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Character Analysis Essay

Educational Benefits:

  • synthesis, analysis, all that jazz
  • teaches correct MLA documentation - I found this a beneficial precursor to the research paper, because it allowed me to correct plagiarism/improper documentation/quotation problems before we dealt with multiple sources in a high-stakes project
  • simple essay structure allows us to focus on using documentation effectively and smoothly
  • handouts (approximations below)


  1. Warn students, prior to completing the novel, they will be writing a character analysis essay and advise them to think about a character they'd like to write about.
  2. Once they've finished the novel, give them the instructions/requirements. (below)
  3. I usually do a lot of talking/questioning, both group and one-on-one, during steps two and three.
  4. Once they've chosen their characters, I often have them get into character groups to work on step four. I don't care if they have the same quotes or help each other find quotes. Their papers won't be the same (read threatening tone). Also, when a student gets stuck, I'll put it to the whole class, "Can anyone remember a time when Petra was sensitive?" or "Does anyone know the page number when Bean spouts off to Ender?" They must turn these in before they begin writing the paper. The hope is, with all that work done, they can easily make the transition to writing.
  5. The rest is just your typical paper writing routine: computer lab, rough draft, peer review, sample paragraphs on overhead to praise/denounce, stern lecture about revising more than just grammatical errors, final draft, whatever you see fit.

2 handouts for your modification: (copy & paste)

Character Analysis Essay

Step One: choose a character - one you like, one you hate, one you feel strongly about

Step Two: figure out what you want to say about that character

Is he/she noble? deplorable? a good leader? a bad one? Why did/didn't he/she make it to battle school? Why should/shouldn't have he/she made it to Battle School? How has he/she grown/changed? Why could/couldn't he/she have been the One?

Step Three: write a thesis = organize your paper

Option A - organize paper around three central traits or major characteristics

Sample Thesis: Ender is a good leader because he is X, Y, and Z.

Option B - organize you paper around character growth

(It is important to stress the actual changes as they are shown, but at the same time avoid simply summarizing or retelling the story.)

Sample Thesis: Bean changes from a X, to a Y, and finally, to a Z.

Option C - do something more sophisticated, but be sure to check it out with me 1st

Step Four: collect your proof

Collect 3-5 direct quotes with page numbers of words, thoughts, or actions that demonstrate the character trait you claim the character has. After each quote, explain how the quote demonstrates it. Find 3-5 for each character trait.

Step Five: begin writing your paper being sure to use proper MLA citation methods

Reminders about writing BODY PARAGRAPHS:

#1 Topic Sentence - should cover everything that will be discussed in that paragraph AND directly support the thesis

#2 Examples/Details - use specific times in the story when the character trait is shown - choose the best examples from your sheet

Three categories of details:

WORDS - what the character says, or what is said about the character

THOUGHTS - what the character thinks

ACTIONS - what the character actually does

Quote examples of the words, thoughts or actions in the paragraphs you write as proof of the trait.

Two categories of quotes:

DIRECT QUOTE - copy word for word what is in the book
  • put what you copy in quotes ( "xxxx" )
  • put the page number you copied the quote from

"Julie forgot the combination after Christmas break" (43).


  • use your words to describe a specific event
  • use page numbers even though it is not word for word

After Christmas break, Julie couldn't remember her locker combo (43).

#3 Explanations - be sure to explain what the quote/detail demonstrates or shows.

Make the point you want to make. Lead the reader to the conclusion you want him/her to reach: don't expect your reader to just "get it."

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