- Slides: 12
Characterization § Characterization means the techniques by which an author of a work of fiction represents the moral, intellectual, and emotional natures of the characters.
Flat vs. Round • A flat character, also called a two-dimensional character, is more a type than an individual. – Generally stays the same throughout the story – Includes stereotypes • A round character, or three-dimensional character, is multifaceted and subject to change and growth. – May have inconsistencies – More similar to “real” human beings • Characters can start out flat and end up being more rounded as the story progresses.
Showing vs. Telling • Authors either show or tell us information about characters. • Showing means simply presenting characters’ words and actions without commentary and allowing that dramatization to imply their motives, feelings, and values. • Telling is the method by which the author describes, and comments on, characters’ motives and values and often also passes judgment as a means of shaping the audience’s response.
Protagonist • The protagonist (from the Greek word for “first actor” or “first contender”) is the main character in a work of fiction. • The events of the work center around him or her, as does the reader’s interest. – Elizabeth Bennett, Pride and Prejudice – King Lear, King Lear – Odysseus, The Odyssey • Can also be called the hero or heroine – Does not fit protagonists who are less heroic: • Holden Caulfield, The Catcher in the Rye • Willy Loman, Death of a Salesman
Antagonist • In many works, the main character has an antagonist (from the Greek word for “against the contender”) • This character opposes the protagonist’s goals and interests and so creates the major conflict of the work. – Poseidon, The Odyssey – Augustus Caesar, Antony and Cleopatra – Iago, Othello • Only truly evil antagonists are called “villains” • Sometimes, however, the protagonist is evil, which makes the antagonist a sympathetic character
Antagonist § Does not have to be another character § It may be some larger force that challenges the protagonist § Fate, Oedipus Rex § Paralyzing cold, “To Build a Fire” § Traumatic effect of battle, The Red Badge of Courage
Antagonist § The antagonist may also be internal, in the form of conflicting desires or values within the protagonist § Jane Eyre: the protagonist is torn between remaining with the man she loves in an adulterous relationship, or else obeying the dictates of her conscience by leaving him for a life of emptiness and poverty
Antagonist • Works may have more than one antagonist – Hamlet: the human antagonist is Claudius, who has murdered Hamlet’s father, seduced his mother, and seized the Danish throne. – Hamlet, however, is also antagonized by the demands of fate, which has designated him the “scour and minister” who must restore order to Denmark, even at the cost of his life. – The third antagonist that Hamlet faces is internal, the conflict between his desire to take swift and violent action and a propensity to introspection and moral scrupulousness that keeps him from acting.
Foil • The foil is a character who contrasts with the protagonist in ways that bring out certain of his or her moral, emotional, or intellectual qualities. – Hamlet calls attention to that function just before his fatal duel with Laertes, the main foil in the play. – The men are about to engage in what Hamlet believes is not a serious combat, but a friendly demonstration of their skill with “foils, ” that is, swords. – He has quarreled with Laertes earlier, and to make amends, he gives a flattering speech:
Hamlet’s Foil “I’ll be your foil, Laertes. In mine ignorance Your skill shall, like a star I’th’ darkest night, Stick fiery off indeed. ” • The pun—”foil” in Shakespeare’s day meant not only a rapier but a piece of thin metal foil on which jewels were placed to show off their sparkle—this suggests both aspects of Laertes’ relationship to the hero: to oppose him in the conflict with Claudius, with whom Laertes is in league, and to highlight Hamlet’s honorable conduct and contemplative nature.
More Foil • In Romeo and Juliet, the hero has several foils: – The cynical Mercutio, who mocks the very concept of the romantic love that Romeo celebrates with Juliet – The hot-tempered Tybalt, who is obsessed with defending his family name in the feud that Romeo sees as senseless – The sweet-tempered Benvolio, who strives only to be a good friend a peacemaker in the midst of all the violence. • Each of the characters is a flat character, while Romeo is three-dimensional.