In some works of fiction, virtue is a central theme. Virtues usually constitute parts in a system, where the individual virtues are regarded as aspects of goodness, and no virtue alone is enough to form a good character. While they complement each other, they may also come into conflict with each other, leading to moral conundrums.
In fictional works dealing with virtue, the author often chooses to assign each virtue in the system to a different character, allowing said characters to allegorically represent
their respective virtues through the natural leanings of their personalities. For example, a naturally empathic and compassionate character may be (explicitly or implicitly) assigned the virtue of Compassion to represent, while another may be assigned the virtue of Loyalty on account of his or her personalities' natural affinity for this virtue.
Sometimes this trope is applied to entities other than characters in works of fiction, such as organizations or even inanimate objects. In the latter case the representation has nothing to do with the personality of the assignee, for obvious reasons, but is rather more arbitrarily symbolic.
This also has as exact opposite that perhaps carries enough unique connotations as to be regarded a trope in itself: embodiment of vice. One notable difference between the two tropes is that the characters involved usually are aware of their virtues, and strive to actively cultivate them. Characters that personify vices are usually either unaware of them or somehow unable to overcome them. For example, characters that actively strive to be honorable and courageous are extremely commonplace in fiction, but how many characters have you encountered that strive to be as greedy as possible, for the sake of greed in and of itself? Vice is nearly always motivated by something other than the desire to be vicious, unlike virtue.
Anime & Manga
- In Karakuridouji Ultimo, there are fifty Douji representing positive traits. Ultimo and the Six Perfects of Buddhism are the strongest of them, fighting against the Douji based on negative traits (including the Seven Deadly Sins).
- The shonen manga series Katekyo Hitman Reborn! has the seven sins represented by the seven top members of an elite assassination squad, the Varia. The seven protagonists set to battle against them in a fight for the right to inherit a powerful mafia family embody the Seven Heavenly Virtues (but not as obviously as the antagonists). The Varia take their names directly from the Seven Deadly Sins:
- Greed: Mammon (obsessed with money)
- Envy: Leviathan (wishes to be the only one to please his boss; is envious of Tsuna and his group from taking his "rightful" position as Thunder Guardian)
- Gluttony/Gula: Gola Mosca (consumes the Dying Will Flames of Vongola IX for power; bonus points for "mosca" meaning "fly", as Beelzebub is also known as "Lord of the Flies")
- Lust/Luxuria: Lussuria (admires the bodies of other men)
- Pride/Superbia: Superbia Squalo (a loudmouth very proud of his rank as #1 swordsman in the world)
- Sloth/Acedia: Belphegor (a natural-born killer who is lazy and doesn't take his job very seriously)
- Wrath: Xanxus + Flame of Wrath (a generally unpleasant person who calls those he considers beneath him scum. He possesses the Flames of Wrath, originally owned by Vongola II, the most powerful Dying Will Flames in existence).
- In the DC Comics Universe, the Seven Deadly Sins, or rather their Anthropomorphic Personifications, are imprisoned inside the Rock of Eternity by the wizard Shazam (Same guy who empowered Captain Marvel of I Am Not Shazam fame), though their influence is still passively felt throughout creation.
- Until recently "Injustice" took the place of "Lust", presumably due to the Comic Book Age Ghetto.
- Lust first appeared in 2002, as the Sins were released as part of an attack on the JLA & the JSA. The Sins ended up possessing various members of both groups.
- Until the late '80s, they were often called "The Seven Deadly Enemies of Man" in order to avoid overt religious references (another age ghetto no-no.)
- The 2009 Batman annuals feature a group of seven villains who call themselves La Saglia (an acronym of the Latin names of the sins), and seek to awaken the Eighth Sin. Any connection to the Seven Deadly Enemies of Man is unknown.
- A French graphic novel, Seven Monks, told the story of seven Irish monks, each embodying one of the deadly sins, receiving punishment for their sins by being sent to convert a village of pagan vikings. Incredibly, by applying their sinful behaviors in creative ways (the avaricious monk uses the lure of profitable trading with Byzantium, the envious monk convinces the chieftain's second-in-command to take over upon his death, the lustful monk seduces every woman in the village, and so on) and with some incredible coincidences, they succeed in their mission without changing their ways in the slightest.
- Yet another example from DC: in Titans Together, six sons of Trigon sired from human mothers at around the same time as Raven have emotion-manipulating powers based on the sins. They try to awaken Raven's evil side and get her to join up. In an open defiance of convention, the one female in the group isn't lust; Raven instead filled the "pride" slot. Stuck on evil mode, Raven later tried to transfer her brother's abilities to the Titans.
- Donna Troy got stuck with Lust, rather than the more obvious choice of Starfire. This was a reference to the fact that Donna has gone through multiple relationships and been the object of desire of many men, even moreso than Starfire.
- Cyborg was Wrath, which seemed to be a Stealth Pun on the Angry Black Man trope.
- Red Arrow got Gluttony, and while he became fat as a result, this was a possible reference to his former heroin addiction, thrill seeking, and womanizing tendencies, fitting in with Gluttony's nature of excessive consumption.
- The variant covers of the first issue of DV 8 depicted the team as the Seven Deadly Sins. Threshold, a Psychopathic Manchild whose boss Ivana controlled him with sex, was Lust. Bliss, a spoiled rich girl, was Greed. Powerhaus, who feeds off ambient emotions to get stronger, was Gluttony. Evo, a monster man with an attitude problem, was Wrath. Frostbite, a pessimist who doesn't care about anything, was Sloth. Copycat, the girl with multiple personalities whose only friend is herself, was Pride, and Sublime, a supermodel type who longed for the attention of Gen13 member Grunge, was Envy.
- See them all here.
- In the Green Lantern lore, colors represent emotional qualities/states: Red and Orange represent the vices of Wrath, and Avarice respectively. Yellow represents Fear. Green for willpower, Blue for hope, Indigo for Compassion and Violet for Love.
- This deviant-artist portrayed seven of the original girls from Total Drama Island as the Seven Deadly Sins, with quite logical reasoning:
- There exists a really good Harry Potter fanfiction that features several villains as the sins:
- The Seven Disney Sins:
- This One Piece fic has identified the original seven Straw Hats with a sin.
- Clash of the Elements: According to Cackletta in Part 2, The Dark King's control over darkness stemmed from a balance between all seven of them, and that his death was caused because he succumbed to a few of them simultaneously. As of the most recent chapter though, Alex's clone has revealed that he holds copies of the Genesis Samurai's spirits that each represent a different sin:
- In Quest for Camelot, the introduction to Camelot itself is accompanied by a chorus of all of the Knights of the Round Table singing about unity of purpose. They go on to take their places at the table, each lifting their shield to honor their king, and then lowering it as they declare the virtue they most embody. There are far more than seven virtues listed, but 'faith', 'trust' (not exactly the same thing), 'strength', 'courage', 'kindness', 'balance', 'dignity', and 'honor' are listed, among others. Note that the main character's father laid down his shield on 'honor', and the villain laid his down with a shout of 'ME!'.
- Se7en centered around a Serial Killer committing his murders based on these sins. The victims therefore become allegorically associated with the respective sins they were murdered for.
- Repo! The Genetic Opera features the Largo family: Rotti Largo, the powerful businessman and his three children: Amber Sweet the surgery addicted, drug-addict wannabe singer, Luigi the raging, mass murdering sociopath and Pavi the effeminate, face-stealing The Casanova. While all four are vain and greedy, Rotti in particular represents Envy and Greed, Amber is Sloth and Gluttony, while Luigi is Wrath (as the producer Darren Lynn Bousman has stated) and Pavi is Pride and Lust.
- In the 1967 Deal with the Devil film Bedazzled (1967), the protagonist Stanley Moon meets incarnations of the seven deadly sins. Anger is a hostile bouncer who wears a T-shirt that says "Make War, Not Love", Sloth is always sleeping, Gluttony is a Fat Girl, Avarice complains about how much money's being spent on a date, Envy accuses the other sins of getting special treatment, Vanity has an upward-bending arm with an inward-facing mirror attached to it protruding from his midsection, and Lust is, well, Raquel Welch.
- Harry Potter: The four houses of Hogwarts Academy of Witchcraft and Wizardry represent and base their student selection on moral qualities.
- Gryffindor represents courage and chivalry, the knightly virtues. Weaknesses include brashness, overconfidence and pride.
- Ravenclaw represents wisdom, knowledge and honesty. Weaknesses include arrogance and aloofness.
- Hufflepuff represents humility, loyalty and diligence. No clear moral weaknesses seem to accompany these traits, yet Hufflepuff is the house which is most frequently looked down on in disdain by the others. A commentary on how humility can be misinterpreted as weakness or passivity?
- Slytherin represents ambition, personal as well as collective. As a trait of utility rather than morality, it can sometimes overshadow traditional moral values, which is why most "evil wizards/witches" in the world come from this house. Yet its relevance as a positive trait cannot be denied. Where would the others be without it?
- In Bayonetta, personifications of the four cardinal virtues are used as antagonists. They represent Courage, Temperance, Justice and Prudence.
- In Daemon Bride, each of the Angel side Brides represents one of the seven virtues. Michael represents Righteousness, Uriel represents Courage, Rafael represents Wisdom, Gabriel represents Love, Zadkiel represents Loyalty / Faith, Metatron represents Fidelity / Chastity, and Haniel represents Prudence.
- Final Fantasy XI contains seven bosses (as a group named Jailers of the Sea or Jailers of Virtue) named after virtues. In order of kill, they are Jailer of: Temperance, Fortitude, Faith, Justice, Hope, Prudence, and Love.
- Ōkami: The Satomi Canine Warriors. Each of them represents the Confucian virtues : Brotherhood, Faith, Knowledge, Honor, Wisdom, Duty, Loyalty, and Justice
- Ultima IV: The main protagonist's companions, each one representing one of the Sacred Virtues of Avatarhood:
- Mariah the mage represents Honesty
- Iolo the bard represents Compassion
- Geoffrey the fighter represents Valor
- Jaana the druid represents Justice
- Julia the tinker represents Sacrifice
- Dupré the paladin represents Honor
- Shamino the ranger represents Spirituality
- Katrina the shepherd represents Humility
- In Overlord, the fallen heroes who serve as the bosses are each themed for a sin, having fallen into decadence after their grand victory. For the first five bosses there is also a moral choice themed around the sin.
- Melvin Underbelly (Gluttony): A small halfling whose appetite ran out of control when fame went to his head. His subjects raid human villages to gather the massive amounts of food needed to feed the now morbidly-obese Melvin. Hidden in his lair is a massive store of food. You can return it to the starving villagers or use it to feed your minions.
- Oberon Greenhaze (Sloth): An elf who fell into an endless sleep, depriving his people of the hero they needed when dwarfs razed the kingdom. Then, just to top things off, Oberon's nightmares started manifesting while he turned into a giant tree-weed slowly consuming his forest home. Deep in the forest is the last untainted grove, filled with enemies and loot. You can fight each enemy to retrieve the treasure or take the easy way and burn it down.
- Sir William the Black (Lust): Abandoned his fiancée and knightly ways to house a succubus queen, founding a cult dedicated to carnal pleasure (sheep in the brothel anyone?) and letting the succubus transform the hapless citizens of his city into a zombie horde. Locked away in the castle is your second choice of mistress, the very sensual Velvet. You can choose to remain faithful to Rose or claim Velvet as your own.
- Goldo Golderson (Greed): A gold-hungry dwarf who razed the elven kingdom to steal their treasures and used the survivors of the elven race to mine gold in his own kingdom. Deep in Goldo's collapsing castle are two treasures: A mountain of gold and the last elven women. You can save the elves or the gold before time runs out.
- Jewel, the Thieving Hero (Envy): Kleptomanic thief, constantly steals things other people want. It doesn't matter what it is or if she can use it; if somebody wants it, it has value and she'll take it. On her defeat you recover the stolen statue. You can return it to the elves or claim it as part of your fortunes.
- Kahn the Warrior (Wrath): A massive warrior easily overwhelmed with rage for even the most minor issues. Only Jewel could calm him, and after you kill her, well... Meanwhile, your "loyal" subjects in Spree betray you to save their own hides from Kahn's fury, you can decide if you want to let this go or give in to your anger towards them and butcher them all.
- The Wizard (Pride): A man who dedicated his life to defeating the previous Overlord only to be possessed by his foe's spirit. He was responsible for the downfall of the other heroes and attempts to usurp (well, reclaim) the player's position as overlord. Sure in his ability to reclaim his position, he was defeated by the very pawn he had empowered to achieve his ends. This last one seems a less obvious aesop as the others, until the final battle where he gloats how he personally corrupted each of the original heroes one by one throughout the entire fight; pride comes before the fall.
- Sins has personifications of the seven heavenly virtues as some of the characters. In a subversion, they tend to suffer their virtues rather than embody them, and most are bitter about it (when not outright morally questionable).
- My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic: The "Mane Six", where one pony each represents one of the "Elements of Harmony":
- Fluttershy represents Kindness
- Rainbow Dash represents Loyalty
- Rarity represents Generosity
- Applejack represents Honesty
- Pinkie Pie represents Laughter
- Twilight Sparkle represents Friendship/Magic