Direct Characterization: Definition & Examples

An error occurred trying to load this video.

Try refreshing the page, or contact customer support.

Coming up next: Anna of the Five Towns by Arnold Bennett: Synopsis & Analysis

You're on a roll. Keep up the good work!

Take Quiz Watch Next Lesson
Your next lesson will play in 10 seconds
  • 0:03 Definition of Direct…
  • 1:05 Examples of Direct…
  • 2:20 Literary Example of…
  • 3:32 Lesson Summary
Add to Add to Add to

Want to watch this again later?

Log in or sign up to add this lesson to a Custom Course.

Login or Sign up


Recommended Lessons and Courses for You

Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Amy Anderson
In this lesson, you will learn how an author directly establishes characterization. Unlike a lot of other literary devices, direct characterization is fairly easy to spot. Check your understanding of the lesson with a short quiz at the end.

Definition of Direct Characterization

Direct characterization is how an author tells his or her reader about a character. Direct characterization occurs when the author specifically reveals traits about the character in a direct, straightforward manner. Direct characterization is also important in showing the character's motivation. Motivation refers to what characters want, fear, love, and hate.

Indirect characterization is very different. This is when authors indirectly portray characters using dialogue, appearance, actions, relationships, and overall place in the world. For example, stating that a student bit her pencil and began shaking right before a big test is a way of indirectly describing her nervousness. In contrast, direct characterization would be to outright call her an extremely nervous student. You can think of direct characterization as telling the reader something about the character and indirect characterization as showing the reader something about the character.

Examples of Direct Characterization

Here are some examples of direct characterization:

1. Karen is bright, energetic, and helpful.

Here, the writer uses adjectives to describe who Karen is as a character.

2. Joe was motivated by money. He had no use for love or family.

The sentence above directly states the character of Joe by telling us what motivates him: money.

3. While Jill loved Bradley, she knew she was not the marrying kind.

Here we are presented with a character who is pulled in two directions. The writer directly lets us know Jill's internal conflict through direct characterization. Internal conflicts refer to the mental and emotional struggles or conflicts a character faces.

4. Raheem is often distracted, but one thing he stays focused on is girls.

This character is described with the adjective 'distracted,' and then Raheem is also described as being a player.

5. When Jill's mother was diagnosed with cancer, Jill felt that the world as she knew it had ended.

Here the author refers to a past event to give context to Jill's state of mind.

Literary Example of Direct Characterization

Check out this passage from To Kill a Mockingbird, where the young narrator, Scout, describes her aunt:

To unlock this lesson you must be a Member.
Create your account

Register to view this lesson

Are you a student or a teacher?

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 30 million people use

Become a member and start learning now.
Become a Member  Back
What teachers are saying about
Try it risk-free for 30 days

Earning College Credit

Did you know… We have over 160 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 1,500 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.

To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page

Transferring credit to the school of your choice

Not sure what college you want to attend yet? has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.

Create an account to start this course today
Try it risk-free for 30 days!
Create An Account