What Is a Round Character? Lifelike Examples in Fiction

Everyone loves characters who seem real, and these round character examples can help you understand what qualities make a character relatable and realistic. Learn how this type of character is different from a flat character and find out how to identify round characters when you read.

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What Is a Round Character?

While flat characters are two-dimensional and fairly simple, round characters are much more complex. Just like real people, these characters have traits that seem incongruous sometimes. They aren’t all good or all evil. Instead, they may have a combination of good and bad personality traits. They face conflict with other characters or forces, allowing the writer to reveal more about them.

Most round characters are also dynamic characters, although this isn’t always the case. Dynamic characters change over time, transforming and developing over the course of the story. When a dynamic character encounters conflict in the story, he or she is changed by that experience. This works well in further developing a round character or in transforming a flat character into a round character.

15 Round Character Examples You’ll Love

Also known as complex characters, round characters are some of the most beloved personalities in literature. You’ll see them in many of the most famous literary works, and they make great candidates for character analysis essays.

Elizabeth Bennet in Pride and Prejudice

In Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen created one of the most beloved characters of all time: Elizabeth Bennet. Although Elizabeth has a tendency to judge people before she knows them, she also deeply loves those she truly knows. Over the course of the story, she learns about her own prejudices and begins to change.

Gandalf in Lord of the Rings

Deeply wise and a fine leader, Gandalf is one of the most memorable characters in J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy. Gandalf is far from perfect. He angers quickly and sometimes makes mistakes, but he’s also kind and has a wonderful sense of humor.

Jay Gatsby in The Great Gatsby

F. Scott Fitzgerald created an incredibly complex character in the form of Jay Gatsby. At times, he appears confident and friendly, a happy man with many friends. At other points, he seems vulnerable and afraid. The result is a character who seems human.

Anne Shirley in Anne of Green Gables

L.M. Montgomery created one of the most beloved characters of all time in the form of Anne Shirley. By turns kind, intelligent, loyal, impulsive, thoughtless, and wild, Anne feels like a real person, and she’s unforgettable for that reason.

Hamlet 

Shakespeare created some of the most memorable characters ever written, and Hamlet is a classic. He believes he is an excellent judge of character, and yet he fails to see some of what is going on around him. He is blind to his own faults, and yet he’s appealingly vulnerable and shows kindness at times.

Scout in To Kill a Mockingbird

In the character of Scout, Harper Lee created a beloved narrator and beautiful, round character. Scout is both innocent and wise. She is outspoken and conscious of social pressure at the same time. She is a compassionate tomboy who touches the heart of everyone who reads To Kill a Mockingbird

Rhett Butler in Gone With the Wind

Although Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With the Wind is replete with flat characters, Rhett Butler is not among them. His rule-breaking roguish nature conflicts with his personal sense of ethics and expectations for marriage and love. 

Laura in Little House on the Prairie

Writing about her younger self in her series of historical fiction novels, Laura Ingalls Wilder created a realistic depiction of pioneer life from the perspective of a little girl. Although Laura is smart, loving, and highly observant, she is not perfect. She disobeys her parents, acts impulsively, and makes other human mistakes.

Mr. Rochester in Jane Eyre

Although Charlotte Bronte created a round character in the form of Jane, Mr. Rochester also has plenty of complexity. He seems reserved and even unkind at times, but it’s gradually revealed that he is tortured by unhappiness and bound by duty. He even shows tenderness and love toward Jane.

Flora Poste in Cold Comfort Farm

Stella Gibbons’ Cold Comfort Farm is full of wonderful characters, but the main character, Flora Poste, is especially human. She is nosy and convinced about her own opinions. Despite being bossy, she isn’t unkind. Her humorous view of life is endearing.

Prince Stepan Arkadyevich Oblonsky in Anna Karenina

In Prince Stepan Arkadyevich Oblonsky, Leo Tolstoy created a character that is flawed in some very human ways. He’s incredibly kind, but he’s also willing to sacrifice others’ happiness and his own honor for momentary bliss.

Becky Sharp in Vanity Fair

Beautiful, intelligent, and charismatic, Becky Sharp is one of William Makepeace Thackery’s most memorable characters. She is incredibly ambitious and conniving, and she recognizes flaws in other people and uses them to her advantage.

Randle Patrick McMurphy in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest

Ken Kesey’s most famous character, Randle Patrick McMurphy, is beloved because of his complexity. Although he’s a convicted felon and has a questionable moral code, the reader sees his true nature in his compassionate interactions with the other inmates in the mental institution. 

Holly Golightly in Breakfast at Tiffany’s

Truman Capote created a round character in the form of Holly Golightly. Although she appears to have a light-hearted and happy life, Holly is deeply lonely and sad. Like a real person, she isn’t all one thing or the other but is a mix of traits.

Sherlock Holmes in The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes

When he created Sherlock Holmes, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wrote one of the most famous characters in literature. Holmes’ powerful deductive abilities are stunning, even more than a century later. Yet, it’s his guarded emotions and fierce reliance on the analytical that make him human, not to mention his drug use.

Necessary for Understanding Characterization

Understanding round characters means studying character traits and how they influence the way a reader sees a character. Consider what makes a character good and bad and how these characteristics combine to create a complex personality that seems true to life. No study of characterization is complete without round characters.

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