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Antonin
05-03-2014, 07:21 PM
For the record when I say "Everyman" I mean to use it interchangeably with "Everywoman."

In school we were always taught to symbol hunt. We were always taught that there was a central figure that represented all of humanity. Granted, the origin of the Everyman was in the morality play, but one could make the argument that the Everyman was everywhere and in everything.

For some reason I took this to heart and always felt that the main character of anything was always a bit of an Everyman or Everywoman. That -- beyond the personality flaws, quirks, and minor differences -- in the end they were meant to represent all of us.

I think the final straw that killed it for me was this post on tumblr (http://gyzym.tumblr.com/post/69449076095/ive-seen-a-lot-of-female-characters-in-fiction-being) that I stumbled across. Especially this part


Naw, friend, the trap here is the idea that you are writing women. You’re not. You’re writing a woman. One person. Every time you write a female character, that’s what you’re writing — just that one. She’s not an archetype, she’s not a statement on All Women Ever, she’s just a person. Singular. Solo. The same way (I hope?) you don’t think, “What is this male character saying about every single dude who has ever walked this earth?” whenever you write guys, so you should avoid thinking that when you write ladies. They’re just people. They don’t have to Be Everything — the idea that women have to Be Everything is enough of a drag in day to day life, you know? It doesn’t need to be given any room to strut around in your writing.

Something about this knocked me over. I mean, we are just writing about one person. Always. Of course, when I stop and think about it now it all seems rather absurd. How can one single person represent everyone? They can't. How the hell did anyone we pinned down as an Everyman really act and think like... everyone?

Why did we ever think that before? Does the Everyman no longer have a place in a globalized world? In a world where art and literature are so easily accessible that pinning down one person as a representative for anything is just plain stupid?

Did the Everyman even exist in the first place?

Jamesaritchie
05-03-2014, 08:07 PM
Everyman doesn't mean we aren't individuals in any number of ways. Every human out there is unique in any number of ways, but darned near every human out the is similar in basic needs, and basic rights.

It takes different things to fulfill our desires, to make us happy, but while there are always exceptions, we all want happiness, basic freedom, etc. I think Everyman is exemplified bu the Bill of Rights.

Writing about individuals, one unique man, or one unique woman, is how we best write about Everyman.

Little Ming
05-03-2014, 09:15 PM
I was never taught the "Everyman" in school, and maybe that's a good thing. Having one character who represents all of humanity is just... odd.

But from my brief research of him, it seems like he's just one type of character; there are others. Use the one that best fits your story.

Though, if I'm to be more flexible with the definition, I think the Everyman might just be a character that everyone can understand in some way. You don't have to sympathize with him, or like him, or want him to succeed; but you understand why he does what he does, even if you disagree.

jjdebenedictis
05-03-2014, 09:22 PM
Readers need to empathize with the characters. Part of the reason we read fiction is to see how other people are like us. We get into an alien's shoes and begin to recognize--from our own life--how they feel.

To me, the phrase "everyman" just means a character that most people can empathize with. He or she is very relatable.

Jamesaritchie
05-03-2014, 09:42 PM
I was never taught the "Everyman" in school, and maybe that's a good thing. Having one character who represents all of humanity is just... odd.

But from my brief research of him, it seems like he's just one type of character; there are others. Use the one that best fits your story.

Though, if I'm to be more flexible with the definition, I think the Everyman might just be a character that everyone can understand in some way. You don't have to sympathize with him, or like him, or want him to succeed; but you understand why he does what he does, even if you disagree.

No, not really. Everyman isn't a type of character at all. He isn't a character, period. He's simply the underlying humanity in all characters, and, hopefully, the great majority of real people.

Done well, one character must represent the basic aspects of a huge, massive number of people, else how will we empathize with that character?

guttersquid
05-03-2014, 10:10 PM
To me the Everyman is the guy who lives on the middle rungs of the societal ladder. He is special only in his individuality, but there is nothing spectacular about him. He is not of the rich or powerful, nor is he the bum or the criminal. He is neither famous nor notorious. He is the little fish who swims in the pond ruled by the big fish. He is most of us.

kuwisdelu
05-04-2014, 12:06 AM
The Everyman was found guilty of being a straight, white, able-bodied, neurotypical, cis-gendered American male.

He had been misrepresenting himself for years. He was a criminal fraud and erasure of peoples.

He had to die.

kuwisdelu
05-04-2014, 12:08 AM
No one is generic.

You can't write a generic character to represent everyone.

You have to write a unique individual person who is distinctive enough to transcend our differences.

kuwisdelu
05-04-2014, 12:11 AM
I think Everyman is exemplified bu the Bill of Rights.

The Everyman is very Western in his thought.

But not all cultures think of their freedom and agency in terms of rights.

Kylabelle
05-04-2014, 12:14 AM
The older I get, the less value I find in either/or propositions in general. Everyman ought to be that aspect of our common humanity that utterly transcends anything such as Ole White Boys Club sensibility, and which shines through, in the best writing, directly through the most individual and unique of character traits.

And I seriously doubt if one can intentionally craft an Everyman who does that adequately, though there I would be willing to be proved wrong. No doubt, intentional "Everyman" characters do fall into all the possible negative stereotypes we can think of.

Hapax Legomenon
05-04-2014, 12:17 AM
I thought we killed Everyman because he bored us to pieces.

kuwisdelu
05-04-2014, 12:17 AM
I thought we killed Everyman because he bored us to pieces.

That too.

Pretty sure that was on the list of crimes somewhere.

Right under impersonating a priest of the Church of England.

No, wait, that would've been interesting... must be thinking of someone else's crimes...

Hapax Legomenon
05-04-2014, 12:20 AM
That too.

Pretty sure that was on the list of crimes somewhere.

Right under impersonating a priest of the Church of England.

No, wait, that would've been interesting... must be thinking of someone else's crimes...

I think that must have been someone else. I distinctly remember not allowing him any last words because we knew they were going to be some generic schlock that nobody really wanted to hear...

cornflake
05-04-2014, 12:31 AM
For the record when I say "Everyman" I mean to use it interchangeably with "Everywoman."

In school we were always taught to symbol hunt. We were always taught that there was a central figure that represented all of humanity. Granted, the origin of the Everyman was in the morality play, but one could make the argument that the Everyman was everywhere and in everything.

For some reason I took this to heart and always felt that the main character of anything was always a bit of an Everyman or Everywoman. That -- beyond the personality flaws, quirks, and minor differences -- in the end they were meant to represent all of us.

I think the final straw that killed it for me was this post on tumblr (http://gyzym.tumblr.com/post/69449076095/ive-seen-a-lot-of-female-characters-in-fiction-being) that I stumbled across. Especially this part



Something about this knocked me over. I mean, we are just writing about one person. Always. Of course, when I stop and think about it now it all seems rather absurd. How can one single person represent everyone? They can't. How the hell did anyone we pinned down as an Everyman really act and think like... everyone?

Why did we ever think that before? Does the Everyman no longer have a place in a globalized world? In a world where art and literature are so easily accessible that pinning down one person as a representative for anything is just plain stupid?

Did the Everyman even exist in the first place?

I think that post is confused (the one you quoted).

The Everyman did and does exist, imo. It's not about writing a character that isn't unique, or that represents everyone; it's about writing a character that has universal, human qualities or attributes or foibles that are relatable and resonate with people. Willy Loman is an Everyman in that his pain, worries, failures, desires, are things that people can relate to - not in the specific, in a larger sense. It's not about his being a particular class or colour or anything - he's an Everyman because he embodies something distinctly and fairly universally human.

Shakespeare wrote hundreds of years ago. The way people acted and thought about many things is fundamentally different now than it was then, nevermind that even then few people had lives anything like his characters. His characters are no less relatable for it - now or then.

Siri Kirpal
05-04-2014, 02:22 AM
Sat Nam! (literally "Truth Name"--a Sikh greeting)

Don't think we writers can kill of every man. :)

Blessings,

Siri Kirpal

Ken
05-04-2014, 02:35 AM
In agreement with most here. Everyman is a myth. It is an easy way out. A way of creating 2D characters. Abstract constructs. Blah. And on top of that, "exclusionary" as defined above. Good riddance to bad rubbish. Characters that are real are what's wanted. 1. Their personal histories. 2. Their characteristics. 3. Their race, religion, and creed. Preferably diverse. That's what make for good, engaging fiction. Not some philosophical hubbub that leaves you scratching your chin half the time. "Huh?" "Huh?" "Huh?" "Huh?" "Huh?" "Huh?" "Huh?" ...

My two cents of course. Feel free to differ.

Samsonet
05-04-2014, 03:39 AM
I remember, once, reading a news article that asked something like "Can Michael Yu ever be as much of an Everyman as Michael Smith?"

It's the only thing I remember about the article. Personally, I think he could. (Assuming we've got the same definition of "everyman", anyway.) It just depends on whether there's a story for him and a skilled writer for the story.

Roxxsmom
05-04-2014, 04:04 AM
F
Something about this knocked me over. I mean, we are just writing about one person. Always. Of course, when I stop and think about it now it all seems rather absurd. How can one single person represent everyone? They can't. How the hell did anyone we pinned down as an Everyman really act and think like... everyone?

Why did we ever think that before? Does the Everyman no longer have a place in a globalized world? In a world where art and literature are so easily accessible that pinning down one person as a representative for anything is just plain stupid?

Did the Everyman even exist in the first place?

Hmm, well to me, the concept of "everyman or everywoman," is more relevant in the context of a given story, perhaps, than the statement that it's possible to create a character to which every conceivable reader can relate (you can't). To me, an "everyman or everywoman" character is someone where superpowers, or the possession of an amazingly high IQ, or being incredibly good looking or being incredibly rich or professionally accomplished or whatever is not the most important aspect of who they are.

To me the everyman/woman is someone who isn't looking to be a hero, who doesn't want to rule the world, who doesn't think of themselves as unusual or special, but does want to do the right thing. They have a life, goals and aspirations that might not be central to the story's main plot, and they might even look forward to getting back to their normal life once the story is over.

The Hobbits (except maybe Frodo) were everyman characters in LoTR. Aragorn was not. But each hobbit had his own personality still.

Unfortunately, in standard genre fiction, the generic "everyman" character most often seems to be a white, straight, cismale person who is able bodied, a native speaker of English, middle class and so on. This has given the concept of "everyman" a bad rep. And it sometimes gets conflated with the notion that an "everyman" character can't be a unique individual with their own quirks, fears, hopes and dreams that are far from generic (for whatever demographic grouping they're in).

being an everyman or woman does not mean you're not a unique person. Everyone is a unique person.

DancingMaenid
05-04-2014, 07:12 AM
To me the Everyman is the guy who lives on the middle rungs of the societal ladder. He is special only in his individuality, but there is nothing spectacular about him. He is not of the rich or powerful, nor is he the bum or the criminal. He is neither famous nor notorious. He is the little fish who swims in the pond ruled by the big fish. He is most of us.

Yeah, that's how I've always seen the term used--a character who feels like an average person who reacts to things like an average person would.

veinglory
05-04-2014, 07:21 AM
Is an everyman possible without enforcing an anti-diversity notion of what average is? How many "everymans" have been PoC, disabled, elderly etc? Because if any character can be an every person--they would be, surely?

Brightdreamer
05-04-2014, 07:31 AM
Did we kill the Everyman? What do you mean, we? I had nothing to do with it. I was, um, at the movies. All day.

And I've never owned a chainsaw.

;)

jennontheisland
05-04-2014, 07:55 AM
Taking a slightly different tack with this one... when heroes of novels are primarily rich, entitled, blah blah as they were centuries ago (back when most novels were the autobigraphical accounts of bored nobility who were so self-absorbed they thought that everyone in the world desperately wanted to read about their drunken travels through europe) an opportunity arose for writers to create characters more like the readers. ("Why, this guy's just like me! He has to work for a living and has to deal with the kids and the dog and omg his neighbour is so much like that asshole next door"). This works well when the average reader is doing okay, and can make ends meet, and faces challenges that are surmountable. But that's not necessarily the case any more. Unemployment is high, economic conditions are yucky, terrorists are no longer things that other countries have to deal with... none of these things are condusive to individuals winning in the end. So, instead of reading about someone whose life is riddled with debt, foreclosure, government intrusion, people want to read about something other than themselves. Other than the everyman. So, yeah, he's dead for a while.

slhuang
05-04-2014, 08:01 AM
Dear Lord, I would be so happy if we killed the Everyman. I find "everyman" characters to be insufferably boring and unrelatable.

DancingMaenid
05-04-2014, 10:05 AM
Is an everyman possible without enforcing an anti-diversity notion of what average is? How many "everymans" have been PoC, disabled, elderly etc? Because if any character can be an every person--they would be, surely?

I think it's possible. I don't think the traits that define an everyman are dependent on being able-bodied or white. I think most characters who are described as being an "everyman" are straight, able-bodied, white men because minority characters are underrepresented in general. There's no reason why a lot of character types can't be more diverse, but they aren't.

I don't see the everyman as being representative of a type of person. I think the everyman represents the generally unexciting reality of life. They're people who, like most of us, work unglamorous jobs and wouldn't know what to do if they found themselves caught up in an international spy plot. Anyone could be an everyman.

gothicangel
05-04-2014, 03:05 PM
I didn't come across Everyman until university when we had to read a medieval play by that title.

It probably depends on what genre you are reading. I think if you read a lot of fantasy, Sci-fi and thrillers then you're going to find a lot of super-heroic characters, it's a part of the genre. I however, do think other genres contain the Everyman (Crime, Romance, HF.) In my opinion Rebus is an Everyman. As are the MCs of Gone Girl, Stardust (the MC doesn't know he's a prince till the very end, he's just an ordinary Joe), even Frodo is an Everyman (to Aragon's heroic prince.)

Anyway, I'm so sick of the heroic hero. I prefer the Everyman who finds he can be heroic when he is faced with jeopardy. Especially in Roman HF, I am so over books with a tagline that goes 'the Roman Empire is at risk, only our MC Hero can save it from collapse.' BS, there are also thirty legions standing between the Empire and the barbarian hoards, cut out the hyperbole. ;)

gothicangel
05-04-2014, 03:20 PM
Something about this knocked me over. I mean, we are just writing about one person. Always. Of course, when I stop and think about it now it all seems rather absurd. How can one single person represent everyone? They can't. How the hell did anyone we pinned down as an Everyman really act and think like... everyone?

Why did we ever think that before? Does the Everyman no longer have a place in a globalized world? In a world where art and literature are so easily accessible that pinning down one person as a representative for anything is just plain stupid?

Did the Everyman even exist in the first place?

Now that I've re-read the OP, I don't think the quoted passage was talking about Everyman at all. To me it seems to be saying that when I write (as a woman) my male MC I am not writing about men, just one man. Which I agree with. I write about the way he sees the world, the way he reacts to the story events, his relationships to other characters. He can not represent every man, he has his own values, his own politics, etc.

They way I'm understanding this, is like when someone asks 'I'm a bloke, how do I write a female MC.' The answer, of course, is you are writing a person not a gender. The same goes here, you are writing an individual not a homogenous group.

Unless I've missed something of course, and a little more context would be helpful. Is there a link to the tumblr?

Wilde_at_heart
05-04-2014, 05:12 PM
Is an everyman possible without enforcing an anti-diversity notion of what average is? How many "everymans" have been PoC, disabled, elderly etc? Because if any character can be an every person--they would be, surely?

Don't people still want a lot of the same things in life, though? At least to an extent... Things like being loved or cared for by someone, anger at unfairness, social status, admiring a sunset...

Ken
05-04-2014, 05:45 PM
How about some examples of novels with everyman characters in them.
It'd be interesting to know of a few to better understand the concept.

DancingMaenid
05-04-2014, 10:13 PM
How about some examples of novels with everyman characters in them.
It'd be interesting to know of a few to better understand the concept.

It's been a long time since I've read it, so maybe others will disagree, but I think Arthur Dent from The Hitchhiker's Guide To the Galaxy could be called an everyman. He's a normal human who gets caught up in something bigger and more exciting than himself. It's a common trope, but I can think of more movies and shows than novels.

slhuang
05-04-2014, 10:42 PM
It's been a long time since I've read it, so maybe others will disagree, but I think Arthur Dent from The Hitchhiker's Guide To the Galaxy could be called an everyman. He's a normal human who gets caught up in something bigger and more exciting than himself. It's a common trope, but I can think of more movies and shows than novels.

Arthur Dent certainly qualifies, but he didn't bother me as much as most. Possibly because everybody else save Trillian was so bizarre and alien, and one of the things I hate about the Everyman is that he's meant to represent humanity at the expense of other humans (at least, that's the way I see it). I find the Everyman othering -- not just in a demographic way, but in terms of privileging what is seen as "ordinary" as somehow being more human than people who are quirky or off-the-norm in any way whatsoever, and I reject that.

(IOW, Arthur Dent isn't being privileged as representing humanity in comparison to other humans, he's representing humanity's viewpoint in contrast to aliens, and I find that much more comfortable.)

An example of an everyman I detest is Richard Mayhew from Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman (I had to look up his name, that's how forgettable he was). I really, really liked the book, but I just hated Richard and wanted him to stop sucking the life out of every scene and DIE so I could watch Door and Hunter go off and have adventures together. They were MUCH more interesting people!

Roxxsmom
05-04-2014, 11:20 PM
How about some examples of novels with everyman characters in them.
It'd be interesting to know of a few to better understand the concept.

Some examples are provided in this link:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Everyman (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Everyman)

jaksen
05-04-2014, 11:58 PM
Well this is the first time I've heard of the 'Everyman.' (Or Everywoman.) I was a Bio major in college, but English was my minor.

So where have I been for the first six decades of my life?

Anyhow, nice thread. I learned something today.

AVS
05-05-2014, 12:00 AM
The Everyman and Mary Sue got married. They retired from full time literature work and opened a diner just outside of Millbrook in upstate New York. They serve the best eggs and everybody loves them.

Their son, Marty Stu, is studying in London. To make ends meet, he works part time as the ticket man on the Clapham omnibus.

Everyman and Mary Sue still do a little light literary work, but audience demands are more diverse these days.

If you can find their diner you should check it out.

Ken
05-05-2014, 12:13 AM
It's been a long time since I've read it, so maybe others will disagree, but I think Arthur Dent from The Hitchhiker's Guide To the Galaxy could be called an everyman. He's a normal human who gets caught up in something bigger and more exciting than himself. It's a common trope, but I can think of more movies and shows than novels.

Wikipedia is in agreement with you:

The anonymous narrator of Chuck Palahniuk's novel Fight Club (1996) and its film adaptation (1999)[6]
Leopold Bloom in James Joyce's novel Ulysses (serialized 1918-1920, published as a book in 1922)[7]
Arthur Dent in Douglas Adams' comic science fiction series The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy[8]
Rick Grimes in The Walking Dead franchise[9][10][11]
Jim Halpert in the U.S. TV comedy series The Office[12]
Stan Marsh in the animated TV series South Park[13]
Joe Martin from the popular serial drama All My Children [14]
Walter Mitty, title character in James Thurber's short story "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty" and its film adaptations
Ted Mosby in the TV comedy series How I Met Your Mother[15][16]
Winston Smith in George Orwell's novel Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949)[17]
Egbert Souse in the film The Bank Dick (1940) (one of several of W.C. Fields' acclaimed "Everyman" movie characters)[18][19]
Roger Thornhill in the film North by Northwest (1959)[20]
Mick Travis in the Mick Travis trilogy of films
Rhys Williams in the science fiction TV program Torchwood [21]

Posted others as well from R's link. Interesting stuff.


Some examples are provided in this link:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Everyman (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Everyman)

Some surprises, including one a novel I liked a lot: 1984.
A movie too. Bank Dick, starring Fields :-D

I have to say I had an entirely different idea of what everyman meant in this discussion. I was figuring Pilgrim's Progress and the original Everyman which I read in school.

Thnx for the info. I really have to read Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy one of these days.
Many say it's awesome.

Antonin
05-06-2014, 06:46 AM
Now that I've re-read the OP, I don't think the quoted passage was talking about Everyman at all. To me it seems to be saying that when I write (as a woman) my male MC I am not writing about men, just one man. Which I agree with. I write about the way he sees the world, the way he reacts to the story events, his relationships to other characters. He can not represent every man, he has his own values, his own politics, etc.

They way I'm understanding this, is like when someone asks 'I'm a bloke, how do I write a female MC.' The answer, of course, is you are writing a person not a gender. The same goes here, you are writing an individual not a homogenous group.

Unless I've missed something of course, and a little more context would be helpful. Is there a link to the tumblr?

No, I admit the quoted passage wasn't talking about the Everyman, but it made me think about it because that's how I viewed literature for some reason. It should be in my post as a hyperlink, is it not showing up?

I always thought that great literature needed an Everyman. That our main characters needed to be able to be stand-in for whomever. That every piece of information about the character is meant to represent all of mankind (or womankind). Like Ken's mention that the main character in 1984 is an Everyman. That makes sense and it's kinda beautiful... but there's also something wrong with it. I mean, he spends a lot of time with the proles but kinda sees them as both hope for the world and yet beneath him. Isn't that problematic for an Everyman to view a whole ring of society as under him?

But it was this tumblr post that just kinda made something click for me that it was a dumb idea. We are writing characters, not symbols or representations of humanity.

I get why Arthur Dent in The Hitchhiker's guide is classified an Everyman, but I don't see him as one. Does that mean something is wrong with me? Or that I don't fit into "everyone?" Of course not. I just see Arthur Dent as Arthur Dent, a character. A person. Fictional, yes, but a person.

With all the push towards diversity in books and media I'm beginning to wonder if this idea that we even can have an Everyman is dying. As kuwi said, it just feels like too Western of an idea. We don't really live in a Western world anymore or at least we won't for much longer. Globalization and the internet make it so that people from middle-of-nowhere-USA can become friends with another from somewhere in Africa. They can become great friends, but their views and experiences will be vastly different. An Everyman, I don't think, could accurately fit both worldviews within him or her.

veinglory
05-06-2014, 06:51 AM
Exactly. Everymans are almost always white, male, middle class etc.

The idea that this stands in for every person as an identification figure is obsolete.

A character can still be basically unremarkable but that is different from being an everyman.

Roxxsmom
05-06-2014, 09:12 AM
Well this is the first time I've heard of the 'Everyman.' (Or Everywoman.) I was a Bio major in college, but English was my minor.

So where have I been for the first six decades of my life?

Anyhow, nice thread. I learned something today.

I was a bio major in college too, but "everyman" is a term I most often read in film or literary reviews. "The character of so and so is just an everyman, until..."

Ken
05-06-2014, 03:09 PM
... but there's also something wrong with it. I mean, he spends a lot of time with the proles but kinda sees them as both hope for the world and yet beneath him. Isn't that problematic for an Everyman to view a whole ring of society as under him?

Good observation. May undermine his everyman status. Then again negative characteristics needn't be precluded. Everyman consists of the pluses and minuses. So traits like egoism can be included in the mix along with those Wilde mentioned like need of love, etc. The other thing is that author's are essentially guessing about shared commonalities. It's just their view. I'd maybe include works by Ann Rand as ones with everymans and those aren't altogether flattering. Bottomline of course is connecting with readers. If you manage that then all is fine.

sheadakota
05-06-2014, 04:24 PM
Well this is the first time I've heard of the 'Everyman.' (Or Everywoman.) I was a Bio major in college, but English was my minor.

So where have I been for the first six decades of my life?

Anyhow, nice thread. I learned something today.

Just so you don't feel alone- i never heard this term either. ( I was a science major as well)

jaksen
05-09-2014, 03:44 AM
Just so you don't feel alone- i never heard this term either. ( I was a science major as well)

Yeah, but I just wondered how I missed this. I took literature courses up the kazoo and weird ones like, 'The Age of Pope' and 'Women Writers 1200-1400.' I took several courses on Shakespeare and really, my professors just never mentioned this. Or perhaps they assumed we already knew about it? Or I did learn about it and blanked it out some time in the 80's.

(Or maybe the brain cells that knew about the Everyman all died. This is a theory, that you can have a few cells which remember a specific thing. I think it was called, without a lot of seriousness, the Jennifer Aniston Effect. Certain neurons fired in the brain when a test subject looked at a picture of Jennifer, or heard her name. The same neurons always fired. If that part of your brain dies off, you forget who she is. This also has a connection to Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia and might explain why certain memories, or associations, or even names of friends and relatives are 'gone' in dementia patients. My own mother has Lewy's Bodies Dementia and has mistaken me for her sister-in-law several times. When I correct her, she is annoyed and insists I am the sister-in-law. If I leave the room, come back and loudly announce my name, my mother will get angry and say of course you're my daughter. Why are you shouting?)

Back on topic: So the 'everyman' is a character meant to represent your basic man? And the everyman does what this basic or ordinary guy would do? He stands in for Mr. Joe Average?

If so, some of the examples given in this thread are not Mr. Joe Averages. In fact, many of these characters stand out and above what the 'average guy' would do. That's what makes them a riveting character to read about or watch.

If I am reading this right.

Antonin
05-09-2014, 05:44 AM
Back on topic: So the 'everyman' is a character meant to represent your basic man? And the everyman does what this basic or ordinary guy would do? He stands in for Mr. Joe Average?

If so, some of the examples given in this thread are not Mr. Joe Averages. In fact, many of these characters stand out and above what the 'average guy' would do. That's what makes them a riveting character to read about or watch.

If I am reading this right.

Yes. Yes. And yes.

I actually learned about this in High School from a very progressive teacher who snuck in short stories and poems from people like Shirley Jackson and Allen Ginsberg. He even made it a point to show us African American poets and writers but for the life of me I can't remember their names.

But that was my issue, I don't think you really can say this about characters, because people are way too diverse to begin with. Maybe way back when villages and cities were more isolated and things like religious tolerance didn't exist, the Everyman could have been what people were supposed to be like. (And then therefore a half-baked ideal to live up to?)

Once!
05-09-2014, 10:46 AM
No, we didn't kill the everyman. He or she has just evolved into a slightly different form.

Instead of being an identikit john doe generic character, the everyman is now the non-hero protagonist that the audience can identify with. The one without superpowers. The one who doesn't know what is going on and has to have everything explained to them.

In some cases, the everyman is the protagonist before he gets his superpowers. Peter Parker is an everyman until he gets bitten by a radioactive spider - the audience can believe that they too could crawl up walls, spin webs and look streamlined in a tight-fitting suit if only they too were bitten by the aforementioned glowing arachnid.

In just about every zombie film, the everyman is the survivor who isn't a Brad Pitt government expert in ... um ... something or other. He isn't the SWAT marksmen, the local sheriff (a la Wocking Dead) or the crossbow-toting redneck. He or she is just a person, trying their best to survive.

In LOTR, it's Sam, but arguably not Frodo because it is his destiny to bear the ring.

In Star Wars it's Han Solo.

In Sherlock Holmes, it's Dr Watson.

Rocky Balboa, but not Rambo.

The non-vampire who falls in love with a vampire.

Nearly all of the good characters in The Stand, apart from Mother Abigail.

What has happened since the term was first coined was that we have shifted away from a heavy emphasis on symbolism into more of an emphasis on depth of character and realism. So modern everymen (or everywomen) aren't cardboard cutouts. They have distinctive personalities and back stories. It is just that their function is to act as a reader proxy. It could be you or me.

The other thing that has happened is that our heroes have tended to get more and more heroic over time. They have superpowers, awesome training, fantastic weaponry, lots of skills, fabulous destinies. Maybe that's why we still need Everyman - even if he or she is not as obvious as they used to be.