How to Write a Character Analysis

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How to Write a Character Analysis in 11 Steps

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Last Updated on June 1, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1194

The goal of a character analysis is to explain how a character’s specific traits are represented in and influence a literary work. When analyzing characters, you should evaluate how an author describes them, their actions, and their dialogue within the plot. Not every aspect of a character will be directly stated by the author, therefore it’s up to you to find textual evidence that supports your interpretation of the character’s disposition.     

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Learning how to write a character analysis takes some effort, so to help get you started, let's review 11 steps to get you on your way. 

1. Identify the character

Before writing, you should have a basic understanding of the character you want to analyze. Several important questions to ask yourself include the following:

  • What is the character's role in the story? Is it a major or minor role?
  • Who does the character interact with? Who is important to the character?
  • What possessions does the character have? How does the character relate to them?

These are all important questions to ask yourself before you start writing. To best answer these questions, it's helpful to identify the specific types of characters and roles within a story:

Different types of characters to consider:

  • Flat character: A one-dimensional character who displays few personality traits and usually does not change throughout the text.
  • Round character: A complex character who has a distinct personality, motive, and background.  
  • Dynamic character: A character who undergoes a dramatic change over the course of the text.
  • Static character: A character who does not change over the course of the text, remaining as initially described from beginning to end.

Different types of character roles to consider:

  • Protagonist: A character who is typically the main focus of the story and faced with a conflict that needs to be resolved. Notably, the protagonist is not always the “hero.”
  • Antagonist: A character who exists to cause conflict for the protagonist.
  • Major Character: A character who is vital to the development of the plot and the resolution of conflict.
  • Minor Character: A character who supports other characters and helps move the plot forward. 

2. Take notes

Regardless of how many times you’ve read the text, skim the piece again and actively note specific scenes in which your character appears. Highlight any meaningful dialogues or descriptions provided by the author. Once you start writing, your notes will be helpful references to add textual support into your analysis.

3. Locate the character’s initial introduction

First impressions are important, and so identifying how an author introduces a character is vital to a successful character analysis. Ask yourself: How is the character first introduced by the author? What is she doing? Character introductions often provide physical descriptions that may reflect specific aspects about the character's nature. Depending of the context of the introduction, you may also gain some insight into the relationships or conflicts your character has or faces. Pay close attention to the details included in the initial descriptions, for these are all deliberate choices made by the author.   

4. Look for words repeatedly used to describe the character.

Make note of the words used to describe your character, especially if they’re repeated throughout the text. These recurring descriptions may provide insight into the character’s psychology and motivations behind the actions the character makes. For example, in John Steinbeck’s novel East of Eden, Kathy is frequently referred to as having “sharp little teeth” and a “flickering tongue,” which are symbols of her snake-like monstrousness.

5. Be aware of items associated with the character.

Whether these items are part of their...

(The entire section contains 1194 words.)

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