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Monday, April 8, 2013

Character Archetypes 101: The Orphan

Have a seat, class. We've got The Orphan on the couch today, who is also known as The Good Old Boy, Everyman, The Realist, The Working Stiff, The Solid Citizen, The Good Neighbor, and The Silent Majority.

We all have a little bit of the Orphan in us. We might have felt disillusioned by our parents lying to us about Santa, or maybe we've come to the conclusion once we became adults that our parents are fallible, and indeed make poor choices and *gasp!* mistakes.

The "Good"

Orphan archetypes are down-to-earth realists, with solid virtues and a lack of pretense. They are empathetic egalitarians who believe in the inherent worth of all and highly value dignity of others, as well. Acceptance comes easily to them, as they are fair, friendly, understanding, and inviting. They are democratic, and not in the political sense, because they believe in the Three Musketeers concept of "one for all and all for one." 

They learned independence and interdependence at a young age, and they pragmatically and perceptively face facts as they are, not as they wish they are. They can really rally after a set-back and have a natural resilience. They are most fulfilled when they are within a group and feel like they are "one of the gang." As a result, they relate and connect well with others, enjoying networking and camaraderie, which suits their warm, kind, outgoing and sociable personality. They have what is a called a "common touch" to motivate others to pitch in, solve problems, and just generally do and be their best.

The "Bad"

Orphans have a tendency to play the victim, and use prior misfortunes as an excuse for present circumstances. They become negative and cynical, and blame others for their problems or see the world as "against" them. You can see how this would be difficult to overcome in fiction, because if playing the victim, one can never achieve heroism. Drug addicts and alcoholics are common shadow traits of an Orphan. They can develop an "us versus them" mentality, and be very protective of their own turf, to the exclusion of seeing people or situations clearly.

Since they want to fit in so badly, and belong to a group, family, or tribe of some sort, they might begin to lose themselves in their effort to blend in. An example might be an Orphan's willingness to accept abuse in a gang or within a mob rather than be alone. Of course, these relationships they settle for are superficial, and establishing mature relationships is difficult for some Orphans. They might appear needy and clingy in their desperation to make sure other people won't leave them.

Orphans don't trust authority, and this can lead to looking to peers, not parents, for answers. Their idealism can also be a shadow trait, because when the world doesn't measure up to their ideals, this leads to negativism.

Likely Goals

To belong
To restore a feeling of safety
To connect with others

Likely Fears

To be alone
To be alienated
To stand out from a crowd
To be abandoned
To be exploited

Examples in the Media

  • James Stewart as George Bailey in It's a Wonderful Life 
  • Drew Barrymore as Beverly Donofrio in Riding in Cars with Boys 
  • Spiderman, Batman, Superman (and other superheroes)
  • Elijah Wood as Frodo Baggins in Lord of the Rings 
  • And there are abounding examples of orphans, in the proper sense of the term:
    • Pinocchio 
    • Little Orphan Annie
    • Luke Skywalker
    • Rapunzel (and many other you can see some connection with The Innocent)
    • Huckleberry Fin/Tom Sawyer
    • Jane Eyre
    • Harry Potter
    • Tarzan

Archetypes Who've Completed Therapy

The Innocent

Let's Analyze

Did I make it clear that a person does not have to be an actual orphan to fit this archetype? I hope so. Sometimes names can be so misleading, as we'll see in future classes on archetypes. :)