Guide to Literary Terms

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What is the definition of character?

Character is the combination of traits and features unique to a particular individual, such as strong morals or a good reputation, portrayed in a novel, poem, play, or film.

Character

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Last Updated May 26, 2023.

Character is the combination of traits and features unique to a particular individual. It can also refer to one’s strong morals or good reputation. A character is portrayed in literature in a novel, poem, play, or film.

 

Character derives from the Greek word charaktēr, meaning “graving tool, graving tool’s mark,” from charattein (“to engrave”). 

 

An early example of the term is Charaktēres, a text by Greek philosopher Theophrastus, a student of Aristotle. Charaktēres contains thirty character sketches that outline various types of people through the lens of Aristotelian philosophy and ethics. 

 

see: flat and round characterscharacterizationdirect characterizationindirect characterization 

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