No matter what you choose to major in during your academic career, you will almost assuredly have to take a literature course. For some, literature is like torture. If you have an analytical mind, literature is something that can be lost on you very easily. Literature is a very subjective course, but that does not mean that you don't have to provide concrete objectivity when analyzing it. There are times when you will be asked to analyze a character.
What is a character?
A character in any story is a person who has a relation to the story. There are many different types of characters to any story. There are those which are crucial to the story, or the main characters, and then there are those which are insignificant to the story. The main characters are the people that you live the story through. Without the main characters the story would not exist. Their sole purpose is to convey a lesson to the reader through story telling. There is something to take away from every story and that purpose is related through the relation of the characters to the situation and to each other.
Why analyze a character?
It is important to know why a character is in a story. Even if they are not a main character, without them, the story would be different, so everyone has their part to play in the overall meaning of the story. By analyzing the character, getting to the heart of who they are, what their intentions are, what part they are playing in the story, and why they have been added, you get to the heart of why you are reading any story and what you are meant to take away from it. Authors describe characters in a certain way either to form the story, to teach you a lesson, or to develop a feeling in you.
Steps to analyzing a character
There are three types of characters:
- Supporting characters
Step one: Determine the types of characters
The first step to analyzing the character is to figure out which part they are playing in the story by identifying which type of character they are. Determine whether they are the protagonist, main character, or the antagonist, or the villain. It is important to also determine what point of view the story is being told from, and who is telling it.
Step two: Is the character a stereotype or an archetype
Most main characters are in one of the two different categories. A stereotypical character will be one which has a name or an image that invokes mental symbolism like a knight, or a superhero, while a archetypical character will be more subtle. An archetypical character will be someone like a mother figure, or grandmother type figure.
Step three: Determine the internal make up of the character
The character will have an internal drive which is an indication to who, or what they are. Internal characteristics are things such as ethics, morals, beliefs, intelligence, or religion.
Step four: How do they treat the other characters
The way in which they treat the other characters in the story says a lot about who they are and why they were constructed to build the story. Paying close attention to their individual relationships with others will help to define them.
Step five: Motivations
Finding out what motivates them is a good indication of who they are. Characters will be driven by certain things, being able to identify them is a good clue to what they are doing in the story and why they were created.
Step six: Make a coherent compilation
Take all the information that you have compiled and put it into a map of who and what the character is. List all the characteristics of the character that makes them "them". In doing so you will be able to look at the character as a whole. In doing so, you will get a complete picture.
When authors construct a story the only tools that they have to create it for the reader are the characters and the scenery. To be an effective, and interesting read, it is crucial for the author to paint a colorful picture of the character so that the reader is invested in continuing on with the story. Developing character is one of the most important components of structuring any story.
As a reader, to get the most out of the story, you must know not only what the character is doing in the story, but why they are in the story at all. A good author will use the character as a tool for storytelling. There are often times when the subtleties of a character are lost on the reader, for that reason, to really understand what a story is intending to tell you, or what to take away from it, you should analyze them. By analyzing them you can get a complete picture of the intended purpose of the story and how to get the most meaning from it.
Analyzing a character involves taking them apart piece by piece, to use all the angles and pieces given to reconstruct them the way that the author intended. Characters are like people, they have many different angles and complexities to them. To really know them you need to understand how they work and what makes them tick. examining all of their internal drives, their motivations and feelings, you can figure out what it is they are doing in the story and why they were put there at all. Reading a story becomes much more meaningful, and allows you to take more from it to extrapolate to your daily life if you understand why it was written to begin with. That can be done by analyzing the character either because you are assigned to, or just for your own personal enhancement.