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Characterization and Role


Definition of Terms

Character refers to any person, object or animal that takes part in a story. A character may either be real or fictitious (imaginary).

Characterization is the description of a person’s personality or behaviour. This does not include their physical appearance or social status. Therefore adjectives like tall, dark, rich or beautiful cannot be used to describe a person’s personality. Adjectives that describe a person’s character are called character traits or personality traits. Examples of character traits are: arrogant, proud, sympathetic, generous, honest, cowardly, timid etc.

When dealing with characterization, we can tell a the character traits of a character through;

  1. What the character does i.e. through his/her actions.
  2. What he/she says i.e. through their choice of words and language
  3. What other people say about the character. (although not always reliable)
  4. What the author says about that character.
  5. What the character thinks; their inner thoughts and feelings about others or life in general.

Characters can generally be described as major or minor. Major characters are those that appear often in the text while minor ones are those that appear in a few places in the text. For example, Akoko is a major character while Nyar Asembo is a minor character.

The main character in a novel or play is called the protagonist. In most cases, the protagonist will have another character(s) that is against him/her. This character(s) is called the antagonist(s). For example, in the ‘The River and the Source”, Akoko is the protagonist while her main antagonist is Otieno Kembo.

A character can also be described as round or flat.   A round character is one who is fully developed and has many character traits some even contradicting each other e.g. He may be kind and cruel at the same time. A flat character on the other hand is one who is not fully developed and possesses only few traits and hence behaves in only one way and not the other.

A character may also be described as static or dynamic. A static character is one who does not change their behaviour in any way from the start of the story to the end. A dynamic character however changes their behaviour as the story progresses. A dynamic character is therefore more developed than a static one.

The author creates his characters with a purpose in the novel or play. Every character therefore plays a part in the development of the plot, themes and the structure of the story. This part is called the role of the character. Therefore, without the characters playing their roles, the story would not be complete.

In The River and the Source, we have the following major characters and their character traits:

1. Akoko

2. Maria Nyabera

3. Elizabeth Awiti

4. Chief Owuor Kembo

5. Obura Kembo

6. Owang’ Sino Kembo

7. Mark Anthony Sigu

8. Aoro Sigu

9. Veronicah Sigu

10. Rebeccah Sigu

11. Peter Owuor Kembo (Owuor Sino)

12. Wandia

13. Otieno Kembo

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