A blog for the comprehensive understanding of Literature, Applied Linguistics and ELT

August 15, 2016

Character in Literature

Definition

A character refers to a fictional person portrayed by the author in a play, novel, short story, or poetry. Sometimes animals and objects are also adopted as characters, but they are presented by means of personification. Characters play a vital role in the development of the central theme of a literary work through their dialogue, actions, mood and attitude.

Types of Characters

  1. Dynamic Character: A dynamic character is one who undergoes significant change in his traits/qualities such as, personality or outlook, etc. throughout the story. Through suffering, mistakes and experiment a dynamic character gains new experience which in turn makes him a changed man. For example, initially Ebenezer Scrooge from Charles Dickens's A Christmas Carol (1843) is portrayed as a mean, bitter, and covetous personality. However, after his encounter with the three ghosts he becomes a generous, kind, and beloved man. In fact, the term "dynamic" doesn't define the character's qualities, but rather refers to how those qualities change over time. Dynamic characters are usually central characters.
  2. Static Character: A static character is one who does not undergo any significant transition in his traits/qualities such as, personality, outlook, etc. throughout the events in the story's plot. In other words, a static character is mostly the same person at the end of the story as he was in the beginning and all his actions in between stay true to that personality. Mr. Collins from Pride and Prejudice (1813) by Jane Austen is an example of static character since his character does not change until the end of the novel. Static characters are generally the minor characters.
  3. Round Character: A round character is a major character in a story that encounters conflicts and undergoes transformation by these with a sign of emotional and psychological development. The character is complex and it increases in complexity throughout the story. Although many people place the dynamic and round characters in one category, yet they are not the same thing.  A dynamic character does not tell about the traits of the character rather only tells about the traits that change over the time. A round character, on the other hand defines the complex traits of the character.
  4. Flat Character: A flat character is relatively uncomplicated and does not transform too much from the start of the narrative to its end. Flat characters are constructed round a single idea or quality and often said not to have either surprising ability or emotional depths, hence such characters are easily recognizable. Although both the static and the flat characters remain unchanged throughout the story, there is a slight difference between them. Whereas the former has two dimensions and can be as interesting as the central character, the latter generally has only one dimension and is only capable of playing a minor role.
  5. Protagonist: The protagonist is the main character or leading figure in a story, novel, drama, or poetry. Sometimes the protagonist is represented as an antihero. However, even as antihero the protagonist is able retain the audience’s interest and keeps propelling the story forward. For example, In Shakespeare’s play, Romeo and Juliet (1597), Romeo is the protagonist.
  6. Antihero: An antihero is a protagonist who is devoid of all conventional qualities such as, bravery, strength, charm, intelligence etc. Such character usually possesses traits like clumsiness, dishonesty, aggressiveness, fearfulness, etc.
  7. False Protagonist: A false protagonist is a trick used by the authors to bring about an unexpected twist in the plot. The false protagonist is presented in such a way that the audience takes him to be the central character. However, this misconception is resolved when the character is unexpectedly removed by killing or changing his role, often into a lesser character or antagonist.
  8. Antagonist: The antagonist is a major character in a story who stands in opposition or creates obstacles to the protagonist. The conflict between the antagonist and the protagonist often generates the action or plot of the work. However, an antagonist must not be confused with a villain. The role of an antagonist is to oppose and create obstruction to the protagonist's goal, while a villain is a character who acts in opposition of the hero with evil intentions. While not every antagonist is a villain, it is generally true that all villains are antagonists to the main character.
  9. Villain: A villain plays the role of the principal bad character in a work of fiction. The villain usually is the antagonist who acts in opposition of the protagonist. However, in some cases the protagonist may assume the role of a villain.
  10. Stock Character: A stock character is a stereotypical person who is instantly recognizable to most readers. These characters are types and not individuals. A Stock character is based on clichés and social prejudices. Examples include: the professor, the wise old man, the everyman, the gentleman thief, etc. They are not focus characters nor are they developed in the story. The stock character does almost nothing to affect the main characters and can be easily replaced with a new character.
  11. Foil: A foil is employed to enhance the qualities of another character through contrast. Usually a foil is the antagonist or an important supporting character whose personal traits contrast with the protagonist or a major character. However, foils are not focus characters nor are they developed in the story. They help us learn more about another character or aspect of a story. For instance, In Hamlet (1603), Laertes has been portrayed as a foil to Hamlet.
  12. Confidante (masc: Confidant): A character in a drama or fiction, such as a friend or servant, who the protagonist confides in and trusts. A confidant serves as a device for revealing the inner thoughts or intentions of a main character. Her role is to listen to the protagonist's secrets, examine his character, and advise him on his actions. Rather than simply acting as a passive listener for the protagonist's monologues, the confidant may himself act to move the story forward, or serve to guide and represent the reactions of the audience. For example Horatio in Shakespeare’s Hamlet (1603).
  13. Viewpoint Character: Also called narrator. A type of character by whose perspective or eyes the audience witnesses the events in a narrative. Generally the narrator narrates the events from several points of view or perspectives. Based on perspectives a narrator  is categorized in:
    1. First Person Narrator: A first person narrator is said to have used when the story is told someone who identifies himself or herself as “I". This "I" can be the main character, a less important character witnessing events, or a person retelling a story they were told by someone else.
    2. Second Person Narrator: In second person, the narrator addresses the protagonist as "you." Often, this kind of story has the narrator speaking to a younger version of his self.
    3. Third Person Narrator is used when the story is told by someone who is not a participant in the action and who refers to the characters by name or as ‘he‘ 'she" and "they". In this case the narrator is not a character in the story. Third person narrator has two variations:
      1. Omniscient Narrator: This type of narrator knows everything about the characters and events, can move about in time and place as well as from character to character at will, and can, whenever he or she wishes, enter the mind of any character.
      2. Limited omniscient narrator: Also called central intelligence. In this variation the narrative elements are limited to what a single character sees, thinks, and hears.

Characterization

In fiction, characterization refers to the artistic representation of a person. It is the step by step process wherein the author introduces and then describes a character.  With its help the author makes a fictional character seem like a real person. Generally authors resort to the following processes to shape and form their characters:
  1. Direct Characterization: Also called explicit characterization. It is a type of characterization in which the details and personality of a character are revealed in a direct manner. In other words, in such process the author makes straightforward comments about specific traits of a character, which may include but not limited to love, hatred, fear, habits, etc. An outstanding instance of direct characterization could be traced in Sonnet 130 by the English poet and playwright William Shakespeare:
“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.”

 
Direct Characterization
  1. Indirect Characterization: Also called implicit characterization. It is a process of character creation in which the author reveals the details and personality of a character by indication rather than by direct statement. Too be specific, it is the audience's task to study the character and draw a conclusion about it. Through his imagination the audience portrays a true and vivid image of the character. Hence, it is a more creative and engaging process than the direct characterization. However, it is not devoid of shortcomings since the audience may make an erroneous or inappropriate inference about a character. The audience generally infers what a character is like by analyzing:
  • his appearance.
  • his thoughts.
  • his actions.
  • his speech.
  • his interaction with other characters.
  • his manner of speech.
  • others’ remarks about him
  • what others do to him
  • his reaction to others.
  • his reaction to himself.
  • his or her environment.

 

Indirect Characterization

Character Traits

In literature each character reflects certain traits that guide the audience to draw conclusion about their specific roles. Some common character traits are as follows:
  • Greedy
  • Rude
  • Pessimistic
  • Wicked
  • Selfish
  • Funny 
  • Talkative
  • Shy 
  • Evil
  • Brave  
  • Cunning
  • Deceptive
  • Ambitious 

Importance of Characters

Literature is an artistic representation of the real world. More like the real world the fictional world is also incomplete without characters. Therefore, characters are inevitable elements in a literary work. The importance of characters could be outlined as under:
  1. Characters help the audience to understand the overall message or theme in a particular literary work.
  2. Characters are akin to an engine driving the whole narrative in a coherent scheme.
  3. Characters provide ample scope for developing unique plots.
  4. Well-drawn characters compel the readers to retain interest till the end of the story.
  5. Characters help the audience for better understanding of human motivations in the real world.
  6. Characters help the author to maintain the gradual flow of the story.
  7. Characters’ dialogues, actions, attitudes, etc. are considered important elements for development of the theme.





 

References

Abrams, M.H.. A Glossary of Literary Terms. 7th ed. USA: H & H, 1999

" Characterization”. Wikipedia. 2016. Wikimedia Foundation Inc. 26 July 2016
< https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Characterization >.
“Characterization”. Literary Devices. 2016. Literary Devices. 26 July 2016
< http://literarydevices.net/characterization/>.
“Characterization 1”. English 250. 2016. English 250. 26 July 2016
< http://www.ohio.edu/people/hartleyg/ref/fiction/character1.html>.
Gupta, A.N. and Satis Gupta. A Dictionary of English Literature. 2nd ed. Bareilly: PBD, 1995
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August 2, 2016

Word Formation Process

Definition

Word formation process (also called morphological process) is a means by which new words are produced either by modification of existing words or by complete innovation, which in turn become a part of the language.

Types of Word Formation Processes

Although different types of word formation processes are available, all of which basically bring either inflectional or derivational changes. Therefore, inflection (also called inflexion) and derivation are the two main processes of word formation. Inflection differs from derivation to the following extent:

Inflection Derivation
Produces grammatical variants of the same word. Produces a new word on the basis of an existing word.
Modifies a word to express different grammatical categories such as tense, mood, voice, aspect, person, number, gender and case. Changes the word class (also called parts of speech; form class; lexical class; syntactic category).
Does not change the meaning of a word. For example: determine→ determines, determining, determined. Modifies the meaning of the root. For example: modern → modernize (to make modern).

The major word formation processes include but are not limited to the following:

Affixation

It is a word formation process wherein an affix is attached to a root (also called stem; base) to form a new word. A root is a free morpheme (also called unbound morpheme) that can appear alone. On the other hand, an Affix is a bound morpheme which never occurs by itself, but is always attached to some free morpheme and can be either inflectional or derivational. An Inflectional affix modifies the form/grammatical category of a word, i.e., tense, person, number, gender, case, etc. For example: ratrats. Contrariwise, a derivational affix modifies the parts of speech of the root, while leaving the grammatical category unchanged. In this way there is a change of meaning of the root. For example: write → writer.

In English there are two types of affixations:
  1. Prefixation: In this morphological process words are formed by adding an affix to the front of a root. The type of affix used in this process is referred to prefix. For example: un + tidy untidy
  2. Suffixation: In this morphological process words are formed by adding an affix to the end of a root. The type of affix used in this process is referred to suffix. For example: fear + less fearless

Conversion

This refers to the change of function or parts of speech of a word without adding an affix. Conversion is also called zero derivation or null derivation since the functional change is brought about by supplementing an invisible affix. Sometimes it is also called functional shift. Typically conversion is made from “noun to verb” and from “verb to noun”. Less frequently, conversion is also done from “adjective to verb” and “adjective to noun”. For instance:

 Noun to Verb:  
  • access
  • email
  • film
  • name
  • shape
Verb to Noun:
  • attack
  • alert
  • hope
  • increase
  • visit
  • cover
Adjective to Verb:
  • brown
  • black
  • slow
Adjective to Noun:
  • crazy
  • nasty

Back-formation

Back-formation is a morphological process in which new word is created by extracting affixes from another word. In this way it is the reverse of affixation, in which affixes are added. Back-formation is also different from clipping since it brings a change in the parts of speech or the word's meaning. For example: the noun insertion has been back-formed into verb insert by removing the suffix ion.

Clipping

As the name suggests, clipping is the word formation process in which a word is reduced to a shorter form. With a sharp contrast to back-formation, clipping keeps the original word meaning intact. These words are very common in everyday speech. For instance: lab is the clipped form of laboratory. . There are four types of clippings:
  1. Back clipping: (also called final clipping; apocope) it involves the truncation of end of a word as in ad from advertisement.
  2. Fore-clipping: (also called initial clipping; apheresis) it is the removal of the beginning of a word as in phone from telephone.
  3. Middle clipping: (also medial clipping; syncope) it is the extraction of the beginning and end of a word as in flu from influenza.
  4. Complex clipping: is removing multiple parts from multiple words as in cablegram from cabletelegram.

Compounding

Also called composition, by this process two or more than two words are combined together to create a single word, having a single idea and function. In English there are compound nouns, compound adjectives, and compound verbs. Customarily compound words are spelt as single word, or as two or more hyphenated words, and even as two or more separate words. For example:
  • life + style lifestyle
  • mother + in + law mother-in-law
  • shopping + mall shopping mall
There are no specific rules for hyphenated compounds. Generally, some new and original compound nouns are hyphenated, but the hyphen is ignored when they become more familiar. However, there are some compound adjectives that are always hyphenated. For instance: state-of-the-art. The hyphen is often retained when two vowels come together, such as: Co-operation. Hyphens are often used to tell the ages of people and things, for example: 10-year-old. The general rule is that words are combined with hyphens to avoid confusion.

Borrowing

This refers to the words adopted from other languages. There are two types of borrowings:
  1. Loan-word: By this process a word is borrowed from another language without translating it into the target language. For example: the phrase tour-de-force is borrowed directly from French, which means a masterly or brilliant feat.
  2. Loan-translation: Also known as calque, a morphological process wherein a word or phrase from another language is borrowed by literally translating it into the target language. For example: the phrase point of view has been translated into English from the French phrase point de vue.

Coinage

Also called invention, is a morphological process by which new words are invented. Sometimes popular trademark names of various products are adopted by people so extensively that they ultimately become the everyday words of language. For example:
  • Heroin
  • Aspirin
  • Escalator
  • Xerox
  • Kerosene
  • Nylon
  • Band-Aid
  • Vaseline
  • Margarine
  • Videotape
Again, some words are being invented due to rapid cultural changes and the spread of information technology, mass media, internet, etc. For example:
  • Google
  • Blog
  • Hotspot
  • Netbook
  • Tablet
  • Tweet
  • Emoticon
  • Smartphone

Blending

Blending (also called portmanteau) is a morphological process in which the parts of two or more words are combined together to form a new word. Usually the parts consist of the beginning of one word and the end of the other word(s). Typically, the meaning of the blended word reverberates with the meanings of the original words. For example:
  • breakfast + lunch → brunch
  • motor+hotel → motel
However, blending should not be confused with compounding, which combines two words without truncation of parts of the roots of the blended words.

Acronyms

These words are formed with the initial letters or each of the major parts of a word or a longer phrase. With a few exceptions, acronyms are usually capitalized. Some linguists confuse acronyms with initialisms, which are also abbreviations formed in the similar manner as the former. In essence, there is a sharp difference between the two. In language, an acronym is pronounced as a single word rather than just a sequence of individual letters, which is characteristic of initialisms. For example:
Acronyms:
  • United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization → UNESCO
  • Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation → Laser
  • International Criminal Police Organization → Interpol
Initialisms:
  • Personal Computer → PC
  • Asian Development Bank → ADB
  • Liquid Crystal Display → LCD

Reduplication

Reduplication (also called cloning; doubling; duplication; repetition; tautonym) is a word formation process in which a new word is created by repeating all or part of a root or a stem, often with a change of vowel or initial consonant. Reduplication is not a major means of creating lexemes in English, but it is perhaps the most unusual one. Based on their usage, the techniques of reduplication could be classified in the following manner:
  1. Repetition without Change: bye-bye, tick-tick
  2. Rhyming Reduplication: ding-dong, super-duper, bow-wow
  3. Repetition with Change of Vowel: tiptop, chitchat, flip-flop, ping-pong, dilly-dally, wishy-washy
  4. Repetition with Change of Initial Consonant: teeny-weeny

 

 

 

References

“English Word Formation Processes.” Really Learn English. 2016. Really-Learn-English.com.
14 July 2016 <http://www.really-learn-english.com/word-formation-processes.html>.

 “Inflection.” Wikipedia. 2016. Wikimedia Foundation Inc. 14 July 2016
<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inflection>.

“Morphological Derivation.” Wikipedia. 2016. Wikimedia Foundation Inc. 14 July 2016
<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Morphological_derivation>.

Yule, George. The Study of Language. 2nd ed. Cambridge: CUP, 1996.

“Word Formation.” Wikipedia. 2016. Wikimedia Foundation Inc. 14 July 2016
<https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Word_formation>.
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