Alter Ego: Definitions and Examples | (2023)

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I. What is an alter ego?

An alter ego (pronouncedGood-terSimulator-goh) is a secondary self. The appeal of an alter ego lies in its secrecy: it is almost always a second identity or life hidden from a person or from friends, family and others around them. Of Latin origin and derived from Greekallos egṓ,The term is believed to have been coined by the author Cicero, who described it as "a second self, a trusted friend."

if oneCharacterlives more than one life, has secret identity or assumes more than one person, this alternate personality is her alter ego; Think, for example, of Spider-Man, Peter Parker's alter ego. He's a regular guy during the day, but he secretly has supernatural powers that he uses to fight crime. In many cases thecharactersThey are in control of their alter ego, but in other cases (which focus more on the psychological aspects of the alter ego) they may not even realize it exists.

Also sometimes a character in aStoryIt is said to be the author's alter ego, or the author himself can use an alter ego when publishing his work. Thus, both fictional characters and real people can have alter egos.

II. Alter Ego Examples

Here are some brief snippets that capture the idea of ​​an alter ego:

example 1

During the day she was only a teacher; the simple, quiet book lover that most people ignored. But at night she was the leader of the most notorious rebel army that would soon take back her country.

This example suggests that the rebel identity is the secret identity of the teacher who only shows up at night.

example 2

Looking at him, you'd never realize that good old Bob had a secret life: every month, under the full moon, he turned into a man-eating werewolf.

As in the first example, Bob's secret werewolf identity is only revealed after dark.

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Example 3

She kissed her husband goodbye and he said, "Have a nice day at the office!" She wishes she could tell him who she really was: Special Agent 987, deadly spy and assassin.

In this example, Special Agent 987's secret is the spy identity she is hiding from her husband.

The examples describe characters and their alter egos. While each of them appears to lead normal lives, they are actually rebels, werewolves, and spies.

3. Types of alter egos

The alter ego is just a literary device, but it can be brought to life in two different ways.

Him, an author's alter ego

Sometimes an author attempts to represent or present their own alter ego as a character in a story. They use a fictional character to express a secondary personality that they may have but don't show in real life.


  • Ernest Hemingway wrote about his own life through his alter ego Nick Adams, the stories later being called a collectionThe Stories of Nick Adams.
  • JK Rowling is known for describing the character of Hermione as a representation of herselfHarry PotterRow

In other cases, authors do not use their own names when publishing a work. This could be as simple as preferring a pseudonym, or it could be a way of preventing the public from associating the work with someone they already have an idea of.


  • Due to laws prohibiting women from publishing, the Bronte sisters initially used alter egos to publish their work to hide from editors that they were women.
  • Author Mary Ann Evans, known as George Eliot, developed a male alter ego for her writing because she feared that a woman's work would not be taken seriously.
  • K. Rowling also published the bookthe call of the cuckoounder alter ego Robert Galbraith, who, according to the editors, was a former police officer. Already famous for Harry Potter, she wanted to publish something unrelated to her previous work.

B. A character's alter ego

In fiction, a character's alter ego can take many forms: a hidden identity, a secondary personality, or a secret life beyond a normal life. The alter ego is a particularly important feature of comics, which often revolve around characters who are normal people with second lives, or people with supernatural abilities that they only reveal when they assume a hidden identity. Alter egos are also very popular tools in psychology.exciting soap operas, who often use psychopathic characters who may fool the world into thinking they are normal.

Famous people with alter egos are:

  • Clark Kent, whose alter ego is Superman (see examples in popular culture)
  • Bruce Wayne, whose alter ego is Batman (see examples in popular culture)
  • the vampires ofduskSeries whose alter egos are high school students
  • Norman Bates from Psycho, whose alter ego is his own mother, Norma Bates
  • dr Jekyll, whose alter ego is the evil Mr. Hyde (see examples in literature)

Of course, these are just some of the alter egos found in fiction. The idea of ​​second lives and alter egos has fascinated writers for centuries, gaining particular popularity since the 19th century, when awareness of multiple personality disorders really began to develop.

4. Importance of alter egos

Alter egos allow writers to explore other sides of themselves or their characters. They also exist to make certain stories more plausible; For example, it would be difficult for superheroes to exist as normal members of society. They need alter egos to protect their identities and to be able to really help people, so in the case of superheroes, alter egos are essential for the story to work. Also the idea of ​​an alter ego is just fascinating and exciting for the audience. There is nothing more exciting than a mystery, and with an alter ego there is always a secret that others in the story will want to discover.

V. Examples of alter egos in literature

example 1

Perhaps the best-known alter ego in literature belongs to Dr. Jekyll, a man who takes on the second role of Mr. Hyde. The famous novel by Robert Louis StevensonThe Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr Hideexplores the darker side of the human psyche, where a person can be both good and evil. Through scientific experiments, Dr. Jekyll happens to be the evil side of himself, Mr Hyde:

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During this time my virtue fell asleep; my wickedness, aroused by ambition, was alert and ready to seize the opportunity; and what was designed was Edward Hyde. Although he now had two characters and two disguises, one was all evil and the other was still old Henry Jekyll.

Here explains Dr. Jekyll that his evil side was keen to take over and the result was Mr. Jekyll's second persona. hyde

Today the phrase “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” has become synonymous with the notion of split personality or mood swings. For example, if your friend is really nice and the next minute is in a really bad mood, you could say, "It was like going to Dr. Jekyll and Mr Hyde!'

example 2

Works by Chuck PalahniukFight Club,Ötellerand the main character has the alter ego without first being aware of it. The narrator, a simple man with a boring life, develops the alter ego Tyler Durden, an extremist and activist who gets people to do all sorts of things that the narrator himself would never have the courage to do. Throughout the novel, the narrator frequently asks:

If I could wake up at a different time and place, could I wake up as a different person?

This quote is instructive for the audience and for the narrator himself; in fact, his own question is answered by the existence of his alter ego. He wakes up in different places and times as a completely different person. But he doesn't realize it until the damage is done, and has inadvertently created a life of chaos for himself through his own alter ego.

SIERRA. Examples of alter egos in popular culture

example 1

Comic superheroes are iconic manifestations of the alter ego. Often a superhero is a normal person with a secret identity who lives a second life as a hero fighting crime and saving humanity. This is usually because the character has somehow acquired supernatural powers or certain technologies that allow them to act in superhuman ways. for example inBatman vs Superman, Clark Kent (Superman) and Bruce Wayne (Batman) know each other, but each knows the other's secret.

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice - Official Trailer 2 [HD]

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Each of these men lives a normal life but also leads a secondary secret life. There are hundreds of versions of stories about heroes with alter egos, from Batman, Superman, Spider-Man and many, many more. So it's arguable that the most popular alter egos in film and comic book culture today belong to such superheroes.

example 2

Another modern take on the superhero alter ego is the film Kick-Ass, a story about ordinary people who lead alternative lives as crimefighters despite having no supernatural or extraordinary powers. It revolves around the character of Dave, a teenager who decides to take law into his own hands by creating a superhero alter ego.

Kick-Ass (2010) - 'Cuarto'

In one scene, Dave's girlfriend asks him why he dressed up as the famous new hero, Kick-Ass, to which he replies, "I'm Kick-Ass." Until now, Dave has hidden his alter ego and lives the double life of high school student and crime fighter.

Example 3

In the television series Dexter, the main character Dexter has an interesting alter ego: he is actually a serial killer, but he disguises it with an alter ego that some people believe is himself. His true identity is that which he secretly embodies while committing his murders, but his alter ego is what he embodies in his daily life: that of a seemingly normal forensic scientist. In this character highlight, Dexter explains his own dual identity:

I've spent most of my life behind a mask. Dexter Morgan by day, serial killer by night. But in recent years my mask has fallen. My disguise, up. My inner monster exposed.

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The Many Faces of Dexter | nuvotv

BeMonologuecaptures Dexter's self-image: a murderer who wears a "mask" in everyday life to hide his true self. The Dexter everyone knows is actually their alter ego, and the real Dexter remains hidden from them for now.

VIII. Related terms

dual personality

A split personality, formerly known as dissociative identity disorder, is a psychological condition in which a person develops multiple distinct personalities. In literature and film, the terms alter ego and split personality are often closely linked or equated.


A pseudonym is when an author simply changes their name to hide their identity. Unlike an alter ego, it is usually not a representation of a personality. For example, Mark Twain's real name was Samuel Clemens.


a pseudonym orPseudonymis a name used by someone for a specific purpose. These purposes may vary; for example it could be to hide an identity or to obtain an official title or position (like a king or pope). The term can also be applied to a variety of things from usernames, modified legal names, official titles, nicknames, etc.

VIII. Completion

In summary, an alter ego can be an attractive and defining feature of the story in literary works. From the superheroes you know and love to authors who have portrayed themselves in their own works, the alter ego has been and continues to be a popular trait in many styles of fiction.


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