What Are Examples of Direct Characterization?

Direct characterization occurs when the narrator or a character directly tells the audience about a character, as in “Romeo and Juliet” when Mercutio describes his adversary Tybalt in detail. Similarly, in the short story “The Story of an Hour,” the narrator directly tells the audience that “Mrs. Mallard was afflicted with a heart trouble.” By contrast, indirect characterization shows what the character does and lets the audience infer characterization.

In works of fiction, authors employ a wide variety of strategies to create and present characters to audiences. In general, authors use some combination of both direct and indirect characterization to describe characters.

Usually, if physical attributes of characters are specifically explained, then the author is using direct characterization. For example, in “Romeo and Juliet,” the Nurse directly characterizes Romeo when she says, “his face be better than any man’s.” Similarly, when authors’ narrators or characters use adjectives to describe a state of being or emotion, it is most often direct characterization, but when the emotion is portrayed through an action, it is indirect characterization. In Kate Chopin’s “The Story of an Hour” the narrator tells how Mrs. Mallard’s heart beats and how her breathing changes instead of saying, “she was happy” or “she was sad.” Because the audience has to infer, that is an example of indirect characterization.