In literature and drama, the term everyman has come to mean an ordinary individual, with whom the audience or reader is supposed to be able to identify easily, and who is often placed in extraordinary circumstances.
The contemporary everyman differs from his (or her) medieval counterpart in many respects. While the medieval everyman was devoid of definite marks of individuality in order to create a universality in the moral message of the play, the contemporary storyteller may use an everyman for amoral, immoral, or demonstrative purposes.
The everyman character is constructed so that the audience can imagine themselves in the same situation without having to possess knowledge, skills, or abilities that transcend human potential. Such characters react realistically in situations that are often taken for granted with traditional heroes.
Alternatively, an everyman occupies the role of protagonist without being a "hero" and without necessarily being a round character or a dynamic character. In this scenario, the everyman is developed like a secondary character, but the character's near omnipresence within the narrative shifts the focus from character development to events and story lines surrounding the character. Some audiences or readers may project themselves into this character, if no dominant characteristic of the everyman prevents them from doing so. Others may ignore the character and concentrate on the story arc, the visual imagery, the irony or satire, and any other aspect of the story which the orchestrator(s) of the story have focused upon or, indeed, whatever personally interests the reader.
An everyman character may occasionally be used as a narrator for the action, or to gloss over or fill in temporal gaps in the flow of a story. This allows for the presence of narrators without drawing attention to their role, by having a character commentating on events from within the dramatic action rather than separate from it. When employed in this way, the everyman character may by necessity have to break the convention of the fourth wall, speaking directly to the audience. Examples of this role would include the character of Ché in the musical Evita.
- "The Common Man" role in the theatre play A Man for All Seasons by Robert Bolt.
- The anonymous narrator of Chuck Palahniuk's novel Fight Club (1996) and its film adaptation (1999)
- Leopold Bloom in James Joyce's novel Ulysses (serialized 1918–1920, published as a book in 1922)
- Arthur Dent in Douglas Adams' comic science fiction series The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
- Rick Grimes in The Walking Dead franchise
- Jim Halpert in the U.S. TV comedy series The Office
- George Jetson in the animated TV series The Jetsons
- Stan Marsh in the animated TV series South Park
- Joe Martin from the popular serial drama All My Children
- 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
- Winston Smith in George Orwell's novel Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949)
- Egbert Souse in the film The Bank Dick (1940) (one of several of W.C. Fields' acclaimed "Everyman" movie characters)
- Roger Thornhill in the film North by Northwest (1959)
- Mick Travis in the Mick Travis trilogy of films
- The Earth Day Special featured a character called Everyman (played by Robin Williams).
An example of the term's use in non-fiction is the description in Salon of Dustin Hoffman's reaction to the Weather Underground's townhouse explosion: "[...] the news footage of the Greenwich Village townhouse destroyed in 1970 by bomb-making gone wrong in the basement still has enormous impact. Standing in the chaotic street, actor Dustin Hoffman, who lived next door, seems like Everyman at the apocalypse."
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- Average Joe – a completely average person
- Commoner – people who are members of neither the nobility nor the priesthood.
- Everyman's right – the freedom to roam
- Kafkaesque – a term for fiction involving an everyman in a situation where he is overwhelmed by circumstances beyond his control
- John Q. Public – a generic name to denote a hypothetical member of society deemed a "common man"
- Zé Povinho – a Portuguese everyman
- Reasonable person – a term used to explain the law to a jury
- T.C. Mits – acronym for "the celebrated man in the street"
- The man on the Clapham omnibus – a hypothetical reasonable person
- Man on the Bondi tram
- Person having ordinary skill in the art
- Placeholder name
- Reasonable doubt
- Reasonable suspicion
- Probable cause
- "WordNet Search - 3.0". Princeton University. Retrieved August 30, 2010.
- "Everyman - Definition and More From the Free Merriam-Webster Dictionary". Merriam-Webster. Retrieved August 30, 2010.
- Miller, S., Inside Evita – background and analysis"
- Gans, A. "In upcoming revival of Evita, Che will be the "everyman", not Che Guevara," Playbill, February 10, 2012. Retrieved January 18, 2014.
- Prickett, Stephen (2008). "Scriptural Interpretation in the English Literary Tradition". In Magne Saebo. Hebrew Bible/Old Testament: The History of Its Interpretation. II (from the Renaissance to the Enlightenment). Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht. p. 934.
- Smith, Gavin (September–October 1999). "Inside Out: Gavin Smith Goes One-on-One with David Fincher". Film Comment. 35 (5): 64.
- Gharraie, Jonathan (June 27, 2011). "Around Bloom in a Day". Paris Review. Retrieved April 7, 2013.
Leopold Bloom, the Jewish everyman
- Jones, Brian; Hamilton, Geoff (2009). Encyclopedia of American Popular Fiction. New York: Infobase Publishing. p. 153.
- "The Walking Dead Cast: Rick Grimes". amctv.com. Retrieved October 24, 2012.
- Ryan McKee. "Top 10: Everyman Heroes - No.9 Rick Grimes - The Walking Dead". Askmen.com. Retrieved October 23, 2012.
- Scott Tipton (November 10, 2010). "Talking About Walking". COMICS 101 with Professor Scott Tipton. Retrieved October 24, 2012.
- "The Office: Co-Workers You'd Love to Have - Jim Halpert (John Krasinski), 'The Office' Occupation: Sales representative". TV.MSN.com. Retrieved October 24, 2012.
- "George O'Hanlon; Father's voice on Jetsons". Los Angeles Times. February 14, 1989.
- "Character Guide: Stan Marsh". SouthParkStudios.com. Retrieved February 9, 2013.
- "About AMC: Who's Who in Pine Valley - Joseph Martin - All My Children @ soapcentral.com". Soapcentral.
- Ball, Chris (September 26, 2009). "New on DVD: 'Shrink,' 'Management,' 'The Patty Duke Show' and more".
- Adkins, Leslie (May 13, 2009). "AS SEEN ON: My new addiction: 'How I Met Your Mother'".
- Rodden, John (2007). The Cambridge Companion to George Orwell. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. p. 9.
- "W.C. Fields Biography". The Biography Channel. UK.
Amongst his greatest films were those of the thirties - 'It's a Gift' in 1934, 'You Can't Cheat an Honest Man' in 1939, and, especially, 'The Bank Dick' in 1940. His characteristic portrayal of the beleaguered 'everyman' figure made him a national institution.
- James L. Neibaur (February 28, 2007). "Film Reviews: The W.C. Fields Comedy Collection Vol. 2 (2007)". Rogue Cinema.
It was talking pictures that helped to fully realize Fields' character. He was at once an angry wiseacre, and at other times a put-upon henpecked husband whose Everyman was at the mercy of any and all authority. His winning in the end provides a vicarious thrill for the viewer, as does his dry mockery of his stereotypical surroundings.
- Cohan, Steven (1997). Masked Men: Masculinity and the Movies in the Fifties. Indiana University Press. p. 20.
- Paglia, Camille (November 12, 2008). "Obama surfs through". Salon.