A character analysis essay is a challenging type of essay students usually write for literature or English courses. In this article, we will explain what a character analysis is and how to approach it. We will also touch on how to analyze a certain character and will guide you through writing a character analysis essay.
Typically, this kind of essay requires students to describe the character in the context of the story. This can be fulfilled by analyzing the relationship between the character in question and other characters. Although, sometimes it is also appropriate to give your personal opinion and analysis of a certain character. Let’s start our article with how to do a character analysis by getting straight to what a character analysis actually is.
What Is a Character Analysis Essay?
A character analysis essay explains the in-depth traits and characteristics of a certain character. Mostly, the characters are from the literature, but sometimes other art forms, such as cinematography. In a character analysis essay, your main job is to tell the reader who the character really is and what role he/she plays in the story. Despite your personal opinion and preferences, it is really important to use your critical thinking skills and be objective towards the character you are analyzing. A character analysis essay usually involves the character's relationship with others, his/her behavior, manner of speaking, the way he/she looks, and many other characteristics.
Although, it's not a section about your job experience or education on resume, so sometimes it is appropriate to give your personal opinion and analysis of a certain character.
What Is the Purpose
More than to fulfill a requirement, this type of essay mainly helps the reader understand the character and the world he or she lives in. One of the essential purposes of a character analysis essay is to look at the anatomy of a character in the story and dissect who he/she is. We must be able to study how the character was shaped and then learn from their life.
A good example of a character for a character analysis essay is Daisy Buchanan from “The Great Gatsby”. The essay starts off by explaining who Daisy is and how she relates to the main character, Jay Gatsby. Depending on your audience, you need to decide how much of the plot should be included. If the entire class is writing an essay on Daisy Buchanan, it is logical to assume that everyone has read the book. Although, if you know for certain that your audience has little to no knowledge of who she is, it is crucial to include as much background information as possible.
After that, you need to explain the character through certain situations involving her and the things she said or did. Make sure to explain to the reader why you included certain episodes and how they have showcased the character. Finally, sum everything up by clearly stating the character’s purpose and role in the story.
Different Types of Characters
There are several types of characters based on their behaviors, traits, and roles within a story. We have gathered some of them, along with vivid examples from famous literature and cinema pieces:
- Major: These are main characters; they run the story. Regularly, there are only one or two major characters. Major characters are usually of two types: the protagonist – the good guy, and the antagonist: the bad guy or the villain.
- Protagonist(s) (heroes): The main character around whom most of the plot revolves.
For example, Othello from the Shakespeare's play, Frodo from The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien, Harry Potter from the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling, or Elizabeth Bennet from “Pride and Prejudice” by Jane Austen.
- Antagonist(s): This is the person that is in opposition to the protagonist. This is usually the villain, but could also be a natural power, set of circumstances, majestic being, etc.
For example, Darth Vader from the Star Wars series by George Lucas, King Joffrey from Game of Thrones, or the Wicked Queen from “Snow White and Seven Dwarfs”.
- Minor: These are the characters who help tell the major character’s tale by letting them interact and reveal their personalities, situations, and/or stories. They are commonly static (unchanging). In The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien, the minor characters would be the whole Fellowship of the ring. In their own way, each member of the Fellowship helps Frodo to get the ring to Mordor, and without them the protagonist would not be a protagonist and would not be able to succeed. In the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling, minor characters are Ronald Weasley and Hermione Granger. They consistently help Harry Potter on his quests against Voldemort and, the same as Frodo, he wouldn’t have succeeded without them.
On top of being categorized as a protagonist, antagonist, or minor character, a character can also be dynamic, static, or foil.
- Dynamic (changing): Very often, the main character is dynamic.
An example would also be Harry Potter from the book’s series by J.K. Rowling. Throughout the series, we see Harry Potter noticing his likeness to Voldemort. Nevertheless, Harry resists these traits because, unlike Voldemort, he is a good person and resists any desire to become a dark wizard.
- Static (unchanging): Someone who does not change throughout the story is static.
A good example of a static character is Atticus Finch from “How to Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee. His character and views do not change throughout the book. He is firm and steady in his beliefs in spite of controversial circumstances.
- Foils: These are the characters whose job is to draw attention to the main character(s) to enhance the protagonist’s role.
A great example of a foil character is Dr. Watson from the Sherlock Holmes series by Arthur Conan Doyle.
How to Analyze a Character
While preparing to analyze your character, make sure to read the story carefully. You need to pay attention to the situations the character is involved in, his/her dialogues, and his/her role in the plot. Make sure you include information about what your character achieves on a big scale, and how he/she influences other characters. In spite of the categories provided above, try to think outside of the box and explore your character from all of their sides. Avoid general statements and being too basic. Focus on exploring the complexities and details of your character(s).
How to Write a Character Analysis Essay?
To gather a more profound sense of truly understanding these characters, one must completely immerse themself in the story or literary piece. Take note of the setting, climax, and other important literary parts. You must be able to feel and see through the characters. Observe how the writer shaped these characters into life. Notice how little or how vast the identities of the characters were described. Look at the characters’ morals and behaviors and how they have affected situations and other characters throughout the story. Observe the characters whom you find interesting.
How Do You Start a Character Analysis Essay
When writing a character analysis essay, first, you have to choose a character you’d like to write about. Sometimes a character will be readily assigned to you. It’s wise to consider characters who play a dynamic role in the story. This will captivate the reader as there will be a ton of information about these characters.
Read the Story
You might think that if you already have read the book, there is no need to do so again, however, now that you know the character you would like to focus on, reading it again will have plenty of benefits. It will give you an opportunity to be more precise while reading the scenes that relate directly to your character and are important for his/her analysis. While reading the book, pay attention to every tiny detail to make sure you grasp the whole array of your character’s traits.
Consider the following things:
- What specific descriptions does the author provide for each character?
For example, while J.K. Rowling describes Harry Potter for the first time, she describes his clothes as old and oversized, his hair untidy, and his glasses as broken. It might seem just like a simple description, but she expresses compassion and pity for an orphan neglected by his only relatives.
- What kinds of relationships does your character have with others?
Think about how Harry builds up his friendships with others. First, him and Ron do not like Hermione because she acts like a know-it-all, but when she gets stuck in the dungeons with a horrendous troll, he rushes to save her regardless.
- How do the actions of the character move the plot forward?
In “The Philosopher’s Stone”, Harry is very observant of any events taking place at school. He analyzes people’s actions, which builds up the plot around the stone and its importance for the magical world.
Choosing a dynamic character is a great idea. This does not necessarily have to be the protagonist, but a character that undergoes a lot of changes, has grown throughout the story, and is not boring and/or static. This gives you a perfect advantage to fully show the character and make your paper entertaining and engaging for the reader. If you choose a character that is not very dynamic, your essay might turn out seeming monotonous because your character will not end up doing much and will not be very involved in the story.
While you are reading, it is useful to take notes or highlight/underline any and all of the critical elements of the story. This will add depth to your character description(s). By providing vivid and specific examples, you connect your reader to the character, and the character comes alive in their eyes. When you’re finished reading with your character in mind, review your notes and formulate the main idea about your character.
Make an initial draft while taking note of the character analysis essay outline provided by your instructor. If you have not been provided with a sample, you may follow the recommended character analysis essay format.
While reading the story, make sure you keep track of your notes. It is a good idea to look at them, choose the ones that are the most representative of your character and find patterns. This will be your thesis. Then, you need to support this idea with examples and situations involving your character.
If your character were Jem Finch from “To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee, the main idea would be how his personal character is shaped through racial conflicts, social inequalities and internal struggles between public opinion, his own views, and what is actually right.
Character Analysis Questions
Now that you have jotted down some main concepts about your character, here is a list of questions that can help you fill in the blanks you might still have:
- Where do the events involving your character take place?
- What are the relationships of your character and other significant characters?
- What is the primary change your character has gone through throughout the story?
- What is your character's background?
- What is your character’s occupation?
- What kind of emotions does your character go through?
- What are your character’s values?
- What is your character’s value?
- Does your character have friends?
- Is there a lesson your character has learned by the end of the story?
- Does the character achieve the goals he/she has set for himself/herself?
Make an Outline
Writing a literary analysis outline can be considered one of the most critical steps in writing. A well-constructed character analysis outline will keep your thoughts and ideas organized.
Make the introduction to your paper brief and meaningful. It should hold together your entire essay and should spark the interest of your audience. Write a short description of the character in question.
Subdivide your body paragraphs into different ideas or areas regarding the character. Look at your professor’s rubric and make sure that you’ll be able to tackle all of the things required. You should also be provided with questions to be answered to formulate your analysis better. The body should answer the following questions:
- What is the character’s physical appearance, personality, and background?
- What are the conflicts the character experiences and how did he/she overcome them?
- What can we learn from this character?
- What is the meaning behind the character's actions? What motivates him/her?
- What does the character do? How does he/she treat others? Is he/she fair or unjust?
- What does the character say? What is his/her choice of words? Does he/she have a rich vocabulary?
- How does the character describe themself? How do others describe him/her?
- What words do you associate with the character? Perhaps a word like “hope”, “bravery”, or maybe even “freedom”?
It’s time to master the secrets of how to write a conclusion for a character analysis. Your conclusion should also hold your ideas together and shape a final analysis statement. Mention things about the character’s conflicts that we could experience in real life. Additionally, you can write about how a character should’ve reacted to a certain situation.
Character Analysis Essay: Video Guide
Character Analysis Essay Example
Read our blogs "Character Analysis of Jem Finch", "The Great Gatsby Book Through Daisy Buchanan Character", "Analysis of Characters in Beowulf" or simply use these character analysis essay examples as a reference to your paper.