Outlaw Archetype

What is an Outlaw Archetype?

An outlaw archetype is a character who not only yearns for freedom but also takes up arms against the government or administration and rebels against the accepted laws and regulations. He/she demonstrates bravery, courage, violation, and even outright resistance against laws. Such figures are mostly free spirits and do not take laws as seriously. Rather, they dream of having a free life and enjoying it as they want.

Types of Outlaw Archetype Characters

Although all of the outlaws are persons having violated the law in one or the other way or considering themselves outside the bounds of the law, they are mostly human beings having different names as follows.

  1. Proscribed
  2. Ostracized
  3. Marginalized
  4. Fugitive

Character Traits of Outlaw Archetype Characters

Although most of the character trait seems negative from the positive-negative point of view, they are still considered good for such characters. They are not just rebellious; they sometimes prove shocking and outrageous, but at the same time they are brave, courageous, bold and risk takers. They are disruptive and yet helpful, risk takers and yet fearful of the public reaction, revolutionary and yet liberated. In fact, they are now called counter-culture characters as they break up traditions and help the marginalized.

Negative Traits of Outlaw Archetype Character

Despite their positivity, outlaws or outlaw archetype characters have certain negative traits. At heart, they are fearful of the retribution of the government or administration as well as public outrage against them. Some of their radical ideas may not have social acceptance, and breaking the status quo may lead to full anarchy. Yet, their positive traits outweigh their negative traits, and they become good characters.

Outlaw Archetype Character Examples in Literature

Example #1

Robin Hood in The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood by Howard Pyle

Published in 1883, this novel by Howard Pyle presents the story of Robin Hood, a legendary British folk hero, who used to plunder the rich and donate these riches to the poor. A highly skilled archer, who is also popular for his swordsmanship, demonstrates his noble birth by his good deeds and always stays in the forests to hide his identity. However, his popularity lies in robbing the rich. A famous quote rob Peter to pay Paul also seems showing the same sense of the outlaw archetype of Robin Hood.

Example #2

Billy Bones by R. L. Stevenson

The character of the same name as the title of the novel, the story of Billy Bones by R. L. Stevenson suggests that he is not just an outlaw, he also hoodwinks people at the Admiral Benbow Inn by lying and living on the expenses of others and paying very little by himself. His bullying, lying and swearing accompany the signing. However, his main objective is to earn the admiration of the local public after he assumes the rule of a captain and becomes even defter in hoodwinking as well as drinking. His character could be a good example of an outlaw archetype though not as good as that of Robin Hood.

Example #3

Butterworth Stavely in The Great Revolution in Pitcairn by Mark Twain

Although Stavely exploits divisions and suspicions to rise to power, his machinations when impeaching the magistrate do not qualify to be called legitimate ones. He also becomes a magistrate himself and finally, an emperor shows the mentality of colonialism that robs even the legality of the natives to assume the role of their master. Although he does not seem like an outlaw, from the indigenous point of view, it seems that he is also an archetype of an outlaw character.

Example #4

Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves by Anonymous translated by Richard Burton

Although Ali Baba is not involved in criminal activities, his acts of eavesdropping on the thieves, collecting their treasure, and then coming out with the help of his brother show that he has also played the role of an outlaw by hiding his true identity and also by getting killed his brother and then hiding this murder, too. Yet, he is a good outlaw archetype example who shows that some other outlaw archetypes could exist side by side as Ali Baba and other thieves show.