Character Analysis in Modern Literature

Karen Gillan By Karen Gillan, 3rd Oct 2017 | Follow this author | RSS Feed
Posted in Wikinut>Writing>Tips

An analysis of a character in literature constitutes an extension of a person’s verbal representation especially the inert behavior that controls speech, manner, and thought. Through the direct speech, actions, dialogue, and commentary, literature encapsulates some of the natural interactions in character. The traits of a character must be evident in any character analysis report or essay.


For instance, characters may be confident, lazy, noisy or quiet, careless, etc. Also, the physical outlook of a character is also important as this helps in matching a character or contrast the particular aspects of the character. In fact, even the name of the character is significant as it can contribute into a demonstration of an individual trait. For instance, Shakespeare uses ‘Hamlet’ as a name of a character to picture the size of the character. The name refers to a tiny doomed thing, and this explains why the character is fighting with himself. For instance, when a person feels mentally unstable, it is likely to expect a self-harm from such a character, as well as the harm caused to others. A good example of a name impact is Hamlet’s retreating after becoming unstable. He decides to harm the entire kingdom. Summarily, the complete obliteration is a manifestation of his inner struggle and the inability to restore sanctity.
The process of character analysis entails three main structural aspects. First is to identify the character, second is to describe a character, and third is to explain or appraise a character based on the behavior, actions or any other interactive influence. With identification, it is always important to select a genuine character and the one who plays a significant role in the literary works. One of the clues in identifying a character is by establishing the importance of a particular character in a literary work. Protagonists can be distinguished from lesser characters. As with character description, the process entails providing an overview of the role a character plays in the story. Lastly, an explanation of a character involves an account of a character in tandem with other characters in the literature work. The key areas of interpretation include the motivation behind a character’s behavior; the significance of a character’s actions; a characters relations with others in the story, and the theme generated through the actions.

The Importance of Character Analysis

Character analysis is crucial in literature for a number of reasons which include the revelation of the central theme in the story, identification and separation of the main characters from secondary ones and defining their relationships, as well as the determination of the conflict in the literature work. In other words, the analysis of a character gives the reader clues to learn more than only the outlook of a person. So, it helps to make every character of the story seem real and more appealing to readers.
As with the central theme, an analysis aims to establish the main idea posed by the author of the story. Such inner meaning can only become evident through character analysis. Often, the behavior, actions, and dialogue of the characters reveal the theme of the play, story, fiction or any other literary work. However, narration or play may have more than one theme. Through analysis, the main topics may be organized to identify the central and subsidiary themes. A look at the Hamlet as a character reveals the intention of Shakespeare’s writing.
The theme of certainty, the theme of action, and theme of revenge are some of the key themes shown through an analysis of the Hamlet protagonist. Certainty theme is evident through the postponement of Hamlet’s actions while he kept trying to determine the certainty of what he was doing. The play poses several questions that have no particular answer. Because of the shadows of death in the play, it is impossible for Hamlet to determine for certain, the factuality about crimes that have no evidence. This theme is only evident as one tries to evaluate the meaning of the play.
Character analysis also helps in the identification of the main character. This is important because the main characters contribute to understanding what the author was aimed to say and provides a revelation of the main themes. Often, the main characters constitute a significant part of the dialogues, actions, and other interactions. In a play, for instance, two main characters are likely to prevail – one is a protagonist and the other secondary. Hamlet is identified as the main character because of the taken role in the play. Because of the inherent revenge within the play, Hamlet’s emotion leads us to the identification of other main characters including Claudius, Gertrude, Polonius, Ophelia. Regardless of their existence, Hamlet is still the main character because of some relations. For instance, Ophelia is used by his father to spy Hamlet and thus demonstrates that even minor characters like her father are focused on Hamlet. Other key points of analysis are as follows.

Social Life

The social life of a character constitutes what the character does while interacting with others. In this aspect the analyst endeavors to establish whether a character has an aptitude for developing a friendship, does the character treat others with respect, does the character have a relationship, and does the character have religious leanings and so forth. Concerning Hamlet play, it is evident that despite being a prince, Hamlet has a social life as seen in his interaction with characters like Claudius and Polonius. As with intimate relationship, Hamlet seduced Ophelia even though she was used later to spy on him.

Morality of Character

Morality refers to the ethical standards that are observed in society. In analyzing any morality in a literary work, the basis is the generally accepted code of conduct. If speaking of Hamlet, Shakespeare succeeded in creating a great character and illustrated the high complexity of the persona. Even without the support of Shakespeare’s elaboration, the description of the main character who can be described as very cautious yet very courteous. However, due to an altercation with other characters and negative events, Hamlet’s moral characters changes to being reckless, unstable and downright unfriendly. Despite the desire to revenge, Hamlet’s religious moral helps him to vacillate the killing of Claudius.


Regarding language, Hamlet presents a tremendous sense of arrogance when responding to subjects. For instance, when Polonius asked him about what he reads. The Hamlet’s response is that he reads words. Such character is depicted as arrogant through the relative answer because everything: a play, a book, a song or many other things are a collection of words. However, Hamlet distinguishes himself as the most attentive character in the play. This is unlike Polonius’s mastery of language which is very shallow instead he seems to master rhetoric.

Final Thoughts

Summing up this guide, it is important to reiterate that character analysis entails the appraisal a person’s direct speech, actions, dialogue, and commentary in any literary work. Such analysis aims to identify the central message in the play, the major and minor themes, and the main and minor characters in the story. The author (s) tend to concentrate on one or two personas more, than on others thus making everything in the story center around them. In the reference play, Hamlet mentioned in this discussion; every other character revolves around the main character – Hamlet. Other aspects of analyzing the character include the physical outlook, the name chosen by the author, the language used by the character, and the character’s social life. Summarily, an understanding of a character through analysis makes the literature work very interesting and easy to understand.


Analysis, Character, Guide, Hamlet, Literature, Play, Shakespeare

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author avatar Karen Gillan
I am a blogger and an experienced content marketer. I share my opinion on the spheres of literature, poetry, classic music.

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author avatar へんしこう
9th Oct 2017 (#)

D8 催情剤:

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