Revision Guide: What is Characterization?


Welcome to part 6 of our Revision Guide for GCSE & IGCSE English Language: What is Characterization?


What is characterization?

  • How the writer presents a real & effective character using a variety of literary devices.

  • The effect this has on the reader.

  • The deeper meaning of a character. How s/he relates to the themes of the text.


How to find evidence of characterization in a prose text (extract or short story).

  • How the character is described by the narrator, him/herself & by other characters.(physically, mentally, emotionally & spiritually).

  • What the character say & thinks (dialogue, monologue & indirect speech).

  • Which literary techniques does the writer use to effectively describe the character?

  • Look for any contradictions within the character. These make a character seem real.

  • The setting: Does it reflect or contrast with the character ?

  • The characters: Do they reflect or contrast with any of the other characters?

  • How does the character develop & change.

  • Sometimes the character's name can reflect & emphasize their personality.


EXAMPLES: What do you think about these names?

  1. Miss Havisham

  2. Scrooge

  3. Sherlock Holmes


Miss Havisham


"the witch of the place"

(Great Expectations by Charles Dickens)


How to respond to characterization in a prose text.

Respond in 3 ways

1. Identify:

Which literary technique has Dickens used?

A metaphor

* if you are not sure how to answer this please *See our Revision Guide: Part 2 & 3.

2. Analyse:

What effect does this metaphor have on you? How does it make you feel? First impressions are important.

*If you are not sure how to answer this* See our Revision Guide: Part 3.

3. Connect:

For Top Marks connect characterization to the theme. In a prose extract question this is not always easy. When the theme is unclear you must infer.

* If you are not sure how to answer this* See our Revision Guide: Part 4.


Respond to the following examples: Don't forget to Identify-Analyse-Connect!


"On this day of the year, long before you were born, this heap of decay...was bought here. It and I have worn away together. The mice have gnawed it, & sharper teeth than teeth of mice have gnawed at me."

(Miss Havisham)


Respond in 3 ways


What literary techniques or elements has Dickens used?


What effect does this have on you?

3.Connect: For extra marks always try to connect your comments to the theme or the inferred theme of the text.



(Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens)


For most of "Christmas Carol" Scrooge is portrayed as a cold & unkind miser who despises Christmas.


"The cold within him froze his old features."


Scrooge is "cold" on all levels. The setting of his office also reflects & emphasizes Scrooge's cold heart. His badly treated clerk, Bob Cratchit has to work long hours in a freezing office. By the end of the tale Scrooge is a completely reformed & redeemed character. Scrooge has thawed & shares physical, emotional & spiritual warmth with everyone.

"make up the fires, & buy another coal-scuttle before you dot another i, Bob Cratchit"


What effect does the contrast of cold & warmth have on you, the reader?

1. Identify

2. Analyse.

3. Connect


Sherlock Holmes

(The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle)


"He never spoke of the softer passions, save with a gibe & a sneer."


What does this tell the reader about Sherlock?

1. Identify

2. Analyse

3. Connect


Practice by reading past papers.

Practice with your friends.

Check out our other Revision Guides & our Top Revision Tips.




Thank you for reading. Good Luck with your revision. Contact us if you have any questions or would like to book a revision lesson with us .

#Revision #RevisionGuide #LiteraryTerms

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