Release date21 December 1961 (1961-12-21) WriterHugo von Hofmannsthal (play) CastEwald Balser, Walter Reyer, Paula Wessely, Sonja Sutter Similar moviesRelated Gottfried Reinhardt movies
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 name derives from a 15th-century English morality play called Everyman.
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.
A prominent example of an everyman character is Christian, the protagonist of John Bunyan's Christian allegory The Pilgrim's Progress (1678). Other figures often characterized as everymen include:
"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)
C.C. Baxter in the film The Apartment (1960)
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).
Jacksone Browne album and song entitled "Everyman"
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."