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Direct characterization is any explicit explanation or description of a character. This means that the reader does not have to use inference to understand what may or may not have been implied. Direct characterization can come from the narrator, the character himself or herself, or from other characters. Atticus describes Scout explicitly when he is talking to Uncle Jack about her bad behavior at Christmas. He says the following after Scout gets into a scuffle with her cousin Francis:
"Bad language is a stage all children go through, and it dies with time when they learn they're not attracting attention with it. Hotheadedness isn't. Scout's got to learn to keep her head and learn soon, with what's in store for her these next few months. She's coming along, though. Jem's getting older and she follows his example a good bit now. All she needs is assistance sometimes. . . the answer is she know I know she tries. . . but Scout'd just as soon jump on someone as look at him if her pride's at stake" (87-88).
In the above passage, Atticus directly states that, first, Scout is using bad language lately, but it is a phase; second, she's hotheaded and needs to work on not losing it; third, she is trying her best to stop fighting with others; and finally, she fights to defend her honor and pride. Had Atticus only alluded to her bad behavior without being specific, then that would have been an example of indirect characterization. With this passage, the reader clearly sees what Scout needs to work on as well as the fact that she's doing her best to follow her father's wishes.
Direct characterization is when the narrator tells us a character’s traits. Since Scout is the narrator in To Kill a Mockingbird, direct characterization is when Scout describes herself. While Scout spends a lot of time characterizing others, she does not often describe herself.
An example of indirect characterization is in chapter 2, when Miss Caroline learns that Scout can read. Scout considers this.
“Until I feared I would lose it, I never loved to read. One does not love breathing.”
With this statement, we learn that Scout loves to read. Throughout the book, we learn more about Scout from her actions than what she says about herself. She tells us what she thinks and what she does, but she rarely describes herself. Although she is the narrator, the focus of the book is on others.
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