[[quoteright:200:http://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/The_Pale_King_8746.jpg]]
When Creator/DavidFosterWallace [[AuthorExistenceFailure died in 2008]], he left behind an unfinished manuscript for his latest novel, along with hundreds of other pages of notes and ideas. Through the combined efforts of his wife, agent, and editor, his final work has been released as The Pale King (2011). It is a jumbled narrative that combines a memoir with the various stories of a group of [[IntimidatingRevenueService IRS]] employees stationed in Peoria, Illinois in 1985. Despite being incomplete and [[TrueArtIsIncomprehensible sometimes incomprehensible]], the novel's themes of depression, loneliness, self-awareness, and the tedium of daily life are expressed with a depth and poignancy that only Wallace could muster.

[[IThoughtItMeant Not to be confused with]] TheKingInYellow.
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!!This book provides examples of:
* ADateWithRosiePalms: Two IRS employees are in the middle of a lengthy commute, and one decides to break up the monotony by awkwardly asking about what the other guy thinks about when he masturbates. The other guy is understandably incredulous.
* AmicablyDivorced: Chris's parents try to give off this impression, though both of them are deeply affected by it.
* AsYouKnow: Creator/DavidFosterWallace mentions this trope in a footnote, calling it an irksome and graceless dramatic contrivance.
* AwesomeButImpractical: The parking lot of the Peoria REC: ''In essence, the baronial splendor of the REC’s grass was a testament to the idiocy and hassle of the whole thing’s planning.''
* BadassAdorable: Leonard Stecyk [[spoiler: saves his high school wood shop teacher when he gets a thumb chopped off by a machine. Everyone starts taking him much more seriously.]]
* BadassBookworm: The unnamed, impoverished teenaged girl [[spoiler: later revealed to be Toni Ware]] in Chapter 8. She reads anything she can get her hands on, but she knows how to poison people with asbestos, sabotage cars, and likely kill a man who was implied to have sexually assaulted her.
** Leonard Stecyk.
* BeautyEqualsGoodness: Subverted with Meredith, who becomes a vain, neurotic mess if you let her talk about her problems long enough.
* BedlamHouse: Where Meredith spends her 18th birthday after getting caught [[SelfHarm cutting.]]
* BeleagueredBureaucrat: The IRS recruiter.
* BeliefMakesYouStupid: In college, Chris had nothing but contempt for his religious roommate and his girlfriend.
* BeneathTheMask: Meredith Rand is so gorgeous that [[DistractedByTheSexy no one realizes]] how many issues she's hiding. That is, until she [[MotorMouth starts talking]]...
* BenevolentBoss: Leonard, the only one willing to listen to David F. Wallace.
* BerserkButton: Do not mess with Toni's dogs if you value your life.
* BrainlessBeauty: Subverted by Meredith Rand, who is well aware of this trope and annoyed by anyone who assumes she is one.
* BuriedAlive: Averted. Chris frantically starts digging through a huge mound of snow because he thinks someone might be trapped underneath. It turns out that someone just lost their umbrella.
* CaptainOblivious: Chris, during his wasteoid years. Even his life-changing event was the result of him going to the wrong classroom and experiencing something completely different from his own world view.
* CharacterDevelopment: The novel is unfinished, so most of the characters don't get fully examined. There are only a few exceptions:
** Leonard Stecyk grows from an irritating and overachieving CheerfulChild and into a kind, level-headed leader. The extra notes after the end of the novel suggests that he had an [[EpiphanyTherapy epiphany]] that allowed him to fully embrace his strengths instead of using kindness to selfishly make him feel better about himself.
** David Cusk slowly becomes more confident and [[spoiler: eventually sees a psychiatrist about his phobias.]]
** Chris Fogle starts as a drugged-out, NietzscheWannabe college dropout and gradually accepts his self-worth and responsibilities as an adult.
** Lane Dean's religious convictions weaken over time, to the point of [[spoiler: considering suicide.]]
* CheerfulChild: Leonard Stecyk is so ridiculously wholesome, honest, and hard-working that some of the school faculty want to kill him. His schoolmates hide when they see him coming.
* ChekhovsGun: [[spoiler: Director Glendenning's pathological hatred of mosquitoes.]]
* ChekhovsGunman: A couple of the main characters remain anonymous and seemingly unimportant in their introductory chapters. Toni is mentioned by name only twice in single sentences hundreds of pages apart before finally taking center stage.
* ChekhovsSkill: Leonard's medical knowledge.
** Toni Ware's ability to keep her eyes open for minutes at a time.
* ChildHater: Anyone who went to elementary school with Leonard Stecyk has what is described as a 'complex hatred' for him. People hate themselves for hating such a well-meaning kid, then hate him even more for creating such self-hatred. The principal has nightmares about the boy and occasionally fantasizes about sinking a meat hook into his face and dragging him behind his car through the streets of Grand Rapids, MI. A homeroom teacher even threatens to kill him with a pair of blunt scissors. It eventually culminates with someone blowing up his locker.
* ChildProdigy: Leonard. At 11 years old, he participates in the Meals on Wheels charity, volunteers as a crosswalk guard and hall monitor, donates his ice cream money to UNICEF, has been to origami camp twice, writes letters to publishers about textbook errors, fields all calls and inquiries with regards to his mother's hospitalization, attempts to reorganize his homeroom's seating structure for maximum efficiency, and writes individualized letters of apologies to his bullies. He also intentionally gets a few Bs on his report card solely to ensure he never gets too prideful of being an overachiever.
* CompanionCube: The Doberman Hand Puppet, which is eventually revealed to belong to [[spoiler: [[HearingVoices Dr. Lehrl.]]]]
* ConspiracyTheorist: There's an old lady [[spoiler: later revealed to be Toni Ware's grandmother]] who believes JackBenny is attempting to achieve global thought control via radio waves. She covers her house with electrified hubcaps, which jams her neighbors' signals. She ends up getting cited for diverting her household's amperage, so she salvages a generator that runs on kerosene.
* CoitusEnsues: There's a reason why she's called the Iranian Crisis.
* CrankyNeighbor: Toni.
* CrapsackWorld: The New Mexico trailer park and the rest of Chapter 8 provide a grim portrayal of a teenage girl trying to survive with her drifter of a mother.
* CrazyCatLady: Chris Fogle's mother ends up obsessing over birds as a way to cope with [[spoiler: the death of her ex-husband.]]
* CrazyPrepared: Toni's shoplifting techniques.
* CreepyChild: Mr. Manshardt's infant has a terrifying expression on its face and body language of an adult. [[spoiler: It can also talk, though the person who heard it may be insane.]]
* CreepyMonotone: On behalf of her superiors, Ms. Neti-Neti is 'extremely pleased' to invite Wallace to the Peoria REC…except that she shows no enthusiasm or interest whatsoever.
** Shane Drinion.
* CruelAndUnusualDeath: [[spoiler: Chris's father gets his arm stuck in a closing subway door, and is dragged the length of the station and beyond. The authorities find pieces of him roughly 65 yards away from the platform, at which point the train was traveling over 50 miles an hour.]]
* CueTheSun: Creator/DavidFosterWallace says that a rural Midwest sunrise is as soft and romantic as someone’s abruptly hitting the lights in a darkened room.
* CuteAndPsycho: Toni ''really'' loves her dogs:
-->''Now I'll know. If anything happens to these dogs. If they run off, or limp, or anything - I'll kill you, your family, burn your house down, and sow salt. I have nothing to live for but these dogs...But if anything gets done to these dogs I'll decide it was you and I'll sacrifice my life and freedom to destroy you and everyone you love.''
* DarkAndTroubledPast: None of the characters have happy backgrounds, but Toni Ware has the worst by far.
** ''So do not mess with this girl; this girl is damaged goods.''
* DeathByIrony: A soybean farmer was decapitated by a Think Farm Safety billboard during a tornado in 1987.
* DistractedByTheSexy: Every male in the vicinity of Meredith Rand, with the sole exception of [[NotDistractedByTheSexy Shane Drinion.]]
* {{Doorstopper}}: The mandatory reading materials for the IRS employment applicants.
* DrivenToSuicide: Thanks to Leonard's unbridled optimism, his homeroom teacher threatens to kill herself with a pair of blunt scissors.
** Garrity.
** Training Officer Pam Jensen plans to, according to one of Claude's random insights.
** [[spoiler: Lane Dean]] begins to consider it as he examines tax returns.
* DrugsAreBad: Chris Fogle spends a few pages discussing his drug habits, and he's clearly embarrassed in retrospect.
* DyingAlone: Frederick Blumquist dies of a heart attack at his desk at an IRS office. He passes away on Tuesday, but no one noticed until Saturday evening when a janitor finds him sitting in the dark. [[NightmareFuel It took over four days for any of 25 other employees in the room to realize that they were working with a corpse.]] Since he was a quiet person and died in his typical sitting position, everyone just assumed he was really absorbed in his work. [[spoiler: His personality doesn't change when he comes back as a ghost.]]
* EarlyBirdCameo: A handful of chapters appeared as standalone short stories in literary magazines during the many years that Wallace was working on the book.
* EmbarrassingNickname: ‘Irrelevant’ Chris Fogle, due to his overly detailed narrations.
** Ms. Neti-Neti is Persian, but some service members call her the 'Iranian Crisis'.
** Wallace’s skin condition led his college roommate to call him 'the young man carbuncular'.
** Diablo the Left-Handed Surrealist.
* EverybodyMustGetStoned: Chris mentions how common and easy it was to obtain drugs in college.
* EyeScream: Revenue Agent Fechner lost an eye in a war. He has a GlassEye, but he apparently likes to [[NightmareFuel use his empty eye socket as a bottle opener.]]
* FateWorseThanDeath: Leonard Stecyk's homeroom teacher finally snaps from having to deal with the kid's incessant happiness and perfection, brandishes a blunt pair of scissors, and threatens to kill both him and herself. She is promptly put on indefinite medical leave, during which she receives three highly-organized and detailed Get Well cards from the boy per week. This does not improve her condition in the slightest.
* FinishingEachOthersSentences: Reynolds and Claude's promotion interview in the penultimate chapter. [[spoiler: Chris]] incredulously wonders how long they had to practice it.
* FootnoteFever: Any time Creator/DavidFosterWallace provides a direct narration.
* FortuneTeller: Mother Tia, one of the New Mexican trailer park elders.
* FreudianExcuse: The unnamed narrator of Chapter 23 has issues with regards to his self-worth. He remembers a presentation he did on ''Literature/TheIliad'' in the eleventh grade, and he freely associates it with his family. He likens his family to Achilles, in that his seemingly perfect brother is Achilles's shield, while he is the [[AchillesHeel heel]]. He even develops a fixation on people's feet.
* GoodGirlsAvoidAbortion: As a teenager, Lane Dean secretly hopes that his Christian girlfriend will break up with him, but still keep their unborn child. [[spoiler: It's eventually revealed that they're still together and raising the child.]]
* GrowingUpSucks: A major theme throughout the novel, but especially prevalent in Chris Fogle's chapter.
* GreasySpoon: Chapter 8 ends with the girl eating breakfast at a diner in Plepler, MO, as her mother has sex in the truck outside.
* {{Hallucinations}}: Some IRS examiners who strain themselves to remain focused and alert in the face of extreme boredom are visited by phantoms that embody [[{{Flanderization}} extreme stereotypes]] of the [[YouAreWhatYouHate repressed aspects]] [[ShadowArchetype of their personalities.]] Macho guys see [[DragQueen drag queens]], [[NeatFreak neat freaks]] see filthy people, etc.
* HiddenDepths: Chris is surprised when his father quotes a famous poem by Percy Bysshe Shelley. The again, he didn't know much about his father in the first place...
* HilarityEnsues: Thanks to a screw-up with the IRS's records, Creator/DavidFosterWallace gets [[MistakenForSpecialGuest mistaken for David F. Wallace]] and has to spend his first few days in the Peoria REC [[FeigningIntelligence attending meetings he knows nothing about.]] The ''other'' David gets stuck in a bureaucratic nightmare because the IRS already has records of him arriving and won't allow him to register.
* HyperAwareness: Chris Fogle. It starts off with existential ponderings during his drug-induced highs, but he eventually gets a sober epiphany during a random viewing of AsTheWorldTurns.
** His exceptional memory allows him to explain things with several minute details. Creator/DavidFosterWallace later [[LampshadeHanging lampshades]] this: ''Rest assured that I am not Chris Fogle, and that I have no intention of inflicting on you a regurgitation of every last sensation and passing thought I happen to recall.''
** David Cusk also qualifies, but his senses get thrown off whenever he gets a panic attack.
** Toni Ware is incredibly good at reading people.
* HystericalWoman: Toni [[WeNeedADistraction pretends to be one]] in her final scene, InelegantBlubbering and all.
* IgnorantOfTheirOwnIgnorance: Looking back, Chris realizes just how idiotic and lazy he was during his wasteoid phase.
* InnerMonologue: Claude Sylvanshine's chapters are usually written as a blend of random sensory observations and musings over personal issues.
* ISeeDeadPeople: Thanks to his Random Fact Intuition, Claude is the only one who can glean any information about the ghosts that haunt Post 047.
* ItSeemedLikeAGoodIdeaAtTheTime: Any of Chris's antics during his college career.
* KidsAreCruel: Leonard gets beaten up by [[GangOfBullies multiple bullies]], and someone eventually blows up his locker.
* LeaveTheCameraRunning: In-universe. Chris Fogle's 99-page monologue is, according to the author two chapters later, "actually heavily edited and excerpted" from his interview for the IRS faux-documentary; the employees serving as the documentary crew allowed Chris to talk as long as he wanted to increase their overtime pay.
* LiteraryAgentHypothesis: The Author's Foreword. He claims that all of it is true, yet he points out the disclaimer on the copyright page states that the characters and events are fictitious. He spends a good portion of the chapter noting the inherent paradox.
** ''In other words, this Foreword is is defined by the disclaimer as itself fictional, meaning that it lies within the area of special legal protection established by that disclaimer. I need this legal protection in order to inform you that what follows is, in reality, not fiction at all, but substantially true and accurate. That The Pale King is, in point of fact, more like a memoir than any kind of made-up story.''
** He also notes that he was not legally allowed to mention his publisher in the text - no one wants to mess with the IRS, after all - [[FridgeLogic despite the fact that the publisher's name is featured on the book's spine.]]
* LocalHangout: Meibeyer's, where the majority of main cast spend their Friday afternoons.
* MasterOfDisguise: Toni has at least twenty distinct voices and differently-colored contact lenses.
* MistakenIdentity: Creator/DavidFosterWallace is mistaken for ''another'' David F. Wallace who was scheduled to show up at the same time. He gets an expedited entry into the Peoria REC, a promotion, and a consultation with the Iranian Crisis. It takes a few days for the IRS to figure it out, and he faces impersonation charges for months.
* MoneyDearBoy: Arguably the entire point of the Spackman Initiative.
* MonsterClown: Mrs. Sloper resembles an embalmed clown, 'the stuff of nightmares'.
* MotorMouth: Garrity haunts Post 047 by randomly appearing before examiners and talking non-stop.
** Meredith, once she gets going. Some of her coworkers ''prefer examining tax returns'' to listening to her talk.
* NiceGuy: Leonard.
* NietzscheWannabe: Chris's whole gimmick throughout most of his wasted college education.
* NoFourthWall: Whenever Creator/DavidFosterWallace is narrating, he addresses the reader directly.
* NoodleImplements: Toni is last seen hauling around a dozen bricks and ordering several feet of copper tubing. Given how mentally unbalanced she is, the results probably won't involve construction.
* NoodleIncident: It's never revealed what landed Leonard's mother in the hospital, but it apparently involved the kitchen oven malfunctioning.
** Nor is it revealed ''what'' went down at the annual corporate picnic, but it involved mosquitoes, an infectious disease, and some spiked Kool-Aid.
* NotWhatItLooksLike: Fat Marcus the Moneylender and his friends get caught doing a prank that everyone thinks looks like a 'prison-type gang-type sexual assault gone wrong'.
* {{Novella}}: Chapter 22 is just under 100 pages.
* ObstructiveBureaucrat: The Author's Foreword includes a lengthy description of all the legal issues that went along with the creation of the book.
** The horrendously complex and ultimately bungled [[spoiler: wrongful death lawsuit after Chris Fogle's father dies.]]
** After [[spoiler: his experience in Advanced Tax class, Chris tries to make up for his mistakes by going to the dean and begging for a chance to salvage his college career. The dean laughs in his face.]]
* OneParagraphChapter: Occasionally. Chapter 17 is little more than half a page long.
* OnlySaneMan: [[spoiler: Chris, as revealed at the end of Claude's investigation.]]
* OpenMindedParent: Chris's mother. She defends her son while dealing with her own issues with regards to feminism and individuality.
* OurGhostsAreDifferent: Post 047 is haunted by two ghosts: Garrity and [[spoiler: Blumquist]]. The former is extremely chatty and distracting, and the latter is silent but companionable.
* OurLawyersAdvisedThisTrope: The Author's Foreword is rife with this. Creator/DavidFosterWallace even uses his footnotes to apologize for the abundance of apparently necessary legal writing.
* {{Plagiarism}}: Wallace admits to writing papers for his college classmates to earn money. It doesn't end well for him.
* PsychicPowers: Claude Sylvanshine's Random Fact Intuition.
** [[spoiler: Shane Drinion can levitate if he concentrates on a single thing long enough. He gradually starts floating as he listens to Meredith's story. He also once gets caught floating upside down while examining a tax return.]]
* ReasonableAuthorityFigure: [[spoiler: Leonard. [[HearingVoices Dr.]] [[CompanionCube Lehrl]], on the other hand...]]
* RousingSpeech: Given by a substitute teacher on the final review day of the Advanced Tax class. [[spoiler: It motivates Chris to clean up his life.]]
** ''Gentlemen, you are called to account.''
* RuleOfSymbolism: The IRS seal depicts the mythical hero Bellerophon slaying the Chimera, which represents those who are stuck doing the difficult and unpopular work.
* SanitySlippage: David Cusk's inner monologue slowly spirals into this whenever he gets an anxiety attack. It's so powerful that Claude notices it via his psychic powers.
** [[spoiler: Lane Dean]] starts losing it as he spends hours examining tax returns.
** [[spoiler: Director Glendenning]] in one of the last chapters.
** [[spoiler: Sylvanshine]] is possibly going insane when he hears [[spoiler: Manshardt's baby speak.]] It could have actually happened though.
* SecretTestOfCharacter: Applying for the IRS involves listening to a lengthy, mind-numbingly boring presentation. The recruitment office is closely monitored to see how would-be applicants react to the dull, tedious nature of the work.
* ShrinkingViolet: As a teenager, David Cusk is so morbidly afraid of someone seeing his excessive sweating that he tries to keep as low a profile as possible. He gets better - but not complete - control over it when he grows up.
* SingleMomStripper: Implied by the list of previous jobs held by [[spoiler: Toni's]] mother in Chapter 8.
* SkewedPriorities: Debated among a few characters as the IRS deals with drastic changes brought on by the Spackman Initiative. Focus on ideal output and civil service is shifted toward a free-market approach that attempts to maximize profits.
* SnowedIn: Chicago gets hit with a nasty winter storm in 1979. It doesn't stop Chris from reaching the IRS recruitment office.
* SociallyAwkwardHero: Lane Dean attempts to converse with his fellow IRS employees during his fifteen minute break, and fails miserably.
* SocialServicesDoesNotExist: Averted. [[spoiler: Toni]] and her mother simply avoid them by drifting around the country. This lasts until [[spoiler: the mother is killed by her boyfriend.]]
* SpockSpeak: Shane Drinion, [[spoiler: who may not be human.]]
* StylisticSuck: Part of Chapter 24 is taken from the packet of IRS orientation materials for new hires, which Wallace states is the reason for the dead, bureaucratic flavor of the narration.
* SuperOCD: David Cusk. Thanks to his fear of being noticed for his sweating, he eventually develops the ability to keep track of a room's temperature, the locations and distances of the exits, sight lines and proximity of every person in the room, and quickly strategize ways to avoid detection.
* TheDandy: Leonard wears a stylish carpenter's apron for his high school wood shop class. [[spoiler: It keeps his clothes from getting covered in his teacher's blood during an accident with a machine. It also carries his metric-conversion ruler, which he uses to create a perfectly-tied tourniquet.]]
* ThePollyanna: Leonard, to the point where no one can stand being around him. He apparently survives his childhood and pleasantly gives out US Post Office National Zip Code Directories to his new neighbors. [[spoiler: He eventually [[CharacterDevelopment grows out it]] and ends up being the most [[ReasonableAuthorityFigure competent]] and [[BenevolentBoss stable]] of the higher-ups at Post 047.]]
* TheQuietOne: Shane Drinion. When he ''does'' speak, he has a lengthy, thought-provoking conversation with [[TheTease Meredith Rand]] and completely throws her off her game.
* TheRealHeroes: The IRS employees are likened to policeman, firefighters, and other emergency service members in a few places.
** Chapter 17 is a single paragraph that explains the idea.
** The IRS seal depicts the mythical hero Bellerophon slaying the Chimera.
* TheReveal: Only a few, and even then they're only explained in passing or subtly hinted.
** The owner of the [[CompanionCube Doberman Hand Puppet]] is [[spoiler: Dr Lehrl.]]
** The identity of drifter girl and the fate of her mother.
** The identity of Mr. X. It makes the UncomfortableElevatorMoment chapter read completely different the second time through.
** The fate of Lane Dean's girlfriend and their unborn child.
** The true purpose of Claude's investigation.
** Chris Fogle's role.
** Dr. Lehrl's intentions for Post 047.
* TheTease: Deconstructed with Meredith Rand.
* TheUnReveal: Practically everything, considering that the book was unfinished.
** The [[ShadowArchetype individualized phantoms]] for each examiner.
** The fate of the nearly all the characters, especially Lane Dean, the Iranian Crisis, and the kid contortionist and his father.
** The legal proceedings once Creator/DavidFosterWallace is accused of impersonating David F. Wallace.
** What Shane Drinion really is, and his relation to Keith Sabusawa.
** If Mr. Manshardt's [[spoiler: eventually Dr. Lehrl's]] child can actually speak, or if the person who hears it is insane.
** Toni Ware's eccentricities.
** The full extent of Claude's powers.
** The origins of the nicknames introduced in Chapter 25, particularly Bob 'Second-Knuckle' Mckenzie.
* ThereAreNoTherapists: Averted. [[spoiler: David Cusk]] eventually goes to a psychiatrist. The book also ends with a second-person narrative that describes the start of a therapy session.
* ThisIsAWorkOfFiction: Creator/DavidFosterWallace points out the paradox of the book being both a memoir and literary fiction in The Author's Foreword.
* TitleDrop: Mentioned offhand in Chapter 18.
* UncomfortableElevatorMoment: There's a whole chapter devoted to three IRS employees that are stuck in an elevator. Their resulting debates include the future of American society, presidential politics, democracy, tax law, psychology, film, and existential dread.
* VerbalTic: Kenneth 'Type of Thing' Hindle.
* ViewersAreGeniuses: Garrity's rants include references to Pascal, Marquise du Deffand, Latin, Greek, Film/{{Metropolis}}, Kierkegaard, and philology.
* VitriolicBestBuds: Claude and Reynolds.
* VocalDissonance: Nugent's little sister can imitate [[Film/TheExorcist Regan MacNeil's voice]] perfectly, much to the delight of Nugent's bored coworkers.
* WackyFratboyHijinx: The [[BloodyHilarious confrontation]] between Fat Marcus the Moneylender and Diablo the Left-Handed Surrealist.
** ''Didn't anybody at your school ever have names like Joe or Bill?''
* WellDoneSonGuy: The entire relationship dynamic between Chris and his father. Chris is fully aware of how disappointed his father is of him, but is usually too stoned or selfish to care. It's not until [[spoiler: his father dies]] that Chris feels guilty enough to change his life.
** This is made depressingly clear when the father comes home early to find Chris and his buddies in his living room, high out of their minds, surrounded by discarded Taco Bell wrappers, and their feet resting lazily on one his prized pieces of furniture. The father doesn't yell; he simply says, ''Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!'', walks to his bedroom and shuts the door.
* WhatCouldHaveBeen: The last few pages are a quick rundown of ideas that Creator/DavidFosterWallace was musing over.
** More CharacterDevelopment, with a huge focus on Leonard Steyck.
** Claude and Reynolds are based on [[{{Hamlet}} Rosencrantz and Guildenstern]], and were apparently planned to be roommates or even lovers.
** Chris Fogle apparently knows a sequence of numbers that grant him the power of total concentration when uttered.
** The themes of humanity versus technology/tradition versus efficiency/civil service versus corporate profit would be much more fleshed-out, including a contest between Shane Drinion and the latest scanning machine.
** A deeper exploration of Meredith's marriage and Blumquist's past, with Meredith possibly [[spoiler: falling for Drinion in a "savior" type of way just like with her husband while she was in the psych ward.]]
** A [[ThePlan intriguing plan]] courtesy of Dr. Lehrl.
* WhatKindOfLamePowerIsHeartAnyway: Claude Sylvanshine has Random Fact Intuition, which is basically ESP with nothing but useless facts.
* WhatWouldXDo: When faced with the prospect of breaking up with his pregnant, loveless girlfriend or aborting their would-be child, Lane Dean wonders what Jesus would do.
* WhiteCollarCrime: Chapter 21 is a conversation between an IRS auditor and a businessman trying to falsify his tax report. He is given two options: jail, or filing a new report with the correct information and paying the late fees.
** Claude suspects that [[spoiler: the higher-ups at Post 047 are doctoring the records so that the site has a perfectly averaged productivity rate, which would make them appear less suspicious.]]
* WouldHurtAChild: At least one adult directly attempts to kill Leonard as a child. Another hits him with their car, though it's debatable if that was accidental. The rest of them have a little more restraint. There's also an unnamed man in Chapter 8 who is implied to be a sexual predator. And the man who [[spoiler: kills Toni's mother.]]
* YouAreNumberSix: Anyone who has worked for the Service is given a new Social Security number that exclusively begins with a 9.
* YouFailEconomicsForever: Invoked during Chris's description of the new tax laws in Chicago in 1978. Since the amount of taxes that needed to be paid were determined by the amount you spend per transaction, people did their shopping by buying one item at a time. The resulting lines and traffic are horrendous, and the governor loses his job over it.
* YourCheatingHeart: The unnamed father in Chapter 36. He gets off on the idea of women needing him.
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''We fill pre-existing forms and when we fill them we change them and are changed.''
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