The outside world is the world beyond the constraints of a secluded or isolated place. It makes up the essence of nearly every adventure or dystopian story. When a character crosses the threshold of their home, they are stepping into the Outside World.
This is one of the most important steps on The Hero's Journey.
The Society A character begins as a member of some commune, or is living in some form of confinement, that has been segregated from the rest of their world. It can be through psychological means, (laws, threats of violence or death, etc.) or physical (walled, domed, buried, locked, ensorcled, etc). Usually, though, it is a Small, Secluded World. The Powers That Be might confine an entire society for a variety of different reasons, like to make sure that nothing dangerous gets into the community. Or gets out...
The reason a character may want to leave such a society depends greatly on what kind of world they live in and their personality. So the Outside can be a source of strong enticement... or immeasurable fear. This is the call to adventure. Here a character may voluntarily leave their society or be forced out.
The Outside World
Once the character has been spurred by a catalyst, crossing the threshold may yield many results.
When a character literally crosses the threshold, the Outside World can be beautiful and lush, full of dangers, or, sadly, a world devoid of life with nothing but dust and crumbling structures.
The Outside can alternately be a land of discovery for a person who was isolated to avoid societal contamination. A world that is full of mundanity for the average person would be confusing and amazing to a person coming from isolation.
This is a super trope of the following:
- In Ergo Proxy, Re-l actually makes it to the Outside World, only to find that it is effectively a dark, very dark, Crapsack World.
- Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann starts off with Humanity living in isolated villages below the earth. The idea of a surface world is a legend, as well as a major taboo to go searching for it. When the plot kicks in though, Simon and Kamina find themselves on the surface at the end of the first episode. While the initial reaction to them surveying their surroundings is nothing too special, both are constantly surprised by the wonders that exist there.
- In Attack on Titan humanity has been reduced to a small population inside three different walls (Maria, Rose and Sina), because of the Titans which are giant human-eating monsters who drove humans to their near extinction, anything regarding the world outside the walls is considered heretic, the protagonist Eren, and his friend Armin are two kids who wish to see everything outside, given that humanity has remained inside for a little over 100 years, mundane concepts like the sea or deserts strikes them as fantastic.
- Eren and the others learn more about the outside world when they discover his father's journals. The Titan-controlled land beyond the walls is just an island. The mainland is dominated by a hostile nation which generates the Titans as a punishment for dissidents and to torment the people within the walls.
- First Comics' Mars by Wheatley and Hempel has a team of terraformers in orbit around Mars find that Earth has gone ominously radio silent. They decide to let their robots terraform Mars on automatic, and place themselves in stasis pods for ten thousand years in hopes that Mars will become habitable by then. Good news: Mars has become habitable; bad news: almost the whole planet bears them a grudge as "the gods who abandoned us."
- The Lorax has The Protagonist wanting to go to the Outside World to find a real live tree for a girl he likes. However, he finds that the outside is a really bleak and dark Crapsack World.
- In the movie The Croods Eep hates being confined to the cave. Exploring and navigating the Outside is what she wants most, and a disaster forces the family to venture out into it.
- Ariel, The Little Mermaid, is fascinated by the world above the ocean surface, particularly in humans to the point that she falls in love with one, and makes a Deal with the Devil to get the chance to live up there.
- Rapunzel in Tangled has lived her whole life in her tower and desperately wants to get out and see what's outside, an opportunity that comes when a thief gets into her tower looking for a place to hide some loot and she knocks him out with a frying pan and forces him to take her along.
- This works both ways in Pixar's WALL•E. The lonely robot is awed at the gleaming marvels of the Axiom, while the people aboard the Axiom gape at the expanse of planet Earth.
- The faeries of Ferngully The Last Rainforest are convinced that Ferngully is the entire world, and that humans are long extinct. Mage-in-training Crysta is so surprised to actually see a human that she fumbles a magic spell meant to warn him of danger. The spell instead shrinks the human to about three inches tall, which is faerie size.
- In Frozen Elsa and Anna both are trapped in the castle, Elsa physically out of necessity, Anna metaphorically by naiveté (she could technically leave at any time). They both emerge into the Outside World in two different ways. Anna goes on a journey searching for Elsa, who decided to Let it Go and stop holding in her powers by moving out of the Kingdom and into the snowy mountains.
- The Village has the blind protagonist journeying outside world beyond the titular village on a mission to retrieve medicine despite the monsters. The outside world is actually modern 90s society, and the Elders had only set up the village to appear to be in the 1800s and surrounded by unknown dangers in order to start over and protect their kin from the murders and violence they witnessed in the "real world".
- The first act of The Island takes place in an underground bunker, inhabited by people who believe the world has been devastated some vague disaster, with their bunker and a paradise-like place called 'The Island' from which no-one ever returns to be the only remaining bastions of human civilisation. The protagonists, Lincoln and Jordan, escape the bunker when they learn that it's a People Farm where the inhabitants are cloned and harvested for their organs, and discover that the outside world is fine.
- In The Matrix there are a number of different "Outsides" to escape to.
- The first level of the Outside is escaping the Matrix itself and getting to the real world. However, the real world is a prison, more specifically a human body farm in which the people are living batteries.
- The next "Outside" is getting from the prison to the colony called Zion.
- Outside of Zion is the rest of the world, which is totally dark and inhabited by robots. So the True Outside World is a depressing Crapsack World.
- Star Trek: Insurrection. The Ba'ku live in a hazardous region of space called the Briar Patch on a planet with rings that grant them virtual immortality. Though they are warp-capable, they gave up technology to live a quiet life there. Some of their young people dreamed of returning to the stars, and at one point a few of them did to pursue a faster life their people had given up. They come back as the So'na, intent on retaking the planet and using its unique properties to regain their lost youth and long life, either driving off or exterminating the Ba'ku in the process.
- The real world in TRON and TRON: Legacy. Programs are barely aware of its existence, except as a place where the nearly-mythical Users live, but some of them are anxious to break out of their computerized life and enter reality. The MCP in Tron is trying to use Dillinger to access more powerful systems, namely the Pentagon, and Clu 2.0 in Legacy actually wants to invade the real world to make it "perfect". Inverted in the Alternate Continuity of TRON 2.0 where knowledge of the digital world and the laser used to access it falls into the hands of power-hungry humans who seek to conquer it.
- Lost Horizon. Shangri La is hidden from the rest of the world in the Himalayan mountains. Visitors can come & go (though due to its location very few visit) but natives face a terrible price for leaving.
- The peasant village in Seven Samurai is isolated by geography - peasants have to stay near their crops - except for when wars pass back and forth. It is the center of the whole movie and everyone else is exotic and somewhat scary to them.
- In The Shawshank Redemption an old con, having finally been released after serving a long sentence, kills himself when he discovers he can't handle life in world outside prison. Red considers this too after he's released.
- Having undergone a Heel–Face Turn in Logan's Run, "sandman" Logan 3 escapes the rigidly controlled city with renegade Jennifer 6 to explore the abandoned but habitable colony on Mars. This was later adapted into the film Logan's Run by MGM studios in 1976, changing the outside world to the overgrown but habitable Washington, DC. A television series follows the further adventures of Logan and Jenny, plus the android Rem.
- This is the ultimate destination for Doon Harrow and Lina Mayfleet, recognizing that the limited lifespan of The City of Ember is winding down. It's an uphill struggle against Ember's corrupt mayor to navigate the exit sequence engineered by the city's original builders.
- The Hunger Games series has its fair share of Outside Worlds since Panem is made up of districts.
- Katniss ventures out into one part of The Outside World to do some illegal hunting as District 12 is fenced off. However, the true Outside is far beyond any distance she's traveled. Once, while she and Gale were hunting, they witnessed a red-head and a boy running away, but both were taken by the capital before they escaped the district 12 area.
- In Catching Fire, Katniss finally gets to really see the other districts on her tour. They are increasingly more privileged the lower the number gets.
- In Mockingjay Katniss learns that there is a District 13! She actually gets to go there for the first time, but finds that it is another Underground City.
- In The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, adventuring is generally frowned upon by the Hobbits of the Shire, but the occasional hobbit has set out to see the world, notably Bilbo and Frodo Baggins, Samwise, Merry and Pippin, who all get swept up in the events of the outside world.
- Happens three times throughout the Divergent series, from the perspective of Tris:
- In Divergent, she learns that the world does not function in the same selfless and slow way like that of her Abnegation home when she decides on Choosing Day to transfer to Dauntless, which is anything but slow.
- In Insurgent, she learns about how the other factions other than Abnegation and Dauntless function when she is forced to go on the run and has to take refuge in Amity and Candor, and then finally takes a step in the insurgency against Erudite.
- Finally, in Allegiant, she learns that Chicago is not the entire world; there's much, much more beyond that. She also learns why the mindset of the Chicago population is engineered to think that they are isolated from the outside world: they're being used in an experimental project sanctioned by the US government.
- The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
- The Krikkiters began life in a solar system which was surrounded by a massive cloud of black dust, leading to them believing that nothing else existed beyond the confines of their solar system. When an alien spacecraft crash-landed on their planet, they reverse-engineered it and managed to glimpse the universe beyond the dustcloud for the first time; unfortunately the experience turned them into Absolute Xenophobes and began the most terrible conflict in galactic history.
- Played For Laughs by the Oglaroonians. Despite the fact that the entire planet of Oglaroon is inhabitable, the entire species has confined itself to one small nut tree, where they live out their entire lives creating art and poetry and (somehow) fighting wars. They consider any evidence of other inhabitable trees to be hallucinations brought on by eating too many oglanuts, and any individual who thinks differently is thrown out of the tree, presumably to their death.
- Dinotopia: The titular island is sealed off from the rest of the world by deadly reefs and storm systems that prevent anyone from leaving. Outsiders who arrive there are assimilated into Dinotopian society, though there are a few who try to leave the island. Most are content to create a new life there. There is concern about what the nations of the outside world would do if they found a way there.
- Room (and its feature film adaptation) revolves around a young boy Jack who is kept with his mother in an eleven by eleven foot room where he grows up until the age of five. He has never been outside, seen any more of the sky than the slit of blue that comes through Skylight, or met any human being besides his Ma and Old Nick, who comes in at night to bring food and talk to Ma. The story has a Two-Act Structure: the first part describes the world of Room from the kid's perspective. Half way through the plot, the boy and his mother manage to escape their prison and now the boy has to deal with the many new impressions in the Outside World.
- Neogicia includes a Bio-Augmentation process that cuts people off from their natural connection to the world's magic system and makes them neomancers. Neomancers that end up becoming a couple can have neomancer children. However, neomancers are subject to Fantastic Racism (the kind that can be deadly in the worst case scenario) outside of the capital of the faction that produces and employs them. Because of this, born neomancers are forbidden to leave the heavily protected capital before their twenty-fifth birthday, unless it it necessary for one's higher education. Loreley is in such a case, twenty years old at the beginning of the story, and just starting military training.
- Alien in a Small Town is set primarily in Pennsylvania Dutch country in The Future, where the outside world has continued to progress drastically, while the Mennonite and Amish towns have remained largely unchanged.
- My Name Is Earl. Near Camden County there's a Camdenite settlement, Camdenites being their version of Amish. Every teen is expected to leave the settlement and explore the outside world, and decide for themselves whether to stay away or return. In the past Earl & Randy made a point of greeting the visiting Camdenite girls and ruin them for the settlement.
- The Colony features a group of people living in a warehouse (Season 1) and a house (Season 2). Outside the gates or perimeter are raiders, wildlife, and other unknowns. Some members of the group even became lost forever on the Outside.
- Once Upon a Time. The rest of the world is this to Storybrooke. No one goes there, unless they know where it is and are specifically looking for it, and the locals cannot leave without something bad happening to them, except Henry, since he's not part of the original curse. The series plot is kicked off when Henry leaves Storybrooke to look for his biological mother, Emma.
- Fraggle Rock has two examples. Outer Space is what Fraggles call the human world, and was considered a myth until Travelling Matt discovered a portal in Doc's wall and left to explore it. On the other side of the rock is the Gorg's world, into which some Fraggles venture to gather radishes and consult Madame Trash Heap. Unlike Outer Space, it is considerably more dangerous, as the Gorgs consider the Fraggles pests and are actively trying to capture them.
- On The 100, the Ground (a.k.a. the Earth's surface) acts as this for the people of Mount Weather and the Ark, since (they believe) they can't survive outside their secluded, artificial environments. Going to the Ground and surviving is their version of the Promised Land, though the reality is more brutal than they were expecting.
- Played for Laughs in Paranoia. All citizens are born in the underground Alpha Complex, which can lead to hilarity ensuing when troubleshooters are asked to go outside and face its hideous dangers... like squirrels.
- Extending the trope further, many Citizens (PCs) don't understand the idea of "outside", and think of the outdoors as simply a very large room with a bright light and a very odd form of carpeting.
- At age 16, Desmond Miles from Assassin's Creed runs away from his family's hidden Assassin commune. He assumes that his parents are Crazy Survivalist types and that all their warnings about Abstergo Industries' plot to take over the world is nonsense...until he's kidnapped by Abstergo nine years later. This is apparent during the first hour of the game.
- Custom Robo Battle Revolution reveals late in the game that the world the game is set in is only a secluded biome for humanity to survive in. The rest of the world beyond that biome was devastated ages ago by Rahu. This secret is guarded by only elite police officers like Mira and Sergei, and eventually the Main Character, Harry and Marcia.
- Final Fantasy XIII. The inhabitants of Cocoon believe the outside world, Gran Pulse, to be a Death World, and it's inhabitants have formed an army that is ready to invade Cocoon at a moment's notice. Leaving Cocoon is forbidden by law and those suspected of being Pulse l'Cie (in the service of the gods that rule Gran Pulse) are sentenced to exile or execution without trial.
- In Dark Cloud 2 Max's first group of dungeons involves him trying to get to the Outside World. In fact, the entire world outside Palm Brinks is called the Outside World. It is there where the rest of the game takes place.
- Averted but worth mentioning due to its dystopian nature is the Mirror's Edge. The entire game takes place inside a completely sterile and vast cityscape. There seems to be no mention of the outside world. The map is completely cut off, and shows only the cityscape with no flat ground to speak of. The city is heavily surveilanced, and no mention is made of an Outside World at all.
- In Kingdom Hearts Riku is intensely curious about why their island is totally cut off from any other civilization. The first mission involves Sora, Riku, and Kairi collecting provisions for an exploratory voyage to see what lies beyond the sea. It turns out that their world is cut off from the other worlds, and they are supposed to be separate. The Outside World proves to be other Disney worlds in a myriad of different styles.
- The Elder Scrolls series positively thrives on this trope. Each Player Character in the main series is always an Audience Surrogate and mostly Featureless Protagonist either being set free or escaping into a foreign world where they will quickly have to adapt in order to survive and, eventually, save it. To note by game:
- In Arena, the PC is a minor noble who has been imprisoned by the Big Bad Evil Chancellor, Jagar Tharn. You must escape and then travel across Tamriel to find the pieces of the MacGuffin needed to defeat him.
- In Daggerall, the PC is a personal friend of the Emperor sent to the titular city in order to investigate the appearance of the ghost of its former king. Natually, you are shipwrecked along the way and must escape a Noob Cave dungeon before traveling into the game world.
- In Morrowind, you are a prisoner from the Imperial City released on the authority of the Emperor himself to the titular province. The game makes it very clear that the PC is an "Outlander", and you get to learn about the land and culture of its people at the same rate as the PC. Once you step outside it becomes abundantly clear that we aren't in Cyrodil anymore.
- In Oblivion, the PC is a prisoner who happened to be in a specific cell that is also an emergency escape route for the Emperor and his bodyguards into the dark, dank sewers. After going through the tutorial there and getting your first main quest mission, you leave the sewers into the absolutely lush and beautiful land of central Cyrodiil.
- In Skyrim, the PC was caught trying to cross the border by the Imperial Legion, who had set a trap for Ulfric Stormcloak and his men. You ride a wagon into the town of Helgen to await your execution along with the Stormcloaks, but are quickly rescued by a dragon who promptly destroys the town. After escaping the carnage through underground tunnels, you and a companion flee to the nearest town through some gorgeous snowy countryside.
- Some of the Vaults in the Fallout universe have adopted this mentality:
- Fallout your character is exiled from their home in Vault 13 because the inhabitants fear you've been "contaminated" by the outside world.
- In Fallout 3, the Drunk with Power Overseer of Vault 101 has forbidden anyone from entering or leaving the vault in order to maintain his power over the inhabitants. The Protagonist ends up on the Outside anyway, and the reveal of the world is something special for first-time players; a bright blinding light introduces the player to The Wasteland.
- The Boomers clan from Fallout: New Vegas consider anyone not part of their clan to be a savage and shell anyone who approaches their territory with artillery. Most of the youngest members have never been outside the airfield. One mission involves a young Boomer falling in love with a girl from the Outside who belongs to the Crimson Caravan.
- The Institute in Fallout 4 live in a technologically advanced underground facility which can only be accessed via teleportation, and most of their interactions with the world above are carried out by synths, Ridiculously Human Robots which they send to either bully the Commonwealth's inhabitants into giving the Institute advanced technology or using Kill and Replace to infiltrate their communities for the Institute's benefit.
- The world outside the former U.S is this for the series as a whole; despite over 200 years passing by Fallout 4, there have been no known contact with the rest of the world since the Great War.
- The Legend of Zelda:
- The Kokiri in The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time believe that they are cursed to die if they venture outside their forest home. Link is eventually permitted to leave when the Great Deku Tree sets him a quest to save Hyrule, though he's not a true Kokiri; he's a Hylian who was taken in by the Kokiri and raised as one of them.
- When Link firsts awakens in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, he is stuck on top of the Great Plateau with no friendly company except for a strange Old Man. He is contacted telepathically by Zelda, who implores him to save Hyrule by defeating Calamity Ganon, but he has no way to safely get down from the Plateau. The Old Man offers to give a Paraglider for that task provided Link goes through several Shrines. Only once Link does this, receives a last bit of exposition from the Old Man, and gets the Paraglider can he soar down and begin the quest proper.
- The entire story of Breath of Fire: Dragon Quarter involves the protagonists trying to make their way to the surface, since humanity has lived underground for so long that the surface became a myth. When Ryu finally opens the seal to the outside world for the first time in 1000 years, he is greeted by calm, clear blue skies and lush green fields all around him.
- World of Warcraft. The continent of Pandaria has been hidden from the outside world by enchanted mists for millennia, though some restless Pandaren left to explore beyond the mist on a turtle that would eventually become the Wandering Isle. In Mists of Pandaria the mists lift and the outside world begins coming to Pandaria.
- The Outside World is a major plot point and source of conflict in Brink, where the Ark, a City on the Water in a world devastated by global warming, is suffering severe social unrest due to overpopulation and poverty. The Resistance desperately seek to make contact with the outside world in the hope that they can assist in solving the problems experienced by Ark's poorest citizens, despite the Founders' insistence that Ark is the last place where human civilisation survives and any attempt to contact outsiders is a waste of Ark's scarce resources. The Founders have been in contact with the outside world in the past, but it's in even worse shape than Ark, and the last time they tried it almost lead to Ark being destroyed by barbarians, so they're not eager to try again.
- The Fatal Frame games feature maidens being locked away from the Outside World to keep their purity so they can be sacrificed. Kirie from Fatal Frame 1 is probably the most prominent example, having been locked away for 3,650 days. However, she and a boy from the outside fell in love. It all went downhill from there.
- While still in the egg, the iguanodon Aladar from Disney's Dinosaur gets abducted to the remote island of the lemurs, where he hatches and is adopted. However, a horrific meteor shower obliterates the island, compelling Aladar and his lemur "family" to explore the mainland, just in time for the seasonal dinosaur migration.
- Spongebob Squarepants takes place exclusively underwater, but for a couple episodes in which the characters tentatively go above to dry land. They exhibit apprehension and horror at the thought. It is seen as a place of terror where creatures end up as pets or tourist souvenirs.
- Rumschpringa is a rite of passage for young Amish teens. They are allowed to leave their community to experience life on the Outside. Then they may choose to stay in the Outside World or return home.