Character Analysis Introduction


When completing a character analysis, first determine the type of character being analyzed and then recognize how the author applied the various methods of characterization. To establish character type, identify whether the character is major or minor, flat or round, and static or dynamic. Major characters are the primary characters in the novel, and the minor characters play a supporting role. Flat characters tend to be stereotypes whereas round characters show enough different characteristics to seem believable. Static characters remain the same; dynamic characters experience either a personality or attitudinal change during the course of the novel. Classifying characters this way is the initial step in determining the role of the individual character in the greater scheme of the text. After determining the type of character, assess how the author develops that character. The easiest way to analyze a character is to examine what a character says and does. Usually these words and actions are governed by the thoughts of the character. In addition, a physical description of a character is often quite telling, as is what other characters say about the character. Finally, what a narrator states about a character is also extremely revealing.

Classical critical interpretations of The Jungle usually emphasize Sinclair's novel as a work of propaganda, and, therefore, consider the characters solely illustrative in nature; that is, Sinclair uses them as a means to an end in order to illustrate his point. These interpretations consider the characters in a narrow range rather than a broad spectrum and do not consider them overly essential to a discussion of the text. Traditionally, rounded, dynamic characters are favored over flat and static ones because critics value realistic fiction, and in reality, people are complex and multi-dimensional; however, another view exists. Some critics compare The Jungle to Victorian novels, which also had omniscient narrators. In the Victorian era, the novel was a new literary form and characters were not always fully developed or well-rounded. In fact, in order to complete fairly an assessment of the characters in The Jungle, the narrator must be examined first.

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