Avatar The Last Airbender Study: Character Development

Aang: A twelve-year-old boy who was stuck in an Iceberg for one hundred years. He is the Avatar and is tasked with defeating Fire Lord Ozai and bringing peace and harmony back to the world.

What was he like in the beginning of the series?

Being a twelve-year-old boy, he was very silly and lighthearted. He was a peacekeeper, and a problem solver. Whenever his friends or people around him were in trouble, he’d try to find creative ways to help them. He may have also been a bit self-conscious, doubting his abilities at times.

What events did he go through?

  • He had to work through his guilt of running away from his home one hundred years prior. He felt as though he was responsible for the genocide of his people and the hundred years war. His friends Sokka and Katara helped him work through his guilt.
  • He had immense pressure on him throughout the series. At twelve years old, he had to master three elements – he already mastered air bending -, defeat Fire Lord Ozai AND solve other people’s problems along the way.
  • His beliefs and views of the world were constantly challenged. He was a very gentle, caring and compassionate boy put into situations where he had to be tough and harsh. He had to learn that people aren’t always good or have the best intentions even if they were fighting on the same side.

What was he like at the end of the series?

By the end of the series, Aang – now thirteen years old- became a confident young man. He defeated the Fire Lord on his own terms and helped end the hundred years war. He stuck with many of his views and beliefs since they held up against the challenges and tests he went through. He is still kind and compassionate, but he is also wiser than he was in the beginning of the series.

Sokka: A fifteen-year-old young man from the southern water tribe. He is the man of the house since his father joined the army.

What was he like in the beginning of the series?

Sokka was the oldest boy in his tribe. He felt the responsibility to teach the other boys in his tribe the knowledge that his father passed down to him. He could also be a bit of a misogynist. He was very inventive, had pretty good critical thinking skills, but got in his own way sometimes. He was also very self-conscious, being a non bender traveling and occasionally fighting with benders.

What events did he go through?

  • His mother was killed when the fire nation raided his village -which happened a lot. Shortly after that, his father joined the army and tasked Sokka with looking after his sister Katara and his tribe.
  • Being the oldest in his group -until Zuko joined- he held the responsibility of protecting and leading his group. He’d make plans and schedules. He’d also warn the others if he didn’t trust someone.
  • He had to help fight a multitude of people, most of them being benders. Since he was a non bender, he had to think of other ways to fight. This often made him feel left out or useless.
  • He experienced potentially deadly situations, and often saw his friends and loved ones go into them as well.
  • His first love sacrificed herself to become the moon spirit when General Zhao killed it while it was in the form of a fish. This affected how he treated Suki – a Keoshi Warrior- when he met up with her on his way to Ba Sing Se. He eventually backed off when she showed him that she was tough enough to take care of herself.
  • He built up his confidence when he trained with Master Piandao.

What was he like at the end of the series?

Now a sixteen-year-old young man, Sokka is confident and has way more respect for women than he did in the beginning. He still looks after his friends and loved ones, but he also trusts them to take care of themselves.

Zuko: A sixteen year old prince searching for the Avatar and his honor.

What was he like in the beginning of the series?

Zuko was an incredibly angry, lost young man in the beginning of the series. He came from an abusive home. His own father -Fire Lord Ozai- burned almost half of his face just for speaking out of turn in a war meeting when he was just thirteen years old.

What events did he go through?

  • His father was mentally and emotionally abusive.
  • He was always compared to his sister Azula, who was a firebending prodigy. His father told him “Your sister was born lucky; you were lucky to be born!” which reinforced the idea that he was less than.
  • Azula terrorized him throughout their childhood, often telling him lies. He’d have to remind himself that he lies so that he won’t be tricked by her. She even smiled as she watched their father burn his face during an Agni Kai.
  • Shortly after the Agni Kai with his father, he was banished. He could only return if he caught the Avatar. He was given a task that seemed impossible.
  • During his three years of exile, his Uncle Iroh stayed by his side. Iroh supervised his fire bending training and looked after him in general. Iroh stepped in as a surrogate father for Zuko.
  • Zuko’s views of himself and the world were often challenged. While he was traveling the earth kingdom alone, he saw how the war that his country started affected other people. He saw people struggling, instead of ‘sharing in the wealth of the Fire Nation’. He saw families ripped apart and being taken advantage of.
  • While he was in Ba Sing Se, his uncle Iroh challenged his views of what it truly means to be honorable. He found peace for a short time, until that very lesson was challenged by his sister Azula. She offered Zuko a chance to return to his home and family as an honorable hero. He took her up on her offer, betraying his uncle.
  • When he returned home, things weren’t much better. He still felt like he was walking on eggshells around his father and found that his view of the war, his country and himself had changed. He then decided to leave his home and join the avatar. He found honor in himself and his actions. He no longer sought his fathers’ approval.

What was he like at the end of the series?

Zuko, now seventeen years old, is more confident in himself and no longer seeks his fathers’ approval. He is no longer angry or hostile. He has found peace in himself and surrounds himself with his new friends and loved ones. He has a more supportive network of people who love and care about him, which shows that he has the ability to develop healthy relationships.

Katara: A fourteen-year-old girl from the southern water tribe. She is the only waterbender in her tribe. She is loving, kind and nurturing. She took on a motherly role after her own mother was killed in a fire nation raid.

What was she like in the beginning of the series?

Katara was very sweet and caring. She looked after her group as best as she could. She was also very outspoken, didn’t hesitate to voice her feelings. She’d call anyone out if she thought they were doing something wrong. She could also be a bit naïve and self-conscious, being an untrained waterbender.

What events did she go through?

  • Her and Sokka’s mother was murdered by a fire nation soldier when they were children. Their father then joined the army shortly after.
  • She constantly cared for the group, often taking on a motherly role. This may have sometimes caused debates between her and her brother about traditional gender roles. She had no problem with taking on traditional ‘woman’s duties’ but had a major issue with the idea that she was the ONLY one who could take on those duties. She knew she could take on so much more.
  • She saw how the war affected the people and the places that she and the rest of her group had visited. She was horrified and saddened by the conditions that she had witnessed and did her best to help.
  • She as well as the rest of the group were constantly hunted by multiple people and often had to fight their way out.

I have an unpopular opinion: I don’t feel that it was uncharacteristic of Katara to go after the man who murdered her mother. Hear me out.

  • In the beginning of the episode, Katara and Sokka had to separate from their father, Hakoda for the FOURTH time in their lives. The first being shortly after their mother died. The second, when he had to go and seek out some people to help with their planned attack during the eclipse. Third time was when the attack failed and they had to retreat. Hakoda along with the other adults stayed behind to be captured and arrested by the Fire Nation. Then, shortly after Sokka and Zuko had broken Hakoda out of jail, they had to separate from him yet again as Azula attacked them. That would be the forth time that the fire nation had separated Katara’s family.
  • Expanding on my first point, Katara may have some form of separation anxiety that goes back to the day that her mother was murdered. She was in the house when the southern raider was interrogating her mother, Kya. Katara left to go find her father. When they got back to the house, her mother was dead. Some part of her may feel guilty because she left her mother alone with the southern raider. Having to separate from her father may have caused a lot of anxiety for her. She has it in her mind that whoever she leaves or leaves her, may never be seen again.
  • She was coming to the harsh reality that there are things and situations that she has no control over and feels helpless. When she decided to go after the man who murdered her mother, she was trying to take back some semblance of control that had been ripped from her time and time again.
  • She may have been taking care of her friends, but that does not mean she was taking care of herself. She may have been putting her own needs on the back-burner while attending to her friends and family. This may have caused her anxiety and fear grow and fester until she was forced to deal with them. Anxiety and fear manifest in many ways. Her anxieties and fears manifested in anger and resentment.

Facing the man who murdered her mother forced her to face her emotions, however dark they may have been. It also forced her to choose which path she would take and how she would deal with difficult and traumatic situations. She chose not to kill the southern raider. She didn’t forgive him and admits that she may never forgive him, but she decided that vengeance wasn’t the answer. She also chose to forgive Zuko. In my opinion, it would’ve been unrealistic to expect Katara to be nurturing, and calm, cool and collected all of the time. She’s a fourteen-year-old in the middle of a war, which had brought numerous tragedies to her life. I don’t know any adults that can keep calm during a war, let alone any teens.

What was she like at the end of the series?

Katara becomes a confident, strong fifteen-year-old. She had faced her fears and fought valiantly to end the hundred-year war. She is still kind, nurturing and very outspoken.

Published by Meagan Rose Cortez

Caring preschool teacher by day, crazy writer at night. I'm an aspiring author with ambitions wilder than my characters. I like to read, write and watch movies. I particularly like Shephan King and J.R.R. Tolkien. I'm also very fascinated by Psychology and Forensics. If you're into fun, creepy, crime puzzle fantasies, then I'm your girl!

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