Tag Archives: character analysis

Descriptive Character Analysis

“Mr. Alfred Thipps was a small, nervous man, whose flaxen hair was beginning to abandon the unequal struggle with destiny. One might say that his only really marked feature was a large bruise over the left eyebrow, which gave him a faintly dissipated air incongruous with the rest of his appearance. Almost in the same breath with his first greeting, he made a self-conscious apology for it, murmuring something about having run against the dining-room door in the dark. He was touched almost to tears by Lord Peter’s thoughtfulness and condescension in calling.” (Sayers 4)

Sayers, Dorothy. Whose Body? 1923. Reprint, New York: Dover, 2009.

This was featured within the first chapter of the novel and they described the character in much detail. As the story progresses there are chapters when Sayer writes a description of other characters in full detail. The way she describes Mr. Alfred Thipps as a “small, nervous man…his only really marked feature was a large bruise over the left eyebrow,” helps the reader imagine how the character would look if he was real. Through this story, the reader can enjoy the plot by imagining the scenario in his or her mind through the vivid descriptions of the characters. In James Joyce’s novel it was hard to picture or imagine any of the character’s because they were not described in full detail. We were given that they were either “old or young, mean or nice, boring or fun,” but we were never given details of how they looked or how they act. The quote, “almost in the same breath with his first greeting, he made a self-conscious apology for it, murmuring something about having run against the dining-room door in the dark,” describes his actions in full detail as well. Instead of just stating, “he was murmuring,” the author is very outlined. The descriptions make the novel more interesting as it does not make the reader wonder what kind of character one is and the descriptions help the reader follow the scenario without feeling lost. It becomes hard to forget who the character’s are because we are provided with thorough and specific details that it makes it easier to distinguish each and every character.

Irony in Jane Harden’s Character

“But what could you expect when Melanctha had such a brute of a black nigger father, and Melanctha was always abusing her father and yet she was just like him, and really she admired him so much and he never had any sense of what he owed to anybody, and Melanctha was just like him and she was proud of it too, and it made Jane so tired to hear Melanctha talk all the time as if she wasn’t(p. 64).”

“Jeff Campbell did everything he could for Jane Harden. He did not care much to hear about Melanctha. He had no feeling, much, about her. He did not find that he took any interest in her. Jane Hardin was so much a stronger woman, and Jane really had had a good mind, and she has used it to do things with it, before this drinking business had taken such a hold upon her(p 65).”

Stein, Gertrude. “Melanctha.” Three lives. New York: Dover Publications, 1994. 64-65. Print.

The shifts in perspective within Stein’s writing allow characterizations of certain characters over multiple pages and in completely different paragraphs. In this passage that spans from page 64 to page 65 captures this irony in Jane Harden’s thinking. From Jane Harden’s point of view, we see Jane’s thoughts on Melanctha that she has a good mind but does not put it to good use. On the other hand, Jeff Campbell feels that same about Melanctha, but we also are reminded that Jane is a college educated woman that did have a good mind by Jeff Campbell. We see the irony in her thinking that a good mind is wasted if not put to use, while she does not recognize this about herself. This is only possible through Stein’s repetition of this same scenario while changing perspective of the character’s in her story.