Why do some fictional characters seem so real? How do writers bring these imaginary people to life? Characterization, or the art of creating a character, is a literary device that relies on narrative technique. Generally speaking there are four ways in which readers become familiar with fictional character:
- by listening to the character in dialogue,
- by viewing the character’s actions,
- by overhearing the character’s thoughts,
- through the narrator directly, who tells us what to think of the character.
For example, some of the most famous words from Hamlet, “to be or not to be,” tell us a lot about who he is. On stage he has to use a dramatic aside or monologue to convey his thoughts to the audience. He holds a skull in his hand, meaning he is pondering the difference between life and death. These actions and words help create the Hamlet that we know as pensive, indecisive person.
In this lesson we will look at a passage from The Handmaid’s Tale, a novel by Margaret Atwood. You do not need to know the novel to do this activity. Because the novel is told in the first person, we will only focus on the first three ways of achieving characterisation. You can apply this activity to any work you are reading for Part 3 or Part 4.
WHAT KIND OF PERSON IS OFFRED? The Handmaid
Judge by: HER DIALOGUES, HER ACTIONS and HER THOUGHTS …
B. APPLIED: Find evidence in chapter 1 (BOOK) that represents the actions, words and thoughts shown in the Film.