Animorphs #28: The Experiment: slaughterhouses and meatpacking plants are evil, terrifying places. Wow, that burger you're eating looks delicious. Can you get me one while you're up?
The last chapter, where they get burgers, was written by Applegate, who hated what the ghostwriter had done with the book.
The aesop of "The Tortoise and The Hare" is "Slow And Steady Wins The Race". While "slow and steady" is certainly a good approach for a number of things, racing is not one of them even in the story. The tortoise did not win because he was going slow and steady. He clearly won because of the hare stopping to rest. The aesop can more accurately be described as "Don't Be Cocky." Or even more so "Whatever you do, do with all your might". As Lore Sj÷berg put it, "Slow and steady wins the race if your opponent is narcoleptic".
Most likely, the emphasis is on the steady part rather than the slowness. Obviously if you're going more slowly you won't win, unless your opponent is a lot less steady than you are (which is the case here).
Race Against Time by Piers Anthony attempts An Aesop on how having a lot of different cultures is a good thing, but it gets broken by a moral on how you shouldn't mix romantically with other races.
I Was a Teenage Fairy, by Francesca Lia Block: tattooing your lover's name on your chest is stupid, especially if you fail to learn from it and do it twice more - but the fourth time is okay, because now it's really true love.
Orson Scott Card's Empire is about the dangers of divisiveness in American political discourse and the evils of extremism at both ends of the political spectrum. Fair enough. Unfortunately, it's fatally undermined by the fact that the heroes all unambiguously share "Red State values" whereas the villains are a bunch of craven liberals. Er, if the message is that people of both political opinions should work together, you probably shouldn't have all the protagonists be on one side of the aisle, and all the villains on the other like that...
Tom Godwin's short story The Cold Equations attempts to tell An Aesop about the uncaring nature of the universe, and how even an innocent mistake can cost a life, with no fault but that of universal law. Unfortunately, the basic thrust is undercut because of the setup of the situation. The only protection to keep someone from walking onto a spaceship where stowaways meet certain death is a sign saying "UNAUTHORIZED PERSONNEL. KEEP OUT!" This is especially bad, because it's flat-out stated that stowaways have happened before — indeed, the pilot of the ship has a gun and explicit orders to shoot them — yet the entire situation is treated as the fault of nothing but the physical laws of the universe. Readers are left to wonder why the craft had absolutely zero margin for error when modern lifeboats and transport craft are capable of handling far more than their generally required loads.
The four book series The Dreamers has a powerful one at the end. The series appears to build on the Aesop that the gods are supposed to barely affect people and use their powers sparingly and let things go naturally; so, after the gods are given children, who are their replacements, who are said to be able to save the world, they collect people from around the planet to help them fight off a Hive Mind force of super insects. How is the Aesop broken? During the last two chapters of the last book, the new gods in turn go back in time, render the original Hive Mother infertile, and give the man who almost single-handedly won the war because the loss of his wife caused him not to care about dying and made him want unending revenge his wife back. All this actively Unmakes all four books, and the main character's life is removed from existence. Now, that is first-class meddling!
Warrior Cats: When Firestar has to choose between reinstating his old deputy, Graystripe, or keeping Brambleclaw, StarClan tells Leafpool that Firestar should make his decision with his head, not his heart (oh so subtly hinting at Brambleclaw), completely ignoring all the times in the series characters have been told to listen to their heart or do what they feel is right. In fact, the whole reason Firestar chose Graystripe in the first place was because he was told to follow his heart.
One of the lessons in Dr. Seuss' Daisy-Head Mayzie is "What good is money without all your friends?". Wait, friends? You mean those bratty children who taunted her in school about her daisy (which was every single one of them, by the way. No one defended her!). And while the adults didn't torment her, they didn't exactly stick up for her either. Oh, but suddenly they all love her again once she's back to normal, so... yay for conformity? I think there's a reason Dr. Seuss didn't get this published initially.
Bowman, Kestrel, and their friend Mumpo spend the first Wind on Fire book learning that if they work together, they can make things happen and nothing can hurt them. In the book's two parallel plots, the twin's father convinces downtrodden people that they need to stand up and peacefully insist on being given their rights, and their mother makes her views heard and gets the town to listen to her and consider her ideas. Then... the MacGuffin shows up and makes it all better. Or at least makes them happy for the remainder of the book.
In the Disney Fairies book, "Beck Beyond the Sea," Beck shirks her duties to follow the Explorer Birds, using special dust from Vidia in order to fly fast enough. Turns out that Vidia tricked Beck twice over, first by not giving her as much dust as promised, and second by using Beck's absence to pluck feathers from Mother Dove. At the end of the book, Vidia is punished for this, but Beck is not even reprimanded for leaving her post.
Kevin J. Anderson arguably did this well in Hopscotch. One of the parallel story threads follows a girl who joins an increasingly abusive cult whose founder is obsessed with the idea of sharing everything—this being a soft sci-fi story, this includes sharing bodies. The group is quickly set up to be "bad," and the girl is forced out of it and forced to leave her original body behind. She finds another leader-type to follow, a fellow who claims that body-swapping is bad and should never be practiced, and he gets a lengthy Character Filibuster on the subject. The astute reader might notice that this moral is actively contradicted in the other story threads, so it seems like a broken aesop. Later on, however, she discovers that her original body is dead, and gets to decide whether or not to trade for a body similar, but not identical, to the one she had. For a few seconds, she considers which choice would be more in line with the precepts she's adopted—then she realizes that she's still blindly doing whatever she's told, and for the first time in the book, she makes her decision based on her own instincts rather than someone else's advice.
According to Word of God, the Bella/Edward/Jacob love triangle was intended to show Bella's choice in the matter of love, namely that she had the option of Jacob but chose Edward. The "love through choice" moral is shot to hell through most of the other couples though, particularly in the case of imprinted couples (the guy can't help but feel attracted to the girl and while the girl technically is able to refuse him, there is a ton of pressure not to). Especially egregious is the case of Jacob, who made a number of speeches about how imprinting is essentially the loss of free will and he hopes to never have it and then finds himself happily imprinted on Renesmee, even though he absolutely hated her not five minutes prior.
Which kind of contradicts everything the author said about Jacob being an option since it's implied if not outright stated that Jacob's interest in Bella was apparently only due to him being subconsciously drawn to her because he was meant to imprint on Renesmee in the first place.
One aesop seems to be that a girl as plain and unassuming as Bella can find true love, but Bella's flaws fall mostly into the category of Informed Flaw, and are almost entirely removed at the end of the series. Not to mention, though Bella is intended to be plain and unassuming, nearly every man she runs into falls for her and Edward himself states that most of the boys in the school find her attractive. Clearly, not so plain. Bella's depiction on the film does not help, either... However, maybe the intended Aesop here was that if you hold off on sex until you get married and then die in childbirth, you will become a saint and absolutely perfect in every way.
The Cullens are portrayed as saintly vampires who value human life and therefore maintain a "vegetarian" diet of animal blood. But they never once object to other vampires killing humans - the closest they ever come is politely asking some non-veggie vamps who are staying with them to go out of town to feed, which has little to do with protecting human life and more to do with not blowing their cover. When there's a huge murder spree going on in Seattle caused by a vampire army, the Cullens never lift a finger to help until they realize the vampires are coming for them.
And worse still, some of the deaths the Cullens cause are glorified, the most obvious example being Rosalie murdering her fiance and his friends. This would otherwise be a pretty badass moment, if it weren't for the fact that Carlisle is supposed to be an absolute pillar of morality; if he's so moral, why did he stand by and allow his new adoptive daughter to murder humans, something he's so strongly against?
In the first novel Edward briefly mentions that before he went full "vegetarian" he was sort of a vigilante vampire superhero; he would make meals out of muggers and rapists when they were in the middle of attacking someone. This is presented as wrong because he's inevitably still killing, despite the fact he would also often be saving people who would have otherwise been murdered, assaulted, or raped. The option of remaining a vigilante and just not feeding on the criminals he captures is never even considered.
Also building on Carlisle's supposed status as a pillar of morality, the reason he saved Rosalie's life was he saw her lying raped and dying in the street and thought it would be a waste to let beauty such as hers go to waste. And then he tried to give her to Edward as a girlfriend.
Naked Empire, eighth book of the Sword of Truth series spends a good chunk of time preaching that you have to work for things, and that knowledge doesn't just come to you when you need it. In the last pages of the book, Richard's dying of poison and the knowledge of how to make the antidote basically just shows up in his head. Another particularly obvious one is the repeated exhortation to live your own life and think for yourself - but if you don't think Richard is right you're wrong, probably evil, and are going to die.
In Little Men, Nat is caught telling a lie, and this is treated as a very serious issue and resolved with a cruel and unusual punishment. The problem is, a much older boy was threatening to beat the crap out of him if he'd ran through the boy's veggie patch - which he'd done because he was being chased by another older boy - so Nat got scared and denied it. And neither of the other boys were punished or even given a talking-to, leaving us with the message that lying to get out of a dangerous situation is not only wrong, but so much worse than threatening and bullying little kids who aren't able to defend themselves. Whoo, moralizing.
And in the first book, we have Amy burning Jo's book out of anger... cue Jo getting angry at her and being admonished for it.
Eight Cousins criticizes adventure books where, supposedly, boy protagonists become rich by finding a treasure or get adopted by a millionaire because he happened to find and return the millionaire's purse. Why can't we have wholesome books that teach children the value of hard work? Fair enough, but Eight Cousins itself has a heroine who is a rich heiress through no action of her own, and she "adopts" a poor orphan girl as her sister just because she sings beautifully and delivered an encouraging talk to the protagonist. "Write as I say, not as I write"?
Peter F. Hamilton's The Night's Dawn Trilogy is most infamous for its Deus ex Machina ending, but the story (particularly the third book) also attempts to promote an anti-racism message, with the Possessed as a metaphor for victims of bigotry. Unfortunately, this message is sort of lost when the victims of oppression are body-snatching ghosts who use rape and torture to increase their numbers.
Star WarsYoung Jedi Knights: Tenel Ka makes it a habit of relying as much as possible on her own physical abilities, relying on weapons or The Force only as a last resort (which kind of makes one wonder why the hell she wants to be a Jedi to begin with.) In the series' 4th book, "Lightsabers" emphasis is placed on her reminding herself of this while constructing her lightsaber, so she doesn't put enough care into constructing it, resulting in her losing her arm in a lightsaber training accident. Afterwards, she feels ashamed that she let her pride cloud her judgment. Good lesson. Except her actions afterward don't show any regret. If she regretted it, it'd make sense for her to make at least a few minor exceptions to her code of honor and realize that sometimes you have to be realistic when it comes battle and use those so called "not as honorable tactics". Instead, what does she do afterwards? Not only in the same book but just several hours later? Refuses to wear a synthetic arm replacement. Why? Because she thinks it's dishonorable.And the story clearly treats this as the right decision. Face? Meet palm.
She chose not to wear the replacement as a way to remind her of what her overconfidence had cost her.
The Candy Shop War has a pretty loud aesop, to the extent that John even states it, after having written it out for everyone in chalk. DON'T TAKE CANDY FROM STRANGERS! Great, but the kids don't take candy from random creeps on the side of the road. They get candy from a woman who owns a candy shop and a man who runs an icecream truck, having either paid for them or worked to earn them.
The Sweet Valley High series (and its numerous spinoffs) basically ran on the power of hypocrisy. If "bad" twin Jessica dated a different boy every night, she was blasted for being promiscuous, but if "good" twin Elizabeth cheated on her boyfriend, it was glossed over to the point where HE was apologizing to HER. If Jessica acted stuck-up, she was a heartless bitch, but if Elizabeth did the same thing, she must have a good reason for it. Additionally, Elizabeth would practically demand that HER friends be forgiven for their misdeeds and given a chance to redeem themselves. Needless to say, she had no such compassion for any of Jessica's friends—not until big brother Steve blasts her for this does she even realize how insensitive and hypocritical she's being. An even better, if not outright literal, example of this trope is the fact that Jessica never once learned her lesson. She'd try to pull a zany scheme which would fall apart and leave her with egg on her face, but by the next book, would be doing it all over again, despite everyone under the sun warning her about what happened the last time.
With Jessica, the writers often seemed to confuse being mischievous with being a sociopath.
Never mind when Elizabeth was in an motorcycle accident at the end of one book, then in the next wakes out of her coma. She proceeds to act almost exactly like Jessica does -until she gets bonked on the head again, in a minor fall. She pops back to her normal self, gets forgiven by her boyfriend, and by everyone else. Jessica, who has spent the whole book picking up after Elizabeth's behavior, not only doesn't get any sort of apology or thanks, but is back to her normal self, no lesson learned or maturity earned, in the next book.
The book Lady in Waiting states first that a single woman was encouraged to pursue a doctorate, and that the spirit-filled woman is interesting and has goals for herself. But later it says that seeking fulfillment through a career is wrong and that a single woman should only seek fulfillment in serving God in whatever way, method, location, and time God wants.
In the Riftwar saga we get hammered about how the end doesn't justify the means, and that evil actions are irrational, by the heroes. Then they start torturing enemies, in full knowledge of this being evil, in the name of the greater good.
There's a children's poem about a little girl whose father brags that men are better drivers and are "built with speed and strength". He ends up driving his car straight into a truck and the poem starts to make a gender equality Aesop... which then gets completely broken by having the little girl remark "men are built with speed and strength but hardly any brains" showing she's just as sexist as her father.
John Wyndham novel The Chrysalids initially has quite a powerful message against racism and xenophobia, being set in a backwards, post-apocalyptic theocracy in which mutants are brutally murdered for blaspheming against the likeness of God. Too bad the apparent message is fatally undermined in the last ten pages or so by having an airship full of technologically advanced mutants to rescue the heroes by cheerfully massacring all of the primitive people surrounding them while talking about how it is moral and good for inferior races to be killed by their superiors.
In-universe example: In The Barsoom Project, sequel to Dream Park, a live-action adventure about Inuit mythology is re-staged as a "Fat Ripper", in which players are psychologically conditioned to overcome their eating disorders and other dependencies while completing their mission. This could've been a real coup for the Park's operators, if one of the game's challenges hadn't required them to smoke cigarettes as part of a magical ritual. So we're training Gamers to trade one unhealthy habit for another, are we?
Some readers believe that the pro-capitalism Ayn Rand accidentally created an anti-capitalist novel in The Fountainhead. The main antagonists are a private newspaper and boards of directors. The hero, architect Howard Roark, declines a lucrative offer that would require him to build a version of his skyscraper altered to fit widespread public taste. In other words, he refuses to Sell Out by supplying what the consumers demand, which results in him losing a profitable business deal. This, critics claim, is the opposite of capitalism.
The Fountainhead also has the problem that Howard Roark gives a massiveCharacter Filibuster about how collective action is evil and real men think and work alone. Howard Roark is an architect. Working alone, all he can produce is wallpaper.
The other Ayn Rand doorstopper, Atlas Shrugged, has essentially the same problem. The protagonist is not himself a research scientist or productive laborer of any kind, so he's even further from the actual creation of the product in question than Roark. In fact, given that he later has issues involving stock sales, he's not even the only owner of the company funding the research team. If not for collectively-enforced ideas of ownership, he'd have been some random bum— he's essentially important only by exploiting a technicality/bug in capitalism to leech off the system.
The Poisonwood Bible: The author goes to very great lengths to show that judging people without trying to understand where they're coming from is bad... but then paints all Americans as greedy, materialistic pigs, except for her Author Avatars. Needless to say, it does little for the message of tolerance.
The ending of the book in general is pretty bad about this. For the first 200 pages, both Americans and Africans are portrayed as having flaws and strengths... and then the author decides to make Americans the Always Chaotic Evil described above and paints Africans as saints who only ever do anything bad because they were corrupted by white people.
According to The Host free will is more important than a utopia, and living parasitically in a host body is immoral. Which is why Wanderer gets moved against her express wishes into a different host body, ruining another alien's happy life in the process.
Pointed out in-universe in No Woman Born. Maltzer, a scientist who transferred the brain of the deceased actress Deirdre into a robot body, remembers the story of Frankenstein and is certain Deirdre will eventually go wrong. When he tells this to Deirdre, she points out that he didn't create her, he only gave her a new body.
While not pointed out, also of note is that Dr. Frankenstein's creation went wrong because he mistreated it. Had he been kinder to it, it would have not rebelled.
In How the Grinch Stole Christmas!, a big problem with delivering an Aesop about valuing family and friends over material commodities, is that the Grinch didn't just steal the overpriced, over-hyped luxuries; he stole all their food. If you truly value your friends and families, you will object to someone threatening to starve them to death, and in this case, arguably the appropriate solution is not to go on celebrating despite it; it's to apprehend the thief and recover your belongings, for the sake of everyone you care about.
The Dutch book The Chatroom Trap tries to convey the Aesop that Chatrooms are dangerous place for underage users, by having Floor and Marcia, two 15 years old girls, doing a lot of dumb things in chatroom, culminating in Marcia posing naked for various persons. The catch is, all of this has no negative consequences whatsoever (even Marcia's naked photos are kept in private). Instead, the reason the girls are targeted by the criminals (which leads to them being molested) is that they post their profile on a (legit) site for aspiring models, with the entire baiting process happening via E-Mails.