Presentation on theme: "Chapter 4: Characters – The People in Fiction"— Presentation transcript:
1Chapter 4: Characters – The People in Fiction ENG 404: AP English Literature and CompositionUnit I: Genre Study - Fiction
2Section 1: Characters and Characterization Traits vs. CircumstancesCharacterizationDimensions of CharacterVerisimilitude
3Characters in FictionThe presentation and understanding of character is a major aim of fiction (and literature generally).A character is a verbal representation of a person, portrayed through action, speech, description, and commentary.Each action or speech, no matter how small, is part of a total presentation of the complex combination of both the inner and the outer self that constitutes a human being.
4Character TraitsA trait is a quality of mind or habitual mode of behavior that is evident in both active and passive ways.A given trait may be minor, or it may be a person’s primary characteristic.By analyzing the thoughts, actions, and speeches of literary characters, you can draw conclusions about their nature and their qualities.
5Character Traits vs. Circumstances It is important to distinguish between a character’s traits and circumstances.Traits are internal and integral parts of the character. They may change over the course of a story, but only through character development (learning and reflection).Circumstances are external to the character. They may change due to the character’s actions or due to external forces (e.g. other characters, fate, etc.).Circumstances have value only if they demonstrate and/or impact a character’s traits.
6How Authors Disclose Character The actions of characters reveal their qualities.What characters do is our best clue to understanding what they are.Like real people, fictional characters do not necessarily understand how they may be changing or why they do the things they do.The author’s descriptions tell us about characters.Includes descriptions of appearance and environmentTells the reader about traits and well as circumstances
7How Authors Disclose Character continued . . . What characters say reveals what they are like.Characters’ speeches not only move the plot forward, they also provide material from which you may draw conclusions about the speaker, listener, and subject.Often, characters use speeches to obscure their motives.Be on the lookout for discrepancies between a character’s words and his/her actions, circumstances, traits, etc.Explore the implications of such discrepancies in terms of plot, characterization, meaning, etc.
8How Authors Disclose Character continued . . . What others say tells us about a character.By studying what characters say about each other, you can enhance your understanding of the character being discussed.Speeches often indicate something beyond (even other than) what the speakers intend, perhaps because of prejudice, stupidity, or foolishness.
9How Authors Disclose Character continued . . . The author, speaking as a storyteller or an observer, may present judgments about characters.What the author, speaking as a work’s authorial voice, says about a character is usually accurate, and the authorial voice can be accepted factually.When the authorial voice interprets actions and characteristics, the author himself/herself assumes the role of a reader or critic, whose opinions are therefore open to question.
10Types of Characters: Round vs. Flat The basic trait of round characters is that we are told enough about them to permit the conclusion that they are three-dimensional, rounded, authentic, memorable, original, and true to life.Depicted in a variety of settings and rolesCharacterized by both individuality and unpredictabilityFull development of character may be tied to unfolding of plotMulti-dimensionality allows for internal, as well as external, conflict
11Types of Characters: Round vs. Flat Flat characters are not complex, but are simple and one-dimensional. They may have no more than a single role to perform in a story, or they may be associated with no more than a single dominating idea.Stock characters are standard character types that appear in certain types of literature.Representative characters illustrate the major trait(s) of their class or group.Stereotype characters possess no traits or attitudes beyond those typically ascribed to their class or group.
12Types of Characters: Dynamic vs. Static Dynamic characters recognize, change with, or adjust to circumstances. Such changes may be shown inAn action or actions;The realization of new strength and affirmation of previous decisions;The acceptance of new conditions and the need for making changes;The discovery of unrecognized truths; orThe reconciliation of a character with adverse conditions.
13Types of Characters: Dynamic vs. Static Static characters, by contrast, end pretty much where they begin. Their absence of growth or development results from lack of knowledge or understanding, or even from stupidity or insensitivity.
14Dimensions of Character Round and Static CharacterMultiple dimensions of character portrayedIs unable or unwilling to changeRefusal to change may be source of conflict in storyMay act as a foil for the more dynamic protagonistRound and Dynamic CharacterUsually the protagonist or other major characterResponse to the need to change may be source of conflict in storyChange may be required in one key aspect of character or in character’s entire worldviewFlat and Static CharacterDefined by only one character trait that does not change over timeUsually play relatively minor rolesMay be used as plot device, symbol, cautionary figure, or comic reliefMay be stock, representative, or stereotype characterFlat and Dynamic CharacterDefined by one trait, but able and willing to changeMay act as a foil for the more round and dynamic protagonist
15Reality and Probability: Verisimilitude Characters in fiction should be true to life. Therefore, their actions, statements, and thoughts must all be what human beings are likely to do, say, and think under the conditions presented in the literary work.Verisimilitude: the quality of being true to lifeProbability: the quality of being likely to happenPlausibility: the quality of being possible and/or conceivableYou should distinguish between what characters may possibly do and what they most frequently or most usually do.
16Reality and Probability: Verisimilitude The donne of a work influences its standards of probability.Works that attempt to mirror life set up a pattern of ordinary, everyday probability.Less realistic conditions establish different frameworks of probability, in which characters are expected to be unusual.Even works containing supernatural figures may adhere to more traditional standards of probability.
17Section 2: Writing about Characters General NotesGeneral StrategiesQuestions for ConsiderationOrganizing Your Essay
18Notes on CharacterA character is a verbal representation of a human beingA character trait is a quality of mind or habitual mode of behavior and should not be confused with a character’s circumstancesAuthors use five ways to bring characters to lifeActions by characters reveal their naturesThe author’s descriptions tell us about charactersWhat characters say reveals what they are likeWe learn about characters from what other say about themThe author, speaking as a storyteller or observer, may tell us about characters
19Notes on Character continued Characters may be dynamic or staticCharacters may be round (well-developed) or flat (one-dimensional)Characters should be true to lifeCharacters’ actions should be in keeping with what the author has established as their traits and personalities (verisimilitude, probability, plausibility)Probability does not rule out surprise or even exaggeration
20General StrategiesTopic will usually be a main character, although you might decide to study one or more minor charactersWhile re-reading the text, take notes onCharacter traitsMethods of characterizationIf you discover unusual or well-emphasized traits, determine what they show about the character
21Questions for Consideration Who is the major character? What do you learn about this character from his/her own actions and speeches? From the various methods of characterization?How important is the character to the work’s principal action?Which characters oppose the major character? How do the major character and opposing character(s) interact? What effects do these interactions create?What actions bring out important traits of the main character? To what degree is the character creating or just responding to the events?Characterize the main character’s actions: Are they good or bad, smart or stupid, etc.? How do they help you understand the protagonist?Describe and explain the traits, both major and minor, of the character you plan to discuss. To what extent do the traits permit you to judge the character?
22Questions continuedIn what ways is the character’s major trait a strength—or a weakness? As the story progresses, to what degree does the trait become more or less prominent?Is the character round and dynamic? How does the character recognize, change with, or adjust to circumstances?If the character is flat and/or static, what function does he/she perform in the story?If the character is a stereotype, to what type does he/she belong? To what degree does the character stay in the stereotypical role or rise above it?What does the storyteller or narrator say about this character? How valid are his/ her comments and insights?Is the character lifelike or unreal? Consistent or inconsistent? Believable or not believable?
23Organizing Your Essay on Character Develop a central trait or major characteristicShows how the story embodies the traitFocus on the differing ways in which the author presents the characterExplain a character’s growth or changeDescribe traits present at the beginning and then analyze changes or developmentsStress actual alterations as they emerge without retelling the storyDescribe traits and analyze how they are brought out within the work (methods of characterization)
24Organizing continuedOrganize your essay around a number of separate characteristicsMost major characters are round, showing many different traits and qualitiesAllows for analysis of relationship between complementary traits or tension between contradictory onesAnalysis of multiple character traits should clarify connections between themOrganize your essay around central actions, objects, or quotations that reveal primary characteristicsShow how such elements serve as signposts or guides to the character(s)
25Organizing continuedDevelop qualities of a flat character or charactersDevelop topics such asRelative significance of the characterThe group the character representsThe relationship of the flat character to the round onesThe importance of this relationshipAny additional qualities or traitsExplainCircumstances or defects that keep the character from being roundImportance of these shortcomings in the author’s presentation of the character