What words and phrases does the author use to describe Matt in The Sign of the Beaver?

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Authors help readers understand their characters in two different ways: direct characterization and indirect characterization. When an author uses words and phrases that describe a character, it's called direct characterization . Some books use this technique more than others. Although direct characterization can be interesting if done well, most...

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Authors help readers understand their characters in two different ways: direct characterization and indirect characterization. When an author uses words and phrases that describe a character, it's called direct characterization. Some books use this technique more than others. Although direct characterization can be interesting if done well, most authors prefer to present their characters using indirect characterization—that is, by showing the reader what characters are like by how they act, what they think, and what other people say about them.

In The Sign of the Beaver, Elizabeth George Speare uses a narrative perspective known as third person limited. She tells the story from Matt's point of view, as if the reader is inside Matt's head. Because of this perspective, Speare doesn't provide many words or phrases that directly describe Matt. Those that do appear come from his own internal dialogue or from what others say about him.

We learn in chapter 1 that Matt, like the rest of his family, isn't one to "put things into words." In other words, he doesn't find it easy to express his feelings verbally. We also learn that he will be thirteen years old in two months. In chapter 2, we learn that he handles loneliness better than many people might:

For much of the day he was content to be alone . . . . He was like his father in that.

But loneliness eventually bothers him so much that "he was not so quick-witted as he should have been when unexpectedly someone arrived."

In chapter 3, Speare writes, "Perhaps he even became a mite careless." In chapter 6, Saknis echoes that thought by saying, "White boy very foolish to climb bee tree."

These descriptions aren't enough to tell us who Matt is. His bravery and compassion come through not in what Speare tells us about him via description, but in what she shows us about him through his actions.

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