E.M. Forster's Types of Character
Round Characters: characters who recognize, change with, or adjust to circumstances. Complex and many-sided, they touch life at many points. The round character-usually the main figure in a story-profits from experience, is altered by circumstances, and undergoes a change or alteration, which may be shown in action, the realization of new strength and therefore the affirmation of previous decisions, the acceptance of a new condition, or the discovery of heretofore unrecognized truths. Round (or dynamic) characters generally fall into one of two categories:
Protagonist: central to the action, moves against an antagonist and exhibits the ability to adapt to new circumstances. The central character in a story.
Antagonist: any force in a story that is in conflict with the protagonist. An antagonist may be another person, an aspect of the physical or social environment, or a destructive element in the protagonist's own nature.
Flat Characters: characters who do not grow, who end where they begin, who are static. Flat characters usually highlight the development of round characters and are usually minor (although not all minor characters are necessarily flat). They can be characterized by one or two traits, summed up in a sentence. Flat (or static) characters generally fall into one of two categories:
- Stock Character: a flat character in a standard role with standard traits, such as the irate police captain, the bored hotel clerk, the overbearing mother, the angry young man. One whose nature is familiar to us from prototypes in previous fiction.
- Stereotype: a character who is so ordinary and unoriginal that s/he seems to have been cast in a mold, a representative character, a character who possesses no attributes except those of their class.
Ways Authors Disclose Character:
- Action: what a character does. May also signal qualities (traits), such as naiveté, self-doubt, confidence, etc.
- Descriptions, both personal and environmental: appearance and environment reveal much about a character's social and economic status and his/her character traits.
- Dramatic statements and thoughts: the speeches of most characters provide material from which to draw conclusions, both from what they say and how they say them. Although characters may use speech to hide their motives, we often see through the deception via the way the speech is delivered or from what other characters reveal about the character in question. Ironically, the characters doing the talking often indicate something other than what they intended.
- Statements by other characters
- Statements by the author speaking as storyteller or observer: what the author, speaking with the authorial voice, says about a character is usually accurate and can be accepted factually. However, when the authorial voice interrupts actions and characteristics, the author himself or herself assumes the role of reader or critic and any opinions may be questioned. For this reason, authors frequently avoid interpretations and devote their skill to arranging events and speeches so that readers may draw their own conclusions.
About the Author
Edward Morgan Forster OM, CH (1 January 1879 – 7 June 1970), was an English novelist, short story writer, essayist and class difference and hypocrisy in early 20th-century British society. Forster's humanistic impulse toward understanding and sympathy may be aptly summed up in the epigraph to his 1910 novel Howards End
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