What is a Flat Character? Definition, Examples of Flat Characters

Flat character definition: A flat character can be defined as a character with little complexity to his personality.

What is a Flat Character?

Flat characters lack complexity in their personality and do not change throughout the course of the text. Oftentimes, the flat characters in a piece will be the minor characters.

Flat Character Example

In William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, the servants can be described as flat characters. They play small roles in the text and do not possess the same complexity as the main characters.

Because flat characters lack the dimension of a more complex, round character, they often exhibit stereotypical personalities such as:

  • The own gossip
  • A popular high school jock
  • The funny, awkward nerd
  • Funny guy
  • A villain

Modern Examples of Flat Characters

In Disney’s Finding Nemo, the sea turtle, Crush, is an example of a flat character. Crush personifies the stereotypical “surfer-dude” in the film with his constant use of the word “dude”. This turtle is a minor character in the film and does not have complexity to his personality like the main characters. Instead, he is there to add support to them on their adventure.

Another example of a flat character would be the character Newman from Seinfeld. Newman’s character is one of an annoying villain to the show’s protagonist Jerry Seinfeld. In the episodes that he appears, Newman shows the same characteristics such as being sinister in a comedic manner.

The Function of Flat Characters in Literature

Flat characters function in the sense that they support the main characters. In the text, flat characters add balance to the piece. In many situations such as the example of Newman from Seinfeld and the servants in Romeo and Juliet, the flat characters often bring comedy to the piece as well as a break from the constant action and drama.

Examples of Flat Characters in Literature

In the novel To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, the character Miss Stephanie Crawford is labeled as a flat character. She is characterized in the book as the town gossip. By including her in the story, the reader is able to receive additional viewpoints of the community during a controversial time, and it adds depth the town by showing the different residing citizens.

In the short story “The Most Dangerous Game”, the mute servant, Ivan, is a flat character. His personality is limited to being the strong yet unintelligent servant of the General Zaroff. By adding such a flat character, it creates an additional amount of suspense and fear to the situation of Rainsford being trapped on a remote island with these two dangerous men.

Summary: What Are Flat Characters?

Define flat characters in literature: Flat characters are those in which the author has minimally developed. This lack of complexity allows for them to support the main, more complex characters and to add balance to the story.

Final Example:

In the movie The Wizard of Oz, the Wicked Witch of the West is an example of a flat character. She is no more than the villain of the piece who attempts to sabotage Dorothy and her friends. By including this flat character, it creates conflict in the story.