Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief

by Rick Riordan
Start Free Trial

What are Percy Jackson's character traits?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

I would like to add that Percy is ambitious and, despite his propensity for getting into trouble, responsible. He feels bad that he has to leave Yancey Academy, because he takes the responsibility for Grover's well-being (before he finds out that, all along, Grover has been responsible for his). He takes the responsibility for Zeus's stolen master bolt and considers himself capable of fixing the situation. In the incident on the Gateway Arch, he takes the responsibility for the welfare of the "mortals," unwilling to leave them alone with the monsters.

Also, despite his learning disability and difficult home life, Percy has a strong sense of self-worth: he refuses to be bullied by some of his classmates, Gabe, and the gods (particularly Ares and Hades). That said, however, he lacks any vanity. When confronted with a difficult choice in the Underworld, he demonstrates a surprising amount of level-headedness for his age (or for any age, really): he does not heroically stay behind to rescue his mother but saves himself and plans to return for her in the future. He thinks about what she would like him to do, not how this would look to others. After coming home at the end of the adventure, he resists the temptation to take revenge on Gabe. Again, he thinks of his mother instead, giving her the space to handle the relationship herself.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Let's start with simple and straightforward character descriptions. First, Percy Jackson is a young male character (he's 12 years old). Being a young white male hero is basically industry standard, so Percy Jackson doesn't exactly stand out there; however, he has a much more developed sense of humor than most hero characters that readers encounter. Some ready evidence for Jackson's sense of humor can be found in the chapter titles. Jackson is the story's narrator, so it makes sense to assume that he is the one naming the chapters. Chapter titles like "A God Buys Us Cheeseburgers" and "We Get Advice from a Poodle" help readers get a solid picture of what kind of boy Percy Jackson is.

His sense of humor is likely a learned defense mechanism against his not-so-easy childhood. Jackson might go to school with kids whose every need is catered to through having wealthy parents, but Jackson's family is not wealthy. 

I couldn't remember the last time I had so much fun. I came from a relatively poor family. Our idea of a splurge was eating out at Burger King and renting a video.

This kind of upbringing has made Jackson well aware of life's simple pleasures, and he has learned to be grateful for what he does have. He's a humble kid from a humble background. Again, that's fairly industry standard when making a hero. Peter Parker, Barry Allen, Luke Skywalker, and Steve Rogers can all claim the same kind of humble upbringing (as well as all being young, white, and male).

While Jackson does have a well-developed sense of humor, that doesn't mean he has a positive outlook on life. In fact, Jackson can be quite negative. 

I could start at any point in my short and miserable life to prove it.

His learning disability doesn't help his situation, either. He works hard at school and his studies, but despite his best efforts, he is not optimistic about his ability to learn and keep facts straight.

Words had started swimming off the page, circling my head, the letters doing one-eighties as if they were riding skateboards. There was no way I was going to remember the difference between Chiron and Charon, or Polydictes and Polydeuces. And conjugating those Latin verbs? Forget it.

He's not proud of his family's financial situation, nor is he glad that he doesn't have a father figure present in his life. Behind his humor is some bitterness and distrust. That's especially true when it comes to adults.

Believe whatever lie your mom or dad told you about your birth, and try to lead a normal life.

As the post below states, Jackson is indeed quite brave and loyal. He has to be in order to be a worthy hero character and stand and fight against the forces of evil. What I like a lot about Jackson is that he is never tempted to reach beyond his powers. He's incredibly powerful, and he isn't tempted by the possibility of gaining more power. It's why he doesn't steal the master bolt.

"I don't care about the master bolt. I agreed to go to the Underworld so that I could bring back my mother."

Jackson might not be the most optimistic character in the world, but he has a good sense of humor and a strong sense of right and wrong.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

I think we could certainly describe Percy as loyal and brave.  He is courageous in his willingness to undertake a dangerous quest that includes a cross-country trip (without much money or any adult assistance), encountering numerous deadly monsters and one or two angry gods, and traveling to the underworld to meet with an unpredictable and vengeful god, all to prove his innocence and to right the wrongs committed by others.  He is fiercely loyal to his mother and his friends, willing to risk his own safety for the well-being of others. 

Likewise, Percy has a well-developed sense of justice.  He recognizes the unjust way his mother is treated by Gabe, his step-father, as well as the way his birth and life were handled by his own father.  And yet he is also capable of forgiveness, as he does forgive his own absentee and rule-breaking father, Poseidon. 

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial