How to Write a Character Analysis Essay (2018 Guide)

Character Analysis Essay
  • Last Edited: August 28, 2018

 

While character analysis might sound like this sophisticated demand, this really isn’t the case. Writing a character analysis essay can actually be quite enjoyable. This is your moment to roll up your sleeves and play armchair psychologist. You get to assess a fictional personage and make a case about their strengths, weaknesses, secret desires, perversions, shortcomings, needs and issues. This gives you the power to play shrink and essentially give the reader the rundown regarding why this fictional person is so weird, intriguing, or infuriating. A character analysis should always be fun to write as it gives you the chance to speak with authority about another person. You get to judge, criticize, approve or condemn someone else, and as long as you have textual evidence back up your opinions, everything you say is permissible.

Definition

A character analysis consists of an evaluation of a particular fictional personage from a story, play, novel, film or other work. When you complete a thorough one, you need to assess a character’s personality, attributes, the function they provide for the plot, and the clashes they experience, as well as the ones they help to create. When you engage in a character analysis, you really want to be as objective as a shrink with a clipboard, and assess each fictional individual in the most analytical fashion possible.

A character analysis is largely the culmination of: the things a character says, the things a character does, the things other characters say about him or her, and things the narrator tells us about this person. A character analysis can also include what this person looks like, their socioeconomic background, or other details that are relevant to the reader. A good assessment of this type takes everything into account and really all data available in order to make a nuanced evaluation.

How to Write a Character Analysis

If you find that writing a character analysis feels daunting, break it into steps so that it can feel less intimidating. Select a character and apply the following steps to this fictional person:

#1 Determine if the character is major or minor. Does the character have a big influence on the plot or vice versa? Is this character positive or negative?

Using the example of Daisy Buchanan from Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby: Daisy is a major character. She wields an enormous amount of influence, both positive and negative, on other characters, including the title character, as well the plot.

#2 Underline or highlight: everything the narrator tells you about him/her, everything other characters say about him/her, and everything this character says/does that you find of much significance to the plot.

#3 From all of your underlined material, narrow down your findings to a list of the most significant. For example, if you were writing about Daisy Buchanan in The Great Gatsby, you might write:

  • Comes from old Southern money
  • Originally from Louisville Kentucky
  • Has a “sad and lovely” face
  • Has “bright eyes and a bright, passionate mouth.”
  • has affair with Jay Gatsby
  • says being “a beautiful little fool” is all a girl can be in this world
  • maintains friendship with Jordan Baker
  • has a daughter
  • goes over to Nick’s house for tea
  • kills Myrtle Wilson by accident
  • tells Tom he’s revolting
  • does not attend Gatsby’s funeral

#4 Write down the ultimate ending of the novel: how do all of the events and people come together to create a conclusion. Consider: in what way does the character in question have an influence on the end. Are they a bystander or a participant to the ending? Neither? Both?

At the end of Gatsby, Daisy has been torn between two men, her husband Tom, and her girlhood love (Jay Gatsby), who she had been having an affair with. Everything Jay has worked for thus far, has been to win Daisy back. By the end of the novel, it looks like Tom may prevail after all, and that all of Gatsby’s efforts were in vain. Jay dies, murdered by the husband of the woman that Daisy unintentionally killed.

#5 Examine all of the data you’ve collected and a make a final summarizing analysis of the character in one or two sentences. This sentence(s) will be the overarching umbrella of your character analysis.

Daisy Buchanan is a symbol of the inversion of time, space and social class.

Character Analysis Essay Outline

Introduction

  1. Hook: Make an interesting observation or assertion about the character in question.
  2. Discuss why this observation/assertion is significant to the events of the text.
  3. Thesis: Your thesis should revolve around a provable statement regarding a thoughtful evaluation regarding the character in question.

First Supporting Paragraph

  1. Make an assertion that supports your thesis.
  2. Offer supporting evidence from the text
  3. Discuss why this evidence proves your assertion in sentence one.

Second Supporting Paragraph

  1. Make an assertion that supports your thesis.
  2. Offer supporting evidence from the text
  3. Discuss why this evidence proves your assertion in sentence one.

Third Supporting Paragraph

  1. Make an assertion that supports your thesis.
  2. Offer supporting evidence from the text.
  3. Discuss why this evidence proves your assertion in sentence one.

Conclusion

  1. Restate your thesis using non-repetitive language.
  2. Remind the reader how your previous paragraphs have helped prove your thesis.
  3. Connect your thesis to the overarching theme of the text and to a “bigger picture” issue in human experience.

Character Analysis Examples

Macbeth Character Analysis

Lady Macbeth is a character that shuns the morality that governs the actions of most people. While she does not kill anyone, her seasoned manipulation of her husband ensures the murder of King Duncan. This murder ensures she will be Queen, and ascend to the highest stature of power that a woman can have in Scotland. Many scholars refer to her as cunning, and she is indeed both cunning and calculating. However, one of the best words to describe Lady Macbeth is manipulative. She is very adept at using her words or actions to coerce others to do exactly what she wants or to think exactly what she wants. This is most notably seen in Act 1 Scene 7. Her husband has decided not to go forward with her idea to murder Duncan, stating, “We will proceed no further in this business.” This rejection of her plan and her agenda sends her digging up a scathing response:

“Was the hope drunk
Wherein you dressed yourself? Hath it slept since?
And wakes it now, to look so green and pale
At what it did so freely? From this time
Such I account thy love.” (1.7 36-39)

Implying that he a is a coward is demeaning, but what is even worse is the implication that his decision is undermining how she will view his love for her. This is an example of exceedingly shrewd manipulation. Lady Macbeth is a seasoned manipulator and a person who will stop at nothing to get what she wants.

Great Gatsby Character Analysis

Daisy Buchanan is more than just the trophy or the presumed prize for becoming wealthy: she symbolizes being able to transcend the impossible. The first way she represents this notion is in the fact that reuniting with her is a manipulation of the space-time continuum. Gatsby seeks to repeat the past, something that is as doable as attempting to go back to colonial New England for the Salem witch trials. Daisy also represents another type of ascension, a manipulation from out of the socioeconomic class that Gatsby was born into. In America, it is alleged that one can climb into the upper classes through hard work and determination. Jay does ascend, but there’s a limit to it: he gets close but he still can’t win over the old money girl. This suggest that there is a demonstrates that there is a restriction on how much one can transform oneself, at least socioeconomically. Daisy remains with Tom in part because of the generations of money he comes from and the prestige of his name. Daisy is crucial in unveiling these two themes that wind around the plot.

Crucible Character Analysis

The Crucible’s John Proctor is the portrait of a man who is a direct manifestation of the torture that extreme religious beliefs can wield on the human psyche. Proctor did have an affair with Abigail Williams, though according to her, he initiated it. He deeply regrets it, even seemingly on a daily basis. When Proctor attempts to end the affair with Abigail, he asserts, “But I will cut off my hand before I‘ll ever reach for you again. Wipe it out of mind…” This clearly demonstrates his severe connection to his religion and directly implies the guilt that he is likely riddled with. This line is a direct reference to Mark 9:43, which asserts, “And if your hand offend you, cut it off: it is better for you to enter into life maimed, than having two hands to go into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched.” Clearly, this is not a practical way to go through life. However, it is revelatory of the severe religious beliefs that shape the reality of the people of Salem, and suggests the extreme guilt Proctor must feel as a result of his actions. His next sentence only deepens our understanding of him: “…we never touched, Abby.” This is a blatant denial of fact, and shows his intense inner torment, a torment that no doubt creates much of his unhappiness and his tortured experience in life. This remark shows he wrestles with his religion and with his connection to reality. It suggests that as devout as he is, he is still unable to tell the truth and ask for forgiveness properly. At the beginning of the play, Proctor would still rather commit to this deception and the pain it causes him, than bring the actions of his past out into the open for healing.

Lord of the Flies Character Analysis

Simon is definitely an aberration when compared to the other boys he is surrounded with, as he is a lucid representative of divine goodness and virtue—to an otherworldly degree. It is not uncommon for particular novels to be contain “Christ figures” which are characters that exist not only to make religious parallelisms, but to juxtapose the flawed humanity of the other characters. If Jack represents all that is wild and untamed, and Ralph represents an organized society, Simon is representative of the divine source energy from which all of humankind has originated. So much of the description dedicated to Simon makes him seem wiser than his years, and often describes him in ways that evoke a sense of serenity and light. However, perhaps the most telling exchange that connotes his ethereal quality is during a moment he has with Ralph, when Simon explains that he really believes that Ralph will somehow make it back home. Simon starts by asserting, “You’ll get back to where you came from” (154). This statement is portentous and startles Ralph a bit, and questions him about it. Simon sticks to his belief, still asserting, “I just think you’ll get back all right” (154). Here Simon is lucidly displaying his otherworldly quality via his uncanny ability to portend the future. This is yet another way he others himself from the group, and is another way he perhaps seals his fate.

Character Analysis Essay Example

Hamlet

In the play Hamlet by William Shakespeare, Ophelia only appears in one quarter of the play’s 20 scenes, though she makes an indelible impression. While the play could exist without her, and the majority of the pivotal events of the plot would remain untouched, she gives the play an even more intense air of tragedy, of things coming undone. Both Hamlet and Ophelia have moments of madness and irrationality. Hamlet’s expression of this behavior is more frenzied and chaotic, whereas Ophelia manifests insanity as an inversion of Hamlet’s frenzy. Ophelia is a living incarnation of the tragic core of the play: without her the play is a series of hectic, confused, rash and violent events. Through Ophelia’s personage, words and actions, one is provided with a manifestation of the dreadful events that have already come to pass as well as those that are doomed to occur.

At the start of the play, Ophelia represents the luminous clouds in the sky that suggest a coming storm. The clouds are dazzling, but do not betray the tempest that it s yet to unfold. Ophelia is a character that has already suffered an enormous loss when the play opens. She is motherless, as her mother is dead and may have even died in childbirth. Hence, the first few scenes where the audience observes her, she is the picture of someone who has had to carry great grief in life with much silence and composure. She is then barraged with more grief: Laertes, her brother, and Polonius, her father, warn her against trusting Hamlet’s affections. When Laertes gives her this advice, she promises to heed it, essentially placating him. After he leaves, her father reiterates the same advice, except with more harshness, and that’s when we get a glimpse into Ophelia’s mind and heart.

Consider the following exchange:

Ophelia: My lord, he hath importuned me with love
In honourable fashion.
Polonius: Ay, fashion you may call it; go to, go to.
And hath given countenance to his speech, my lord,
With almost all the holy vows of heaven.
Ay, springes to catch woodcocks. (1.3 110-115).

This exchange clearly shows that Hamlet had spoken to her about love with honor and seriousness and that he had made promised to her. What isn’t said in this exchange, is that Ophelia believed these words. And now her father and brother have had to step in and not only tell her these words weren’t sincere, but that they were designed to be manipulative. This is disturbing and distressing information about someone she loves: he is more than just lacking sincerity, he is attempting to deceive her. This paints Hamlet as more of a foe to Ophelia rather than a potential beloved. One cannot underestimate how much this has all disturbed Ophelia. Yet that play tells us none of that, other than “I shall obey, my Lord.” This is one of the final instances of stoicism, of the proverbial dam intact before bursting out of control.

Ophelia’s quiet grief suggests a detachment disorder when she does finally make contact with Hamlet and he is nothing but rude to her. Repeatedly, he tells her to go to a nunnery. However, more revealingly, he plainly states that “I did love you once (3.1 117) to which Ophelia replies, “Indeed, my lord, you made me believe so.” When Hamlet doubles down on this asserting “I loved you not” Ophelia replies simply “I was the more deceived.” Many people would have broken down in emotion at Hamlet’s words, however Ophelia is more concerned with his erratic behavior and fretting about his mental health. Ophelia’s stoic responses border on enigmatic and signify a woman cut off from her emotions. Hence, it is no surprise that when she sees Hamlet again and he makes insulting remarks to her that are even worse, this instance represents another blow to her already worn psyche. The death of her father is, of course, the final breaking point of her sanity.

Ophelia’s descent into madness is a result of all the grief and disappointment she’s had to endure in life. Hamlet manifests his madness via a chaotic nonsensical irrationality. Ophelia’s madness constantly refocuses one to the long line of tragedies past and current that underscore the entirety of the play. Consider her line “ I would give you
some violets, but they withered all when my father died: they say he made a good end–” This line underscores the enormity of death in the play, namely the death of the father figure. Both her and Hamlet have suffered such a loss. However, Ophelia’s words suggest a blow so devastating to the heart that it has the capacity to extinguish life from violets. She sings “He is gone, he is gone, And we cast away moan: God ha’ mercy on his soul!” (114) This song that encapsulates the grief, the pain and suffering over the loss of her father. This is in stark contrast to the muddled frenzy that Hamlet indulges in, as a result of his own grief.

All things considered, Ophelia’s small part represents a slice of functional humanity in the play Hamlet. She represents the person who can bear the burden of grief until she can bear it no more. Ophelia serves to remind us that the human heart is fragile and one must be careful with it. Her quiet death serves as a metaphor for this fragility: her garments drink up the water from the brook until they can bear it no more and she drowns. Hamlet continues his whirlwind of turmoil until the very end, but teaches one little about the human heart. Ophelia provides the play with a sense of what it means to be human.

How We can Help You

Our essay writers understand the pressure placed on you to create innovative character analyses on texts that teachers have seen year after year. This creates an undo pressure on the student to interpret decades, or sometimes centuries old characters in ways that are completely fresh. Sometimes this is a realistic expectation placed on the student, and other times, it simply isn’t. Our writers have long written unique essays under such pressure, constantly re-examining these character from a fresh lens. Even if you just need some help brainstorming, proofreading with suggestions, or a help with a draft, our writers are exceedingly well-versed with meeting the needs of the modern day student.

Conclusion

In summary, while we try not to judge and criticize others in life, engaging in character analysis gives you permission to do so. Daily life encourages us to live and let live, dismissing the flaws, quirks and shortcomings of others as part of what makes them human. Doing a character analysis allows you to gather all this data and assess, evaluate, judge and label in a way that life does not ordinarily encourage. When writing a character analysis essay, challenge yourself to find more subtle supporting details from the text that most students will overlook. This will make you appear to be a more innovative thinker and your teacher is bound to notice.

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