Copyright 2013 by Paula S. Jordan
Commenting on my post last week on tropes, Elizabeth asked about the difference between tropes and archetypes.
The following discussion from Writeworld suggests that, at least in the context of character development, a trope may be nearer to a stereotype than to an archetype.
Here’s how it goes (all emphasis mine):
1) An Archetype (n) is literary: “a very typical example of a certain person or thing; types that fit fundamental human motifs … [and are] … broad, all-encompassing norms of the stories humanity tells. The same Archetypes can be found in all or nearly all cultures.”
2) On the other hand, Stereotypes (n) are cultural, not literary, in that they are “… widely held but fixed and oversimplified image(s) or idea(s) of a particular type of person or thing … [and] … refer to beliefs held about groups in reality, not types of characters.”
That is, as I understand the author’s meaning, Stereotypes are distorted images of human nature and behavior which are widely held within a specific culture or cultures to falsely characterize real people or groups. Archetypes, on the other hand, are fully dimensional characterizations of specific types of real human behavior that are used in storytelling by humanity at large.
Or as Answers.yahoo.com put it: “An archetype is a universally understood symbol or pattern of behavior, a prototype upon which others are copied, patterned, or emulated … [whereas a] … stereotype is a popular belief about specific social groups or types of individuals.”
Back to the Writeworld.com discussion:
3) A Trope (n) is a device or convention “… that a writer can reasonably rely on as being present in the audience members’ minds and expectations.” Tropes “… pop up repeatedly in media as cultural norms in storytelling—types of characters, settings, plot lines, etc..” (check last week’s post here for a broader discussion.)
That is, again as I understand the author, Tropes are used as shorthand for character types (or other objects or ideas, e.g.: faster than light travel) that they know will be recognized by specific segments (cultures) within the reading public (larger culture).
4) So, “Tropes are culturally-based, more like Stereotypes, which is what sets them apart from Archetypes.”
Note that a Stereotype may not be harmful, but becomes so if it distorts the truth in ways that stigmatize the group or groups involved.
5) Further “An Archetype is a kind of character that pops up in stories all over the place. A Trope is a character that puts that Archetype in a cultural context.”
OK, I’m really guessing this time, but I think that final line means that an Archetype that is further crafted to be recognized in a particular way by a particular audience becomes a Trope.
There’s a lot more useful discussion in the Writeworld post about how and when to use or not to use these figures of speech, as well as the problem of Cliché.
If the link above doesn’t work (the post is cached) drop “