Guide to Literary Terms

Start Free Trial

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.

Guide to Literary Terms Study Tools

Take a quiz Ask a question Start an essay

Indirect Characterization

Download PDF PDF Page Citation Cite Share Link Share

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.

Explore all literary terms.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Previous

Interior Monologue

Next

Irony