Understanding Characters in Literature: Types and Development

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author's arrangement of the events that make up a story.


The driving force behind many plots; outside: main character being in conflict with external forces; within: character being forced to make a difficult choice, question his values and beliefs.



Literature allow us to multiply that number by giving us access to the private thoughts and lives of an endless assortment of fascinating and memorable people.

Defining characters:

  • Their relationship to the plot
  • The degree to which they are developed
  • Their growth in the course of the story

The central character of the plot is called the protagonist.

The character against whom the protagonist struggles is called the antagonist. Could be something natural. Not a human being

Round characters have complex, multi-dimensional personalities, they show emotional and intellectual depth. Major characters in fiction are usually round

Flat characters represent a single characteristic. They are bully, jealous lover, the endless optimist.

Dynamic characters change as a result of the experiences they have. Tell stories of young people who grow into adults.

Static characters remain untouched by the events of the story. Usually minor characters but could be major roles when show how forces in life.

Telling involves direct intervention and commentary by the author. He interrupts the narrative to comment on the character's personality thoughts or actions.

Showing, he steps aside and allows the characters to reveal themselves through what they do and say. The reader is asked to infer character from the evidence provided in the dialogue and action of the story.

Dialogue: what a character says can help us to understand basic elements of his personality. The character's attitude towards others may also emerge from the dialogue. (origin, education, social class)

Action: we can learn about a character's emotions, attitudes and values by examining what he does in the course of the story.

Comparison with other characters:

Setting: The time and place in which the story unfolds may provide useful information about the characters. Particular historical period or physical surrounding, Social settings.

Names: The character's name may provide clues to his personality.

Appearance: How character looks often provides important information about his personality. The clothes a character wears may indicate his social and economic status.

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