How to Write a Character Analysis

by Dr Davis on February 28, 2008

This is all you need to know to write a character analysis. The character analysis is easily divided into three parts. Each of these is discussed in detail on this blog. You do not need to answer every question, but examining the character from these three perspectives will help you write an exemplary essay.

At the end of this post is a list of blog posts on how to write the particular sections of a character analysis as well.

A strong character analysis will:

  1. identify the type of character it is dealing with. (A single character could be two or three types. See “There are different types of characters” below.)
  2. describe the character.
  3. discuss the conflict in the story, particularly in regards to the character’s place in it.

This post is on how to identify the type of character the character analysis is dealing with. Another post will help describe the character. A third discusses the conflict in the story, particularly in regards to the character’s place in it.

There are different kinds of characters.

Characters can be

  • protagonists (heroes), The main character around whom most of the work revolves.
  • antagonists, The person who the protagonist is against. This is often the villain, but could be a force of nature, set of circumstances, an animal, etc.
  • major, These are the main characters. They dominate the story. Often there are only one or two major characters.
  • minor, These are the characters who help tell the major character’s tale by letting major characters interact and reveal their personalities, situations, stories. They are usually static (unchanging).
  • dynamic (changing), See below under “Look at specific things.”
  • static (unchanging),
  • stereotypical (stock), This is the absent minded professor, the jolly fat person, the clueless blonde.
  • foils, These are the people whose job is to contrast with the major character.  This can happen in two ways.  One: The foil can be the opposite of the major character, so the major’s virtues and strengths are that much “brighter” in reflection.  Two: The foil can be someone like the major character, with lite versions of the major’s virtues and strengths so that the major comes off as even stronger.
  • round (3 dimensional), This means the character has more than one facet to their personality. They are not just a hardcore gamer, but they also play basketball on the weekends.
  • flat (1 dimensional), This is the character who is only viewed through one side. This is the hardcore gamer. That’s all there is to the character.

dore-1887-literary-characters

Protagonists can follow literary patterns or types:

  • the anti-hero (Holden Caufield), This is the guy your mother would not want you or your sister to date. They are often graceless, inept, and actually dishonest.
  • the tragic hero (Oedipus, Macbeth), This is the guy whose bad end is a result of flaws within himself.
  • the romantic hero (Don Juan, James Bond), This is the guy the girls all swoon over. He gets the girls, even when he doesn’t want to keep them.
  • the modern hero (Chuck Bartowski), This is the average guy who is put in extraordinary circumstances and rises to the challenge.
  • the Hemingway hero, This is the guy who has been in a war, drinks too much, gets his girlfriend pregnant, and she dies. Or guys like him.

marvel_heroes

 Also see another way to write a character analysis: a personnel review.

For tips on the process of writing a character analysis:
How to Write a Character Analysis: Introduction
How to Write a Character Analysis: Body Paragraphs
How to Write a Character Analysis: Titles
How to Write a Character Analysis: Concluding Paragraph

If this post was helpful to you, please leave a note in the comments to let me know. You could point out what was most helpful, so that I will know what I might want to expand later.

{ 5 trackbacks }

8 Ideas for Improving my Freshman Comp Class — Teaching College English
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How to write a Character Analysis Link | lesliet17
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Blog Reflection 2 for BTM – Character (10 points) | eng 272b Literatures of Hawai‘i
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{ 51 comments… read them below or add one }

1 jessica eufracio 10.29.08 at 8:18 pm

I found this very helpful for my paper. I had no idea what my teacher was asking for; untill I came across while searching for help online. :)

2 or teacher 12.23.08 at 11:46 pm

Thank you! This is what I need to make sure that my kids (12-14 yrs old) are ready for when they become your kids!

3 Jonathon Burke 02.13.09 at 11:32 am

Thanks so much for this post! I am in the process of getting my novel published, and this has been helpful for the Character Archs that I am supposed to get to the Publisher! Thanks!

John

4 Joy Kirt Sidhu 03.02.09 at 12:03 pm

Character analysis is an important aspect of critical appraisal and appreciation. The people in the story who make the story happen are the characters. The categories listed are more or less the same in all the world literature whichever the language.

5 John 04.10.09 at 3:45 pm

Very good resources for a proper character analysis. Appreciate the work. Perhaps give some advice on how to build up a character analysis in paragraphs etc.?
Thanks.
John

6 alli 05.07.09 at 12:46 pm

i’m a ninth grader and i recently done a critical analysis on the setting of “The Tale-Tell Heart” and i didn’t quite understand it, so i went researching and ran over this web site for a character analysis..this helped a bunch!!

7 Lew 05.10.09 at 3:32 pm

Very helpful as a resource for my 8th graders, who struggle with where to begin when writing a character analysis. Every hint is helpful and this is one of the best.

Thanks

8 Maximilian 07.05.09 at 12:22 pm

I’m studying English as a second language and I’m preparing for an exam containing a character analysis.
This post has been very helpful! Keep up the great work!

9 Hannah 11.02.09 at 4:43 pm

This web site was so helpful with my 11th grade Language Arts class. And I was just reading along and then BAM!! You put Chuck Bartowski in the character analysis!!! This absolutely made my day! I’m a huge Chuck fan and couldn’t believe you were considering him as the modern hero that he is. :) I wish NBC would reconize Chuck as the amazing show it is and see they trurly have a diomond in the rough. I’m deff. going to vist your site more often for english help.
Thanks soooo much for the chuck shout out and for the information on character analysis
~ Hannah

10 Markela 01.25.10 at 5:41 pm

Right on the money. The majority of this information proved to be a refresher. Although we hear these tips quite regularly, its good to be reminded- this is what you may or may not have missed in class. Nevertheless, knowing what a strong character analysis should consist of and the breaking down of the different character types was very helpful. Its a tool that I could easily memorize and continue to use throughout my education.

11 rickki 02.18.10 at 8:42 pm

man thnx for this post because i got a really good grade woth my english teacher. man thnx mucho… :p

12 cameron bearden 03.01.10 at 9:41 am

this site is being used in my english class right now…as i am typing this

13 sValentino 04.06.10 at 4:20 pm

Thank you for clearing up the questions I had. You have made me and my on line teacher both very happy.

14 Agnes 04.20.10 at 10:29 am

yay!! so exciting!!!! I love writing!!

15 LMiller 05.06.10 at 7:09 am

What a wealth of information provided without verbose rhetoric! This is extremely helpful for all levels. Thanks.

16 maymay 06.26.10 at 9:43 am

i am going into seventh grade and we are having to write an analysis on a main charter in a book this was so much help ;)

17 Alisha Sharma 07.04.10 at 12:43 am

Thanks for the information. It is very helpful and also helped me in my review…….

18 Eli 08.10.10 at 5:16 am

Even though I’m doing A Levels in high school, I find the list of the different type of characters very useful when writing my essay. Thanks!

19 Patty Remmell 08.17.10 at 9:55 am

Thanks! The way this is presented makes it easier for my internet-savvy, blog-reading college freshmen to understand the intricacies of writing character analyses.

20 Mandy 09.04.10 at 2:01 pm

Great tutorial!!!!

Question:

Is a minor character that changes mentally a dynamic character too?

21 Mandy 09.04.10 at 2:08 pm

I am reading A Separate Peace for my AP 10th grade reading class. I have a couple of questions.

1. Would you consider Finny’s bad end a result of HIS flaws of asuming everyone is like him or a result of GENE’S flaws of jealousy and contempt???

2. Would you consider Leper a dynamic, but minor character?

22 Dr Davis 09.06.10 at 10:38 am

Yes, a minor character can be dynamic.

23 shannnon 10.12.10 at 10:43 am

this was very helpful, cudnt have done it with out u

24 Bre 01.04.11 at 9:48 am

Your describing the different types of characters was extremely helpful, Thank you soo much!

25 Jeanne 02.03.11 at 12:41 am

Thank you! My son’s English teacher gives little to no instruction, and I am trying to help him understand how to write literary analysis essays. You are extremely helpful.

26 Caskey 03.01.11 at 10:21 am

I was thrilled to come across this site and immediately shared it with my 6th graders. Thank you!

27 Mahim 03.01.11 at 7:25 pm

Man this site is useful! I’m a sixth grader and this site taught me alot of things when i looked up a few things. This website should win a few trillion dollars or something!

28 kiki 03.02.11 at 9:24 am

:lol:

29 BugCrunch 03.02.11 at 9:27 am

Thank you so much! This helped me more than any other thing I’ve seen. Thanks! I won’t fail ILA because of you!
:D

30 WildIris 03.18.11 at 10:46 am

I stumble on your blog while looking up resources on how to write an essay on the symbolism of names in Animal Farm. While this post was not quite what I was looking, this blog has a wealth of information about writing. I am going to link your blog to my homeschooling blogs. I’m sure home school parents will find this blog an aide to teaching writing.

31 MARLENE JACKSON 06.23.11 at 7:46 am

I really appreciate this find. It will make teaching analysis even easier. Thanks!

32 The Guy 10.04.11 at 6:24 pm

This site and information are invaluable to my teaching.

How would you organize this character analysis into a five paragraph essay format?

33 Sonya 10.12.11 at 11:45 am

Thanks for all the great imput! I look forward to using all the advice on here, when I write my essay.

34 Darickson Penalo 10.28.11 at 9:14 am

This is very helpfull

35 Wayne Stauffer 10.28.11 at 11:45 am

I’d like to offer another hero type. It’s not one of my insights, but one that I heard at a conference years ago.

The Female Hero: A Fictional Archetype
Jack Marshall (of Houston Community College, Central)

The Pattern
The Female Hero:
1. Enters a community alone, sometimes with her child or lives in a community which attempts to reject her.
2. Unifies the community and brings harmony and accord or creates a separate community full of harmony and accord.
3. Has personal relationships with several individuals and their lives are better because of their relationship with the Female Hero.
4. Has power over others because of her overwhelming love, wisdom, goodness, and honesty. The Female Hero rarely, if ever, resorts to physical force or violence to accomplish her ends.
5. Reforms the villain in the story, if any appears. Usually, incorrigible villains kill themselves, fate eliminates them, or other characters dispose of them.
6. Rarely participates in competitions or fights. When they do occur, reaching accord is more important than victory over an opponent.

Elements
Conflict—In traditional myths, the male hero must subdue or defeat a villain in a win/lose situation that ends in a victor and the conquered. In the Female Hero story, the Female Hero changes the antagonist or invokes social pressure to discipline or change the antagonist.
The Secret—The Female Hero or her best friend knows a secret that can only be revealed to someone intimate and trusted.
Popularity—The Female Hero becomes liked and admired by almost everyone in the community. She accomplishes this feat by good deeds, talent, skill, a friendly disposition, and overwhelming charm.
Community Unity—The Female Hero is always a part of some larger community, be it a family or town. Her goal is to reconcile all the members of her community. The Female Hero not only works to get everyone to like her, but to like each other as well. A happy ending occurs when her efforts and genial personality result in community harmony.
A Nurturing Nature—Sickness and death are moments of intimate expression and release of emotions, something very important to the Female Hero.
Expression of Emotion—This is a notable trait in the Female Hero precisely because most male heroes repress their emotions to the utmost. While the male hero takes action to solve a problem, the Female Hero faces problems which action alone will not resolve.
The Obnoxious Person—This character is much more important in a Female Hero story than any villain. Narrow-minded old people, irascible children, crabby relatives, irate neighbors, and the repressed husband are some of the more common obnoxious people the Female Hero must charm and win over as friends.
Relationships—Female Hero stories are about connections between people. Action is secondary.
Social Disapproval—In most myths, traditional concepts about the role and nature of women oppress the Female Hero. If male heroes reject society and ride off, society applauds. But women who stray from traditional passivity and acquiescence usually feel isolated and scorned by society. This is the reason so many girl heroes are orphans and so many adult female heroes are outcasts or newcomers into a community. Quite often the Female Hero must create a community of her own, even a community of outcasts. The traditional male hero battles a villain, but the Female Hero must contend with a much more amorphous foe, society in general.
________________________________________________
Love Stories are somewhat different from the Female Hero Story. The female protagonist civilizes, tames, or reforms the man-beast by the power of her love—courtly love stories often follow this pattern (e.g., Beauty and the Beast). The obedient, unassertive girl is rewarded with a prince (e.g., Cinderella). Originally, this was a story of a mother’s power: the dying mother gave the girl a doll who advised her, or a surrogate mother (fairy godmother) appeared and worked miracles. In genre love stories, the female protagonist must mold herself to suit the male. Her power is derived from her relationship with a man. Love stories often make the female protagonist seem less passive by making two assumptions: 1) The lovers think and feel in accord; and 2) fate or some other supernatural power has created the two lovers for each other and no one else will do as a partner.

_____________________________________________
Stauffer’s 2¢ comments
When the male hero rejects society and rides off, the community approves because his kind of character is a disruptive, contentious element that disturbs the social equilibrium, the harmony and accord. The community is glad he’s gone.
When the Female Hero leaves, it is because she has disrupted the social equilibrium and is being punished for not fulfilling her role as unifier. The community is not happy to force her to leave, but it cannot approve of the disruption she has caused and must make her an example of what happens to those who would emulate her.

36 Helen 11.13.11 at 1:14 pm

I really appreciated this and the separate articles on writing a character analysis. My teacher was very vague but this helped a lot. Thanks!

37 Daisy Rue 12.05.11 at 12:21 pm

Thanks! The part that tells what elements a strong analysis essay should contain is FANTABULOUS!

38 lucy kim 01.02.12 at 6:11 am

awesome

39 Tyla 01.31.12 at 3:52 pm

This website is very helpful and i will recomend this to my friends ! thanks !

40 KT 04.01.12 at 4:01 pm

great reference whoever started it. There are so many students looking for specifics on character analysis. If you have time, it would be great to add a few prototype sentences that could be used as reference in an essay. Thanks so much, you must be a great teacher.

41 tesfaye b. 05.02.12 at 9:13 am

I really get a special lesson. Thanks a lot

42 WHamilton 05.18.12 at 11:26 am

I had an assignment that I was totally unsure about how to write… you came to my rescue like a knight in shining armour on a very windy day… Thank you!

43 SoGoRo 07.22.12 at 8:08 am

I went looking for help in writing a character analysis of one of the characters in Toni Morrison’s “Love”. The reasons I found this particular source so helpful were the detailed lists of character types, the varied examples, and the intelligently colloquial voice. This is written in such a way that I am able to understand it completely. I am certain I’ll be able to complete my assignment now.
Thank you so much!

44 SASA 09.03.12 at 7:38 pm

thanks!
uhmm i have a question, about the monoluge. Is the whole analysis just about the character?? or do i need to include the plot/summary in a third-person point of view, purpose of the author?? thank you! :) have a nice day ahead!

45 Dr Davis 09.03.12 at 8:15 pm

If your professor has asked for a character analysis, then you do not have to talk about point of view and so on. If the professor asked for a literary analysis, then viewpoint, theme, etc, would be relevant.
Theme
Setting
Point of view
How to Write a Literary Analysis

46 Michael 09.17.12 at 2:47 pm

My english teacher recommended this site, and it is great.

47 lucy 11.13.12 at 1:19 pm

Thankyou this was very helpful for my LAMDA.

48 Nora 11.17.12 at 3:54 pm

Thank God I found this. My Odysseus essay is still going to be difficult though. :P

49 Ali 02.11.13 at 5:41 pm

Thank you……this helped because every thing was a blur but now every thing is all clear….
:)

50 Madison 08.22.13 at 11:12 am

I’m in ninth grade taking Honors English and this helped me so much to write my character analysis!

51 andy michael 01.21.14 at 7:07 am

THIS DOES HELP ELOT! tank you so much.

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