Stereotype Activities: Why do Authors Stereotype Characters?

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What is a Stereotype?

  • A stereotype is an oversimplified and fixed idea of what a particular group of people are like or do. Stereotypes take into account characteristics, personality types, or behaviors.
  • Stereotypes have been used in the past to justify prejudicial attitudes and beliefs.
  • Authors use character stereotypes to help readers understand what is happening. For example, if a story contains an overweight businessman who wears suits and smokes large cigars, the reader immediately recognizes a greedy person with no feelings. In literature, stereotyped characters are also called stock characters.

Stereotype Characters v. Reality

Stereotype: As I write this article in a coffee shop while chain-smoking, I call my friend Jaques who took his laptop to the mountains and is probably staring inquisitively into the sky waiting for inspiration. My friend Orlando walks in and throws a deck of cards on the table. I see the Jack of Hearts. I have now discovered the premise for my best selling novel. I head out to my Volkswagon Bus and hammer away on my typewriter. I’m an artist.

Reality: I neither smoke nor drink coffee. My wife got angry last week because I bought a Red Bull for a $1.99. That was the last one I ever drank. I have no friends (named Jaques or Orlando). Inspiration has yet to strike. I don’t even play cards. I’m in my office typing up stereotype activities I did last year. I drive a Honda Odyssey. I write for money.

Stereotype Characters v Reality, Part 2

Stereotype: I am an English teacher. I can’t wait to ruin somebody’s day tomorrow. After school I’m going to read essays for 6 hours and use the ink in all 23 of my red pens. When I get home, I’m going to discuss Pride and Prejudice with my wife, Millicent. Then we’re going to analyze poems for three hours and write a stereotype activities lesson plan. I eat beans and rice every night for dinner because that’s all I can afford.

Reality: I am an English teacher. I enjoy teaching and look forward to helping young scholars tomorrow. After school I’m going to read essays for about 15-minutes and start crying. I use green pens. When I get home, I’m going to read Dr. Seuss to my son and jump on the trampoline. I will not even think of lesson plans. I eat rice and beans about once a week because they taste good.

Stereotype Activities

Use the following activity before reading a work that contains stereotypes:

  1. Make a chart:
    • Column 1: Type of person
    • Column 2: Stereotype
    • Column 3: Reality
    • Column 4: positive or negative
  2. Here are some ideas:
    • Teacher: see above
    • Businessperson - Stereotype: sits around in a suit, makes tons of money, thinks only about money; Reality: works very hard, provides opportunity and jobs for thousands; thinks about things most people think about–family, friends, economic stability.
    • Lawyer - Stereotype: eloquent, good looking, spends all day in the court room prosecuting or defending high profile criminals; Reality: mostly mundane work, spends all day negotiating, doing paperwork, and occassionally going to court.
    • Doctor - Stereotype: wears a lab coat, saves lives, performs surgery, dates beautiful nurses; Reality: wears regular clothes, spends more time checking for hernias than performing surgery, dates women in many careers.
  3. Your list can also include race, ethnic, and religious groups. Be sensitive.
  4. Make a similar chart as you read. Find stereotyped characters and complete a similar chart.

This post is part of the series: Language Arts lesson Plans

Check out these language arts lesson plans.

  1. Literature Lesson Plan: Teaching Symbolism
  2. Write an Eyewitness Account to Make Teaching Point of View Fun
  3. Lesson Plan: Stereotype Characters Activity
  4. Lesson Plan: Analyzing Humor in Literature
  5. Strategies for Analyzing Shakespeare’s Literary Devices