Analysing characters

Explicit meaning

If you are analysing a character, you should look at what the writer tells you outright and what you can read between the lines. This is known as explicit and implicit meaning.

Something that is explicit is stated directly and is clear in meaning. For example, explicit meaning can make clear that a character is good, bad, cruel, generous or mean – whatever the story needs.

In the extract below, what do you learn about the character of Jim Wellings?

Jim Wellings was not a man to be glanced at. But nor was he a man to be stared at. To say he was a big man is like calling Buckingham Palace a big house. He was a man who filled whatever space there was. He wasn't fat, though; just big.

When thinking about a question like this, you may have lots of ideas but you need to be able to explain them clearly. An effective way of doing this is to use PEA.

PEA stands for:

  • point
  • evidence (a quotation)
  • analysis

Point

When planning a piece of writing based on something you've read, you first need to come up with the point of your argument. For example, Jim Wellings is not a man to be glanced at.

Evidence

Once you have decided on the point that you want to make, you will then need to show evidence from the text which backs up your point. For example, 'He was a man that filled whatever space there was. He wasn't fat, though; just big.'

Analysis

Your analysis will be a closing statement, showing the outcome of your argument. For example, the text states that Jim Wellings is not a man to be glanced at. This is evidenced by the statement that reads, 'He was a man that filled whatever space there was. He wasn't fat, though; just big.' The writer is emphasising Jim's size, to highlight his imposing nature and provide us, the reader, with a sense of fear and respect.

Members of the band Pickering White use the point, evidence and analysis technique to analyse Magwitch's character in Great Expectations by Charles Dickens