Breaking the Fifth Wall – Meaning & Examples

“Breaking the fifth wall” is an expression that can be incredibly confusing if you have no context for it. What does it actually mean? And where does it come from? This article will answer all of these questions, ensuring that there’s no confusion about the phrase.

Breaking the Fifth Wall – Meaning

“Breaking the fifth wall” is an expression that refers to characters in fiction having an elevated sense of self, in a way that connects to the real world in which you’re experiencing the fiction itself. It’s an extension of the phrase “breaking the fourth wall”.

breaking the fifth wall meaning

“Breaking the fifth wall” is the sort of phrase where there is not an exact consensus on what it means, but it’s generally used to talk about characters transcending their perception of time and space.

When a character “breaks the fifth wall”, it means that they have full awareness of everything that is going on in a story, its author, and its readers.

How to Use “Breaking the Fifth Wall” in a Sentence

Here are some example sentences that will show you the regular uses of “breaking the fifth wall” that you can easily incorporate into your vocabulary when you’re referring to stories and characters inside of those stories:

  1. She was breaking the fifth wall by addressing all of the readers of the story she was in.
  2. I am going to break the fifth wall, and I’m going to ensure that the viewer is a part of the story.
  3. You can’t have a character break the fifth wall too much, or the move loses all meaning.
  4. When someone breaks the fifth wall, it basically means that they are fully omniscient.
  5. Breaking the 5th wall is a move that you can have your characters pull in emergency situations.
  6. You’ve got to break the fifth wall to escape from this mind trap that they have put you in, I’m sure.
  7. Once you have broken the fifth wall you just need to escape this reality into the next one.
  8. I broke the fifth wall and switched spots with my reader, who is still trapped inside the story now.
  9. I am going to break the fifth wall because it’s exactly what we need to do to save this universe.
  10. If you break the fifth wall you might die in the process, but you will ensure everyone’s safety, too.

Breaking the Fifth Wall – Origin

When a character in a story references the fact that they are in a story, this is called “breaking the fourth wall”, because sitcoms only have three walls, not four. “Breaking the fifth wall” is an extended, more spiritual and surreal version of this basic concept of extra awareness.

Breaking the Fifth Wall – Synonyms

The idea behind someone “breaking the fifth wall” is that they are transcending all of the rules that their universe plays by, and presumably in this process acquiring some sort of mystical, incredible power. Therefore, here are some synonym phrases that also express this core idea:

  • Becoming fully omniscient
  • Breaking the boundaries of my reality
  • Destroying the rules of the universe as we know them
  • Transcending from this plane of reality into the next one
  • Becoming untethered from reality.

Incorrect Ways to Use “Breaking the Fifth Wall”

The core incorrect way to use “breaking the fifth wall” would be to use it to reference a character who becomes aware that they are a character in a story, because this is merely breaking the fourth wall, and not the fifth wall.

The difference between the two concepts can be hard to grasp, but at its core, breaking the fifth wall is about transcending different planes of reality, and not just a metatextual story move.

In What Situations Can You Use “Breaking the Fifth Wall”?

You can use “breaking the fifth wall” when a character inside a story not only gains awareness that they are a character in a story, but they are also aware of who their readers are, and what the real world is like. It’s a phrase that implies transcending reality.

Therefore, when a character breaks the fifth wall, they are probably moving from one assumed reality to the next one without any issues.