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Dealing with a character analysis essay: A step-by-step guide

Dealing with a character analysis essay: A step-by-step guide

Whether it is Phoebe from ‘Friends’ or Luna Lovegood from the Harry Potter saga, these characters are amazing. What unites them is a great character development the authors have focused on.

Iram Martins
Jul 23, 2021

Table of Contents

Whether it is Phoebe from ‘Friends’ or Luna Lovegood from the Harry Potter saga, these characters are amazing. What unites them is a great character development the authors have focused on. As a student, you will have to write essays on your most and least favorite characters. Especially if you are a humanities student. How to write them? Check our guide below. 

Step #1: Choose a character

Yes, you must choose a character from a book or a movie to write an analysis. But guess what. If you do not like a character enough, you may choose the character you hate the most. Sometimes, the greatest essays are about the villains and what formed them as characters. 

You don’t need a perfect character to write paper on Leave this to the writing experts on arts and literature, and they will choose the one that evokes a great emotional response in readers. Also, you may want to choose one of the major characters since there is usually not much information on the minor ones.

Step #2: Reread or rewatch the story

Now, you should reconsider the story from the character’s perspective. Start from the simple things like appearance and move on to the complex aspects like motivation. The best way to upgrade your essay is by taking notes while reading or watching. 

Reread or rewatch the story

There is a range of questions to help you create a full portrait of the character you have chosen:

  • In which scene does the reader meet the character for the first time? Is it a symbolic scene? If so, why?
  • How does the author describe the character? What are the character’s gestures, intonations, mimics?
  • What is the character’s relationship with other characters? 
  • What are the character’s motivations? 
  • Is the character different at the end of the story compared to the beginning? 
  • How does the character evolutionize?

Step #3: Find the main idea

Character analysis is commonly written in essay form. More rarely, in the form of a research paper. This means there is a strict order to follow. Let’s start with the thesis statement. The latter is the main idea of your academic assignment. 

As the core of your essay, a thesis statement is an idea to focus on and prove in the process of writing. For instance, you have decided to analyze Charlie from ‘Flowers for Algernon’ by Daniel Keyes. The possible thesis statement may be as follows, “Charlie is the symbolic character that poses a question of adequate treatment for the mentally disabled, the ethics of scientific progress, and the value of human life.” 

Step #4: Follow the structure thoroughly

Now, when you have extracted the necessary information from the story, think of the outline. To write an effective analysis, creating a thorough outline is a must. Your outline will help you concentrate better and get a detailed structure in the end. 

The parts which your outline must contain are:

  • Introduction. This is where you introduce the reader to the topic, the story, and the thesis statement. The latter is usually the last sentence of this part. 
  • Body. The bulk of the essay. Commonly contains three paragraphs, each of which analyses a special idea from the thesis statement. 
  • Conclusion. The first sentence in this part is a rephrased thesis statement. Later, you summarize what you have found in the essay. 

Write one or two sentences for each part of the outline to understand the main idea of each paragraph yet avoid confusion. 

Step #5: Focus on the body

Remember that the structure of your essay centers around the main idea in the thesis statement. Writing the Introduction is the easiest part. However, you might get confused when writing the body paragraphs. To do it properly, remember a few tips.

Number of paragraphs

There are usually three body paragraphs, and they imitate the thesis statement structure. Let’s get back to the example with the ‘Flowers for Algernon’ statement. According to the statement, you will prove how Charlie illustrates atrocities done against the mentally disabled. 

The second paragraph would go about ethical problems expressed through the character.

 At last, the third paragraph will explore how Charlie’s little life as a mentally disabled person is valuable. 

PIE Structure

Yes, you should know how to structure your research results in a paragraph. The PIE structure is decoded as Point, Illustrate, Explain. The first sentence of the paragraph is the point you are making. For instance, “Charlie poses a question whether mentally disabled people are treated right in our society.” 

PIE Structure

The second ‘Illustrate’ sentence must contain the evidence for the Point. Here, you may add direct quotes from the book. Meanwhile, the third sentence explains your point and example in detail. 

Add citations

Direct evidence is a keystone to persuading the reader of your essay. However, remember that citations must equal 10% of the essay. Also, make sure you follow the rules of the citation format you are required to use in your essay. 

Know your numbers

The body of the essay is around 80%. Meanwhile, both the Introduction and Conclusion equal 10% each. Always remember that your instructor is interested in the analysis, which is the body paragraphs.

Avoid plagiarism whenever you can

If you used additional sources while writing your essay, cite them. There is nothing wrong with using secondary sources. However, it is academically wrong to appropriate the ideas of other researchers.

Step #6: Editing and proofreading 

An essay with an amazing analysis will lose its points if it is unreadable. No student is perfect. But while writing an essay, make sure to avoid mistakes. 

After you have written the academic assignment, use a spell-checking program to ensure high-quality work. For instance, Grammarly. What is even better, you do not need a separate plagiarism-checking application if you use Grammarly. Because this amazing software plagiarism-checks and proofreads.

Final thoughts

Writing a character analysis essay might seem scary at first sight. But everything becomes easier when you know what to focus on. Remember about structure, the thesis statement, and the main character’s questions. We hope our guide has helped you in writing your essay. Stay tuned!

Iram Martins | Personal trainer. Aspiring sommelier. Brunch critic who works part-time. When I'm not competing, you'll find me at dog beaches with my black lab or sipping drinks at the best bars in town. I like to fly a lot.


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