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Literary Terms: Characterization Mr. Myers CP English 9
What Is a Character? A character is a person in a story, poem, or play. Animals, divinities, and heroes with superhuman powers can also be characters. CLEO PHOTOGRAPHY/PhotoEdit CORBIS Images/HRW Courtesy Katrina Simpson
How Writers Reveal Character – Writers reveal a character’s personality through characterization. – Characterization may be direct or indirect.
An alert writer might recognize that the two methods of characterization fall under the decision to “show” or to “tell”. Indirect characterization “shows” the reader. Direct characterization “tells” the reader. Direct and Indirect Characterization
Type of characterization where the author tells the reader exactly what the character is like. DIRECT CHARACTERIZATION : Fred was a angry man who hated children. Mr. Kirk is the type of guy who likes to help old ladies across the street and then begs them for their phone numbers. “[Gale’s] good-looking, he’s strong enough to handle the work in the mines, and he can hunt. You can tell by the way the girls whisper about him when he walks by in school that they want him” (10). Betsy was sharp-tongued. She had an opinion about everything and wasn’t afraid to speak her mind. She’d give advice to anyone and everyone whether they asked for it or not.
Direct Characterization Examples: Excerpt from The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway: That winter Robert Cohn went over to America with his novel and it was accepted by a fairly good publisher. His going made an awful row I heard, and I think that was wherer Frances lost him, because several women were nice to him in New York, and when he came back he was quite changed. He was more enthusiasitc about America than ever, and he was not so simple, and he was not so nice. The publishers had praised his novel pretty highly and it went to his head. Then several women had put themselves out to be nice to him, and his horizons had all shifted. Ed Johnson scratched his head in confusion as the sales rep explained Dralco’s newest engine performance diagnostic computer. The old mechanic hated modern electronics, preferring the old days when all he needed was a stack of manuals and a good set of tools.
What is going on in this picture? What is this girl feeling? Why do you think she is feeling this way?
The type of characterization where the reader must infer what a character is like from what the character does, says, or thinks. When writers use indirect characterization, readers have to use their own judgment to decide what a character is like, based on the evidence the writer gives us. It wasn’t a surprise when Betsy interrupted again. “That’s no way to catch the thief,” she said rolling her eyes. “We can’t just wait until he robs another museum. We’ve got to be prepared. We’ve got to be there first. We need a piece of art he can’t resist. We need a trap!”
When writers use indirect characterization, readers must decide what the character is like based on the character’s speech the character’s appearance the character’s private thoughts the responses of other characters the character’s actions
Julie held up six different outfits in front of the mirror and pondered which would go best with her navy blue shoes, pastel eye shadow and the diamond earrings she’d already procured from her overflowing vanity. After ninety minutes of mixing and matching, and cell-phoning her sister three times for advice, Julie finally made up her mind. She’d give the navy blue skirt and white sweater a try, hoping Trent would love it.
Example: “Father Kavangah was praying, his Irish mumble amplified by the PA system into the voice of God. He pinched the Host out of the chalice and raised it like a man admiring a silver dollar, Tim’s cue to shake the bells. He thrashed them, brass clashing brass so harshly that heads flinched. Kavanagh flung Tim a thunderbolt glare. Tim stiffened his face” (Furhman, 1).
Speech Pay attention to – the way the character speaks—tone of voice, dialect, volume – the words the character uses—slang, contractions, long, difficult words “Stop messing with the camera and take the picture already, why doncha. I don’t want to stand out here in the heat all day. I’ve got things to do,” Aunt Ida hollered.
Appearance Pay attention to – the way the character looks – the kinds of clothes the character wears Jack checked his reflection in the window. His red hair was cut short with a bit of a spike in the front, and his pale skin was cleanshaven. His gray pinstriped trousers had wrinkled a bit during the train ride, but the creases in his pant legs were still sharp. As the train pulled into the station, he stood up, adjusted his tie, and re-tucked his starched blue shirt. Then, he draped his suit jacket over his arm, picked up his briefcase, and waited for a break in the stream of people exiting the train.
Private Thoughts Pay attention to – what the character thinks and feels about the events and other characters “Why did I ever agree to this?” Gerald asked himself as he loaded his camping gear into the van. He could list a dozen other things that he needed to get done this weekend. “Gerald,” Kevin said as he walked up beside him, “Glad you could make it, man. I know you’ve been busy with the new job and all...” “Hey, no problem. I always have time for my friends,” Gerald replied with a forced smile.
Response of Other Characters Pay attention to – what other characters think about the character – what other characters say about the character – how other characters act toward the character “Did you hear that Candace made the team?” Ray asked. “Yeah,” replied Bonnie, “I’m so happy for her. She was determined to make the cut this year—she and I practiced every weekend, and she worked really hard to improve her serve and backhand. She even beat me a few times.”
Actions Pay attention to – what the character does – how the character does it (willingly, grudgingly, joyfully) Nina hummed to herself as she chopped up vegetables—celery, carrots, bell peppers—for the soup. She cheerfully carried the cutting board over to the stove and tilted it so all the vegetables slid into the stock pot. Then she turned, held the cutting board above her head with one hand, and shimmied over to the sink.
Determine whether each of the following statements is true or false. What Have You Learned? 1. Characters in stories, poems, and plays are always people. a. trueb. false 2. When trying to determine what a character is like based on speech, you should pay attention to tone of voice. a. trueb. false 3. When writers use direct characterization, they allow readers to interpret what a character is like. a. trueb. false
Now, with a partner, create an INDIRECT characterization to demonstrate the following personalities: 1.A jealous and angry person. 2.A kind and generous person. 3.A dangerous wild animal.
A stock character is a fictional character that relies heavily on cultural types or stereotypes for its personality, manner of speech, and other characteristics. The Boy/Girl Next Door The Nerd The Jock The Princess The Goofy Sidekick The Tragic Hero The Reluctant Hero The Old Maid The Wise Guide Etc…
FLAT A type of character who does not seem to have many different character traits. Usually a minor character. ROUND A character who, like a real person, has many different character traits. Usually are complex and often go through changes, some of them are surprising.
A character who does not change much in a story.
A type of character who goes through a noticeable change from the beginning to the end of the story