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It's time for me to live up to my family name and face full life consequences!
John Freeman who was Gordon Freeman's brother, Half Life: Full Life Consequences

Family Honor is the feeling or pride a person has for their own family or clan, whether because of a unique family history, the achievements of ancestors, the elevated social status of their family, or because of some cultural aspect of their homeland that places a strong emphasis on associating personal identity with family identity. Central to the idea of Family Honor is that the actions of one member reflect on the reputation of the entire family, and the reputation of the entire family reflects on the individual member. Compare to Thicker Than Water, which focuses on a characters obligations to another member of the family, which may or may not be expressed in terms of Family Honor.

For a character that values Family Honor, it normally works as a motivator for them to try to act in a way that preserves the dignity and reputation of their family. In cultures that practice dueling, this often includes a willingness to fight against those that insult the family name. However this also includes less violent expressions. Family Honor need not just be a motivator for revenge, but can also motivate honesty, courage, hard work, faithfulness, loyalty, etc.

Certain cultures and social classes tend to be more likely to place an emphasis on Family Honor than others. Some characters might come from a family that has a particularly high status in society, and therefore are under a particular pressure to live up to their family name. Aristocrats, especially of the fighting variety such as European knights and Japanese Samurai, tend to place a high value on Family Honor. Likewise, frontier cultures outside of the protection or hindrance of The Government might maintain a similar, though less refined code out of survival necessity. Other characters might have to deal with social disabilities that come from being a part of a family that is in disgrace or otherwise has a reputation for dishonor.

Just a few of the ways that concepts of family honor can be incorporated in a story include:

  • A character's sense of integrity is closely tied in with their family identity. Not only do they try to do the right thing because it is good in and of itself, but because they want to live up to and preserve their family's reputation for honorable behavior.
  • A scenario arises where the actions of one individual are said to bring credit or disgrace on their entire family, especially if such credit or disgrace is reflected in how society starts treating members of the family. In some scenarios, this may result in the point of formal privileges or disabilities being given to the entire family because of the actions of one member of the family.
  • A character must go on a quest to restore their family's honor, often by either making right what a family member did wrong or clearing an ancestor's name of something falsely attributed to them.
  • In societies where family honor is given particular importance, families can often act like a mini-state with policies, alliances, and enmities all carefully arranged. Family Honor can be a measurement of success as well as a way of getting more.

Examples


Anime and Manga

  • Naruto - Uchiha Sasuke now exists solely on this trope.
    • Also vengeance.
      • And when he found out this trope was pretty thoroughly unsalvagable, he was left with only vengeance, and went completely off the deep end. Those who'd thought he was already there were startled.
    • Uchiha Itachi [1] to have cared about this. Apparently this was all Danzo led him to believe he could save of his family, that and Sasuke's life, given the choice between preventing the Uchiha rebellion under the cover of massacre and letting a civil war begin that would destroy all of Konoha, he made the choice that at least salvaged his family honor. Nothing but the combination of ANBU training and Danzo being a serious ass of a manipulator explains offing the noncombatants, though.
      • Complexly, the clan was rising for the sake of their honor and considered him a traitor for not agreeing, and therefore supporting their disenfranchisement compared to the Senju. Itachi felt that they would lose all the honor they had ever had by betraying the village.
      • He loved his family, but he loved the village and the ideal of peace more. The only wrinkle was that he loved Sasuke even more than that, so he left him alive so long as he didn't ever suspect what had really happened. Unfortunately, the situation he set up to keep the kid alive also gave him emotional scars that eventually drove him batshit. A thirteen-year-old boy who had been killing people since he was six and who had just carried out a deeply sick Sadistic Choice can probably be forgiven for not realizing this might happen. Except he later invokes Omniscient Morality License a bit too much.
    • The Hyuuga are also very much about this. It is portrayed as a force for evil. All good decisions made by Hyuuga in the series are for personal reasons--Hizashi dying not for the clan but for his brother, Hinata finding strength for her own sake and in honor of Naruto that she could never summon just to be her father's heir, Neji learning to hope. For the Family, there are just nasty sacrifices and cruelties.
    • The Senju on the other hand apparently worried little enough about this that they are almost extinct as a clan, and have only spiritual successors from a variety of other bloodlines. Though Naruto at least comes from a Senju training lineage on one side and a family that had a history of intermarrying with them on the other, and has been half-adopted by the last survivor, so he's as close as you can get without actually being related. He hasn't noticed.
  • If it wasn't for this then Ranma ½ would be over in two volumes at most.

Card Games, Tabletop Games, Video Games

  • Ninja Burger uses this as a core mechanic (treating the franchise as the family unit).
  • Dungeons and Dragons supplement Oriental Adventures (1985). Upholding the family honor was very important to characters created under these rules, which covered campaigns set in the Asia-like region called Kara-Tur.
  • Sebastial Vael, a Religious Bruiser from Dragon Age II, risks excommunication to restore the honor of his (massacred) family.
  • This is pretty much Kasumi Todoh in a nutshell. Back in the first AOF, her father Ryuhaku was defeated by Ryo Sakazaki (practitioner of the rival Kyokugen School of martial arts) and subsequently left for parts unknown for self-training, leaving young Kasumi in charge of her family's dojo. As such, she hounds the Kyokugen-ryuu users (specifically Ryo) in Art of Fighting 3 and throughout The King of Fighters series with the hopes of besting them so that her father can return home (little does she know that Ryuhaku is actually following Kasumi to see how she's progressed as a heiress to the style). Kasumi holds no real ill-will towards the Kyokugen Team (she even teamed up with Ryo's kid sister Yuri on the Women Fighters Team in KOF 2000); it's simply a family obligation.

Film

Literature

  • Lucy Valentine, star of novel series bearing her name, had given up her sizeable trust fund, because she didn't think she deserved it. Though she is not a wild girl, or done anything to besmirch the family name and honor, she felt unworthy of benefitting from the family's success since without her ESPer gift, she could not contribute as Valentines before her had.
  • The Eagle of the Ninth - Marcus Flavius Aquila, the son of the commander of the IX Legion, destroyed by barbarians in what is now Scotland, goes on a mission to recover the legion's eagle standard, in order to restore the his Family Honor, and by recovering it he would also ends up restoring the honor of the legion.
  • RCN - Family Honor is a big deal to the aristocratic families that rule the Republic of Cinnabar, and most especially to the lead characters, Daniel Leary and Adele Mundy. Each character strongly associates their personal honor with the honor of their family, and the strongest promise they can give is on the honor of their family name. The reputation of their families also has a strong impact on how others treat them.
  • Many stories set in Bonnie Scotland. Truth in Television.
  • Vatta's War
  • In Dune the Atreides are honorable by tradition. Harkonnons seem to have evil descended in them for some odd reason.
  • In Lord of the Rings it is the proudest boast of the house of the stewards that they never made themselves kings . Other aspects of this come in. For instance Aragorn is proud of his descent but considers it his duty to atone for Isildur's failing 3000 years ago.
  • Vorkosigan Saga has tons of this. It even has the name of a fictional dynasty in it's title.
  • A Running Gag in Jeeves and Wooster is Bertie's exaggerated sense of family honor and strict adherence to "the code of the Woosters", which dictates, above all things, Honor Before Reason. His Aunt Agatha is equally obsessed with family honor, but has a different idea of it than he does, most of it revolving around not marrying into the lower classes.

Live Action TV

  • Babylon 5 - In the episode "There All Honor Lies", a Minbari clan tries to avenge their members killed by Sheridan during the Earth-Minbari war by framing Sheridan. While questioning one of the members, Delenn points out that Lennier is a member of the same clan and has brought honor to the clan. Lennier calls out his own clan on using dishonorable methods, however Delenn and Lennier decide not to go public with the fact that the frame up was ordered by the leaders of the clan, in order to preserve its honor.
    • Centauri clans are always squabbling among themselves. This may be a subversion as it is more about family power then honor, but honor is not totally absent.
      • Londo kills his friend in a Duel to the Death and accepts himself as obligated to care for his friend's dependents. His friend had, as it happens, deliberately arranged the duel to ensure the protection of his family.
  • Star Trek - Klingons wear this as one of their hats. Worf's father was accused of betraying the empire by Duras of helping the Romulans attack Khitomer. Worf would eventually accept a ritual loss of honor from the Klingon High Council in order to protect the Empire from a scandal that had framed his father, falsely dishonored his house and could potentially lead to civil war. While Worf decided to accept this dishonor, it was decided to keep the true identity of Worf's brother Kurn secret in order to protect Kurn's honor.
  • Kung Fu - In "An Eye for an Eye", Caine meets a small southern family whose honor had been besmirched via a Union soldier raping and impregnating the old man's daughter. The old man and his son are out for revenge.
  • Family's Honor - A Korean drama about how a particular tries to uphold their aristocratic reputation.

Tabletop Games

  • Aslan in Traveller. Other cultures often have this as well but Aslan are notable for it.

Theater

Video Games

  • Mass Effect 1 has Ashley Williams, Military Brat following in the footsteps of her father, grandfather and great-grandmother. Unfortunately, her family has been unofficially blacklisted since her grandfather surrendered to the turians during the brief First Contact war (even though his only other option was letting his troops starve).

  Takes a special kind of thickheaded to march into a job where your family's blacklisted. Did it anyway.

Western Animation

  • Avatar: The Last Airbender - Zuko had a confused and skewed idea of what having honor entailed. He sought to earn back his honor in his father's eyes, before realizing that his Uncle had already taught him to be an honorable man. Walking the Earth for a while helped.
  • Mulan - the title character longs to bring her family honor, but keeps failing in all the traditional areas. She finally achieves great honor at the end, only for her father to tell her, "The greatest joy and honor is having you for a daughter."

Real Life

  • Ancient Romans had a belief that psychological and moral attributes were passed down geneologically. As a result Family Honor could actually decide elections.

Notes

  1. (We don't need to spoiler-tag this stuff anymore, do we? It came out years ago.)
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