How to write a Character Analysis Essay in Simple Steps

author By Mary Boies

At first glance, developing a character analysis essay seems like a walk in the park. However, most students usually feel overwhelmed after learning about the structure that must be followed and the time and effort required.

character analysis essay guide

The most important task in every character analysis essay assignment is to look at the character's role in the story, motivations, and significance. Doing these things sounds like torture for many students, but it shouldn't. This is because writing a good character analysis essay shouldn't be challenging with the right information.

In this article, you will gain knowledge that will reveal to you just how easy it is to write a character analysis essay. Let us clear your doubts if you are wondering what a character analysis essay means.

Let's begin.

What is a Character Analysis Essay?

Before you start writing an essay, you must know what it is. So, what exactly is a character analysis essay, and why do you need to write one. A character analysis essay is an essay in which you discuss the role of a character in a text, a novel, a TV show, a poem, or any other type of story.

When you are asked to write a character analysis essay, you are really being asked to read about the character and understand them and their role better. It is also a way to get you to familiarize yourself with an important character in a literary work.

Sometimes instructors hope you will understand a literary work better through the character analysis of a single character.

Types of Characters in Literary Works

You now know what a character analysis essay is all about. In this section, you will discover the types of characters that can be found in a story. This is important because a character analysis essay usually involves identifying the characters before analyzing them. Failure to correctly identify the type of character a character is will be a colossal disaster for your character analysis essay. It will certainly negatively affect your grade.

The major types of characters in literary works include the protagonist, the antagonist, minor characters, major characters, static characters, dynamic characters, and foils.

1. The protagonist

The protagonist in a story is the key character, the character the story revolves around. No story is complete without a protagonist. Some of the best-known protagonists in popular literary works include Romeo in Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, Atticus Finch in To Kill A Mockingbird, and Sherlock Holmes in The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes.

The protagonist is usually the hero who goes through an epic journey or adventure or learns something from an experience or an event. The protagonist is usually the person doing the right thing most of the time. However, the protagonist can sometimes be an anti-hero or a character who doesn't always do the right thing.

An excellent example of an anti-hero protagonist is Batman in the Batman series. Batman often operates outside the law, yet the audience still roots him.

2. The Antagonist

The antagonist in a story is the villain or the enemy. In most stories, the antagonist is often opposed to the protagonist or the story's main character. However, sometimes the antagonist is not a villain but just a character who is in the protagonist's way.

Some of the best-known antagonists in popular literary works include Shylock in Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice, the Joker in Batman movies, and Captain Ahab in Moby Dick.

3. Major Characters

Major characters in stories are the characters who play a prominent role next to the protagonist. In most stories with a major character, the major character is usually a close friend, a workmate, a parent, a girlfriend, or an acquaintance of the protagonist.

Some of the best-known major characters in literary works, movies, and TV shows include Lois Lane in the Superman TV show, Alfred in Batman movies, and Baloo in The Jungle Book.

4. Minor Characters

Minor characters in literary works are the characters that don't matter a lot. Still, they are important for the plot of the story. Therefore, they often appear once or just a few times in the story as the plot progresses.

Popular examples of minor characters include Fleur Delacour in Harry Potter, Hodor in Game of Thrones, and Wheezy in Toy Story 2. All these characters are important to the story. They help to tell the story. They may be minor characters, but they help support the plot, give context, or tell a crucial part of the story.

5. Static Characters

Static characters are the characters that generally do not change throughout the story. In other words, they do not experience any change or growth. Static characters are usually minor characters. They often play a small role in the story but are still important for context or symbolism.  

In To Kill a Mockingbird, Atticus Finch is an excellent example of a static character. The character is static because he sticks to his strong moral code from the beginning to the end of the story.

6. Dynamic Characters

Dynamic characters are characters that generally change throughout the story. In some cases, the learned lessons are changed to become better persons. In some cases, experiences or events change them, becoming bad people.

An excellent example of a dynamic character is Anakin Skywalker in Star Wars, who changes from a good character to an evil character. Another good example is Scout Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird, who also changes from a bad character to a good character.

7. Foils

Most stories do not have a foil, but some do. A foil is a character who is against the protagonist. They show a different side of the protagonist, but they do not play the role of the antagonist.

For example, a foil can be the sweet and kind friend to a tough and no-nonsense protagonist.

How to Analyze a Character

The typical character analysis essay assignment will require you to analyze everything important about a character. Therefore, you must do research about the character and note all the important things about them. the most important things to note about a character when reading about them in a novel or watching them in a movie include:

1. Physical Characteristics

The number one thing to note about the character is how they look. Are they tall, muscular, or blonde? Basically, you need to try and find out everything you can about the character in terms of their physical traits and to note every important thing down. The physical traits of a character often provide context to their role in the story.

2. Emotional Traits

In addition to noting the character's physical characteristics, you should also note their emotional traits or characteristics. Is the character temperamental? Closed off? You should note down all the emotional traits you find.

3. Background

One of the most important things about a character you must analyze is their background. This is because background usually helps explain a character and his or her role. So note down where the character lives, their lifestyle, occupation, family, etc.

4. Relationships

An analysis essay is never complete without explaining the closest relationships of the character. So who is the closest person to the character you are analyzing? The mother? Brother? Workmate? Note down the closest relationship and other close relationships.

5. Motivation

Every character in a story is usually motivated to act in some way in the story because of something. You must discover this thing that drives the character. Is it revenge? Justice? Poverty? Whatever it is, you must find it and note it down.

6. Moral code

In most stories, important characters are usually clearly good or bad based on their actions. So what does your character do? Are they driven by good or evil? What is their moral code?

7. Values

What values does the character have? Love, family, optimism, kindness, hate, jealousy, ambition, spirituality, loyalty? Whatever values the character has, you should note them down.

Knowing all the above things about the writer will help you write a more detailed and accurate character analysis essay. Therefore, create a template and note down all the details about the character, particularly the ones highlighted above.

Related Article: Steps for Preparing and taking the ACT.

Character Analysis Essay Outline (Format and Structure)

Before writing a character analysis essay, you should create an outline. Doing this will help you to write a well-organized character analysis essay. It will also help you to create a flowing essay.

If you wonder how to format a character analysis, do it as a typical comprehensive essay. It should have an introduction, a body section, and a conclusion.

Furthermore, you will never experience writer's block when you create an outline before writing an essay. This is because you must look at your outline to know what you need to write next whenever you feel stuck.

I. Introduction

  1. Hook statement (write down an attention-grabbing opening statement)
  2. Background information (highlights of background information that you will use)
  3. Thesis statement (create a thesis statement, aka the statement that will be the central argument of your essay)

II. Body paragraph 1 (Character identification and background info)

  1. Topic sentence (write down the sentence that will introduce this paragraph)
  2. Character identification and background info (outline the identification of the character, including their appearance, their background, and their main traits)
  3. Transition sentence (write down the sentence you will use to wrap up this paragraph and lead into the next paragraph)

III. Body paragraph 2 (Character's journey, objective, and challenges)

  1. Topic sentence (write down the sentence to introduce this paragraph)
  2. Character's journey (highlight the character's journey, the challenges they face, and the obstacles)
  3. Closing sentence (write down the sentence you will use to wrap up this paragraph and lead into the next paragraph)

IV. Body paragraph 3 (Significance of the character)

  1. Topic sentence (write down the sentence to introduce this paragraph)
  2. Significance of the character (Highlight the lessons and insights learned from the character)
  3. Closing sentence (write down the sentence you will use to wrap up this paragraph and lead into the next paragraph)

V. Conclusion

  1. Restate your thesis statement
  2. Summarize your main points about the character
  3. Closing statement (write down the statement you will use to conclude your essay)

Suppose you outline your character analysis essay in the manner described above. In that case, you will have all the information you need to develop an excellent character analysis.

Step-By-Step Guide for Writing a Character Analysis Essay

So how do you write a character analysis essay that meets the requirements of the prompt and rubric? Follow the easy steps below to create an excellent character analysis essay.

1. Choose a prominent character to analyze

When you are given a character analysis essay assignment, you are told the specific character to analyze. If this is the case for you, jump to STEP 2 below. If this is not the case for you, continue reading.

If you've not been told the specific character to analyze in the prompt, you will have to choose one to analyze. This is not common, but it happens.

If you have been given the opportunity to choose a character to analyze, you should choose to analyze the protagonist or any other prominent character.

Because you will have plenty of content when you decide to analyze a prominent character.

2. Conduct research on the character

Create a template that you will use to note down all the important information about the character you want to analyze. The important information should include the physical traits, the emotional traits, the background information, the motivations, the objective, the relationships, and the values of the character.

Once you have created a nice template, you should conduct research on the character by reading the story they are in or watching it and noting down anything you created space for in your template.

You should particularly focus on finding out and noting down information about the character's childhood and background, if available. Such information is important for analysis because it helps to provide context for the character's actions, behavior, or journey.

You should also focus on finding and noting the character's traits. For example, noting down your character's physical and emotional traits in your analysis will provide a much clearer picture of who they are.

Lastly, you should not forget to note down the character's role in the plot. You should note if the character helps the plot achieve its standard five elements ? introduction, rising action, climax, falling action, or resolution. Note the part of the character that helps the plot and how. This information will make your analysis even more detailed and exciting.

3. Create a thesis statement

After finding out everything important, you need to find out about the character you want to analyze; you need to create a thesis statement. This is an important step in developing a character analysis essay. Because a good thesis statement will help you create a wonderful character analysis essay.

A good thesis statement captures the main point in your essay and clearly explains what your essay is all about. When you think about the statement that best captures your essay, you should ensure it is specific to what you learned about the patient in your research.

The easiest way to write a thesis statement for a character analysis essay is to describe the character's traits and role in the story in as few words as possible. When you do this successfully, rewrite until you have a statement that looks and sounds like a thesis statement. A statement that you are sure you can fully support in your essay.

4. Create your outline

After creating your thesis statement, you should create an outline. You already saw how exactly to create an outline for a character analysis essay in the previous section of this article. Therefore, in this step, you should simply refer to the section to create a nice comprehensive outline for your essay.

Now that you have researched the character and their traits, you can easily create an outline using the knowledge you gained in the above section. Make sure the outline you create is as comprehensive as it can be. This will make your work easy in the next step.

After you are done creating an outline for your essay, you should look at it closely. First, review it to see if it has a good structure and flow because it is the "map" you will use to write your character analysis essay.

5. Write your essay

After creating a nice comprehensive outline, you should start writing your essay. Use your outline and your notes to develop a well-organized and well-structured essay.

Of course, you should start writing your essay by writing the introduction. Take time when developing your introduction. Make sure it is as good as it can be. Because a good introduction is the first thing you need if you want to get an excellent grade on your essay. A good introduction will create a good first impression and make your teacher or professor more likely to give you an excellent grade.

After writing a good introduction, you should write the three body paragraphs. Simply follow your outline for good flow in the body paragraphs. And when developing the body paragraphs, make sure you use transition words generally to ensure a flow between the sentences and the paragraphs.

The last body paragraph in a character analysis essay usually focuses on the significance of the character. It is like a summary of the character's role or journey and the lessons learned. Therefore, it is vital to develop this paragraph carefully to ensure you get it right.

When you are done writing the body paragraphs, you should wrap up your essay with a conclusion. The conclusion should begin with a concise restatement of the thesis statement, a summary of the main points in your essay, and a closing statement to wrap up everything.

6. Proofread your essay

After you are done writing the conclusion of your essay, you should proofread it and edit it to the fullest before submitting it. It is only through proofreading your essay that you will be able to ensure that everything about it is perfect.

When proofreading, you should particularly watch out for spelling errors, grammar errors, punctuation errors, and vague sentences. You should also ensure you have done all the referencing correctly according to the essay requirements. Lastly, you should ensure your essay does not exceed the word count and follows all the instructions in the essay prompt.

After you are done proofreading your essay as described above, your essay should be 100% ready for submission.

Checklist for writing a Character analysis essay

Character analysis can be challenging. However, the process should be easy if you have come this far. ?

If you are writing or have written an essay analyzing a specific character from a text, movie, story, or poem, here are some questions to consider.

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