Flat character

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A flat character is one who lacks a complex and realistic personality.



Coined by E.M. Forster, a flat character is a term referring to a character who boasts no mental or emotional development. Much like a stock character, a flat character exhibits strong defining characteristics, speech habits, and the like, but still falls short of the complexity of a round character.


Classic examples of flat characters can be found in any of Charles Dickens's novels, with characters many times identifiable by their own personal "catch phrase." Examples include Great Expectations with Mrs. Joe's frequent comment to Pip, "who brought you up by hand" and Our Mutual Friend whose Rogue Riderhood makes his living "by the sweat of his brow."

These characters are what Forster would term as "flat" because of their lack of psychological development throughout a story arc and their one-dimensional, almost predictable natures.

Critical Debates

{is the term contested, challenged, defined differently, etc.?}

Related Terms

stock character, round character


Forster, E.M. Aspects of the Novel.

Prince, Gerald. Dictionary of Narratology.

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