William Fothergill: 21/02/17
The whole point of art is to trigger an emotion or a response. To make the reader, viewer, listener or observer to feel something. That is fundamentally what makes art. There may be a message, a meaning or a statement that the artist is trying to convey but, despite what a lot of artists say, this is by no means necessary. So how does a person feel something from art, how do we get a person to have a emotion from nothing? We get them to relate (this is actually a common criticism of the fantasy genre but I’ll leave that for another time) and thus we bring in the everyman.
The everyman or everywoman is you, yes you. Or at least, what you think you are. They are an archetype that goes far back to the early days of fiction itself. The works of Charles Dickens are filled with every men. They are both every one and no one. They are regular run of the mill people as the artist wants us to see ourselves in the everyman. We are the Pip’s, the Frodo Baggins’, the Homer Simpson’s. They have no special skills as you may not have any special skills. Their job is dull and boring because your job is probably dull and boring. It will be a relatable character because you yourself are a everyman or you know someone who is. The only way you do not fit into those two categories would to be a hermit and completely avoid other humans all together.
The art of the everyman often starts with them being ordinary and everyday. They are often pushed around by some sinister high up force, as though you may not be suffering from people with more power than you abusing you, the odds are that you probably think this is happening. Then the plot arrives and a strange train of peculiar events starts to happen. If this the Harry Potter books or films, this would be the point where the letters from Hogwarts start to come. This is often out of your control, a strange coincidence that may thrust you into the unexpected. A mystery begins to unfold. The everyman does not want it, they fight against it but now it is too late, they are trapped in the story. The story ends up with the everyman doing something extraordinary and at this point, the character learns a lesson or grows slightly so that they return back to their everyday existence a bit more satisfied than they were before.
Of course, this is not the only time that they are used. An everyman might be used to discover a magical land at the back of a wardrobe so that the reader can get adjusted to supernatural world they are entering. The everyman Winston in Ghostbusters is purely there in order to ask the other characters questions so that they explain some of the finer details and plot points. Watson from the Sherlock Holmes stories acts in the same way in order to create a fluid way in which Homes’s methods may be shown. He may not affect the plot a great deal but is one of the most important characters just for this reason.
So there is always room for the everyman- whether they are present to ask the questions or find their own worth and learn a moral, it look like we will see a lot more of them in the future.