The Creature of Habit likes routine. It's as simple as that. No sarcasm, no Stepford smiling
, no threats of going insane from the monotony. They are honestly, perfectly content with doing the same thing day after day. The same places, the same people, the same errands and chores...to them, this is bliss.
They tend to be a source of puzzlement for more dynamic characters...or indeed, the audience themselves when Values Dissonance
comes into play. Many cultures maintain that change is a good thing, and at the very least people should be ambitious and adaptable - who wants to stay stuck in a rut for all their lives? Particularly if the Creature of Habit is a pig-farmer in medieval England, or a peasant in the feudal age. Surely they would be glad to get out of there?
Not so. If offered the chance of change, the Creature of Habit may listen politely, be thoroughly uninterested, or even snap at the lack of respect for their viewpoint ("Look, I like
being a servant, all right?!!"), but they will almost always decline. A higher calling or moral dilemma may get them to leave their old existence behind, but only reluctantly, and if possible they will return to the life they loved best when the crisis has passed.
Some versions are easygoing, while others verge on obsessive-compulsive, but neither likes change. They don't bother much about ambition, because ambition threatens the nice little groove they've established for themselves, although if a promotion is offered that's nearly identical to their current position they'll probably take it after some deliberation.
Unfortunately for the Creature of Habit, fiction does not respect their decision to live a quiet life. The Rule of Drama
dictates that this is an interesting character to shove into Fish out of Water
situations, be it through the revelation that they are an unlikely Chosen One
, or The End of the World as We Know It
blowing their old life to smithereens. After all, it's only when you upset their routine that the trouble starts. Tender-hearted creatures of habit may suffer a Heroic BSOD, or at least have their gentle natures shaken. Less benign examples often reveal their bossy, often officious nature and demonstrate why you should "beware the quiet ones." Usually, the writer decides that since "change is good", the Creature of Habit will adjust
to their new existence and learn to enjoy it, even if they occasionally pine for the days when "adventure" was a really hot cup of tea and a new brand of chocolate biscuit.
Slice of Life
stories, however, favour the creature of habit—their contented, slow nature suits the genre, and they may be the Team Mom
or the earnest main character.
Often a trait of the Everyman
. When a Creature of Habit has his routine shot to pieces, with no chance of recovery, he'll probably become the Unfazed Everyman
once he adjusts. Occasionally a trait of the Brilliant but Lazy
. If they are absolutely neurotic about the timing of their schedule—for example, they MUST wash their socks at exactly 6:05 pm every Tuesday and Thursday — then they aren't the Creature of Habit, but the much more energetic Schedule Fanatic
Contrast with Allergic to Routine
, who often pairs up with the Creature of Habit in Odd Couple
situations, because of the domestic disharmony that results from their opposing needs.
See also: Clock King
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Anime & Manga
- Akari of ARIA is perfectly happy with her "familiar days." Sure, no day is exactly alike, but she likes knowing that certain things will always remain constant... except that they don't, hence the series' Bittersweet Ending. Throughout the series, she knows in the back of her mind that achieving her goal will mean big changes, and it's a source of anxiety for her. Ultimately, she decides to live in the moment, and adjust when it's needed.
- But not before becoming all heartbroken when she has to say goodbye to her old gondola, once it has to be replaced by a newer version.
- Yuno, in Hidamari Sketch, likes life to trundle along this way, which is the basis of the anime's large amount of Once an Episode elements.
- Klaus, in From Eroica with Love, is as much a Creature of Habit as being an international spy will allow him to be, bordering on Schedule Fanatic.
- Jyoji of Servant ◊ Service is so much of this that the fact the lunch break is ending trumps over his rivalry towards Yutaka and leaves mid-challenge.
- Skalman from Bamse. One of his inventions is a special alarm clock which rings when it's time for a meal or a nap. Come naptime, he goes to sleep as soon as he hears the ring, even if he's in the middle of something adventurous.
- Kuman-Kuman from The Interpreter does the exact same routine every day, which makes it easy for an assassin to kill him by placing a bomb on a bus; after all, Kuman-Kuman takes the same bus at the same time every day.
- Harold Crick, protagonist of Stranger Than Fiction. This will change somewhat, though.
- In Ocean's Eleven, Terry Benedict is described as "a machine" because his schedule is so very precise, he even visits the men's room at the same time every day.
- George Banks was like this towards the beginning of Mary Poppins, with his song "The Life I Lead" all about how wonderful it is that his life is so precise.
"I run my home precisely on schedule. At 6:01, I march through my door. My slippers, sherry, and pipe are due at 6:02. Consistent is the life I lead!"
- Ray Breslin makes a point of identifying these types when planning his prison breaks in Escape Plan.
- Mycroft Holmes is so set in his ways that his baby brother knows that something catastrophic must have happened when he gets a telegram announcing that big bro is paying a visit. Why is it so strange? "It is as if you met a tram-car coming down a country lane. Mycroft has his rails and he runs on them."
- Around the World in 80 Days: Phileas Fogg follows a routine so regular and inflexible that his manservant Passepartout describes him as "a real machine."
He breakfasted and dined at the club, at hours mathematically fixed, in the same room, at the same table, never taking his meals with other members, much less bringing a guest with him; and went home at exactly midnight, only to retire at once to bed.
- Hermione runs into trouble in Harry Potter when she tries to liberate the house elves. Turns out their whole species are creatures of habit (with the odd exception) and they find Happiness in Slavery — they don't want to be free.
- Arthur Dent of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy really wants nothing more than a nice cup of tea and a sandwich most of the time. Regrettably what he gets is lots and lots of adventures.
- Rincewind from Discworld would like to be a creature of habit and truly desires boredom (and potatoes) but almost never gets it. In Sourcery, he is utterly bewildered to hear that Nijel deliberately abandoned a boring, routine lifetime for a life of danger.
- Dios from the Pyramids novel is such a creature of routine that it is physically impossible for him to change his habits. There are marks in the stone floors of the palace where his habitual footsteps have fallen on the exact same place, day after day, year after year.
- From Going Postal we have the Post Office's cat, which goes the same walk every day, and will wait in front of a door until it opens. It does this when the building catches fire!!
- The Dresden Files:
- Harry Dresden has aspects of this, one character pointing that given a choice he will go to the same restaurant, order the same food, take the same route etc. Of course, his life tends to be full of enough unpredictable excitement that a little routine is an understandable relief. The issue came up when Harry was insisting that he was an aversion of this trope. He was told in no uncertain terms that he is a Creature of Habit in many ways, just not other peoples' habits. Apparently, that's just as frustrating.
- Getting really old in the Dresdenverse gets you really stuck in your ways pretty substantially. Even the more venerable wizards suffer from this, though not to the supernatural extent of the, well, supernatural. Harry frequently relies on this fact in dealing with heavyweight baddies, and has even won a Boss Fight with a clever use of this trope and some very creative magic.
- Inverted when Harry encounters (who we believe are) members of the Black Council: they can think on their feet and slug it out in the major leagues; Harry sees himself in their methods, and is rightly cautious.
- This is a defining characteristic of Hobbits in the works of J. R. R. Tolkien. Some of them occasionally get a bit "Tookish" and start thinking about adventures, but even the more whimsical ones mostly just prefer to stay in the Shire sipping tea and nibbling on cakes. Bilbo Baggins (pre-adventure) is a classic example. Nowhere does this trait make itself more plain than in their adherence to a regular schedule of meals. A Hobbit just doesn't feel right without a good breakfast. And second breakfast. And elevenses...
- In "The Ethics of Madness" by Larry Niven, Douglas Hooker starts out as a mild example of this trope, and winds up taking it Up to Eleven after spending 120,000 years fleeing from his pursuer's vessel in a one-man ramship.
- The Big Bang Theory: Sheldon. Penny uses it against him during an Escalating War by filling all the washing machines in the building when Sheldon was going to do his laundry, forcing him to do his laundry later. He doesn't take it well.
- One episode of Home Improvement portrays Tim as one of these, as a Compressed Vice.
- Jerry on Parks and Recreation gets more joy from sheer bureaucratic routine than any of the other characters. In one episode he spends all night working on a bulk mailing for Leslie's campaign, realizes at the last second that he forgot an insert, and cheerfully says, "It's not government work if you don't have to do it twice."
- The Stanley Parable: Stanley worked for a company in a big building where he was employee number 427. Employee 427's job was pushing buttons on a key board while the computer told him exactly what keys to push and how long to push them and Stanley was happy.''
- SCP-453 forces many of its patrons to do follow a specific script.
- In fact, many SCPs cause those affected to act a certain way for the rest of their lives.
- The Incredible Hulk: Bruce Banner declares the Hulk to be this in the episode "Darkness and Light, Part three", using his knowledge of the Hulk's fighting style to dodge and capture him.
- Batman: The Animated Series: Temple Fugate was this even before he became the Clock King. Itís implied that he was a middle aged man when he broke his routine for the first time in his life.
- In Real Life, many people with autism are creatures of habit to some extent. What extent can vary greatly — some people just get a bit more narked when plans are cancelled or people are late, others have a certain way of doing things and a certain time to do them. In more extreme cases, this trait can become an obsession, to the point the entire family has to fit around the autistic member's "schedule" or all hell breaks loose.
- Personality quizzes/tests/assessment usually have at least one category that is a creature of habit. In western astrology it's Taurus and Cancer, in Myers-Briggs, Sensors and Judgers seem more inclined to like routine.
- German philosopher Immanuel Kant was famous for being one, especially in his later years. According to a famous anecdote, the inhabitants of Koenigsberg set their clocks on his daily walks, and the one day he wasn't on time, it was because he had just heard about the French Revolution breaking out. Or was reading Emile by Rousseau.