Flat and Round Character Types
There are two main ways that characters can be manifested in any given story; these are ‘flat’ or
‘round.’ Since they are designed by the author, the attributes they have will seldom be accidental.
They will be modeled in a specific way so as to ensure they fit well within the story line and
serve to compliment it at the same time. Flat characters can be said to be those whose portrayal is
more of one-dimensional. This is much like the literal meaning of a flat object which can only be
viewed from limited angles.
Round characters on the other hand have multiple attributes assigned to them; at times these
attributes will completely oppose each other. Round characters will be perceived differently
when analyzed from different angles. Another key difference between flat and round actors is the
degree of predictability attributed to each of them. Flat characters tend to be more predictable
while round characters will often surprise the audience or readership as different aspects of their
lives or personality get unraveled in the course of the story.
The Story “Boarding House” has good examples of rounded characters. This is because of the
duality of their roles. This is seen in the actions of Mrs. Mooney, Polly her daughter, Mr. Doran
and also the Priest to some extent. Mrs. Mooney for one is the mother of Polly and her brother
Jack. She is initially cast as a loving mother who is doing everything she can to provide for her
family. In this case that is the starting of a boarding house. Her other side however creeps up
pretty fast and she comes off as quite the schemer. Her moving of the daughter Polly to the
boarding house seems innocent but it is in fact not innocent as she is brought there to be some
form of entertainment and that could very well be a euphemism for prostitution. The scheming
nature is seen once again when she cautiously watches her daughter’s relationship with Mr.
Doring (James, 2013). Mr. Doring is another rounded character. On one hand he evokes the
image of a confidence often associated with successful businesses such as him. Behind closed
doors however he is comes off as a man full of insecurities with respect to what society thinks of
In “The Horse Dealer’s daughter” however, the characters can be said to be flat. The main
characters are Mabel and the Doctor and both of them appear to present a uni-dimensional
personality throughout the story. Mabel is the sad and lonely girl from the funeral all the way to
her encounter with the doctor while he maintains the concerned and overly sensitive personality
throughout the story.
Symbol is a stylistic device used in literature where an object included by the author or otherwise
will have more than one layer of meaning. This is the literal meaning which is carried by the
surface translation or definition of words used. There is also the hidden meaning which is
determined by the context within which any given symbol has been used. The story the horse
dealer’s daughter has a good example of symbolism.
The key form of symbolism in this story is the cemetery where Mabel’s parents are buried. In a
world where there are so many ‘happier’ places she could go to, she seems to find solace and
peace at the her mother’s graveside. This cemetery therefore symbolizes the sadness in her heart.
Graves are usually associated with pain, sorrow and for some people superstition. For her
however this was the most comfortable place she could be, meaning she had been accustomed to
such pain in her life.
Points of View
In literature, the point of view is the perspective taken by the seen or unseen narrator in any
story. The manner in which the narrator tells the story is very important in helping to accomplish
the objective of the author and at the same time enhance the audience’s experience. Point of view
has an impact on the amount of information the narrator is giving about the characters as well as
the different contexts within a story. The point of view may be omniscient, first person or third
The point of view used in this story, “The Boarding House” is omniscient. The narrator appears
to know the characters inside out but reveals details in piece-meal. The actions of the characters
are accompanied by lengthy explanations on what was going on in their minds as well as the
historical experiences that led them to make such decisions. The actions of the Madam, her
daughter and the suitor are all accompanied by descriptions of what their thoughts were.
The story “The Horse Dealer’s Daughter” employs selective omniscient since the narrator only
seems to be hyper-aware of the lives of two characters more than others. The narrator seems to
have additional information on the thoughts guiding the actions of the doctor and Mabel, the
recently orphaned girl (Herbert, 5).
Joyce, James. The Boarding House. Creative Education, 1982.
Lawrence, David Herbert. The Horse-Dealer’s Daughter. Best Classic Books, 1922.