Difference Between Flat and Round Characters

Main Difference – Flat vs Round Characters

Characters are a vital component of any literary work. Characters can be sorted into different types according to their creation and development. Flat and round characters are one such classification. Static and dynamic characters are another classification. These two terms, flat characters and round characters, were first used by E. M Forster in his book, Aspects of the novel. Flat characters are two-dimensional, relatively uncomplicated figures whereas round characters are complex characters with many different characteristics. This is the main difference between flat and round characters.Difference Between Flat and Round Characters - infographic

Who is a Flat Character

A flat character is a character that is uncomplicated and remains the same throughout the fictional work. A flat character is also characterized by only by one or two traits. Although the term flat character is often used in a negative sense by modern critics, E.M Foster, who was the first to propose these terms, merely uses the term to describe a character who can be summed up in a sentence.

Foster also points out some advantages of flat characters: flat characters are easily recognized. They are also easily remembered since they don’t change. He also states that flat characters can be used best as comic characters. “A serious or tragic flat character is apt to be a bore.”  He uses the character of Mrs. Micawber in Charles Dickens’s David Copperfield as an example of flat characters. Gollum in the Lord of the Rings and Olaf in Frozen are some other examples of flat characters.

Difference Between Flat and Round Characters

Gollum in the Lord of the Rings – an example of flat character

Who is a Round Character

A round character is a complex character who has many different qualities. He or she may even contradictory. A round character cannot be summed up in a sentence or two. Round characters often tend to be dynamic characters since they undergo a change in the novel.

As E.M. Foster says, “The test of a round character is whether it is capable of surprising in a convincing way.”  A round character can surprise the readers since he or she is not stereotypical and predictable. Hamlet in Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Elizabeth Bennet in Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, Katniss Everdeen in Suzanne Collin’s Hunger Games, and Madame Bovary in Flaubert’s Madame Bovary are examples of round characters.

Main Difference - Flat vs Round Characters

Elizabeth Bennet in Pride and Prejudice is an example of round character

Difference Between  Flat and Round Characters

Definition

Flat character is an uncomplicated, two-dimensional character who may not be fully delineated by the author.

Round character is a complex character whose personality, motives and other features are fully delineated by the author. 

Complexity

Flat characters are uncomplicated.

Round characters are complex.

Change

Flat characters remain the same throughout the work.

Round characters undergo change.

Traits

Flat characters are characterized by one or two traits.

Round characters are characterized by many different, even contradictory character traits.

Summing Up

Flat characters can be summed in one or two sentences.

Round characters cannot be summed up easily.

Static vs Dynamic

Flat characters tend to be static.

Round characters tend to be dynamic characters.

Surprise

Flat characters cannot surprise the readers since they are predictable.

Round characters can surprise the readers.

Reference:

Forster, Edward Morgan. “Aspects of thé Novel.” (1927).

Image Courtesy:

“Elisabeth Bennet” By C. E. Brock – Scans from the book at Pemberley.com (Public Domain) via

“Gollum’s journey commences” By Frédéric Bennett – via

About the Author: Hasa

Hasa has a BA degree in English, French and Translation studies. She is currently reading for a Masters degree in English. Her areas of interests include literature, language, linguistics and also food.


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