Interpreting Character Development

Recognising Psychological and Emotional Changes

Characters in literature often undergo significant changes as the narrative progresses. These changes can be psychological, emotional or both, and they’re a key part of character development.

For example, in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, Edmund Pevensie starts off as a spiteful and selfish character. However, as the story unfolds, he undergoes a transformation, becoming more understanding and selfless.

Keep track of a character’s emotions, attitudes and behaviours at different points in the story. Look for changes and try to understand what caused them.

Identifying Key Events or Interactions

Key events or interactions often serve as turning points for character development. These could be conflicts, revelations or experiences that profoundly affect the character.

In Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, Harry’s discovery that he’s a wizard is a key event that sets his character development in motion. It changes his self-perception and sets him on a path of growth and discovery.

Pay attention to the events or interactions that have a significant impact on a character. How do these moments change the character’s perspective or behaviour?

Understanding Motivations, Values and Conflicts

A character’s actions and decisions are often driven by their motivations, values and conflicts. Understanding these factors can provide insight into why a character develops in a certain way.

  • Motivation – what the character wants
  • Values – what the character believes in
  • Conflicts – what obstacles the character faces

In Pride and Prejudice, Elizabeth Bennet values her independence and is motivated by her desire for genuine love. These factors drive her decisions and contribute to her growth as a character.

Ask yourself what a character wants, what they believe in and what obstacles they face. How do these elements influence the character’s development?

Analysing Character Development’s Contribution to the Theme

A character’s development often contributes to the overall theme or message of the text. By analysing this relationship, you can gain a deeper understanding of the text.

In To Kill a Mockingbird, Scout Finch’s growth from innocence to understanding mirrors the novel’s theme of the loss of innocence.

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