What does the reader learn about GL through direct characterization in "A Visit to Grandmother"?  

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

According to the source literarydevices.net, direct characterization is defined in this way:

This kind of characterization takes a direct approach towards building the character. It uses another character, narrator or the protagonist himself to tell the readers or audience about the subject.

  • Direct characterization occurs first in "A Visit to Grandmother" by William Melvin Kelley as the reader learns about GL at dinner mainly through the story related by the character of the Grandmother. She describes how the young GL swindled a man out of a horse and recklessly took his mother on a dangerous ride in a buggy that she stopped only by jumping onto the back of the horse and reining it in.

When the grandmother finishes her story, there is the resurrection of the old conflicts of mother and son that reveal to Chig why his father has never visited his old home. Chig's father even cries as he informs his mother of her partiality toward GL despite her explanations that she knew GL needed more attention. Then, Chig's father and he go upstairs. (This all involves indirect characterization.)

After Chig and his father go upstairs, the narrator describes GL. The rest of the family sits at the dinner table in silence until a key is heard turning in the door.

  • Further direct characterization occurs as the narrator describes GL in this way:

A light-skinned man enters in "a lacquered straw hat."

He was wearing brown and white two-toned shoes with very pointed toes and a white summer suit....
He stood in the doorway, smiling broadly, an engaging open friendly smile, the friendly smile, the innocent smile of a five-year-old.

Interestingly, the story ends with this description of GL, a description which underscores the explanation of the grandmother that GL needed her extra attention.