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Picaresque

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Before the blind man could withdraw his long nose that was choking Lazarillo, his stomach revolted and discharged the stolen goods in his face, so that his nose and that hastily-chewed sausage left his mouth at the same time
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Picaresque is a genre of usually satiric prose fiction originating in Spain and depicting in realistic, often humorous detail the adventures of a roguish hero of low social degree living by his or her wits in a corrupt society.

A traditional picaresque is often a "Shaggy Dog" Story and/or has a Random Events Plot. Elements of the picaresque frequently show up in Cyberpunk stories. The plots are often episodic, and there's very little in the vein of a main quest narrative, and as such most picaresque narratives usually have a few stock characters who weave in and weave out.


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Examples:

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     Film  

  • All of the Dollars Trilogy, especially The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.
  • Forrest Gump, though the novel is much more clearly in the genre than the movie.
  • Guardians of the Galaxy and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. II: Both films contain elements of the genre, especially with the episodic plotlines (either film can be watched without any context from the larger Marvel Cinematic Universe), the roguish protagonists (the Guardians have their own individual charges but as of their inception, they are technically mercenaries) and comedic overtones.
  • Little Big Man.
  • O Lucky Man!: A deeply cynical film about how humans are craven and selfish, with a protagonist who's buffeted by events, wandering through a Random Events Plot in which he has a series of bizarre adventures. Like blundering into an Army base where he's arrested as a spy, or volunteering to be a subject for a medical experiment only to find that it's a Mad Scientist's lair and the mad scientist is creating freakish pig-men.
  • O Brother, Where Art Thou?, about three buffoonish escaped criminals stumbling from adventure to adventure
  • The Journey of Natty Gann is about a teenage girl travelling across America during The Great Depression, getting into scrapes and adventures along the way

     Literature  

     Music  

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     Theatre  

     Video Games  

  • Half-Life 2 and its episodes (particularly 2) features a fairly episodic plot as Gordon drives around the eastern European coast, encountering a variety of self-contained side stories and vignettes. Episode 2 in particular features a wider variety of social commentary thanks to its greater cross section of characters of differing social standing.
  • Persona 5: High school Japanese Delinquents become Picaresque thieves to Heel Face Brainwash the corrupt, while referencing quite a lot of other Picaresque stories.
  • Dragon Age II has elements of this. The protagonist and their family are refugees in the city of Kirkwall, simply trying to make their way in the world for most of the game. Over time, as the main character becomes more important and powerful within the city, a main story arc does emerge from the big world-shaking events you sometimes have to deal with, but the bulk of the story is spent on subplots and side adventures.

     Web Original  

     Western Animation  

  • The Simpsons has many elements of the picaresque genre: Both Homer and Bart are notorious underperformers who avoid hard work and shirk their duties whenever possible, are generally irresponsible, treat their fellow men shabbily and take refuge to lies when it suits them, all the while being not especially bright. Yet they somehow always manage to avoid all serious consequences of their foolishness or egoism and are likable characters despite their many flaws.

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