Students Writing Character Analysis Essay

How to Write a Character Analysis Essay—Guide for Students

If you’re a struggling student or have trouble writing projects, you may wonder how to write a character analysis essay. But worry not; our experts are here with a complete guide. Have a look.

What Is a Character Analysis Essay?

A character analysis essay includes a complete breakdown and investigation of a character from a book or popular media. It evaluates the role they play in a story by discussing their personality, motivation, choices, and relationships.
In manuscripts like these, you don’t simply describe the character as you see them in the story. Of course, you can, but you must also ask why they do what they do and try to answer them with how they behave throughout the story.
For example, you can pose these queries:
• What drives this character?
• What level of impact does this character have on the story, based on their actions
• What is the personality of this character?
• What is the turning point in their life (if there is any)?
• How does the character change throughout the story?
You can find all the answers in the story itself. So, when you sit down to answer these questions, you can use direct quotes to back up your answer.
Below, we delve deeper into the tricks of writing good character analyses:

Character: Definition (Literature)

There are multiple definitions of “character”. But a character can be any real or mythical creature who takes part in the story when we’re talking in literary terms. It can be based on a real person, such as the ones we find in autobiographies and memoirs. It can also be a talking plant or blob. As long as it’s someone who can think and act for themselves in the story, they are a character.
“Character” may also refer to the distinctive nature of an entity in the story. It defines who they are inherently and what moral code they follow.
Both these definitions are important in a character analysis. First, you need to analyse the assigned fictitious entity and describe how it plays its role and its importance. You also need to examine whether they stay true to their “character” or if there are discrepancies that ruin the storyline.

What Is the Purpose of the Character Analysis Essay?

When you’re working on the character analysis essay introduction, you might wonder what the purpose of this essay is anyway? Well, when you’re assigned this task, you need to think of yourself as a scientist and the character as a new specimen you need to “figure out”. So, use all available techniques and resources to dissect it and discover what makes it tick.
When working on this manuscript, you need to put your critical thinking and analytical skills to use, as not all descriptions will be direct. Therefore, you must read between the lines and see how the character develops. For example, the author may not directly say, “X is kind”. Instead, they may “show” this through X’s behaviour in certain situations, such as by writing how X volunteers or accommodates struggling people.
Therefore, the purpose of such a writing project is to help your professor gauge your skills and help you improve your critiquing abilities.

Different Types of Characters

A story usually deals with multiple characters, each playing their own role. You need to understand these types before you write your analysis. There are two main categories of characters. We’ll discuss both below:

Types Based on Role

This type categorises characters based on the mantle they take on in a story. Following are the major types:
1. Protagonist
This is the entity around whom the entire story unfolds. Therefore, they hold the most importance. Usually, there is one protagonist per story. However, some storylines, especially complex epics, may also include multiple protagonists.
Every story follows its protagonist(s), so they naturally have the most influence on the events that unfold—for the better or worse. Their relationships with other characters also influence them and reveal their roles. An example of a protagonist is Katniss Everdeen from Suzanne Collins’s popular Hunger Games series.

2. Antagonist

An antagonist is the opposite of a protagonist. Their conflict with the protagonist and how all characters deal with it is what creates the story. One or multiple characters may play the antagonist in a story. They are also not necessarily always human. A situation or a tough setting can serve as an antagonist as well.
In any case, an antagonistic character is an entity that creates difficult situations. Their actions force the main characters and the protagonists, who will have no choice but to react to them. Now, these situations don’t necessarily have to be nefarious. However, they do have to oppose the views and actions of the protagonist(s).

3. Major Character

The major characters in a story could be on either the protagonist’s or antagonist’s side. They play a major role in the progression of the plot, and their actions and choices shape the narrative.
In some stories, the protagonist and the antagonist are the only major characters. In others, multiple major characters could play the antagonist. An example of the former is Robinson Crusoe, where the story’s namesake is both the protagonist and the main character, while the antagonist is the island itself. An example of the latter is the Narnia series, where all the children play equally major roles, and the story revolves around all of them.

4. Minor Character

Minor characters can be further divided into two categories—the ones who assist the major character and the ones who further the plot. Let’s discuss both here:
• Supporting the main character: These are closely linked to the major entity in the story and play a significant role in aiding the protagonist(s) and working towards meeting their goals and resolving their conflicts. Examples of this category include Ron, Hermione, Dumbledore, and Snape from the Harry Potter series.
• Supporting the plot: These characters are usually in the background, only appearing to lay down a new arc and/or to describe the nature and relationships of the major characters. Examples include Yoda and Jabba the Hut from the early Star Wars movies.

Types Based on Character Development

This classification uses the nature of the characters. Any of the categories described above can fall into the three below:
1. Dynamic Character
This is the character who undergoes changes throughout the story. Their views or nature may change depending on the circumstances they go through. Their progression can be a positive change or a downward spiral.

2. Static Character

A static character is one whose beliefs, opinions, and nature remain unchanged throughout the story. Often, these will be the wise entities who guide the main character through the story. An example is Uncle Iroh from Avatar: The Last Airbender. While the series slowly reveals his character traits, they remain consistent with his calm, kind, and strategic nature.

3. Stereotypes

These characters are cliches that allow the author to progress the story without spending too much time describing them, especially if they play a minor role. For example, a “cat lady”, a “bad boy”, or “plain Jane” are all stereotypes. Since the readers are familiar with these tropes, an author can expect the progression of their storyline without having to explain them. This gives a chance for the author to move the story at a faster pace.

Examples of Major Characters of Character Analysis Essay

Did you hit a wall when your professor asked you to pick a major character and compile a character analysis essay on them? Then, here is a list you can use to narrow down your choices. We’ve included some helpful descriptions so you can take your pick easily:

Heidi from Heidi

Heidi is a little orphan full of life who finds and gives joy in the mountains where she lives with her grandfather. Even when her life turns upside down, she finds ways to give love. She uses her experiences to help the stubborn people she loves.

Anne in Anne of Green Gables

Anne Shirley is a young orphan accidentally adopted by a couple of old siblings who wanted a boy to help on the farm at Green Gables. Anne’s unruly ways stem from her tough childhood. And while she may not know the “proper” way to conduct herself in society, she is innocent at heart and wins people over.

Jorg from Broken Empire

Jorg is a thirteen-year-old antihero. Forced to become an adult too early after he watches his family being butchered in front of him, he vows vengeance and turns into a sociopath. Having studied philosophy under his mentor, he fully understands his strengths and weaknesses. But besides self-awareness, his manipulative powers also make him a deadly character.
Examples of Minor Characters of Character Analysis Essay
If you want to take a challenging route and pick a minor character for your analysis essay, you can use the following list as a guide:

Ron from Harry Potter

Ron Weasley is Harry’s best friend. He’s kind and fiercely loyal but a bit coddled and hot-headed. In the series, Ron supports both Harry and Hermione at every step. There are times when he falters but always has their backs. These flaws only make him a more relatable and likeable character. He also brings humour to the trio.

Legolas from Lord of the Rings

Legolas is an elf and quite young by elven standards. He is a skilled fighter with a bow and arrow as his preferred choice of weapon. However, he constantly looks to show off his skills, especially to Gimli, the dwarf. This and his pretentiousness reveal his immaturity. However, he is smart, quick on his feet, and an asset to the Fellowship. He takes his role responsibly.

Mr Bingley from Pride and Prejudice

Mr Bingley is the male protagonist’s (Mr Darcy’s) best friend and is interested in Jane, the female protagonist’s beautiful sister. He is handsome, lively, and easygoing—all traits that attract Jane. Mr Bingley also acts as a foil to the male lead, who initially seems snobbish and elitist.

How to Write a Great Character Analysis?

Finally, if you’re still searching for your answer to how to write a character analysis essay, here it is:

1. Read the Story

Whether your professor assigns you a character or you choose one, you must read the complete story. If the character belongs in visual media, you need to watch the whole movie, play, etc. Take a pen and paper or keep a document open so you can take notes as you watch. Follow the character and jot down everything that seems important to you.

2. Choose a Character to Analyse

You can skip this step if your professor has already assigned you a character. If not, you’d need to take your pick. Then, now that you have watched or read the story, choose the one character you would like to analyse. Complex, morally grey characters where you have ample room for in-depth critical analysis are your best bets.

3. Take Notes

Apart from the basic notes you took in the beginning, it would help if you also expand on them when you are writing about the character. For example, you can reread or rewatch certain sections of the story to grasp the situation or get direct quotes. This will help you lay down a strong foundation for your essay.

4. Select the Main Idea

Identify the main theme of the story and how the character reflects it. Your analysis should link both and provide a detailed account. Your professor would expect this and may include it in their grading structure. So, make sure you select the main idea and incorporate it into your essay.

5. Compose Character Analysis Questions

Creating character analysis questions will help you create your arguments. In addition, it will allow you to set a foundation for your essay and better understand the assigned character.
These questions should revolve around the character, their role, motivation, and growth arc. The section below provides some samples if you want a place to start.

Character Analysis Questions

Following are some sample questions to help you analyse your assigned character better:
1. What is the setting of the story?
2. What is your character’s background?
3. What does your character do (details about their job, home, school, etc.)?
4. What kind of emotions does your character go through?
5. What are the relationships between your assigned character and others?
6. What are the moral values of the character?
7. Does the character achieve the milestones they set for themselves?
8. Does the character have friends? If so, what role do they play in the character’s growth?
9. Is there a lesson this character has learned by the end of the story?
10. What changes does the character undergo throughout the novel?

How to Make an Outline of Character Analysis Essay?

An outline simplifies your work, creates a structure, and helps you write your essay quickly. Here is how you can make yours:

1. Writing an Introduction for Character Analysis Essay

When you write your character analysis essay introduction, include the basic details of the character. Then, you can start with an interesting quote from the book and link your view to it. Don’t start your analysis here, though—leave it for the body paragraphs. Just keep this section short and snappy.

2. Body of a Character Analysis Essay

The character analysis essay body is the major segment of the essay. You should include all pertinent background information and your analysis here. Take your time in this section, as your professor will likely check the viability of each point you make here.

3. Conclusion: Character Analysis Essay

Now that you have described the character and analysed them in the essay, you need to wrap it up with your final comments. Make sure you don’t include any new ideas or findings here. Simply conclude your write-up with your overall view of the character.

Character Analysis Essay Example

Here is a brief account of Lady Macbeth from Macbeth if you are looking for a sample analysis to view and learn from.
Important note: The following is only an example, and an actual character analysis essay would include more details and have a properly segmented structure.
Lady Macbeth is a powerful antagonist in the story. She is ambitious, lacks regard for humanity, and sees kindness as a weakness. Right in the opening sequence, she reveals she is ready to let go of her “feminine” instinct to care.
“Come, you spirits that tend on mortal thoughts, unsex me here, and fill me, from the crown to the toe, top-full of direst cruelty!”
— Act I, scene 5
It is she who wishes to be queen. And to meet her ambition, she is ready to go to all lengths—even murder. She is also the one to use her unwilling husband to murder King Duncan and take his place on the throne. Despite Macbeth being a fierce warrior on the battlefield, with enough ambition of his own, his will is nothing compared to his wife’s. Lady Macbeth is an effective manipulator and taunts her husband by questioning his manhood whenever he refuses to commit the treason she proposes.
“When you durst do it, then you were a man.”
— Act I, scene 7
The stream of taunts paired with Lady Macbeth’s persuasion that they won’t be caught finally catches up to Macbeth, and he follows through with her plan.
Lady Macbeth is also the one who keeps a clear head through and after the cruel murder of the king. However, as her husband takes on the cape of a tyrant and becomes used to this role, Lady Macbeth is plagued with guilt and spirals into madness. She can’t cope with the burden of what she has done. The guilt slowly brings her to the edge of madness as she spirals.
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