Archives du mot-clé characters



Characters are the fictional people – the who – in a story.They are endowed with moral and dispositional qualities that are expressed in what they say – the dialogue- and what they do – the action. The grounds in a character´s temperament and moral nature for his speech and actions constitute his motivation. But how is it that we can at times feel so close to a character ? The ¨round¨character is complex in temperament and motivation, and is represented with subtle particularity , thus he is difficult to describe with any adequacy as a person in real life, and, like most people , he is capable of surprising us. My own favourite are Mrs Dalloway, Jay Gatsby, Elizabeth Bennet among others. A ¨flat¨character on the other hand, is built around a single idea or quality, and is presented in outline without much individualizing detail. The degree to which a character needs to be three-dimensional depends on his function in the plot, and many types of plot, such as in the detective novel or adventure novel, even the protagonist usually possesses only two dimensions. Sherlock Holmes, for example, does not require the roundness of a hamlet to solve his case.

Difference Between Flat and Round Characters - infographic

Now, there are a few literary terms we have for certain types of characters. The main character, the one we follow most closely in the story, is the protagonist. They’re the Harry Potters, the Katniss Everdeens and the Luke Skywalkers of the literary world.

Then there are the antagonists, or the bad guys who work against the protagonists. Enter Voldemort, President Snow and Darth Vader.

We also have foil characters. A foil is a character that shows qualities that are in contrast with the qualities of another character with the objective to highlight the traits of the other character. What we observe in literature very often is that a foil is a secondary character who contrasts with the major character to enhance the importance of the major character.

Example of foil characters:

Dr Watson, the faithful companion of Sherlock Holmes is a foil character inasmuch as he is a minor but essential character; He never solves a crime and his true function is to contrast with Holmes and  therefore emphasize the great detective´s traits.

Point of View

Signifies the way a story is told – the perspective or perspectives established by an author through which the reader is presented with the characters, actions, setting, and events which constitute the narrative in a work of fiction. To understand point of view, it is important to pay attention to 2 things : grammatical person (is the narrator telling his own story using ¨I ¨ or ¨we¨ or someone else´s story using ¨he¨¨she¨ ¨they¨ ) and his level of insight, that is, how much does he know about his characters ?

In a first-person narrative, the narrator speaks as ¨I ¨and is himself a character in the story, the protagonist like Salinger´s Catcher in the Rye who begins : ¨If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you´ll really want to know is where I was born, and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David copperfield kind of crap…¨ He can also be someone very close to the protagonis someone who is privy to his thoughts and actions (Dr. Watson in Sherlock Holmes stories), or an ancillary character who has little to do with the action of the story (such as Nick Carraway in The Great Gatsby).

Third-person point of view:

The omniscient point of view:  The narrator knows everything that needs to be known about the agents and the events ; he is entirely free to move as he will in time and place, and to shift from one character to another, reporting or conceiling what he chooses of their speech and actions. He has also ¨privileged¨ access to a character´s thoughts and feelings and motives. Within this mode, the intruisive narrator is one who not only reports but freely comments on his characters, evaluating their actions and motives and expressing his views about human life in general. Historically, the third-person omniscient perspective has been the most commonly used; it is seen in countless classic novels, including works by Charles Dickens.

The main advantage of this mode is that it is eminently suited to telling huge, sweeping, epic stories, and/or complicated stories involving numerous characters. The disadvantage of this mode is the increased distance between the audience and the story, and the fact that—when used in conjunction with a sweeping, epic « cast-of-thousands » story—characterization tends to be limited, thus reducing the reader’s ability to identify with or sympathize with the characters.

The limited point of view or subjective: the narrator tells the story in the third person, but confines himself to what is experienced, thought, and felt by a single character within the story (or a very limited number of characters).  If there is just one character, it can be termed third-person limited, in which the reader is « limited » to the thoughts of some particular character (often the protagonist) as in the first-person mode, except still giving personal descriptions using « he », « she », « it », and « they », but not « I ». This is almost always the main character (e.g., Gabriel in Joyce’s The Dead, Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Young Goodman Brown, or Santiago in Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea).

Which character is your favourite? Ask yourself why?









To successfully analyze literature, you’ll need to remember that authors make specific choices for particular reasons.  Your comments should point out the author’s choices and attempt to explain their significance.

In order to do so, you´ll need to develop your argument based on any single term (or combination of terms) listed below.

Setting – the place or location of the action.  The setting provides the historical and cultural context for characters. It often can symbolize the emotional state of characters. Example – In Poe’s The Fall of the House of Usher, the crumbling old mansion reflects the decaying state of both the family and the narrator’s mind.

Characterrepresentation of a person, place, or thing performing traditionally human activities or functions in a work of fiction

  • Protagonist – The character the story revolves around.
  • Antagonist – A character or force that opposes the protagonist.
  • Minor character – Often provides support and illuminates the protagonist.
  • Static character – A character that remains the same.
  • Dynamic character – A character that changes in some important way.
  • Characterization – The choices an author makes to reveal a character’s personality, such as appearance, actions, dialogue, and motivations.

Look for: Connections, links, and clues between and about characters. Ask yourself what the function and significance of each character is. Make this determination based upon the character’s history, what the reader is told (and not told), and what other characters say about themselves and others.

Plot – the arrangement of ideas and/or incidents that make up a story

  • Foreshadowing – When the writer clues the reader in to something that will eventually occur in the story; it may be explicit (obvious) or implied (disguised).
  • Suspense – The tension that the author uses to create a feeling of discomfort about the unknown
  • Conflict – Struggle between opposing forces.
  • Exposition – Background information regarding the setting, characters, plot.
  • Rising Action – The process the story follows as it builds to its main conflict
  • Crisis – A significant turning point in the story that determines how it must end
  • Resolution/Denouement – The way the story turns out.

Point of View – who tells the story and how it is told. The point of view of a story can sometimes indirectly establish the author’s intentions.

  • Narrator – The person telling the story who may or may not be a character in the story.
  • First-person – Narrator participates in action but sometimes has limited knowledge/vision.
  • Second person – Narrator addresses the reader directly as though she is part of the story. (i.e. “You walk into your bedroom.  You see clutter everywhere and…”)
  • Third Person (Objective) – Narrator is unnamed/unidentified (a detached observer). Does not assume character’s perspective and is not a character in the story. The narrator reports on events and lets the reader supply the meaning.
  • Omniscient – All-knowing narrator (multiple perspectives). The narrator knows what each character is thinking and feeling, not just what they are doing throughout the story.  This type of narrator usually jumps around within the text, following one character for a few pages or chapters, and then switching to another character for a few pages, chapters, etc. Omniscient narrators also sometimes step out of a particular character’s mind to evaluate him or her in some meaningful way.

Structure  – The way that the writer arranges the plot of a story.

Look for: Repeated elements in action, gesture, dialogue, description, as well as shifts in direction, focus, time, place, etc.