Created By: rjung on February 15, 2010
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Wanting Is Better Than Having

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Do We Have This, Needs a Better Description, Needs More Examples, and Rolling Updates.

"It's not the having, it's the getting."

"And don't forget the presents. How... How full of potential them seem in all that paper, how pregnant with possibilities... and then you open them and basically the wrapping paper was more interesting and you have to say 'How thoughtful, that will come in handy!'"
--The Chair of Indefinite Studies, Hogfather

Wanting Is Better Than Having is one of the Stock Aesops, which teaches that one's desire and anticipation for something is often better than the actual result. After all, desires and expectations are infinitely boundless, whereas the reality is limited by various flaws and limitations -- which were overlooked during the expectory daydreaming.

Usually appears in fictional works after a character has been wildly pursuing something. When he eventually gets the object of his desire, he finds that it fails to live up to the unrealistic demands he's built up in his mind.

A Wish Fulfillment trope and a milder, non-magical form of Be Careful What You Wish For. Also see All That Glitters.


Examples:

  • A story arc in Calvin and Hobbes had Calvin sending away cereal box-tops for a motorized propeller beanie. While he restlessly waits the six weeks for the beanie to arrive, Calvin keeps dreaming about how he'll be able to use it to fly around the neighborhood. True to the trope, when the beanie finally comes, it's just a beanie with a propeller, and Calvin kicks it away in frustration. At least it came in a cool box...
  • Real Life: Every birthday/Christmas/Hannukah/whatever has at least one present which fits this trope.
  • Fan Myopia is a form of this.
  • In Inherit the Wind, attorney Henry Drummond tells an All That Glitters warning about a rocking horse he wanted when he was a child. It was far too expensive for his family to get for him, but his father scrimped and saved and managed to purchase the rocking horse for Drummond as a Christmas present. And the first time Drummond got on it to ride, it fell apart from dry rot.
  • Garfield, per the trope quote.
  • My Name Is Earl: when Earl was in a coma he dreamed of being married to Billie (Alyssa Milano) and it was awesome! Then he recovered and actually married her, and it was...not awesome.
  • Spock to Stonn in "Amok Time", regarding the conniving T'Pring: "After a time, you may find that having is not so pleasing a thing after all as wanting. It is not logical... but it is often true."
  • Don Quixote and Man of La Mancha have this, as the titular character perceives it as a common theme for a knight and his lady.
    "To love... pure and chaste from afar."
  • Young Pete from The Adventures of Pete & Pete spends an entire episode daydreaming about and saving up for a jetpack sold in the back of a comic book. The jetpack turns out to be...a leafblower.
Community Feedback Replies: 10
  • February 10, 2010
    JackButler
    In Inherit The Wind, attorney Henry Drummond tells a story about a rocking horse he wanted when he was a child. It was far too expensive for his family to get for him, but his father scrimped and saved and managed to purchase the rocking horse for Drummond as a Christmas present. And the first time Drummond got on it to ride, it fell apart from dry rot. He tells this story as an All That Glitters warning.
  • February 10, 2010
    ParadiscaCorbasi
    • Garfield on mousing: "It's not the having, it's the getting"
  • February 10, 2010
    random surfer
    My Name Is Earl: when Earl was in a coma he dreamed of being married to Billie (Alyssa Milano) and it was awesome! Then he recovered and actually married her, and it was...not awesome.
  • February 10, 2010
    Sullivan
    Spock to Stonn in "Amok Time", re the conniving bitch T'Pring: "After a time, you may find that having is not so pleasing a thing after all as wanting. It is not logical... but it is often true."
  • February 10, 2010
    BaronGrackle

    "To love... pure and chaste from afar."
  • February 11, 2010
    Henker
    Young Pete from The Adventures Of Pete And Pete spends an entire episode daydreaming about and saving up for a jetpack sold in the back of a comic book. The jetpack turns out to be...a leafblower.
  • February 15, 2010
    IronLion
    Another Calvin And Hobbes strip discusses this trope. Paraphrased from memory:
    Calvin: When you get something, it's new and exciting. When you have something, it's old and boring.
    Hobbes: But everything you get turns into something you have.
    Calvin: That's why you need to constantly get more things!
    Hobbes: I feel like I'm in some advertiser's dream.
  • February 16, 2010
    rjung
    Last call for examples before launch.
  • February 16, 2010
    Mozgwsloiku
    In Powerpuff Girls, a collector of Powerpuff girls' merchandise freaks out and turns villain when it turns out his collection is complete.
  • February 16, 2010
    Unknown Troper
    Real life: When Alexander the Great saw the breadth of his domain, he wept, for there were no more worlds to conquer. (Well, either real life, or whatever you call stuff they teach in history class that may or may not have actually occured...)
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