At first, learning how to write a character analysis may seem like an overwhelming task, especially when characters are evolving throughout the text. Not every aspect of a character will be directly stated by the author. Therefore, it’s up to you to find textual evidence that supports your interpretation of the character’s disposition.
The goal of a character analysis is to explain how a character’s specific traits are represented in and influence a literary work. When analyzing characters, you should evaluate how an author describes them, their actions, and their dialogue within the plot.
To help get you started, let’s review 11 steps to writing a character analysis.
1. Identify the character
Before writing, you should have a basic understanding of the character you want to analyze. Several important questions to ask yourself include the following:
- What is the character’s role in the story? Is it a major or minor role?
- Who does the character interact with? Who is important to the character?
- What possessions does the character have? How does the character relate to them?
To best answer these questions, it’s helpful to identify the specific types of characters and roles within a story.
2. Take notes
Regardless of how many times you’ve read the text, skim the piece again and actively note specific scenes in which your character appears. Highlight any meaningful dialogues or descriptions provided by the author. Once you start writing, your notes will be helpful references to add textual support into your analysis.
3. Locate the character’s initial introduction
First impressions are important, and so identifying how an author introduces a character is vital to a successful character analysis.
- How is the character first introduced by the author?
- What is she doing?
- What is her relation to the other characters?
Character introductions often provide physical descriptions that may reflect specific aspects about the character’s nature or livelihood.
4. Look for words repeatedly used to describe the character
Make note of the words used to describe your character, especially if they’re repeated throughout the text. These recurring descriptions may provide insight into the character’s psychology and motivations behind the actions the character makes.
5. Be aware of items associated with the character
Whether these items are part of the character’s physical descriptions or part of a larger symbolic significance, they may express important aspects of the character, which will help you better define who your character is.
6. Identify the character’s use of language
You can learn a lot about characters by how they communicate. For instance, a character’s language may reveal insights into her background or current livelihood:
- Is she educated?
- Does she use slang?
- Does her language reflect where she’s from?
7. Note the character’s actions and their effects on others
Actions do tend to speak louder than words. A character’s behavior will often provide more insight into a character’s persona rather than the physical descriptions given by the author or other characters.
8. Identify the character’s motivation
As you consider the effects of your character’s internal thoughts and external actions on others, you’ll want to also consider why the character is acting or thinking in a particular way.
9. Consider the historical time period
You should always put the character’s actions and thoughts in context and refrain from making contemporary judgments about the past. The setting is a crucial component of the plot and can significantly influence character development, so develop an understanding of the historical context in which your character is a part.
10. Identify the author’s attitude
Be mindful of the author’s attitude towards the characters he or she has created. The author may be directing you toward an intended interpretation.
11. Create an outline
At this point, you should have enough information about your character to start constructing an outline for your analysis. This is the time to refer back to your notes to find textual evidence that supports conclusions you’ve made about your character and the role she plays in the literary work. When you feel confident in your comprehension and interpretation of the text, you should be on your way to writing a successful character analysis!
For a more in-depth review on how to write a character analysis and specific examples for each step, visit eNotes’ How To Series.