Humble Goal

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
"Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water."
Kurt Vonnegut - Rules for writing a short story.

Our character - be it a hero, a villain, or somewhere in between - has a dream. An overarching Goal in Life that motivates him to get up in the morning and drive the plot forward.

However, it's nothing as ambitious as world domination, the creation of a utopia, or true love. It's a Humble Goal; something like a twinkie, a tuna sandwich, or a rug.

Played correctly, it can be a Crowning Moment of Heartwarming if he gets his wish, or a Tragic Dream if they don't.

A Super-Trope of Call to Agriculture, where a powerful character only wants to be a farmer. Often the goal of an Action Survivor whose main goal is surviving so he can get back to his ordinary life.

Examples of Humble Goal include:


  • Many commercials, especially cereal commercials, feature characters and mascots whose sole goal in life is to get whatever product is being advertised. These characters are often willing to go to ridiculous lengths to get these products. Most of the time, it comes off cheesy, but when done right, as in this Coca-Cola ad, it works.

Anime and Manga

  • In Nana, Misato states that her purpose in life is being a blast groupie.
  • Hayate the Combat Butler: Hayate's life goal is to have a small apartment with the necessary amenities and nobody chasing him.
  • Daisuke/Davis in Digimon Adventure 02 just wants to run a ramen cart. He gets it.
  • In Pani Poni Dash!, Ichijo claims her ultimate desire is to be a domestic kind of woman, like her mother. This is probably the most ordinary anything she ever did in the show.
  • One chapter of Gintama plays it for laughs by making the protagonist get dragged across a lot of trouble (good vs evil, mobs, gangster...) because his fan broke and he was trying to replace it.



  • Scrat from the Ice Age movies wants nothing more than to enjoy his acorn in peace.
  • Tallahassee's twinkie obsession in Zombieland. Though it's revealed that he's obsessing with this in order to distract himself from the grief of his son dying.
  • In the original The Santa Clause movie, one of the Neil, Scott Calvin's ex-wife's new husband, says he stopped believing in Santa Claus at age 3. He wanted an Oscar Meyer Weenie Whistle in his stocking, and never got it. At end, when Tim Allen-Claus is flying overhead, the Scott/Santa finally delivers him... a Weenie Whistle.
  • In Fanboys, the main characters' goal is to see Star Wars: The Phantom Menace before it hits theaters. Only one of them does.
  • In Pirates of the Caribbean, Captain Barbossa may have many goals, but what he really wants is to taste an apple again.
  • The Big Lebowski: "All The Dude wanted was his rug back."
  • Memoirs of an Invisible Man (1992) tagline: "Women want him for his wit. The C.I.A. wants him for his body. All Nick wants is his molecules back."
  • Dude, Where's My Car?: All Jesse and Chester want is to find their car and get the birthday presents for their girlfriends inside.
  • Harold and Kumar Go To White Castle. Of course, the way to White Castle is not as straightforward as that.
  • Jack Burton from Big Trouble in Little China. All he really wants is to get his truck back.
  • Ice Cold in Alex: The title of the WWII drama comes from Captain Anson's yearning for a cold beer. To get it, he and his party have survive an arduous journey across the North African desert after being separated from their unit and reach Alexandria alive.
  • The Terminal - Tom Hanks' character just wants to get into New York to complete the autograph set of his father's favorite jazz musicians.
  • In Payback, Porter takes on the city's entire underworld to retrieve his $70,000 cut of stolen heist money. Everyone keeps assuming that he wants the whole $140,000, but he constantly insists that he only wants his original share. Everyone reacts with surprise at the low sum, and one mobster complains that he's got suits worth more than $70,000. In the director's cut, the head of the Outfit says she wouldn't get out of bed for that much money.
  • In Carry On Admiral (1957) (no relation to the Carry On films) all the nameless man wanted was his clothes back.


  • In Night Watch, the revolutionaries want a slogan that encapsulates what they're fighting for. After asking each of their members what they want, the result is "Truth, Justice, Free Reasonably-Priced Love and A Hard Boiled Egg".
  • Poldarn from The Scavenger Trilogy wants to stay dry and not have people try to kill him. He doesn't generally achieve even this goal.
  • In Les Misérables, Little Cosette thinks that there would be nothing better in the world than to have a doll of her very own. Of course, Jean Valjean brings her the doll she's wanted -- she at once clasps it and names it "Catherine."

Live-Action TV

  • In Kung Fu, the reason Caine is on the run from the Chinese authorities: Master Po had one ambition: to visit a specific city (I forget which). It's a small ambition but he still admonishes himself for having it — as a Shaolin Master, he shouldn't have any ambitions. Sometime after Caine graduates from Monk School he encounters his old master in that city — he finally got his wish. At that moment the emperor's nephew comes by on his palanquin, shoving Master Po off the road and (eventually) killing him. Caine kills the emperor's nephew in a fit of rage, and then must flee China.
  • In Glee, Quinn is the head cheerleader and one of the more popular girls in school but her goals in life are to marry Finn, become a real estate agent and settle to a quiet family life. In contrast Rachel wants fame and stardom.
  • Baldrick's life goals in Blackadder The Third revolve entirely around the acquisition of turnips. If he had a million pounds, he would buy a large turnip in the country and raise a family of little turnips.

Newspaper Comics

  • In Calvin and Hobbes, Hobbes's wish is to have a sandwich. He achieves it. This is contrasted with Calvin, whose more extravagant wish for "a trillion billion dollars, my own space shuttle, and a private continent" goes unfullfilled.


I've taken a life,
Been stripped to my essence,
And to think all I wanted was swing dancing lessons!

  • In Les Misérables, (in English) Cosette sings about her Castle on a Cloud, where she wants to go -- and the best thing there is that her mother will be waiting for her. In French, the song is about a doll in the shop window that Cosette wants so badly.

Video Games

Web Original

  • Freeman's Mind postulates that all Gordon Freeman really wants during his haphazard trek through Black Mesa is to go home and get stoned. He really could care less about the whole alien invasion and marine retaliation if they would only stop shooting and/or biting him.

Western Animation

  • The plot to many South Park episodes involves the kids wanting something relatively mundane - say, getting the latest gaming system, or returning a rented video on time - but getting waylaid by assorted weirdness. In the case of Cartman, the means to getting to that goal might get a little intense.
  • In Megas XLR, many of what Coop wants to do with his giant robot is to cruise around, pick up chicks, and have fun smashing stuff. However one episode has him craving a Mega Slush, but an annoying evil robot keeps destroying the places that serve them.
  • Fred Flintstone and Barney Rubble were only going out for some groceries; they weren't expecting to have to help the enigmatic superspy Madame Yes defeat the sinister Doctor Sinister.
  • In the Duck Dodgers episode "A Lame Duck Mind" when they go into Dodgers' mind, they discover his greatest desire is to own a bait shop. Specifically a failing bait shop. He does have a hot trophy wife randomly there, but he doesn't seem interested in her.

Real Life

  • One of "Bubble Boy"'s greatest wishes in life was to have a bottle of Coca-Cola. He never got it.
  1. And grief counseling, but mainly cake.