Character analysis is the scholarly examination of the physical, social, psychological, and ancillary elements of a character within a fictional text. A character analysis is one of the central elements of basic literary scholarship and is a featured aspect of most schools of criticism, including formalist, post-modernist, deconstructionist and Marxist theory. A character analysis can encompass all elements of a character given in a text, or it may focus on one or two elements only. A thorough analysis may also include hypothetical commentary that questions aspects of a character that are not explicitly given within a text.
Most types of character analysis focus on the character's conflict within the narrative of the text. The scholar may consider who or what the character is struggling against and whether this struggle provides the character with a static or dynamic nature. A static character does not change physically or psychologically in the midst of a conflict. A dynamic character, on the other hand, is explicitly altered in some way by the struggle or conflict. A character analysis will likely discuss and analyze the nature of the conflict and the changes that it engenders in the character.
A character analysis will also focus on specific traits, such morality, motivation, temperament and perspective. These traits compel the character to act. The literary scholar might examine whether the character acts morally or ethically within the context of the society presented in the narrative and how events in that narrative shape and are shaped by the character's actions.
A literary scholar can also incorporate a specific type of criticism in a character analysis. The same character can be examined through different critical lenses. For example, a formalist scholar might examine how a character's dialogue and interaction with other characters shape the narrative and what the language the author uses reveals about that character. A Marxist scholar, on the other hand, might look at that same character and see other traits of the character based upon social and political elements within and beyond the narrative.
While the basics of a character analysis focus on character traits and the interactions of the character, such an analysis is not necessarily confined to these considerations. Often, the moral and ethical framework of the critic is incorporated into the analysis, either intentionally or accidentally, in order to place the character's story in a wider context for readers. The elements of a good character analysis invariably incorporate the judgments and biases of the scholar conducting the analysis, though collective critical consensus evens out disparities over time.