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Unit 6 Characters

A character is a person (or animal or natural force presented as a person) in a work of literature. Characterization is the way an author presents a character.

An author using direct characterization makes statements about the characters and tells us what characters are like.

In indirect characterization, the author lets us draw our own conclusions about a character based on what the character says or does, how he or she is dressed, or what other characters think about him or her.

A writer indicates character to the reader in the following ways:

  • through the character’s statements and thoughts;

  • by showing the character’s actions;

  • by giving the opinion of other characters;

  • through the character’s name, clothes, physical traits, the descriptions of his/her environment.

Character types include:

Major character: a character who dominates the story.

Minor character: a less important character in a story.

Protagonist: the main character in a work of literature.

Antagonist: a character or force opposing the protagonist.

Foil: a character who provides a contrast to the protagonist.

Static character: a character who does not change.

Dynamic character: a character who changes in an important way.

Flat character: a one-dimensional character; displays only one or two distinguishing traits; usually can be summed up in one sentence.

Round character: a character presented in-depth from many angles; may be complex and many-sided or three-dimensional.

Tips

While reading the stories included in this unit,

  • be attentive to the methods of characterization: by noticing what we are told, listening to what a character says and what other characters say about her or him, entering a character’s mind, observing the character’s behaviour.

  • Consider how fully the characters are developed: whether they are round or flat, whether they change or stay the same.

Unit 7 Tone

Tone: is the general attitude authors take toward their subject and/or audience. It may be formal, informal, pessimistic, optimistic, intimate, humorous, serious, ironic, sarcastic, sympathetic or many other possible attitudes.

The tone of a work is produced mainly by the writer’s diction or choice of words, but syntax and sound may also contribute.

Key steps to identifying the tone in a literary work :

Step1

Look at the word choice. Words have positive, negative and neutral associations. Pay attention to the connotations of words. Are there any vivid descriptions that appeal to the senses (sight, sound, touch, taste, and smell)? Do authors use any metaphors, similes, puns, hyperboles? Are there any instances of irony?

  • Metaphor is a figure of speech comparing things that are basically unalike to make the reader see them as similar in some way. An example is: The boy remained a rock for his family during the tragedy.

  • Simile is a comparison of things using the words like, as, as if, than, such as, or resembles. For example: The unkind words struck like a knife in the girl’s heart.

  • Pun is a humorous use of a word that has two meanings or of different words that sound the same. For example: She told the child to try not to be so trying.

  • Hyperbole is a deliberate exaggeration used for an ironic or humorous effect to emphasize a point, as in I’ll die if I don’t pass English.

  • Irony is the expression of one’s meaning by saying the direct opposite of one’s thoughts in order to be emphatic, amusing, sarcastic. An example is “That’s really lovely!” said when it’s raining heavily and you have no umbrella with you.

Step2

Analyze the syntax used to describe events. Notice line or sentence length. Are the sentences compound or short and unexpanded? Are there any exclamatory sentences? Are there any parallel constructions? What effect do they have?

Step3

Pay attention to the use of sound devices. Sound devices may draw attention to words a writer wants to emphasize, connect words, or create special moods. Despite the difference between poetry and prose, the various poetic devices such as alliteration, assonance and onomatopoeia may also be at work in prose.

  • Alliteration: the repetition of initial (first) consonant letters or sounds in word groups; examples include: wild and wooly, sweet sixteen, through thick and thin, and big blue balloon.

  • Assonance: similarity between the vowel sounds only or the consonant sounds only of two words or syllables, as in sharper and garter or killed and cold.

  • Onomatopoeia: the use of a word that suggests the sound it makes; examples include: buzz, pop, hiss, moo, hum, crackle, crunch, gurgle.

Step4

Ask yourself how the information is presented. Look at the amount of action versus the amount of description. Notice the amount of dialogue. What order do you receive the information in? How is the author trying to persuade you, if they are?

Step 5

Consider how you feel when reading. What emotions come naturally to you? Do you get angry, sad or joyous? Do you feel that the author’s trying to persuade you?

Look at how the language of a work of fiction may create different tones.

Subject

Use of languge

Tone

nature, feelings

poetic, ornate style; emphatic syntax, direct addresses, imaginative language (similes, metaphors), long descriptions and little dialogue

romantic

a series of exciting events, conflicts, predicaments

emotive lexis, figures of rhetoric, numerous interrogative and exclamatory sentences, much dialogue

dramatic

everyday life, problems of ordinary people

puns, exagerrated statements, words that do not belong in the situation,

humourous

life and society

comlicated, pompous expressions, a profusion of details,

ironic

public figures or institutions, political situations, moral or social vices

verbal irony

satirical

Tips

In this unit,

  • listen for tone, the attitude toward the subject implied in a literary work.

  • Try to figure out what the tone conveys: humour, affection, anger, frustration, horror, grief, concern, scorn, bitterness?

  • Be attentive to the language the authors use.

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