanding the character...

In a character analysis, the reader will select one person in the story to evaluate in several areas:

Decide on the role of the character in the story.

Protagonist-the hero/heroine; faces the conflict; the story evolves from this character

  • Example=Louise Mallard in "The Story of an Hour" is the heroine who dies from "the joy that kills."

Antagonist-the villain or character that works against the protagonist; sometimes it is not a character but nature or society

  • The story "To Build a Fire" employs nature or the intense cold in the Yukon to keep the protagonist from making back to camp

Evaluate the morals of the character.

Where does the character draw the line on what he will do? Does he have a moral compass? Does the character have a code of ethics that he follows?

  • Look at Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird.  Every decision that he makes is based on his values. He does not just talk the talk, he walks the walk.

Is the character flat or round?

The character is flat if he does not grow or change in the story.

The character is round if he changes or decides to do someting different in the story.

  • Tom Benecke from "Contents of the Dead Man's Pocket" moves from an obsessed working guy to a man who wishes he had spent more time with the woman he loves.

What motivates the character?

The motivating factors might be greed, ambition, or love.  Consider why the character acts the way he does.

In The Crucible, John Proctor will not give up his good name or his integrity.  Motivated by his honor, he would rather die than confess to something that he did not do.

Describe the historical context of the person.

Does the story take place during the Civil War deep south, or Indian territory? Is it set in the Victorian Age or the 1960s?

  • Desiree in "Desiree's Baby" would have been able to stand up to her husband and live a different life if the story had taken place in the 1970s.  The bi-racial child would not have been as big a problem.

The analysis might include the author's opinion. Look at the dialogue and draw inferences. Figure out what the other characters think about him.

After gathering this information, it should be easy to organize the information into a character analysis. 

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