Character Analysis: Definition & Examples (2023)

How would you explain a character like Ebenezer Scrooge from A Christmas Carol? Would you begin by describing his frail, elderly appearance? Or would you start with his miserly behavior? Charles Dickens wrote Scrooge with many characteristics to express his rude, selfish nature, so a character analysis could take several approaches to explain this classic character. Keep on reading for the outline of a character analysis, its meaning, and more.

Character Analysis Meaning

A character analysis is a deep dive into the traits and personality of a particular character, as well as a discussion of the character’s overall role in the story. Some authors choose to infuse their characters with many layers of meaning, while others simply use them to convey a message about something or move the story along. Either way, understanding a particular character gives great insight into the work as a whole.

Character Analysis: Definition & Examples (1)Scrooge is an example of a dynamic character because his character evolves from the beginning of the story to the end.

Why is Character Analysis Important?

Authors use their characters to express meaning and convey messages to their audience. Daisy Buchanan’s (The Great Gatsby) ambivalence represents an upper class that has deadened itself to the humanity outside its sphere. Jo March’s (Little Women) carelessness with her wardrobe expresses her defiance of traditional femininity. Even Bertha Rochester, who is barely described as a character in Jane Eyre, is essential to Charlotte Brontë’s message about misogyny in her time.

When writing a character analysis, you must pay close attention to the things both stated and unstated about the character. Authors don’t always explicitly tell you what they want you (the reader) to know about the character—sometimes, the writer wants you to come to realize things about the character for yourself.

For example, in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling, Harry sacrifices himself to save his friends and win the battle against the evil Voldemort. J.K. Rowling never describes Harry as a martyr or tells the audience to admire his bravery—you should come to understand these character traits by reading about his actions.

Authors typically give direct descriptions of characters sparingly. They usually provide an explanation of the character at the beginning of a story or when a character is introduced. This gives the audience a clear sense of who the character is and what they look like physically.

Just because an author doesn’t devote a lot of time to explicitly describing a character doesn’t mean there aren’t things to learn about them throughout the story. A character analysis should include many details given directly from the author’s description—if one is given at all—as well as any relevant information revealed about the character in the story.

Because much of what can be known about a character is not explicitly stated, a character analysis must be thorough enough to pick up all the details the author hides in the action and body of the story. This means you must remain critical of every detail related to the character you’re analyzing.

Here are some details to pay close attention to while analyzing a character:

  1. Behavior – What does the character do? How do they act?

  2. Motivation – What makes the character behave the way they do? What underlying details drive them to make certain decisions?

  3. Personality – The things that make the character unique. This includes their perspective and any other distinguishing details and characteristics.

  4. Relationships – Their habits with other characters. How do they interact with other characters? Does the character you’re analyzing play a specific role in any relationships?

  5. What they say – What they say and how they say it can communicate important details about the character. Are they educated? Does what they say make sense, given what readers know about the character? Are they being forthcoming, or are they hiding anything?

Sometimes what a character doesn't say is just as meaningful as what they do say. An omission on the part of a character can indicate many things to the reader; it could be that they are conniving, deceitful, vengeful, or perhaps just shy.

Purpose of a Character Analysis

A character analysis aims to gain a deeper understanding of the piece of literature. Because you’ll have to investigate the story's details to gather information about the character, you’ll also get insight into the story and the author.

Sometimes it’s easy to read about a character and take their qualities at face value, not really appreciating all the nuances given to them by the author. For example, consider the title character Emma from Jane Austen’s Emma. It’s easy to read Emma as a selfish, entitled daughter of the aristocracy, but if you look closely at Emma’s character, her motivations to create love connections are more nuanced than they might initially seem.

A character analysis will help you understand the author’s intent for the particular character and the whole story. The point of a character analysis is not only to better understand the character, but also the mind that created the character (i.e., the author).

How to Write a Character Analysis

You may have to write a character analysis essay as a school assignment. If so, the first thing to do is to read the text. To conduct a rich character analysis, you need to know the context of the character, which means reading the entirety of the story.

While reading the story, take notes about any specific details that you think are important to discuss in the character analysis (refer to the list above for things to pay attention to). This will make it easier for you to remember the significant details of the character and their personality.

You may have already read the story, so perhaps all you need to do is to find a few key passages that shed some light on the character you’re analyzing.

Character Analysis: Definition & Examples (2)Different characters have different defining characteristics. Similarly, one character can have a variety of character traits.

Types of Characters

There are several types of characters found in literature, and each type has a few defining characteristics that may help you better understand a character.


This is the main character in the story. They must act for the story to move forward.

Mary Lennox (The Secret Garden) is the protagonist whose actions drive the story of The Secret Garden.


This character exists to create conflict for the protagonist, even just for a short time in the story. Similar to a villain, but not necessarily evil.

Mr. Darcy (Pride and Prejudice) begins as an antagonist to Elizabeth Bennett.

Major Character

This is a character who plays a significant role in the story. They may fall under one or more other character types.

Samwise Gamgee (The Lord of the Rings) is a major supporting character.

Minor Character

This is a character who does not play a large role in the story.

Gollum, also known as Sméagol (The Lord of the Rings), is not a major character, but he is seen frequently in the story.

Dynamic Character

A dynamic character transforms in some way(s) over the course of the story. The protagonist and antagonist tend to be dynamic characters.

Dorian Gray (The Picture of Dorian Gray) changes from a charming young socialite to a heinous murderer.

Static Character

This is the opposite of a dynamic character; static characters stay mostly the same throughout the story. That is not to say they are boring or not worth analyzing; they simply do not evolve.

Sherlock Holmes (Sherlock Holmes series) has a static personality that doesn't change much, if at all, from book to book.

Stock Character

Stock characters could also be called stereotypes—this is a character that represents a type of person that is recognizable as belonging to a certain group.

Lady Macbeth (Macbeth) is an example of the “dark lady” stock character type, meaning she is tragic and doomed.

Some characters may fit into more than one category.

Character Analysis Main Idea

The next step is to choose the main idea for character analysis.

The main idea of an essay is the writer’s position or principal concept they would like to express.

The main idea of your character analysis will be whatever message you’d like to express about that character. That could be a comparison to another well-known character or a contrast between another character in the book. Your main idea could be a new perspective about the character; perhaps you see the hero as a true villain.

The main idea of your character analysis might go beyond the scope of that character to reveal some insight into ideas and themes that the author uses that specific character to communicate. Regardless of the message, you must be prepared to defend your character analysis with supporting evidence from the text.

The best support for the main idea of a character analysis is evidence from the text. Quotes and examples to illustrate your point will be the most effective tools at your disposal. You may also find it helpful to use outside facts, data, or statistics to support your idea.

Character Analysis Outline

An entire essay may be devoted to character analysis. In this case, your main idea will also serve as your thesis statement.

A thesis statement is a single, declarative sentence that summarizes the main point of an essay.

An outline for a character analysis essay could look like this:


  1. Introduction to the literary work and character, thesis statement

  2. Body paragraphs

    • 1st body paragraph: description of physical appearance and background

    • 2nd body paragraph: discuss strengths and weaknesses as seen in the story

    • 3rd paragraph: conflicts involving the character, and their role in conflict resolution

  3. Conclusion: summary of key points, including the thesis and final thoughts on the character

You could also discuss the character according to their characteristics and write your body paragraphs characteristic by characteristic—as seen in different scenes of the story.

Character Analysis Example

Here is an example of a character analysis essay outline. This essay will analyze the character Jem Finch from To Kill a Mockingbird (1960) by Harper Lee.


  1. Introduction

    • Introduce the novel To Kill a Mockingbird.

    • Brief description of plot synopsis

    • A short list of major characters (Atticus Finch, Scout Finch, and Jem Finch)

    • Thesis statement: Jeremy Finch, known to his friends and family as “Jem,” represents that difficult evolution every child must undergo, from naive and innocent to knowledgeable and worldly.

  2. Body paragraph 1: Jem’s background and physical appearance

    • Jem is athletic and, like many other boys his age, loves football.

    • Jem is adventurous, but his definition of adventure is childish.

    • Jem is a good big brother. He protects Scout from things that are within his realm of influence (as a child).

  3. Body paragraph 2: Jem’s strengths and weaknesses

    • Jem’s strengths are a lot of his father’s strengths.

      • Respectful - always defers to adults

      • Doesn’t back down - he exhibits bravery in their childish games.

      • Empathetic - he is empathetic toward people he understands.

    • Jem’s weakness is that he is naive and believes the best in people

      • Thinks people in his town are all friendly.

      • Doesn’t believe/ understand the implications of racism.

  4. Body paragraph 3: Jem’s idea of bravery changes as he matures

    • Jem used to think that bravery meant doing something scary without flinching (like touching the side of Boo Radley’s house).

    • Jem learns about real-world bravery, as seen in the people around him

      • Atticus faces the mad dog.

      • Scout stands up to the mob.

      • Mrs. Dubose’s fight with addiction.

  5. Conclusion:

    • Jem Finch is a young, confident, athletic boy.

    • He takes after his father in many ways, including his love and protection of Scout, but his empathy and bravery haven't been tested in the "real world."

    • He starts off with a childish belief in the goodness of people.

    • After seeing many examples of bravery around his hometown in the face of true hardship, Jem comes to understand what it means to have courage.

This character analysis will be effective because it will describe the character Jem according to how he is portrayed in the book. Each body paragraph supports the thesis by examining Jem's character in some way.

Even more importantly, the analysis will dig into some deeper themes of maturity and what it means to be brave. Harper Lee undoubtedly wanted the reader to consider these significant themes in the book.

Analysis of literary characters - Key takeaways

  • A character analysis is a deep dive into the traits and personality of a particular character, as well as a discussion of the character’s overall role in the story.
  • A character analysis aims to gain a deeper understanding of the piece of literature.
  • A character analysis needs a main idea to drive the discussion. In a character analysis essay, the main idea is your thesis statement.
  • When writing a character analysis, you must pay close attention to the things both stated and unstated about the character.
    • Behavior
    • Personality
    • What they say
    • Motivation
    • Relationships


Character Analysis: Definition & Examples? ›

A character analysis is an in-depth interpretation of the characters within a literary work and their relation to each other and the plot. The average character analysis considers the character's relationship with others, the character's physical attributes, and the conflicts that a character faces.

What is a character analysis example? ›

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.

What is a character analysis? ›

A character analysis is a written body of work that analyzes the qualities and traits of a specific character. These characters are primarily from literary works, but can also be from cinema and television.

What are the 5 elements of character analysis? ›

An acronym, PAIRS, can help you recall the five methods of characterization: physical description, action, inner thoughts, reactions, and speech.

How do you write a character analysis paragraph example? ›

To write a character analysis, you need to write an essay outlining the following: the character's name, personal information, hobbies/interests, personality, role in the book, relationships with other characters, major conflicts, and overall change throughout the course of the story. Thanks!

How do you start a character analysis example? ›

Start with a topic sentence to introduce the paragraph. Describe your character: physical appearance, background, what type of character they are, their relationships, main characteristics, and so on. End with a transition sentence leading into the next paragraph.

How do you write a simple character analysis? ›

Guidelines for Writing a Character Analysis Essay

You develop a character by telling the reader about that character, what he is doing or thinking. You reveal fictional characters by the way they appear, by what they say, by what they do, and by what others say about them.

How do you write a character analysis of a character? ›

Being mindful of subtle hints, like mood changes and reactions that might provide insight into your character's personality, can help you write a character analysis.
  1. Describe the Character's Personality.
  2. Determine the Character Type of Your Protagonist.
  3. Define Your Character's Role in the Work You're Analyzing.
Sep 29, 2018

What are the three steps for character analysis? ›

How to Make the Character Analysis Outline?
  • Discuss the Personality of the Character. The readers know the characters through the words they use. ...
  • Discuss the Role of the Character. Each character should have a defined role in the story. ...
  • Summarize the Development of the Character.
Feb 9, 2020

How do you write an analysis? ›

In analytical writing you move beyond reacting to or using the content of the text; you look at how the text was put together or how the ideas and information were developed. You take the reading apart, piece by piece, according to a set of critical ideas that helps you see diferent aspects of the text.

What are the names of 5 methods of analyzing a character? ›

To remember these five elements, simply remember the acronym STEAL, which stands for speech, thoughts, effect on others, actions and looks.
  • Speech. Characters' personalities can be greatly defined by the words they say and how they say them. ...
  • Thoughts. ...
  • Effect On Others. ...
  • Actions. ...
  • Looks.

What are the five types of character? ›

5 Character Types That Appear in Fiction

Grouped in this way by character development, character types include the dynamic character, the round character, the static character, the stock character, and the symbolic character.

What is a character analysis chart? ›

A CHARACTER MAP is a graphic organizer that helps students learn about a character and how the character impacts and is impacted by setting, other characters, and plot. It is used during and after reading a text.

How do you write a strong character analysis? ›

  1. Materials Needed.
  2. Step 1: Identify the Character Type.
  3. Step 2: Determine the Character's Role in the Story.
  4. Step 3: Understand the Character's Mentionable Actions.
  5. Step 4: Explore the Main Character Relationships.
  6. Step 5: Discern the Main Personality Traits?
  7. Step 6: Explore the Character's Evolution.
Feb 17, 2022

What two things should you look for when analyzing a character? ›

Character analysis is when you evaluate a character's traits, their role in the story, and the conflicts they experience. When analyzing, you will want to think critically, ask questions, and draw conclusions about the character by looking at those three areas.

What are the sentence starters for character analysis? ›

Character Description Sentence starters - Random wheel. When...., He/She has...., Despite him/ her being ....., However...., Did you know...., Shall I tell you about..... , In addition..., Also...., Additionally.... , Even though.... , His/ her personality......

What is a good introduction for character analysis? ›

Start with a topic sentence to introduce the paragraph. Describe your character: physical appearance, background, what type of character they are, their relationships, main characteristics, and so on. End with a transition sentence leading into the next paragraph.

What is one way to analyze a character? ›

A character's spoken words and internal thoughts can help you analyze her personality and development. Analysis of a character's words includes consideration of whom she's speaking to, the motivation for speaking and the veracity of what she says. Think about the way the character speaks: It might be angry or passive.

How do you write a topic sentence for a character analysis? ›

You should have a topic sentence that ties in your thesis statement (claim) about how the character trait is demonstrated through the character's thoughts. You should provide at least 2 quotes (thoughts from the character) and 2 sentences per quote to tie together the claim and evidence (your warrant).

How many paragraphs is a character analysis? ›

You need a minimum of two, though three would probably be better. Four would be okay, but five would be too many and overburden your paragraph and your reader. If you need that many examples, you need to break down the topic into multiple paragraphs. You might, for example, decide to make this two paragraphs.

How do you write a character essay about yourself? ›

To get started, check out these 9 tips on how to write an essay about yourself:
  1. Create a List of Questions. ...
  2. Brainstorm and Outline. ...
  3. Be Vulnerable. ...
  4. Use Personal Examples. ...
  5. Write in the First Person. ...
  6. Don't Be Afraid to Show Off…But Stay on Topic! ...
  7. Show Personality. ...
  8. Know Your Audience.
Jan 14, 2020

What are the 4 types of characters? ›

The 4 Main Characters As Literary Devices
  • The Protagonist.
  • The Antagonist.
  • The Confidant.
  • The Love Interest.
Jan 29, 2017

What is an example of character? ›

Examples of characters include letters, numerical digits, common punctuation marks (such as "." or "-"), and whitespace. The concept also includes control characters, which do not correspond to visible symbols but rather to instructions to format or process the text.

What are the 4 steps to write an analysis? ›

Define your thesis. Write the introduction. Write the body paragraphs. Add a conclusion.

How to write a good character? ›

Follow these character development tips when you sit down to write:
  1. Establish a character's motivations and goals. ...
  2. Choose a voice. ...
  3. Do a slow reveal. ...
  4. Create conflict. ...
  5. Give important characters a backstory. ...
  6. Describe a character's personality in familiar terms. ...
  7. Paint a physical picture of your characters.
Aug 26, 2021

What are the four major ways of characterizing? ›

Types of Characterization:
  • Direct characterization.
  • Indirect characterization.
  • Third Person Referentia.
May 21, 2023

What is a good sentence for analysis? ›

That's not a bad analysis of the situation. It's a problem that requires careful analysis. He has been in analysis for many years.

How do you start an analysis paragraph? ›

To keep your points focused, it's important to use a topic sentence at the beginning of each paragraph. A good topic sentence allows a reader to see at a glance what the paragraph is about. It can introduce a new line of argument and connect or contrast it with the previous paragraph.

What are the 7 main types of characters? ›

The 7 Types of Characters In Stories and Literature
  • Protagonist. Every story has a protagonist, even if there's only one character throughout the entire book. ...
  • Antagonist. Where there's a protagonist, an antagonist must follow. ...
  • Deuteragonist. ...
  • Tertiary Characters. ...
  • Romantic Interest. ...
  • Confidant. ...
  • Foil.
Jun 29, 2021

What are the 6 elements of character? ›

There are 6 key elements of character, which we'll consider in turn:
  • Courage.
  • Loyalty.
  • Diligence.
  • Modesty.
  • Honesty.
  • Gratitude.
Sep 27, 2016

What are the 6 parts of character? ›

The Six Pillars of Character are trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, fairness, caring, and citizenship.

What are the 8 traits of character? ›

Here are some of the traits I define.
  • Honest. At the core of any person with good character is honesty. ...
  • Survivor. Character is largely developed from suffering the trials and errors of life. ...
  • Lover. People of good character are loving people. ...
  • Leader. ...
  • Elegant. ...
  • Hard worker. ...
  • Helper. ...
  • Inspire.
May 24, 2018

What are the 7 character functions? ›

These roles are:
  • Type: the Villain. Role: struggles to stop the hero in their quest.
  • Type: the Donor. Role: prepares the hero for their quest.
  • Type: the Helper. Role: offers help to the hero in their quest, this is usually a sidekick.
  • Type: the Princess. ...
  • Type: the False Hero. ...
  • Type: the Dispatcher. ...
  • Type: the Hero.

What are the three parts of character? ›

• Actions, speech, and behavior

How does the character behave?

What is character vs character analysis? ›

In literature, a character vs. character conflict, also known as man vs. man conflict, involves two characters struggling against each other. The conflict can manifest in different ways, from a physical altercation to irreconcilable differences in morals or beliefs.

What are 3 important character strengths? ›

Zest, hope, and humor are the most important character strengths, according to new psychological research. Curiosity and kindness are also high on the list of important character strengths. This is not to say that other character strengths are unimportant, but that they likely serve more specific purposes.

What is a good character statement? ›

An effective character statement focuses on specifics. It can't be a rambling, general statement that "John is one of the nicest guys I have ever met". It must directly describe traits that support the person's character and counters the alleged bad behavior.

What are some examples of analyze? ›

  • analyze a problem.
  • The data was recorded and analyzed by computer.
  • We took the sample to be chemically analyzed by a lab.
  • Researchers are busy analyzing the results of the study.
  • The bacteria were analyzed under a powerful microscope.

What are the 7 sentence starters? ›

Good sentence starters to establish cause and effect
  • As a result . . .
  • Accordingly . . .
  • Consequently . . .
  • Due to . . .
  • For this reason . . .
  • Hence . . .
  • Therefore . . .
  • This means that . . .
Jun 2, 2022

What are the 6 sentence starters? ›

There are six sentence openers:
  • #1: Subject.
  • #2: Prepositional.
  • #3: -ly Adverb.
  • #4: -ing , (participial phrase opener)
  • #5: clausal , (www. asia. b)
  • #6: VSS (2-5 words) Very Short Sentence.
Mar 26, 2019

What is a simple sentence for characters? ›

Mr Bartman was a man of good character. She showed real character in her attempts to win over the crowd. I didn't know Ron had that much strength of character.

What are the 7 types of characters? ›

The 7 Types of Characters In Stories and Literature
  • Protagonist. Every story has a protagonist, even if there's only one character throughout the entire book. ...
  • Antagonist. Where there's a protagonist, an antagonist must follow. ...
  • Deuteragonist. ...
  • Tertiary Characters. ...
  • Romantic Interest. ...
  • Confidant. ...
  • Foil.
Jun 29, 2021

What are the 5 main types of characters? ›

5 Character Types That Appear in Fiction

Grouped in this way by character development, character types include the dynamic character, the round character, the static character, the stock character, and the symbolic character.

What are 2 examples of characterization? ›

Examples of direct characterization would be: ◾“Bill was short and fat, and his bald spot was widening with every passing year.” ◾“'Jane is a cruel person,' she said. '”


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