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Literary Characters

Teacher/Instructor Katie Aquino
Katie Aquino

Writing, Grammar, Literature, ACT Prep
Education: M.Ed.,Stanford University

Katie is an enthusiastic teacher who strives to make connections between literature and student’s every day lives.

When analyzing literary characters, there are many different types. Static characters do not change, while dynamic characters change throughout the piece of literature. Round characters are characters that we know a lot about, while flat characters we only know basic details about. Protagonist characters are leading characters while antagonists are characters working against the protagonist.

So we meet literary characters all the time. They exist in every story that we read but I want to talk about some ways that we can actually analyze them in order to see what significance they have. So I've got a couple of pairs of words that really work together when it comes to labelling characters. And the first are static characters and dynamic characters.
So, static characters are those that stay the same, whereas Dynamic characters are those that change throughout the piece of literature. So let's think about 'Finding Nemo' for instance. A set of character that exists is Bruce the Shark, right? He's a shark, he wants to eat fish, he kind of tries to change by going to his like "Fishes Anonymous Class" but he, really in the end can't. So he's a very static character whereas Merlin, Nemo's dad, starts out as a very over protective parent because of what happened to Nemo's mum and by the end, he changes and he realizes that may have pushed Nemo away.
The next set of character types that we have are round characters and flat characters. So round characters are those that we know a lot about. I kind of thing round is like a globe, we have a global idea of those characters and Flat characters, we only can see one side of them. So an example of a flat character for Finding Nemo would be Bloat. He's that puffer fish that exists in the tank. We don't know much about him other than when he gets nervous he kind of bloats up and he needs somebody else to help him deflate. A round character though, would be Nemo. He's our central character, we know a lot about him, we can guess what he would do in certain situations based on what we know. So that's Round character, these tend to align with major characters tend to be around we know a lot, and minor characters who don't come in too much tend to be flat.
Our next pair that we have are the protagonist and the antagonist. So, the protagonist is the leading character, the one who's doing the majority of the action. And again in Finding Nemo the protagonist is, Nemo". Now the antagonist would be the opposite, the character working against the protagonist. For the most part it's that dentist right? The office Nemo's in and he wants to take him for his grand daughter or his niece, so the dentist is working against Nemo's plan to try to get home. And then the final character type that we have is a Foil and a Foil is the character who is opposite of another character and the reason that they typically exist is they highlight the different qualities that they have. So a nice example of Foil, especially in Finding Nemo is 'Dorie'. And if you think about it, Dorie is the foil for Merlin, where Merlin is super uptight and he has to kind of keep on schedule. Dorie is very 'la-di-da' and maybe that's because she can't remember anything but she swims around, she has a good time, she bumps into some jelly fish, no big deal but what she does is really serve to bring out those really rigid qualities of Merlin that end up changing in the end. So she's a really an effective Foil. So, now you've got these different types of characters and I think you can use these terms in order to better analyze why certain characters are placed in different pieces of literature.