In this book, people's actions show whether they're good or not, revealing what kinds of morals they have. Consider this: Ham writes "cripple" on the blackboard, while Julian tries to erase it. Nadia shares dog training knowledge and gives puppies as gifts. Noah gives meaningful things away and inspires giving in others. Julian invites friendship, and doesn't give in to the temptation to extract revenge. What you see is what you get with these kids; the characterization isn't particularly complicated.
The things these characters have (we're gonna stretch to include pets in this) say a lot about them.
Take Julian's book bag, for instance. Everybody at school has a backpack, but not Julian. Julian has a handsome leather bag. He takes good care of it and values it, like the thoughtful little gentleman that he is.
Or take the fact that Noah values calligraphy. Calligraphy requires patience and discipline; it doesn't seem like a natural fit for the talkative guy who likes to argue. Yet Noah's love for calligraphy clues us into the fact that he's got hidden, patient depths that just need to coaxed out.
Or—pop quiz—who does this set of adjectives describe: quick, loyal, and "a star" ("Julian"). Nope, not Nadia: Ginger. And then for contrast, check out what Michael Froelich's dog Arnold does at the audition: "Arnold leaped across the stage, placed his paws upon Annie's shoulders, and caused her to lean backward" ("Julian"). Rough, unsteady, and untrustworthy: sounds a lot like our second-favorite bully. (Our first-favorite being Hamilton Knapp, of course.)
Each of the four Souls has a distinctive style of talking. Like this:
I told her not to worry, that I would think of something. And I did. But fact: It wasn't easy. ("Noah".32)
Smart, careful, and a little bit annoying: Noah's "facts" give him away. Or this:
One of the reasons we moved to Epiphany was that Mother got a job there. My mother happens to be an excellent hygienist, and Dr. Gershom was lucky to get her, but nevertheless, I thought it best not to tell Noah Gershom that his account of my grandfather's wedding was not as amusing as he thought it was. ("Nadia".14)
Precise, cautious, and refined: Nadia's speech, full of words like "excellent," "nevertheless," and "I thought it best," is just like she is. Or this:
At lunchtime, I sat on the end of the bench. Noah took a seat next to me. Nadia came from the food line carrying her tray and found no vacant seat at any of the girls' tables, so she sat next to Noah. ("Ethan")
Observant, plain, and a little anxious: Ethan's voice is just as distinctive as the other two, even if he thinks of himself as ordinary. And finally:
One of the eight dogs was quickly eliminated on grounds of disobedience. The second had a problem with his plumbing, and Mrs. Reynolds was not amused by the snickers in the audience or the mess on stage. ("Julian")
Funny, genteel, and just a little distant: Julian speaks with the voice of someone who isn't quite part of the culture where he's found himself.
It's clear that Konigsburg gave a lot of thought to how these characters would sound—even if none of them sound quite the way you expect a sixth-grader to.