Indirect Characterization Examples

Indirect Characterization

Characterization refers to how authors develop characters in their writing. As we read, we need to understand the characters so that we understand how their actions help the plot to unfold. We also usually like to get a sense of what they look like as we read.

There are two main types of characterization: direct and indirect characterization. Direct characterization is when the author comes right out and tells the reader what to think about the character.

Examples of Indirect Characterization:

Jeff was a mean boy.
Joe's boss was stingy and rude.
Clarissa was the nicest girl in school.

Indirect characterization is the opposite of direct characterization. Instead of coming out and telling you what to think about the character, the author describes the person's appearance, actions and words, and sometimes even thoughts to help the reader form an opinion about the character.

Examples of Indirect Characterization:

Jeff walked up to Mark and took his sandwich off of his plate. He took a bite, smirked at Mark, and then walked away.

When it was time to go home, Joe's boss called him to his office. He told Joe that he would not get his paycheck for the week until he finished a report on a new product. Then, his boss got up, turned the lights off, and left the office to go home. Joe trudged back to his desk.

Clarissa saw what Jeff had done to Mark, and she quietly picked up her tray and went to sit with Mark. She cut her own sandwich in half and gave Mark half. Then, she started to talk to Mark about his favorite television show until he forgot all about Jeff.

Examples of Indirect Characterization from Literature:

In To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee uses indirect characterization to describe one of Scout's neighbors-Mrs. Dubose.

Mrs. Dubose lived alone except for a Negro girl in constant attendance, two doors up the street from us in a house with steep front steps and a dog-trot hall. She was very old; she spent most of each day in bed and the rest of it in a wheelchair. It was rumored that she kept a CSA pistol concealed among her numerous shawls and wraps. Jem and I hated her. If she was on the porch when we passed, we would be raked by her wrathful gaze, subjected to ruthless interrogation regarding our behavior, and given a melancholy prediction on what we would amount to when we grew up, which was always nothing. We had long ago given up the idea of walking past her house on the opposite side of the street; that only made her raise her voice and let the whole neighborhood in on it. We could do nothing to please her. If I said as sunnily as I could, "Hey, Mrs. Dubose," I would receive for an answer, "Don't you say hey to me, you ugly girl! You say good afternoon, Mrs. Dubose!"

In "Sonnet 130," William Shakespeare uses indirect characterization to describe his mistress:

My mistress' eyes are nothing like the sun;
Coral is far more red than her lips' red;
If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun;
If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head.
I have seen roses damasked, red and white,
But no such roses see I in her cheeks;
And in some perfumes is there more delight
Than in the breath that from my mistress reeks.
I love to hear her speak, yet well I know
That music hath a far more pleasing sound;
I grant I never saw a goddess go;
My mistress, when she walks, treads on the ground.
And yet, by heaven, I think my love as rare
As any she belied with false compare.

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