How to Write a Character Analysis – Updated Guide
Students often do not like analysis because it is something they are not taught to do well. But analysis is very useful both in life and in studies, so use every chance to hone this skill. Writing a character analysis is cool stuff because it lets you uncover what is written between lines in books and get many more meanings from the same texts. Besides, when you watch a movie and then discuss it with friends you already analyze characters. So just try to apply what you can do already. We will help in it by tips, definitions, structure hints and other helpful tricks.
What is a Character?
Very often students consider that only people can be characters in books. It is a typical book structure, but sometimes art includes animals, objects and even natural phenomena as characters into its story-telling. So, a character is someone or something that acts or is acted upon. A boy falls in love with a girl, a detective investigates a crime, a single mother raises kids. Kings and armies fight for the Iron Throne while the King of the Night comes and winter is coming with him. They all – and even winter itself – can be seen and analyzed as characters.
So if in the book you read someone says or does or thinks something, then freely call him or her a character and analyze them.
Sometimes, nature, weather, interior, family as a whole, a clan or a house can be characters as well. But they are often minor characters and have few features to analyze. So in order to do this type of academic task choose a major and dynamic character and investigate him or her from all sides. Further we will discuss what types of characters you can find and how to tackle them.
What is a Character Analysis Essay?
Hence, to analyze the character you need to go beyond the plot and go into small and large details that make up a portrait of a person, animal or object you analyze. By definition, a character analysis means taking something apart and evaluating each piece. When you put these pieces together again with some conclusion, you do synthesis. So by default you will create analysis and synthesis essay about a specific character.
But what are you expected to analyze? Looks of a character are the first thing that comes to mind, but please avoid this mistake. The very word ‘character’ is key to your paper. You will explore the character’s traits, mode of thinking, motives, desires, actions as they contribute to the plot. You will say whether they move it forward or just fill up space between the really important events. You will say whether they show how people usually behave in a given situation or how people should behave (teach a lesson, in other words). Finally, how a character interacts with others and how this interaction helps to understand the motives and actions of others.
To do this, you need to know what types of characters you may find. It will help you to pick the right person for analysis and at the same time will make your writing look like a good academic paper.
Protagonist – the main character whom everything revolves around. The protagonist does and says things that make up the key line of a plot, without him or her a book will be senseless, so to say. Sometimes, complex and well-written books may introduce a few different people as protagonists. So you are free to choose one and be ready to explain why you consider him/her as a protagonist. For example, in The Great Gatsby some people believe Gatsby is the main guy, and some believe it is Nick the narrator who makes the story move.
Antagonist – an opposite to protagonist, someone whose task is to cause troubles to the main character. In the Game of Thrones, the ultimate antagonist is the King of the Night, and in The Great Gatsby, it is Tom Buchanan who gets in the way of Gatsby (others also cause troubles, but not to the extent Tom does. Gatsby dies AFTER his dream has been broken, he dies already defeated by Tom and the society he represents).
Static characters – characters that do not develop or change, they provide a background on which events and motives are better seen and understood. Sometimes characters do not change for some reason, and it is interesting to investigate why they do not change. It is because of their principles, stubbornness, stupidity or smartness, etc.?
Dynamic one – characters that develop and change along the storyline. The protagonist and his/her opposite will obviously change, otherwise they will look flat and unrealistic.
Major character – although usually there is one protagonist in a plot, there will be several major characters that make a story interesting and life-like. They bring in lots of events and tension into the plot, and without them a story will be incomplete. If we take a movie for an example (a book will work in the same way), then Batman, Joker, Rachel, Lieutenant Gordon, Harvey Dent are all main characters. Remove one – and the story falls apart like a house of cards.
A minor one – these characters play supporting roles, they take a step or two and then disappear from the view. Alfred, Lucius Fox, a Chinese businessman, mafia bosses, policemen, high-rank victims of Joker, – they all are minor characters, static and often episodic.
Three-dimensional characters – life-like heroes, with a full set of human traits, feelings and motives, strengths and weaknesses. We can understand their motivation and reasoning, and we take them as plausible.
Stereotyped ones – one-trait characters that serve to show off main characters better. A Chinese businessman Lao in the Dark Knight is a typical greedy shady moneymaker that commits crimes for the sake of getting even more money. He is a foil even to Joker, who is a more complex figure with his perverted motives and plans. But Joker does not care about money, he is subtler and believable in his hatred. He is, in a sense, braver and smarter that Lao or mafia bosses. This is why Joker is a major character and other criminals in the movie are not.
Foil – characters that are opposite in their nature to protagonists. Joker is a foil to Batman, and they both are main characters. In Gatsby, Jordan Baker can be considered a foil to Daisy as an independent woman playing golf and avoiding marriage.
How to Start?
Move step by step, and consider doing the following before you start drafting an essay:
- Decide what character you will analyze (if not assigned by a teacher);
- Reread the book looking for any mentioning of the character and his/her actions or thoughts;
- Device a thesis, at least a rough one.
When you complete these steps pay attention to the following:
- Choose characters that are complex and have lots of things going on (otherwise you will have nothing to explore);
- When re-reading look for: how the author describes a character, how his/her actions move the plot, how the character interacts with others, what problems and choices are on his/her way, how he/she grows and changes;
- You cannot write a paper about every feature of a character, so choose one and show how it moves the plot, tells us about human nature, teaches a lesson, or says something about the book that is not said explicitly.
For example, if we choose Daisy from The Great Gatsby, then she can be described as shallow, suffering, indecisive and irresponsible. But her irresponsibility and egoism are mostly seen when after causing a car crash she lets Gatsby take the guilt and escapes the place altogether with her cheating husband and a child. If she stayed with Gatsby (even without acknowledging her guilt), it would change our opinion of her, but at this point her irresponsibility and childishness go beyond all limits. So you can make up a thesis statement about Daisy developing as a character towards the ultimate moral ugliness, about the ability of the rich to escape consequences of any, even the most outrageous, deeds, or about the American Dream turning against the dreamer and crushing him completely. One episode, one or two traits, and already three interesting theses are at your service.
Character Analysis Essay Outline
Now it is time to start building a frame of your paper. In other words, let us get to a character analysis essay outline. As each and every essay, this one contains three main formal parts:
- Body paragraphs;
Now you have some understanding what to put into the essay body, but may be lost what to write in intro and conclusion. Let us look closer at each point.
This is the beginning, the first step at which a reader will think about whether he/she likes the topic or not. Catching attention is key to make readers move on and see what your main claim is. Yes, a thesis is placed at the end of the introduction, and it points the readers where the paper will head on. Typically, an intro does not host evidence or arguments. It hosts some general ideas that narrow down towards a thesis.
For example, you may speak about Batman, light that cannot exist without shade, and about more similarities between Joker and Batman than one may find at first. Then you may place a thesis, say, that Joker as a character is an alter ego of Batman because they both are driven by a huge, important and almost inaccessible ideas that foil each other: Batman wants to save people and Joker wants to destroy them.
The body of the paper will contain your arguments and examples, classification of a character, analysis of words, actions, motive, and interactions. The body consists of body paragraphs, and their number will be determined only the word count a teacher permitted.
Remember a golden rule of a good essay: one paragraph is one main idea; a paragraph starts with a topic sentence. The rest of a paragraph is evidence and your explanation of how this evidence supports your thesis.
Since you are writing a character analysis, be sure to mention the following:
- The appearance of a character, life path, opinions that other characters have about him/her;
- Conflicts and development of a character;
- Lessons a reader can extract from the character’s story.
This is a recapping of things said in the paper and of a thesis in particular. Do not say anything new; it should be said in the body. In conclusion you write a thesis but in different words, remind of 2 or 3 strongest arguments, and end in some interesting way. You may say that a character could have acted differently, but it would have been a different story. Or that a character reflects human weaknesses or strong sides and so we can relate to him, and thus an author has done a good job. Anyway, do not end it all abruptly.
Character Analysis Tips
Remember to double check what type of essay you are expected to turn in. Literary analysis is about the whole book, and character analysis is about one particular person in this book. So carefully choose the focus and do not stray away from it.
Analysis of a whole book means that you have to mention a plot, all characters, main conflict, its resolution, what literary tools the author used to make the book compelling. You will have to mention genre, some background, critique and strong sides of the book.
Analysis of a character makes the job easier. You analyze only one line, you have less text to analyze, fewer ideas to express and your essay will be more focused. But it should provide an in-depth analysis of this character, while in the whole book analysis you can say only one sentence about each character and that will be enough.
Explain the Character’s Personality
Usually, personality is not described directly, like ‘he was a good guy, kind, generous and funny’. If it happens, then it is a bad book or a stereotyped character containing nothing worth analysis. But if it is shown that a bored office clerk goes to volunteer in a pet shelter after work or helps to collect garbage on the beach, then you can claim that he is good and kind because his actions characterize him as such. This is already an interesting character for analysis. The more traits you find between the lines, the better and the more engaging your analysis.
Determine the Character Type
Move from formal points to your own interpretation. Mention whether a character is dynamic or static, whether he is foil one, he has multi-dimensional and complex traits, like real humans. Mention if a character has both positive and negative traits, as it is a sign that a character is really complex and true to life.
Define the Character’s Role
Say if a character is protagonist, antagonist, or has a minor role in a story. It shows that you understand who moves the plot, who is an actor in the book and so you can make a good analysis. Mention why this character is a protagonist by briefly saying what the book is about and what role a character plays in it.
Show the Character’s Growth
This is a very important point if you try to show that a character is complex and dynamic. If a character changes thoughts and beliefs, regrets previous actions or starts acting differently, shows a different attitude towards the same people or activities – then this character progresses. Show how and when this happens, why this happens, and what are the outcomes for a character and a whole story. Then you will build a really interesting and smart analysis.
We hope we assisted you on your way of learning how to write a character analysis essay and you are ready to go and get it. But what if no? Maybe you are short of time or have other pressing tasks. You just feel that cannot do it right and so are afraid to try. We can help you out of this, too.
Our writers can create a thorough and smart analysis of all types of characters. You may assign a character to work on or let a writer pick one from the assigned text. Be sure – you will get an excellent work meeting all demands of your teacher, not breaking your bank and letting you understand the book better without excessive efforts. Just set an account and ask us, the rest is our concern.