Guide to Literary Terms

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What is the definition of indirect characterization?

The definition of indirect characterization is the technique by which an author reveals a character’s traits through that character’s thoughts and actions rather than through direct description.

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Indirect Characterization

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Indirect characterization occurs when an author shows the reader what kind of person a character is without explicitly telling them. Indirect characterization relies on the audience to infer things about a character’s personality based on what they say, do, or think. It’s also important to remember that, while the audience must make the connection, the author (not the reader) is the one employing indirect characterization.

Correct example:

  • “At lunch he spoke insolently to his father, spilled his baby sister’s milk, and remarked that his teacher said we were not to take the name of the Lord in vain.”
  • In this excerpt from “Charles,” Shirley Jackson uses Laurie’s behavior to show the reader that he is a troublemaker instead of explicitly stating it.

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Interior Monologue