I may not be educated in literary criticism, but I have heard of characters labeled as “Christ figures,” sometimes for what seem to be me to be flimsy excuses. That got me to wondering: what would a Moses figure be like? And could I write a story about him?
I’m just going to consider the first question here. It seems to me the core element of a Christ figure is that they must perform some act of self-sacrifice, and in so doing, save the world, or at least the good guys. What’s the core element of a Moses figure? I can think of a couple of ideas. My favorite is this: A Moses figure starts in a place of comfort, but gives it up in order to join the fight against some evil that was enabling his comfort in the first place. There are a bunch of other traits of the Moses figure that I’ve been able to identify, which is to say, I’ve written out a bunch of generic things that apply to Moses (and possibly other characters).
- As a baby, escaped death at the hands of a powerful bad guy.
- Born a member of a persecuted or downtrodden group, but raised or trained among the persecutors or evildoers.
- Was forced out after taking a stand or intervening against the bad guys in charge.
- Spent time living away from the entire conflict, and could have remained there happily.
- Met a wise man and/or a love interest while away from the conflict.
- Called back by something supernatural or extraordinary to fight against the bad guys and save the good guys.
- Returned to become leader of the good guys, having gained knowledge, wisdom, power, or just a sense of purpose.
- Had a brother (or close friend) who helped by compensating for his critical weakness.
- As leader, faced criticism and challenges to his authority amongst his own ranks.
- Led the good guys through wilderness full of enemies, to their final destination.
- Lost control or went too far at a critical point, which dooms him later despite his remorse.
- Died right before the final success, as a direct result of the aforementioned doom.
As I look over this list, a few characters come to mind as fulfilling a bunch, but not all, of these. One is Simba, from The Lion King. In particular, he experienced the whole arc of 4-5-6-7, if the “wise man” is Timon and Pumbaa. I don’t know if they count, but the point is that he could have stayed with them quite happily. It’s only when he saw the vision of his father that he realized he needed to go back.
When I did a Google search for “Moses figure”, one of the results on the first page had an interesting suggestion: Jack Bauer. At first I thought it was utterly ludicrous, but now, I’m not so sure. He was raised by bad guys (his father and brother both turned out to be evil). After the first few seasons, he flees the country when he defies the government’s smear campaign against him and CTU. He hides in Africa, doing humanitarian work. He didn’t meet any love interests there, but he was called back to serve his country. This was by a subpoena instead of a burning bush, but still. What else? Well, whenever he was in charge, he faced criticism and challenges to his authority pretty much constantly. In the last season, he lost control at a critical point, when they killed Renee, leading him to turn against the president in his quest for revenge. As a result, he had to fake his death and go into hiding again; he didn’t get the happy ending with Kim and his grandson that he wanted.
So, that’s 2, 3, 4, 6, 9, 11, and 12 that he at least sort of fits. Too much of a stretch? Maybe. I suppose you could also say that he had a voice telling him what to do, but I don’t think the parallel between God and Chloe really fits.