December 18, 2006
Guidelines for Writing a Character Analysis
Characters are the essence of a work of fiction. Fictional characters are portrayed through the characters’ actions and reactions as well as other characters’ actions and reactions to them. 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.
In developing a character analysis remember that a character analysis presents the reader with a critical view of either the protagonist or antagonist, and evidence to support your view must come from the work itself.
To organize your prewriting and draft your analysis:
1. Survey all the details you have collected and group them in clusters that reveal some similar qualities in the characters.
2. In a single sentence, sum up what the character is like. This summary sentence is the thesis or the controlling idea for your entire essay.
3. Look again at those details that, once combined, make a single point. Divide the details into groups with each group making a separate point. Select all of the details that help support, explain, and illustrate your thesis.
4. Pull from your prewriting exercise the specific details from the story that explain, illustrate, and support your topic sentences. Use only the most effective quotes and examples, selecting details that relate to your topic sentences and thesis statements. 5. Plan your introduction and conclusion (see below).
Writing the lead-in to any thesis takes a certain skill because it must be a smooth and logical method of introducing your main point. Generally, the simplest way of doing this is to write several sentences of introduction and to make your thesis the last sentence in the first paragraph. There are numerous ways you can lead into your thesis. The following four samples illustrate different lead-in ideas to your “Introduction.” The short story on which the samples are based is Sherwood Anderson’s “Death in the Woods;” the protagonist is Mrs. Jack Grimes.
Thesis: Mrs. Jack Grimes is a woman who has been denied any love or tenderness; she exists only to be used.
Lead-in – 1: Make some general comments about the subject matter of the thesis. The value a person places on him-herself is largely determined by the value others give to the person. Those who grow up loved and cherished, learn to feel worthwhile and develop a healthy sense of self. Such a background of love and caring can sustain a person through periods when he or she feels unloved and insignificant. Those who have never known love, and who never have been given any human warmth, soon come to see themselves as worthless. Such an emotionally starved person is Mrs. Jake Grimes of Sherwood Anderson’s “Death in the Woods,” for she is a woman who has been denied any love or tenderness; she exists only to be used. Lead-in – 2: Mention personal experiences and attitudes you and your readers might share. Sometimes we meet people who seem so shut off from the world and from other people that we begin to wonder how they survive. We are tempted to judge these people as hard or unfeeling because they are difficult to know. It takes insight for us to realize that such people may have grown up without the care and love necessary for human development and to recognize that a lack of caring can permanently distort personality. Sherwood Anderson describes a closed-in, distorted personality in the character of Mrs. Jake Grimes in “Death in the Woods.” She is a woman who has been denied love or tenderness; she exists only to be used. Lead-in – 3: Begin with a few general sentences about the author. You may draw this information from an instructor’s lecture, from introductory material in a literature...
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