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The everyman is a variant of stock character in storytelling media, such as novels, plays, television series and movies. An ordinary and humble character, the everyman is generally a protagonist, whose benign conduct fosters the audience's wide identification with him.
Once facing an extraordinary challenge, everyman may mount an exceptional response, nonetheless, perhaps even fulfilling a hero's journey, acquiring exceptional abilities, after all, that complement his commonplace, humble core.
There are numerous instances of everywoman, too, and some protagonists of ambiguous gender, all sharing everyman's reassuring ordinariness.
While the term everywoman dates to the very early 20th century, the term everyman traces to an English morality play, thus an allegorical play, from the early 1500s: The Summoning of Everyman. Rather unlike a modern everyman, he is not only a "representative human" and "gregarious", but is "prosperous" and "attractive," too, explains literature scholar Harry Keyishian. But he, Everyman, living his last days, is the only character fully human. The others are embodied ideas, like Fellowship who, explains Keyishian, "symbolizes the transience and limitations of human friendship." On the other hand, a modern everyman, not confined to allegories, is set in a familiar social context.
Generally, a modern everyman, although perhaps adolescent, is neither a child nor elderly, and is physically unremarkable. Although his intellect and integrity may be appreciable, he typically lacks the privilege of authority or prosperity, and occupies the middle class or lower class with the bulk of society. He typically shows some moral idealism, yearning for greater success, and foresight in career or family life. Yet his modest means may compound life's vicissitudes while his own virtues, casting him in roles valuable to others, may escalate his own troubles. Still, by his resourcefulness and fortitude, he may fulfill his modest ambitions, often furthering the greater good as well.
An everyman is crafted so that most audience members can readily situate themselves in his shoes. Although the everyman may face obstacles and adversities that a hero might, archetypal heroes react rapidly and vigorously by manifest traits, whereas an everyman typically avoids engagement or reacts ambivalently, until the situation, growing dire, demands effective reaction to avert disaster. Such a round, dynamic character—that is, a character showing depth and development—is then generally a protagonist.
Or if lacking depth and development—thus a flat, static character—the everyman is a secondary character. Especially in literature, as the written medium enables great explication of backstory, tangents, physical details, and mental content, there is often a narrator. An everyman narrator draws little notice, whether other characters' notice or the reader's notice, since the narration emerges from the story world. And if neutral or relatable enough, the narrating everyman, like Ché in the musical Evita, may even, breaking the fourth wall, directly address the audience.
Discussing New York City's Greenwich Village townhouse explosion via the radical group Weather Underground's bombing in 1970, Camille Paglia writes, "Standing in the chaotic street, actor Dustin Hoffman, who lived next door, seems like Everyman at the apocalypse." Yet the exemplars that Hoffman, here, resembles are fictional characters:
- The anonymous narrator in Chuck Palahniuk's novel Fight Club (1996) and its film adaptation (1999)
- The anonymous "Common Man" in Robert Bolt's play A Man for All Seasons (1960)
- C.C. "Bud" Baxter in Billy Wilder's film The Apartment (1960)
- Leopold Bloom in James Joyce's book Ulysses (serialized 1918–1920, published in its entity in 1922)
- Emmet Brickowski in the multi-media The Lego Movie franchise
- Charlie Brown in Charles Schultz's multi-media franchise Peanuts
- Ché in Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber's multi-media Evita franchise
- Rhett Butler in Margaret Mitchell's novel Gone With the Wind (1936) and its film adaptation (1939)
- Christian in John Bunyan's book The Pilgrim's Progress (1678)
- Edmond Dantès in Alexandre Dumas' novel The Count of Monte Cristo (1844)
- Arthur Dent in Douglas Adams' multi-media franchise The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
- Jack Driscoll in Merian C. Cooper and Ernest B. Schoedsack's film King Kong (1933)
- Doug Funnie in Jim Jinkins' multi-media Doug franchise
- James Gordon in the multi-media DC Comics franchise
- Pierre Gringore in Victor Hugo's book The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1831)
- Jim Halpert in the television series The Office
- Jonathan Harker in Bram Stoker's novel Dracula (1897)
- Arthur Hastings in Agatha Christie's multi-media franchise about Hercule Poirot
- George Jetson in the television series The Jetsons
- Will Kane in Fred Zinnemann's movie High Noon (1952)
- Jacob Kowalski in J. K. Rowling's multi-media Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them franchise
- Stan Marsh in the multi-media South Park franchise
- Joe Martin in the television series All My Children
- Marty McFly in the Back to the Future franchise
- Walter Mitty in James Thurber's story "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty" (1939)
- Ted Mosby in the television series How I Met Your Mother
- Charlie Nancy in Neil Gaiman's book Anansi Boys (2005)
- William Priest in John Ford's film Judge Priest (1934)
- Rocko in the multi-media Rocko's Modern Life franchise
- Jack Ryan in Tom Clancy's franchise known as the Ryanverse
- Winston Smith in George Orwell's novel Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949)
- Egbert Souse in Edward F. Cline's film The Bank Dick (1940)
- Larry Talbot in the movie The Wolf Man (1941)
- Dr. Watson in Arthur Conan Doyle's multi-media franchise about Sherlock Holmes
- Philip J. Fry in the multi-media Futurama franchise
|Look up everyman in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.|
- Average Joe – wholly average person
- Commoner – person neither nobility, royalty, nor priesthood
- Elckerlijc - Dutch medieval morality play
- Everyman's right – freedom to roam
- Kafkaesque – everyman being overwhelmed by vast, dehumanizing social labyrinth
- Man on the Bondi tram
- Person having ordinary skill in the art
- John Q. Public – generic, hypothetical "common man"
- Reasonable person – term helping a jury interpret a law's wording
- T.C. Mits – acronym for "the celebrated man in the street"
- The man on the Clapham omnibus – hypothetical reasonable person
- Zé Povinho – Portuguese everyman
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