What is a Character Analysis? Have you ever tried to understand the reasons for another person’s action(s)? Did you conclude that your friend became a devotee of The Grateful Dead in part as a way to rebel against her Southern Baptist upbringing? Did you father react the way he did about the weakening of Affirmative Action laws because he is old enough to remember the struggle to get the school system desegregated? These people may have acted the way they did because of their backgrounds and experiences, and since you know them well, you may be able to draw some fairly accurate conclusions. As students of literature, you should be able to draw similar conclusions about the actions of characters by paying close attention to information the author of a novel provides about the background, experiences, and personalities of the characters. A character analysis can help to answer these questions. The purpose of a character analysis is to examine the make up of a character to better understand his or her motivations and actions. The success of a fictional text often resides in how well the author develops one, two, or three major characters. These character exhibit complex personalities and their behaviors are influenced by many factors: age, sex, race, education, social class, religion, place or origin, etc. – all of the things that combine to shape us and our actions. The writer or a character analysis reads the text for evidence about the character that will assist in a better understanding of the story as a whole. Getting Started – You will need to do some preliminary thinking and writing. 1) Choose a character that you find interesting, one that evokes a strong response from you, either positively or negatively. Major characters are usually the subject for analysis because they are more developed and central to the plot. However, some minor characters can make effective topics. Just be careful not to select one that appears and disappears briefly with little impact on the story. Example: In the short story “The Catbird Seat” by James Thurber, Mr. Martin, a meek clerk turns into a would-be assassin. Mr. Martin makes a good topic because he seems to be acting out of character by plotting to kill Mrs. Barrows, the new special advisor to the president of F&S. What would drive this pillar of respectability that drinks a glass of milk everyday at precisely five-thirty to decide to kill another human being? - (See Mrs. R. to read the full analysis.) 2) After you decide on a character, go back over the story. Jot down notes. Look for key descriptions or bit of dialogue that could be useful in your analysis. Don’t just highlight/write down quotes. When it’s time to put the analysis together, you may have forgotten why you underlined it. A few quick notes can save you time deciding why you thought a passage was important. 3) Pre-write. Using free-writing and brainstorming techniques, jot down your ideas and impressions about the character. Look at age, sex, race, education, and other important information. Try to develop a dominant impression about the character – a major trait that will control the analysis. Character Analysis Tips A character analysis is a detailed examination of some aspect of a character or characters. For example, you might describe the behavior of characters as it reveals their motivation. Or, you might discuss how the author develops a character to embody themes or ideas. You may compare similar characters or contrast diverse characters – the possibilities are endless! There are several ways an author reveals character: - By what the person himself says (or thinks, in the first-person or third person omniscient point-of-view By what a person does By what others characters say about him or her By what the author says about him or her, speaking as the storyteller or as an observer of the action Much of a character analysis involves your impression – supported by citations from the work – of a character’s character. Life of Pi Character Analysis For your character analysis, choose ONE character from the novel to describe. Organize your paper as follows: I. Introduction - Clearly state a central idea about the character. (A thesis statement.) II. Body - Develop and support your claim. Choose an organizational pattern: around primary characteristics, around important incidents/events that reveal essential characteristics, or around various sections of the work. Yours will probably follow the following (or a similar) structure: OUTER CHARACERISTICS INNER CHARACTERISTICSCHANGES OTHERS’ IMPRESSIONS Personal appearance – name, looks, clothing, age, physical condition Actions (and dialogue) – distinguishing behaviors, manner of speech, job, hobbies, religion, effects of character’s action on other characters, external conflicts Inner thoughts – inner conflicts, motivations, secrets, fears, etc. Changes the character experiences – the character’s development Other characters’/narrator’s/author’s impressions of a character – these can be used as support for your impression of the character, or to set up a contrast between what the character is and how others view him/her - You should aim to have at least 2 examples (quotes) per body paragraph. III. Conclusion - State how the selected traits of this character relate to the work as a whole. ***************************************************************************************************** Reminders: - - Be sure that you are linking each of these sections back to your central idea (thesis = your overall impression of the character); don’t just smash together completely separate ideas without explanations and transitions. Use specific examples from the text – direct quotes and page numbers! Include a Work Cited page with the statement: “All parenthetical citations are to this edition of the text.” Follow all rules of formal writing; NO contractions, 1st/2nd person, slang, etc. Begin a new paragraph – with a topic sentence – every time you start a new idea. Mrs. R. has read the novel, so there’s no need for summary. Instead, offer your analysis and interpretation. DUE DATE: TBD (within one week of completing the novel) This will count as an essay grade. Submit to turnitin.com.