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Embodiment of Virtue

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. For this reason this is not a strict subtrope of Allegorical Character.

In the specific case of literal personification of a moral ideal in the form of a character, we are speaking about an Anthropomorphic Personification.

The inversion of this trope is Embodiment of Vice. One notable difference between the two tropes is that in the case of characters, the people 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. In the (at least in real life) rare cases where this is not the case, we are dealing with a villain who does evil simply For the Evulz.


Examples:

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    Anime and 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).

    Film 
  • 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 'liberty', 'justice', 'trust' , 'freedom', 'peace', 'honor', 'goodness', 'strength', and 'valor' are listed, among others. Note that the main character's father laid down his shield on 'valor', and the villain laid his down with a shout of 'ME!'.

    Literature 
  • 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?
      • In the first book, Hagrid mentions that Hufflepuffs had a reputation for being a "load o' duffers". So it could also be the misconception that Good Is Dumb.
      • Hufflepuffs, at least from my memory, seem to be more naive, and they often jump to conclusions quickly (particular Ernie and Justin Finch-Fletchley re: the petrifications and Harry's role in them). At least, this is of the Hufflepuffs we saw.
    • 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?

    Video Games 
  • 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 the Diablo series, the leaders of the Angels represent different virtues. Tyrael unsurprisingly is Justice. In Diablo III, Tyrael's commitment to his virtue is so powerful that he renounces his position and powers to become mortal rather than abide by his fellow Angels' decision to abandon humanity to the demons. At the end of the game, Tyrael takes up the position of Wisdom instead, having gained some during his journey, confident that mortals can handle Justice just fine on their own.

    Webcomics 
  • 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).

    Web Originals 

    Western Animation 
  • 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, which in the local lore happens to also be the element of Magic


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alternative title(s): Embodiments Of Virtue
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