What Is the Meaning of Character Analysis?

Teachers, writers and students are often asked to conduct a character analysis. They describe characters in terms of such traits as "roundness," motivation, and the relationship between the character and the reader. Since characters play an essential role in a story, character analysis is important for acquiring a greater understanding of the story.


Characters are fictional individuals who make up a story. Analysis is a way of thinking that involves asking questions and exploring ideas regarding a particular character. Character analysis is often done by academic researchers and students in order to contribute to the scholarship of literature. Book reviewers use character analysis to critique a particular novel. Writers might also conduct character analysis in order to create their characters and decide how to use them.

Flat versus Round

Since character development can be time-consuming, writers cannot always develop all characters. Besides, fully developing the wrong characters can draw attention away from more important characters in the story. A huge part of both character development and plot is the way that each character changes. "Round" characters are complex characters who change, while "flat" characters are one-dimensional and remain the same throughout the story. In some series, characters are kept flat so that readers do not become confused at character behavior when they read novels out of sequence.


A character's personality, beliefs and peculiarities are often established throughout the story. Sometimes characters give away their motivation through dialogue or internal thoughts, while other times the reader is given clues as to why the character is acting the way he is. These clues can range from the character's actions to the character's physical appearance.


Some characters represent certain themes or motifs in a story. For instance, a "lost soul" character may suggest how the main character will turn out if he follows a particular path. Other characters may symbolize larger concepts, such as martyrdom, for example.


Characters fill common roles in a story. A protagonist is the primary character that readers follow and root for in a story. The antagonist tries to stop the protagonist from accomplishing his goals. A foil is a character that contrasts pointedly with another character. Stock characters are types that are common in life and fiction and can be immediately recognized by readers. For instance, a quiet and studious librarian is a stock character.

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