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Break the Monotony: Dive into the World of Character Analysis (2 FREE Lessons Included)

Embark on a journey through the fascinating realm of character analysis with our latest blog post!


For our younger learners, "Getting to Know You" leads them through a story, stopping along the way to analyze the characters by their actions and dialogue.


For our older learners, get a taste of our FAFlex Character Analysis lesson excerpt.



 



Lesson (K-2nd grade): "Getting to Know You" Skill: Describe characters in a story

Curriculum: Exact Path



 

What is a Character Analysis?


A character analysis is a written body of work that analyzes the qualities and traits of a specific character. These characters are primarily from literary works but can also be from cinema and television. The purpose of a character analysis is to dissect the various intricacies of a character and their role within a story. A character analysis should focus on the quality and function of a character in a story rather than on personal opinions on how the writer might feel about the character. A character analysis should dissect various types of characterization of the character from the writer to form a well-rounded analysis.


HOW TO DO A CHARACTER ANALYSIS

Determine the character’s function

A character’s function in a story is incredibly important to understand because it gives context as to why the writer made specific choices around the character, such as their goals, behavior, and even outward appearance.


Depending on a character’s function in the story, they will fall under one of the following types: protagonist, antagonist, foil, or mentor.


Protagonist

A protagonist is a character who pushes a story forward. He or she is also the central force of the story. Here's a video that breaks down the main types.



 

Derived from the Greek words prōtos and agōnistēs, “protagonist” quite literally translates to “first actor.” In the Harry Potter series, Harry Potter is the protagonist.


Antagonist

An antagonist is the force of a story that the protagonist contends with, whether it be human, natural, or supernatural. Every protagonist needs an antagonistic force. Here is a quick rundown on antagonists.



Derived from the Greek word agonizesthai, “antagonist” literally translates to English as “to contend with.” In the Harry Potter series, "He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named" is the antagonist. Alright, we’ll say it for clarity — Lord Voldemort.


 

Analyze the character’s development


This second question will help you write a better character analysis because it addresses whether or not your character changes or does not change over the course of the story.


Static character

A static character is a character that does not undergo any significant internal change over the course of a story. Throughout a story, a static character largely remains the same and does not grow or develop in a substantial way.


Watch our character analysis of Marty McFly and his "flat arc" for a great example of a character who doesn't change.



Dynamic character

A dynamic character is a character that undergoes significant internal change over the course of a story. This change can happen subtly and gradually throughout the story and can be a change for better or worse. This is a character who often learns a lesson or changes in beliefs or principles.


For a few examples that will drive home the differences between dynamic and static characters, check out this video breakdown below.





 

Analyzing characterization

Once you have your focus point, it’s time to gather evidence and support for your thesis. These pieces of support will derive from the characterization.


Characterization is the process through which an artist communicates character to an audience. In writing, characterization is achieved through dialogue, actions, and descriptions. There is both direct characterization and indirect characterization. To help you analyze these two types of characterization, let’s break them down.




Direct characterization

Direct characterization is “surface-level” characterization. It’s simply the overt information we’re given about a character, such as “what they look like, what their job is, and what they appear to others.” Many literary scholars describe this type of characterization as “what we’re told about a character.”


An example of this can be found in The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway. Hemingway uses direct characterization to describe the main character, writing, “Everything about him was old except his eyes and they were the same color as the sea and were cheerful and undefeated.”


Indirect characterization

Indirect characterization, on the other hand, is a subtype of characterization that’s defined by “showing” rather than “telling.” It is an important technique used by writers for developing nuanced characters. It is primarily utilized through what the character says, thinks, and does.


A common acronym for indirect characterization is “STEAL,” which refers to speech, thinking, effect, action, and looks. These details often come from dialogue, goals, desires, and the history or background of the character.

An example of indirect characterization can be found in Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird. Harper writes, “First of all,’ he said, ‘if you can learn a simple trick, Scout, you’ll get along a lot better with all kinds of folks. You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view […] until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.”


Character analysis questions


As you continue to flesh out and write your character analysis, you may hit some roadblocks. A valuable tool to overcome these roadblocks is questions. Try to think of the character that you are analyzing as a person that actually exists that you are interviewing.


What questions would you ask them to really understand who they are? Here are a few examples of character analysis questions to get you started.


  • What are your values?

  • What is your background? How did you grow up?

  • How have you changed from what happened to you or through what you experienced?

  • Is there a lesson you learned from all of this?


While you may not be able to answer all of these questions from the characterization the author provides, it’s a great exercise to uncover what you may not have yet realized about this character.


Character analyses are not only a dive into the craft of writing and storytelling but an analysis of psychology and experience. When analyzing a character, it’s important to wear both hats to provide an insightful, well-rounded character analysis that is unique and thoughtfully presented.


Lesson (6th-12th grade): "Character Analysis"

Skill: Completing a full character analysis.

Curriculum: FAFlex English Literature Grades 6-12 (Credit to Studio Binder)



 

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