While some fictional characters are only meant to represent themselves, others are meant to represent something larger than themselves in order to make a point. The author uses this character to represent X, whether X is "Women", "Christians", "Atheism", "Illegal Aliens", "The Bush Administration", or even "You". It's the difference between "Oh, Bob just tripped over the cat again; he is such an idiot" vs. "Bob just tripped over the cat again; men are such idiots."
Sometimes characters are created to be this. Other times, an existing character is (either temporarily or not) drafted into the role by being written as the voice/face/advocate of (topic) for an episode. This can even happen outside of the official canon
; in fact, the more this is used outside of the original work, the stronger the case may be for the character being an effective symbol of X.
Please note that the character in question may be a perfectly well-rounded and very much individualized character, but he is so closely linked to a certain concept, that he is often used allegorically as a way of talking about that concept. (E.g., Superman and Idealism)
of the characters in the work are written this way, then you might just have a full-blown Allegory
on your hands.
When no extra meaning is intended and only exists in the mind of your English teacher, then you have Everyone Is Jesus in Purgatory
(Although adherents to Death of the Author
would point out that just because the allegory wasn't intended doesn't mean it isn't there).
A form of Characters as Device
. Compare Archetypal Character
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- Game of Death: The characters in the pagoda are this in the original version. One could ask if they spend all of their lives in the pagoda waiting for some challenger, however, they represent the formalized system of martial arts that Bruce Lee wanted to prove wrong. They are all beaten with some ease, however Kareem-Abdul Jabbar has an unknown fighting style that represents the highest level of martial arts.
- Godzilla himself started in Godzilla (1954) as an allegorical character representing the atomic bomb itself and the destruction it caused. His footsteps were even deliberately made to sound like explosions.
Live Action TV
- Medieval morality plays were rife with these.