What is Characterization and Examples That Highlight its Value

Characterization Examples
From the characterization examples given in this article, I'm sure you will be able to understand what direct and indirect characterization is. Keep reading to know the details.
Penlighten Staff
Last Updated: Feb 10, 2018
English literature is a subject that requires in-depth knowledge to understand the devices used by authors and poets. Characterization is one such literary device, used randomly in almost every literary piece to define the attributes of a character either directly or indirectly. Use of characterization is more significant in dramas and works of fiction, where a wide array of characters are introduced to the audience and readers. A write-up fails to appeal its readers if the characters and their traits are not explained vividly. You will be able to understand this concept better with the help of the characterization examples elaborated in the following segment.

Types of Characterization

It's important to know the different forms of characters used in literature before you start analyzing characterization. A character can be a protagonist or an antagonist. These two are the main elements of a write-up; the protagonist is the person around whom the plot revolves while his/her opponent is known as the antagonist. Sometimes authors introduce a character in their works of fiction or in poems which is defined as a persona. He explains his/her attributes both directly and indirectly to make readers understand the persona. A person who foils the activities of the protagonist is known as the foil character. In literature other means are also used to define a character. It can be done by implementing 3-d methods, dynamism and static techniques, thereby giving rise to new forms of characters. Information on different types of characters are conveyed by characterization.

Direct Characterization
While employing various narrative techniques, the author uses either direct or indirect forms of characterization. In direct characterization, the author explains the personality of the character directly. He defines the traits of the character by using adjectives extensively. You will understand it from the following sentence.

E.g. ~ The impatient girl always misbehaved with her calm and quiet brother. The patient mother had to bear this everyday.
In this sentence, the girl, boy and their mother have been characterized directly. Impatient, calm and patient are the adjectives used to describe the girl, her brother and the mother, respectively.

Indirect Characterization
Indirect characterization is a bit complex than direct characterization. In this case, the reader has to understand the nature of the character by his thoughts, speech, appearance, role, action, and his influence on other characters present in the plot. You will often come across such examples where secondary characters deliver a soliloquy to define the protagonist or the protagonist himself delivers a monologue to symbolize his/her character. A general example is given below.

E.g. ~ I'm paying today for my acts of cruelty. I have been treacherous all my life and have lost everything today.
The negative side of the character i.e. treacherous and cruel, is portrayed in the sentence written above. He doesn't directly claim himself as evil but this actions prove him to be an evil individual.

Characterization Examples in Literature

Characterization has been extensively used in literature in both direct and indirect forms. Characters like static, round, dynamic, stalk, and flat have been well exemplified by authors and poets in their literary works. The most common and easy-to-understand examples of characterization are explained in the next segment.

Direct Characterization
Example 1: The novel, 'Of Mice and Men', written by John Steinbeck portrays, George Milton and Lennie Small, whose characters have been explained by direct reference. I have picked up a few extracts from this novel to explain the concept of direct characterization.

Lennie is big and dumb. His childlike innocence allows him to take an active role in George's dream of owning farm. Lennie loves soft things and animals, which he accidentally kills because of his strength. His size combined with his mental handicap frequently put him and George in difficult situations.

George is a small, quick-witted, migrant worker who travels with his friend Lennie. He speaks of how much better his life would be without Lennie, but only does so in anger. George represents the working man and his struggle to rise above his harsh circumstances. .

In this example, the character of Lennie is plainly described as dumb and innocent while George's character is very much in contrast to that of Lennie. The author calls George quick-witted and hardworking.

Example 2: The famous novel, 'To Kill a Mockingbird', written by Harper Lee, has plethora of examples of direct characterization. In this line, inside the house lived a malevolent phantom, the author defines the character of Boo Radley by calling him a malevolent phantom. However, his character is quite complicated and you will gradually discover his real nature only while reading the book. You will also come across many hints which directly explain the attributes of all the main characters depicted in the novel.

Indirect Characterization
Example 1: In the story, 'The Gift of the Magi', O' Henry portrays Della and Jim, the couple completely in love with each other. He uses his literary skills to characterize both of them indirectly. Your concept will be clear from the following lines.

Della finished her cry and attended to her cheeks with the powder rag. She stood by the window and looked out dully at a grey cat walking a grey fence in a grey backyard. Tomorrow would be Christmas Day, and she had only $1.87 with which to buy Jim a present. She had been saving every penny she could for months, with this result. Twenty dollars a week doesn't go far. Expenses had been greater than she had calculated. They always are. Only $1.87 to buy a present for Jim. Her Jim. Many a happy hour she had spent planning for something nice for him. Something fine and rare and sterling-something just a little bit near to being worthy of the honor of being owned by Jim.

In this paragraph Della's character is round and static. From this extract, you can easily figure out the characteristic traits of Della. She is an extremely loving wife, who tries to arrange for funds to present a wonderful gift to her husband. She is sympathetic, caring, loving, and understanding towards her husband.

Example 2: You shall also find a cluster of indirect characterization examples from these two novels, Bright Lights, Big City by Jay Mcinerney and Catcher in the Rye by J D Salinger.

I hope with the aforementioned examples, you have understood direct and indirect characterization clearly. If you read the novels cited in the content of this article, then you can further explore many more examples on characterization.