Forty Eight Laws Of Power: In one tale in this book, Lope de Aguierre was sentenced to 200 lashes by Judge Esquivel for a serious crime. Aguierre wanted to be executed instead, but the Judge didn't allow it. Afterward Aguierre chased the judge through three cities, 1100 leagues over the course of three years and four months, some of which was on his bare feet (he had no shoes). Finally the Judge reached a city where the police were a strong force... only to be stabbed to death in his sleep.
Nineteen Eighty-Four: The amount of Cold-Blooded Torture and Mind Rape that the Party put Winston through for his perceived crimes - keeping a journal, having a sexual relationship - is astonishing considering they're so trivial that they would have posed no threat to the Party's power base. It's very likely he would've continued writing propaganda for the Ministry of Truth, having secret meetings with Julia and pondering as to the existence of the Brotherhood until his life naturally expired... But for the Party, mere obedience is not enough; Winston has to love Big Brother, willingly or not.
The Destroyermen series by Taylor Anderson has Gunner's Mate Dennis Silva USN, of the USS Walker. Silva is pretty much the Patron Saint of this trope. Prank him into chewing "tobacco" that's actually a powerful laxative, like his lemurian buddy Chack did? He will scandalize your sister (with her willing assistance). Break his favorite gun? He will beat you to death with it, as some Holy Dominion soldados found out the hard way. Kidnap Princess Rebecca Anne McDonald, who he considers his adopted little sister? You and everyone you know are going to die.
The entire plot of the appropriately named Reprisal is Rasalom's revenge on Bill for almost causing Carol to have a miscarriage when she was pregnant with him by refusing to have an affair with her. The goodness of him refusing to break his vows as a priest did this, so it wasn't like Bill almost killed him on purpose. Rasalom responds by ruining Bill's life, mostly by committing horrible atrocities on the people close to him. Rasalom seems to do this a lot.
Done a great deal in Aesop's Fables. One particularly harsh example is in the story of the monkey and the camel. The monkey danced for all the desert animals and amused them with how nimble and cute he was. The camel saw this and figured that he could do just as well. He showed off, trying to dance as well, but was much clumsier and oafish. The animals were so annoyed at his terrible dancing that they drove him out of the desert, and then ate him, "serving refreshments of camel humps and ribs".
In The Affix, Carlos Sanchez tosses a hand grenade into Wallace's vintage car, seemingly killing him. Wallace reappears later to enact a drive-by shooting in which he specifically targets one of Carlos' brothers, shouting "Ojo por ojo" when he does it. In Wallace's eyes this isn't disproportionate at all.
In the first Alex Rider book, Herod Sayle planned to kill millions of innocent schoolchildren as revenge for the Prime Minister bullying him at school. Then we have Damian Cray in the fourth book, who arranged the death of a journalist who objected to the violence in his video games, and later told Alex he planned to kill him before he found out he was a spy, on the basis that Alex had done too well at what was supposed to be an extremely difficult game. And then in Scorpia Rising we have Razim, who, as a child, stabbed his nanny in the leg when she told him off for teasing his sister. Yeah, Anthony Horowitz is fond of this trope.
In Altered Carbon, he is placed into a torture program for 24 simulated hours by some Punch-Clock Villain technicians hired by the Big Bad. After he escapes, he remembers a passage from his favorite author about making every struggle personal. He returns to the technicians' office and kills everyone who works there, then goes to a strip club that is tangentially related to the affair and massacres everyone working there as well. He melts the heads of everyone he kills, preventing them from being resurrected in a new body, as most people are after death. His rampage is considered outrageous by everyone who learns about it.
In Broken Angels he massacres an entire troop of Carrera's Wedge soldiers to avenge a friend despite only a few of them even being involved. And another character, revolutionary leader Kemp, nuked a city due to Hand's manipulations.
Sometime before Woken Furies Kovacs learned that his ex-girlfriend married a religious fanatic, had a daughter who was killed in an accident, then tried to resurrect her against her husband's religion. But the priests caught her, tortured her to death, and tossed her cortical stack in the ocean, effectively killing her for good. Kovacs found her husband, dragged the names of the ones who dumped her stack out of him, tortured and killed them, then went on to slaughter everyone in their village who was an adult at the time and had their stacks put in animals used for pit fights. By the time the book starts he's making a bit of a dent in the faith's hierarchy.
In A Nightmare on Elm Street: Perchance To Dream, main character Jacob Johnson uses his powers to stop everyone in Springwood from dreaming in order to protect them from Freddy. This has the adverse side-effect of making everyone edgy, paranoid, and violent; at one point a character browses through a newspaper and finds a section mentioning a kid who stabbed his teacher in the eye with a pencil after getting a bad mark and a man who shot his wife because she was "vacuuming in a really irritating way".
Not as violent or as graphic as some examples, but Anne does this in the Anne of Green Gables series in one of the most infamous scenes in all of literature. Most of the girls of Avonlea school are quite used to being teased by Gilbert Blythe, and most ignore it or become mildly offended. When Gilbert dares to make fun of Anne's red hair, Anne smashes her slate over his head and breaks it in half. And refuses to speak to him for years afterward. Quite the hefty punishment for one ill-timed comment.
One of the first things we learn about Gregor Clegane is that he held his little brother's face to a burning brazier for playing with one of his old toys, scarring him for life.
Petyr Baelish's kingdom-conquering is mostly due to a grudge he nurses from being rejected by his childhood sweetheart for a wealthier and more dashing man.
The Lannisters are well known for their harsh retribution. A popular song, "The Rains of Castamere" was written about how they completely wiped out two noble houses for being disloyal.
In the first book, Tywin Lannister had an innkeeper hanged. Her crime? Owning the inn where his least favourite son Tyrion was kidnapped.
The Freys have possibly the most shocking example: After Robb Stark reneges on his wedding promise to House Frey, Lord Walder massacres Robb, his mother, most of his noble bannermen, and most of his army at the wedding feast of his uncle, thereafter called The Red Wedding.
Afterwards, just having the last name Frey is a crime punishable by Disproportionate Retribution among some groups. The Brotherhood Without Banners, led by Lady Stoneheart (AKA undead Catelyn Stark), hangs any Frey they catch. Up in the North, Lord Wyman Manderly (who lost a son at the Red Wedding), has three Freys who visited his court killed, baked into pies, and fed to their relatives at Winterfell. To avoid breakingguest right like the Freys did, he gives them horses as gifts to signify they're no longer under his protection.
Joffrey Baratheon/Lannister/Waters is also know for this trope, typically cutting everybody's heads off for any act of defiance or making them duel to the death. However, one of his biggest moments of douchery comes when he has Sansa Stark stripped naked and beaten bloody, in front of the entire court, because her brother won a battle.
The punishments in Candide are wildly disproportionate, and are Played for Laughs. To name a few, one character is given several thousand lashes for taking a walk, another character is hanged for expressing his beliefs (and for fun), the latter's companion is lashed for simply being his companion, etc. The book is filled to the brim with this sort of thing.
In Mikhail Akhmanov and Christopher Nicholas Gilmore's novel Captain French, or the Quest for Paradise, the titular character retells the story of Captain Regos to his new wife. Regos, a space trader like French, once traveled with his beautiful wife to a planet ruled by a tyrannical dictator who fancied himself God-Emperor. While most planets treat space traders like royalty (or, at least, honored guests), the dictator took a liking to Regos's wife, had his people tie Regos up and send him back to his ship. However, Regos's wife refused to pleasure the dictator and was executed the next morning for displeasing the God-Emperor (a capital crime). All Regos got were her ashes. Regos spent the next several months in the system's asteroid belt building a giant laser cannon, which he then used to threaten the planetary population to turn over the God-Emperor to him lest they all pay the price (he vaporized a mountain just to prove he could). Finally, someone did get smart and handed over the dictator. Regos proceeded to torture him for many days, recording the "sessions" on video before finally killing him. The video has since been distributed to all worlds with a clear non-verbal message - don't fuck with space traders. When French's wife asks him what he would do if something similar happened to her, he replies he'd build an even bigger laser.
In The Lotus Eaters, Legate Pigna gets wadded up paper thrown in his face and yelled at by Carrera, who was angry about how bureaucratized the Legion was getting in the year after his Heroic B.S.O.D.. The response? Plot with the enemy to overthrow the government.
Arguably, Carrera's nuking the city to get at the family of the terrorist organization's leader also qualifies, considering earlier in Carnifex it was shown that his people could get at the family members with more selective means of killing.
In Carrie, the protagonist's mother, Margaret White, once caught her asking a sunbathing neighbor about her breasts when she was three. Her reaction was to try to kill her with a butcher knife.
The narrator of "The Cask of Amontillado", Montressor, is insulted by Fortunato prior to the beginning of the story. While it isn't said what the insult is, apparently it wasn't so severe that Fortunato thought their friendship was dissolved. In any case, it's difficult to imagine that he could have done anything that would make walling him up in a wine cellar and leaving him to die of dehydration anything but disproportionate.
In The Highland Twins at the Chalet School, when Fiona McDonald makes a snarky comment at Betty Wynne-Davies, Betty responds by planning to steal the Chart of Erisay, a document containing military information about the remote Scottish island where the McDonalds live. She then makes a deal with a Nazi spy to hand it over to him, after he hears her talking about it and corners her. When news gets back to the school and police are called in, Betty winds up being expelled.
More generally, one way to guarantee getting punished in the Chalet School, usually by fines and a heavy ticking off, is...talking slang. Yeah.
The Thrall district monorail breaks down one day in Clocks that Don't Tick. Despite it taking the workers only a matter of minutes to repair it, one of the Bosses had the head engineer dragged away and locked in an empty warehouse to starve to death, a Thrall's worst fear.
The Crimson Shadow: Duke Morkney sentences a man who stole from a stall to lose all his property and one of his hands.
In Freedom, Loki/Gragg takes disproportionate retribution when a man cuts in line at a coffee shop and refuses to go to the end. He freezes all of his assets, plunges him into massive debt, ruins his credit, and has a warrant placed on him for unpaid parking tickets.
This theme is subverted in Dealing With Dragons, when the princess Alianora was brought up to deliberately be thrown into princessy situations but none of them worked out properly. When she was born, her parents forgot to invite a wicked fairy, in the hopes of getting her a christening curse. Instead, when the fairy shows up she ends up eating cake and ice cream and dancing and ultimately has so much fun she forgives everyone and leave without cursing the princess.
In Digital Devil Story, the entire plot is set in motion because the Alpha Bitch Kyoko was rejected by our protagonist Nakajima. She dupes Jerk Jock Kondo into beating the crap out of Nakajima. Thoroughly displeased, Nakajima summons the great demon Loki and has the demon consume Kyoko's and Kondo's souls.
Peter does whatever he can to get rid of potential rivals in the initiate ranking, from stabbing Edward in the eye to trying to throw Tris into the chasm.
Also Molly, who feeds lies about Tris's father to Erudite because Tris beat her in a fight and ranked higher than her.
In Dragon Bones, some men in the Hurog family are fond of this. Ward mentions that his father would beat his little sister Ciarra up for being late to dinner. He aims to be late to dinner himself, so his father will focus on him. There's also Oreg, who was Made a Slave hundreds of years ago, and has been serving the Hurog family ever since. He was flogged nearly to death (he can't die, but normally would have) for writing something on the wall of the main hall. Granted, it was a prophecy of ill fortune, but this prophecy/curse was Oreg's very weak retribution for his owner having slaugthered one of the sentient dragons of the region, a horrible crime.
Lady Holdless Thella of Renegades of Pern lives and breathes this trope. In one case, she and her raiders ambush a trading caravan, destroying several carts and killing or wounding most of the traders and their beasts. She does this because earlier, when she was chasing down a family running from her, she encountered the traders, and the man she questioned was evasive and unhelpful. Even her origin smacks of this. She became the self-styled "Lady Holdless," scourge of the countryside, because she wasn't in the line of succession (passed from father to son).
In Laurence Yep's Dragon Series, a teenager is forced into a marriage with a river spirit. Upon escaping (after a thousand years), and seeing her former village had become a wealthy and industrialized city, Civet is overcome by loss and decides that dragons are responsible. She destroys the Inland Sea where the Inland dragons live, by taking away all the water, and then uses the water to destroy River Glen, her former village.
In the period mystery Eater of Souls, an ancient Egyptian serial killer murders people who'd subjected him to extremely minor offenses, like buying the company of a tavern prostitute before he could cross a room to purchase her services himself.
In Alethea Kontis's Enchanted, Sunday's brother Jack was turned into a dog for killing the prince's dog. Later, the prince remembers what had happened. Jack had pushed the dog away with his foot, which should not have killed, and would not have killed any other dog in the court. So the prince's Fairy Godmother turned him into a dog. Whereupon Jack's fairy godmother appeared, limited it to a year, and then decreed that the prince — who had done nothing — would be turned into a frog for a year to teach him humility, or something.
Achilles from the Ender's Shadow series takes this to an extreme by killing people for doing good things to help him because he can't bear for anyone to have seen him helpless (and he has a fairly major inferiority complex, so his definition of "helpless" is very loose). This also includes the doctor who fixes his leg because she sedates him against his wishes. However, anyone who knows Achilles probably realizes that the doctor would've died anyway.
In the Farsala Trilogy, a young smith named Kavi loses the use of his hand when a deghan tries to grab a sword from him. Years later, he betrays Farsala to the Hrum and causes the death of the entire deghan class.
In one G. K. ChestertonFather Brown story, the Asshole Victim was inclined to do this. In retaliation for an insult years before, he threw a Moslem into a pig-sty, breaking his arm and his leg, and then left him there overnight. That wasn't why he was murdered, though: He proposed to his ward, and was rejected. His planned revenge for this was to have her marry an old friend of his, and then have the old friend hanged for murder.
One villain in the Fingerprints series got her Start of Darkness when she vowed revenge on the person who murdered her mother. Upon learning that the murderer had already died for unrelated reasons, she decided that wasn't satisfactory - someone had to suffer, and it didn't particularly matter who. She began targeting the hero (who was related to the murderer but didn't even know about the murder, let alone take part in it). Unusually, the villain is eventually persuaded by the hero that what she's doing is pointless... but only because she finds another target more directly connected to her mother's murder, whom she proceeds to go after with great enthusiasm.
In Chapter 12, when Ana sends an email to Christian saying that she doesn't want to get into BDSM and "it's been nice knowing you," Christians’ immediate response is to break into her duplex apartment, tie her up—the only thing he asks permission for—and then rape her into submission. (Despite the fact that Ana has been freaking out over BDSM for several chapters, she claims that the email was a joke. Ana doesn’t seem to realize that this doesn't make Christian's actions one bit less horrific).
Christian also threatens to punish Ana by raping her in public on two occasions—once when he believes Ana has spoken on the phone to a male friend (she hasn't) and once when Ana refuses an extremely expensive present. His response in the first case is to threaten to screw her in the elevator going from his penthouse to the lobby (when anyone could walk in); in the second case, he threatens to hit her and then screw her on the hood of the car, because she belongs to him, and if he wants to give her Gift X, he will.
The Grandmother in Flowers in the Attic punishes the children severely for the most minor infractions, including simply existing as the products of incest.
In Ray Bradbury's short story The Flying Machine, a Chinese emperor beheads the bewildered inventor of the titular machine, has the machine burned along with the inventor's remains, and has the ashes buried secretly, all because someone might be inspired to use such a machine to destroy the Great Wall of China.
Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe has a moment where Evelyn Couch was waiting for a parking spot at a grocery store and two teen girls take it. In response to them mocking her for being 'old and slow', Evelyn calmly backs up her husband's car into theirs six times, completely destroying it. And, as icing on top of the cake, tells the girls that Evelyn 'is much older and has much more insurance'.
A minor character in Galaxy of Fear is trying to get to an Escape Pod before the ship he's on self destructs. Two kids, Tash and Zak Arranda, who'd been on a pod leave it to help someone, then try to get back on, but the man thinks they're cutting in front of him. What does he do? Lock them in a storage closet, leaving them to die. The ship does not actually explode, it was a false alarm, but that's harsh.
The Lies of Locke Lamora and its sequel feature a powerful magic guild called the Bondsmagi. One of them, Falconer, seem to be particularly guilty of this trope, as he tortures the main hero and threatens him with death of his friends just for speaking to him with no respect.
The Bondsmagi love disproportionate revenge. The reason everybody respects them is because killing one will get the entire guild after you to kill you, your family, your pets, etc. They're also known for burning a city to ash because a dozen of them died during a war against the Therin Empire.
In Victoria Forester's The Girl Who Could Fly, Conrad is forced to give up his science project for the one his teacher selected. So he destroys Bella's, because she's happy and her parents love her.
In the Gone series. In Fear Cigar kills a fellow fisherman in a drunken brawl. Since he committed murder, Caine sentences him to Penny for a day. 30 minutes was enough to cause a two-day state of shock in the previous victim. Even Caine is horrified at the end result.
Also in Fear, Caine asks Penny to leave Perdido Beach after the backlash from what she did to Cigar. So she drugs him, traps his hands in a cement block, and staples an aluminum crown to his head.
In the Goosebumps book Chicken Chicken, the villain Vanessa puts the main characters through horrific Body Horror... because they (accidentally!) bumped into her and didn't apologize. Troy Steele, author of Blogger Beware, stated that they "literally threw the goddamn book across the room" at the twist ending where Cole (the boy of the Platonic Boy/Girl Heroes pair) had the gall to burp after drinking the soda that Vanessa gave to them and proceeded to say "Pig pig".
A race introduced by Timothy Zahn in the Hand of Thrawn duology have this as part of their legal code. The penalty for murder is death, life for life - either one who is guilty, or ten of his clan who are innocent. They use this to justify flattening a Bothan space station and further inflaming the political mess engulfing the New Republic.
The bothans themselves. A species had a single member slight the bothan race, and in retaliation, they burned the homeworld, slaughtered every member of the species, erased records of them, and Made them never have existed.
In Order of the PhoenixDolores Umbridge forces students to write lines in their own blood with a quill that cuts into the skin on the backs of their hands. It's stated that at least one student's hand is bleeding quite badly, and that Harry himself has another permanent scar. All of this for speaking out of turn and/or questioning the Ministry.
There's also the treatment Harry received from the Dursleys for most of the eleven years prior to his acceptance into Hogwarts, and occasionally afterward as well. He was confined to the cupboard under the stairs just for existing, yelled at for asking questions or innocently mentioning strange dreams, and punished (up to and including being denied meals) for exhibiting signs of the hated magic, which he neither understood nor was able to control. For example, in the first book he gets locked in the cupboard for much of the summer just for talking to a snake after the "vanishing glass" incident.
While Argus Filch has a case of Strawman Has a Point about the messes caused by the students as he's a Muggle Born of Mages, his idea of how they should be punished for it is not. His desired methods so line up with Dolores Umbridge, that he was the only one on her side as it meant he could use a horsewhip on rule-breakers.
Also, Draco Malfoy keeps bullying Harry and his friends just because Harry didn't accept his offer of friendship (even after Draco insults Ron in the process). This continues on for five more books until he tones it down in the sixth book, being focused on the mission Voldemort gave him.
Voldemort cursed the Defense Against the Dark Arts post at Hogwarts after Dumbledore rejected him for it. Until the day Voldemort died, no DADA teacher had lasted longer than a single school year. While there are some practical reasons as to why he did it, it's clear his main motivation was pure spite, especially since there are some implications that he wasn't interested in the job at all when he went to apply for it (as he used his interview at Hogwarts as an opportunity to hide one of his horcruxes in the castle).
While the trio skips out on school during Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows the rest of the students find themselves at a Hogwarts where being sentenced to detention regularly includes being subjected to the Cruciatus Curse, beatings and other tortures in addition to the punishments Umbridge had formerly allowed.
In Holes, every member of the Yelnats family and their descendants are cursed with bad luck because one of their ancestors, Elya Yelnats, forgot to fulfill a promise to Madame Zeroni. The promise? All he had to do was carry her up a mountain, and sing a certain song while she drank from the spring on the top.
Admittedly, the spring apparently had some sort of healing/growth properties that would have given the old and possibly dying Zeroni a longer life. Still a bit harsh, though.
She did give him fair warning when the made his deal. If she didn't follow through, what good was the threat? It's also a very mild curse — just bad luck, and usually non fatal. Stanley Yelnats the First was robbed by Kate Barlow and left in the desert to die but he still survived.
After he carried her descendant up a mountain and sung the song to him while he drank from the water at the top, thus fulfilling the promise and causing good luck.
In The Hunger Games, this is par for the course in Panem: after all, it's a society that decided to punish a single rebellion by obliterating districts and ordering its citizens to give up their children to a ruthless bloodsport every year in perpetuity.
Katniss and Gale practically live off hunting in the Meadow, an area that is entirely abandoned by mankind and fenced off. Yet this action is considered poaching, even though the land belongs to no-one. Luckily District 12's Peacekeepers do not enforce this law, at least at first because it carries awful penalties.
Victors in the Hunger Games are forced to do exactly what Snow wants with the threat of having their families slaughtered. Case in point: Snow had Haymitch's mother, brother, and girlfriend killed just because he didn't like the clever trick he used to win the games.
In Death: A number of murderers and criminals throughout the series have done this. Promises In Death reveals that Max Ricker sliced up three men and left them floating down a river. Why? Because they stole from a store owned by his son, Alex Ricker, and caused him embarrassment. Creepy!
The protagonist of Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle's Inferno believes that being sent to Hell for eternity is Disproportionate Retribution for finite sin (not exactly a new idea - see Religion and Mythology section). He later comes to the conclusion that punishment in Hell is a) not eternal, and b) actually a form of highly extreme psychotherapy.
Niven's short story from his Known Space series, "the Jigsaw Man", involves harvesting transplant organs from people condemned for capital crimes. Given the ever-increasing demand for such organs, the definition of "capital crime" gets broader and broader, with our protagonist facing execution for traffic violations.
In I Want My Hat Back the Bear loses his hat and eventually learns it was stolen and that the thief lied about seeing his hat. He eats the thief and lies about it when questioned.
Roughly two thirds of The Sum of All Fears is about Elizabeth Elliot trying to ruin Ryan's career and marriage for taking offense to her bad manners in the previous book.
Spock's World: Ruin T'Pring's happiness with Stonn by driving said character's beloved to suicide? They'll force the entire planet to vote to secede from the Federation, which would either send Spock and his family into exile or else trap Spock on Vulcan forever, ending his heroic and legendary trek to the stars. It doesn't help that, much like the Misplaced Retribution trope spells out, T'Pring is more responsible for what happened to Stonn than Spock is.
The Judgment, the short story written by Franz Kafka, has a man's father reveal that he is aware that the son has been lying to an old friend living in Russia (who may or may not exist) about his engagement. The father then orders the son to drown himself. The son does so.
In the Warrior Cats series, Ashfur gets dumped by Squirrelflight in favor of Brambleclaw. What does he do? He tries to murder her father, the Clan's leader, and get Brambleclaw blamed for it; when that fails, he waits moons until he has the chance to try again, this time targeting her kits. All because she picked his best friend instead of him.
Long before that, Thistleclaw ordered his apprentice (who would grow up to be Tigerstar) to attack and almost kill a kit who had accidentally wandered into their territory. This Disproportionate Retribution was eventually met with more Disproportionate Retribution, as the kit was a very young Scourge, who eventually disemboweled Tigerstar, after Tigerstar tried to give Scourge's followers orders.
Don't forget Scourge having Violet nearly beaten to death because she dared to look for her missing brother.
In Rudyard Kipling's Just So Stories, the Cat who Walks By Himself gets some pretty harsh treatment simply for saying his Catch-Phrase "I am the Cat who walks by himself, and all places are alike to me." Some of the harsh treatment may be justified, because over a large part of the story, the Cat is clearly trying to get something without giving anything back in return — nevertheless, when the Dog and the Man lay down the law and tell what they expect of the Cat in the future (keep the mice away, be kind to babies) and the Cat agrees to their terms, they still vow that they and their descendants will torment the Cat for always and always just because he spoke out of turn.
Earlier on in the story, the Dog immediately tells the Cat that they can never be friends again just because the Cat didn't want to come along on his exploration trip. Really, it's not all that hard to see why the Cat would prefer not to retain too close a relationship with such jerks.
The Dean Koontz short story "Kittens". Sure, it's horrible when you're a first-grade girl and you find out that your father has been drowning your cat's litters of kittens and claiming that "God took them", but drowning your twin baby brothers in the bathtub to get back at him is going a little far. (Especially disproportionate because drowning kittens was a common practice back in the day.)
The captain of the Albatross in the Knight and Rogue Series has Michael flogged for accidentally spilling paint on him. Bonus points for Michael not having been the one to spill the paint in the first place.
In Les Misérables, Jean Valjean originally set out to steal a loaf of bread to feed his hungry family. However this was armed breaking-and-entering, and due to draconian laws and a series of escape attempts, he wound up serving 19 years in the galleys; and then, unable to find work or shelter after his release, he reoffended (stealing a 40-sous coin) and was given a life sentence.
In Sergey Lukyanenko's Line of Delirium (inspired by Master of Orion), the backstory has humans wiping out the entire Sakkra race after they invade three remote human colonies (they can't control their reproduction and need space). The Emperor justifies this by claiming that the Sakkra uncontrolled birthrate would eventually result in them being a threat to everyone. The other alien races still haven't forgiven humans for the genocide.
Also, the sequel reveals that an attempt by a human colony to secede resulted in every colonist being slaughtered by a militia from other worlds. The protagonist took part in the slaughter.
In Rosemary Well's picture book version of The Little Lame Prince, the kingdom is under the influence of an evil usurper, and the crown prince is taken in by a convict who was "condemned to death for stealing apples".
The Big Bad's plan in Loyal Enemies. Sure, the independent wizards were vastly underrepresented in the Council, but is this really a reason to try to kill all court wizards and bring the entire (working) system down?
In The Machineries of Empire, one of Khiruev's mothers kills her partner for taking their daughter to see a historical reconstruction, having decided that having harmless fun with something from before the current regime came to power is obviously heretical.
In the MTG set novels of Kamigawa, this is a big part of the Hyozan oath. The actual wording of the magical contract promises tenfold vengeance, but this is just a bare minimum. When Kobo is murdered, Hidetsugo's vengeace includes condemning the actual triggerman to an eternity of unbearble agony destroying Minomo academy, exterminating the moonfolk, and then eating their god. he also said some very mean things
In Diana Wynne Jones's The Merlin Conspiracy, due to some inadvertent time hopping as he flees an assassin sent by two big bads who want him dead for no discernible reason, Nick winds up in the assassin's home before the hit was taken up. A little over a decade, in fact. The two big bads pay a visit as the children they were, and Nick laughs as one steps on an egg, which sets off the two's berserk button and triggers the need for revenge years later.
During the same interlude, Nick hangs up on the assassin's ex-wife in the middle of a phone call, which sets in motion her ultimate plot to take over Britain and destroy its other magic-users before they could oppose her. Without which the rest of the book probably wouldn't have happened anyway.
Angels are expected to dedicate their entire lives to serving the Judeo-Christian God. Failure to do so will result in having ones wings ripped off, their magic stripped away, and they will be exiled. If they ever manage to regrow their wings or use magic again, they are accused of devil-worship and executed.
in Our Mother's House Gertie is abused (sexually touched) by a local mechanic. "Mother" orders she be punished by having her hair cut, not talked to, having her most prized possession taken away, limiting how much she can eat/drink....... and she later dies from it. All because she got abused and supposedly liked it.
They're also known to punish unauthorized/unapproved sex by superglueing the participants' cloacas (the avian orifice for sex, excretion, and defecation) shut. This often leads to a slow, painful death as the body is no longer capable of removing waste.
In the story "The Phoenix on the Sword", Thoth-Amon, having gotten back his Ring of Power and wanting more than anything to make his former master Ascalante pay for all the humiliation he's heaped upon him, sends a demon of Set after him and throws in, just for giggles, everyone with him at the time. Including, as it happens, Conan whom Ascalante was trying to assassinate at the time.
In "Beyond the Black River", Conan vows to kill ten Picts for Balthus's death, and seven for the dog that died with him. To be sure, the Picts had slaughtered a lot more than seventeen in their attack.
In "Wolves Beyond the Border", the Pict shaman Zogar Sag is briefly jailed for mugging a merchant and stealing his liquors. He reacts by summoning a Swamp Devil (actually his brother) and sending him to kill the merchant and the guards who arrested him. However, Conan stated that imprisoning a Pict is the worst offense you can make to him.
In Terrier, a slum-dweller thinks the neighbors are puttin' on airs with their one nice thing that they own (a necklace or an antique book, things like that). Response? Ransom and murder their children as the Shadow Snake! Oh, and she murdered Tansy's child and nearly kills her husband because, as a child, Tansy used to steal bread from her.
One of the minds behind the counterfeiting plot in Bloodhoundwanted revenge for a dishonorable discharge after he'd spent years as a loyal soldier—he only hit his officer because he was The Neidermeyer. Clearly the best response is to overturn the country's entire economy.
In Mastiff, the mages don't like the King's proposed sales tax on magic supplies. So they abduct one of the child princes with plans to kill him, kill dozens of others along the way, and plot to overthrow the government.
In the Battle Magic by the above author, The Emperor of the Yanjing Empire is shown to be prone to this. He has a rose garden and the gardeners working on it burned just because a small patch of mold was found on one plant when he was showing it off to Briar and Rosethorn. The rose bush that had the mold escaped being burned because Rosethorn begged the emperor to give it to her as a present after she had healed it.
In the very first Rainbow Magic series, Jack Frost captures the Rainbow Fairies because he wasn't invited to a party—even after he was told he could stay and have fun once he showed up to crash it. He goes on to do this many, many more times.
Redwall: One of Gabool's pirates complains that they don't get enough shares of the loot. Gabool agrees and allows him to take any treasure he wants, insisting he take that one crown. After the minion puts the crown on his head, Gabool instantly decapitates him as a warning to anyone else.
When Vilu Daskar caught some members of his crew stealing, he had them savagely beaten and then hung from sunrise to sunset with saltwater thrown into their wounds for good measure.
Swartt Sixclaw found out that one of his minions may possibly be conspiring. He could simply just kill him, no. He orders him to feed a dead bird to another minion, beak, wings, skull, the whole thing. Once the other minion chokes to death, Swartt instantly accuses the first one of murder and orders him to be executed.
In Romance of the Three Kingdoms, Cao Cao responds to the death of his father at the hands of one of Tao Qian's officers by committing a genocide against Tao's subjects.
In an example of disproportionately low retribution, the head inquisitor in the Safehold novels gives orders that result in a massacre and is sentenced to one week's kitchen duty.
A lot of characters in Maggie Furey's Shadowleague trilogy teeter on the brink of this, but as of the first book (The Heart of Myrial), only one character has gone over - intending torture, rape and murder for a noble who seems perfectly unaware that her grunts (who have already died for their crimes) were committing said crimes, and killing whatever innocent bystanders stand in his way.
Mysterio in the Sinister Six Trilogy spent a year driving Brick Johnson insane, culminating in making him commit suicide. He then proceeded to crash the funeral and tried to kill everyone present. Why? Because Brick didn't help Mysterio get a job when they were in Hollywood.
Sisterhood Series by Fern Michaels: Okay, some of the punishments the Vigilantes subject the villains to can be considered this. A notable instance is the book Vendetta in which the Vigilantes skin John Chai alive! Well, the story says caning, but caning and skinning someone alive are not the same thing. His crime was drunkenly committing a hit-and-run on Myra Rutledge's daughter Barbara Rutledge, killing her and her unborn child, and then getting away with it because he's the son of the ambassador of China and used Diplomatic Impunity without a qualm. The reason the punishment in Vendetta can be considered this trope is because the crime occurred in Weekend Warriors, which is a few books back, and by then the reader will probably have forgotten the full impact of the crime.
In Slaughterhouse-Five a character speaks of feeding a dog steak and watch springs for biting him and proposes enacting horrible revenge on the main character for accidentally doing something involved with his friend's death! Now, this all happens offstage and the character's never seen again, so...
The decidedly anti-heroic protagonist of Stephen Fry's The Stars Tennis Balls has gone very off of the deep end by the climax of the book. Holding the Shadowy Secret Agent who exiled him to an island prison captive, he gives him a choice. To be shot dead, or to have the slenderest hope of survival by swallowing burning coals, in the manner of Portia in Julius Caesar. The poor agent manages - somehow - to choke down a coal or two, and we have the horrific description of huge blisters erupting around his mouth as his vocal chords and windpipe are burnt out. This proves too much even for the protagonist, who promptly "mercy-kills" the guy with a shot to the head.
In Storming Heaven by Dale Brown, a plot point in the backstory is how meddling bureaucrats put an end to a border patrol program because a pregnant drug mule carrying contraband in her body panicked after a prolonged chase by helicopters and was induced into premature labor- the drugs in her body killing both herself and her baby, resulting in horrible publicity for the program. Again, they were chasing drug mules with helicopters.
Grzylov from Air Battle Force loses a baseful of bombers when Patrick has them destroyed to stop them attacking Turkmenistan. His response in Plan of Attack? Nuclear sneak attacks that wipe out most of the American strategic arsenal.
In Executive Intent, Somali pirates attack a Chinese ship. At first, the Chinese helicopter sent tries to warn them off. When the pirates start killing hostages, the helicopter crew respond by attacking the pirates. Fair enough. Then the helicopter is shot down by a pirate. The Chinese response is a massive aerial and amphibious attack and takeover of Mogadishu. Later, some Yemeni terrorists crash an explosive-laden boat into a Chinese warship, sinking it. The Chinese proceed to punish Yemen too.
Struwwelpeter includes a story about a boy who continues to suck his thumb, even after his mother tells him to stop. His punishment? A Humanoid Abomination called the Scissorman appears from literally nowhere and cuts them off. Talk about a Felony Misdemeanor...
The Sword of Truth series sees a man being tortured by a Mord-Sith after he assassinates a mage in the opposing army (after stabbing a little girl; the girl survives, the mage doesn't). Surprisingly, the torturers are the heroes. After the man has spilled all his information, the mage's lover orders him to be tortured to death as slowly as possible, in retaliation for being so cocky when he was captured.
In the first book, the staff taking care of the tomb of Darken Rahl's father were executed if a single petal fell off the flowers there or a single torch went out in Rahl's presence. And he considered himself merciful for allowing them a quick death in such cases.
In one book, Kahlan looks through old records of trials, one of which includes an entry about a wizard who had been executed for being an incurable alcoholic. Her initial response is to think it's an example of this trope, but when she thinks about it, she realizes that, given the raw destructive power of wizards, it just wouldn't be safe to let the guy live.
In Poul Anderson's "Time Lag", the invaders make an example of a number of villages when they are faced with opposition.
Michael Crichton's Timeline has Robert Doniger, the business-man who sends the heroes back in time to the Middle Ages to fix something gone wrong. Long story short, lots of things go wrong. When our heroes do get back, they get their revenge on Doniger, unethical as he is, by sending him back in time with the same machine to the Middle Ages where he gets a nasty case of the Black Plague.
Doninger wanting to leave them in the past to save his company's rep happened in the book as well. He says he's kidding, but the other character, who knows him very well, doesn't believe him. Also, there's the part about him wanting to sell time travel tech to rewrite history, so Doninger comes across as deserving what he gets.
In To Kill a Mockingbird When Atticus Finch embarasses Bob Ewell at the trial, Bob Ewell takes revenge by trying to murder Atticus's children.
In Unwind, the process of Unwinding is basically having every single part of a person's body dismembered and harvested to be used for transplants simply because they were a difficult teenager or the parents couldn't afford to take care of them. And every sngle one of these people are between the ages of 13 and 18.
In the Watersong novels by Amanda Hocking, Persephone's four handmaidens goofed off and weren't there to prevent her rape and murder at the hands of Hades. Persephone's mother, Demeter, was understandably angry at four human girls for not being there to fight a god off, and turned them into sirens. It turns out to be a case of Cursed with Awesome, since they don't mind so much having to eat the hearts of men, though Demeter gives some explanation of how eternity without love is the punishment. Two of the original sirens are killed by the leader, and the main character replaces one of them since there must always be four. In the name of continuing to punish the two remaining, Demeter refuses to help the MC, and doesn't much care about the thousands upon thousands who are suffering and dying at the hands of the sirens.
Nearly the entire class on the 30th floor in Wayside School fell victim to this trope courtesy of Mrs. Gorf, who would turn her entire class into apples for minor offenses such as sneezing, saying "God bless you" after said sneeze, crying, and arriving late for class.
Also, Mrs. Drazil. If you move away, but don't hand in your final homework assignment, she will hunt you down for the rest of your life.
In Andy Hoare's White Scars novel Hunt for Voldorius, Malya is chosen for Voldorius's equerry. They get her to obey by threatening to kill a hundred people every time she is disobedient.
According to Aristotle, Greek Tragedy actually requires that the Tragic Hero suffer disproportionate retribution for his actions. Aristotle judged that it had to be this way because if the hero was innocent than he wouldn't get Character Development and if he deserved his fate than it wouldn't be tragic.
This is a recurring theme in Roald Dahl's books. Villains often suffer horrible punishments (often death) for their crimes, even if the crimes don't warrant it. (A lot of them are the type that Would Hurt a Child, but even so, what happens to a few of them is rather grim.)
What happens to most of the kids in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory qualifies. Their punishments were brought on by their flaws, but still rather excessive. Even though they all live and recover to some extent they have some unpleasant permanent changes. Violet, for example, is no longer inflated, but is still blue. Just for chewing gum.
This is due to him as a child being sent to an sadist boarding school where the teachers beat him constantly. So almost always his books involve kids triumphing over evil adults.
In The Burden of Evil by Strugatsky Brothers, a colony of hippies (called "flora" in text) is attacked by people of the town Tashlinsk, and its inhabitants beaten and arrested, simply because a few of them stole food in the town. A kind schoolteacher trying to stop the mayhem is killed.
In-Universe we once get a painting named "Das Motorrad unter dem Fenster am Sonntagmorgen" ("A motobike under the window on Sunday morning"). The painting shows a a bedroom, in which a man in a nightgown runs towards the window, grenade in hand. The implication is that the motorbike woke the man up, and for this the man is going to blow up the bike along with the motorist. the artist turns out to be Adolf Hitler
The Windwater Pack Zephyr’s reaction when he encounters the coyote that killed his pups is to shred him quite literally. The only thing that saves the coyote's mate is that killing her would leave their son an orphan, like Zephyr himself was.
This is part of the main plot to Misery. Annie rescues Paul, who she's a big fan of, but then becomes furious when she buys his latest book and finds out that he killed off her favorite character. Annie then threatens to kill Paul unless he writes a sequel to the book where the character is brought back to life. Many of the tortures Paul goes through fit this trope as well. Annie refuses to give Paul his painkillers for days and when she finally gives them to him, she forces him to wash them down with soapy water, all because she didn't like that he had swearing in the new book he was working on. Also, when Paul complains that one of the keys on his typewriter doesn't work, Annie cuts off his thumb with an electric knife.
Although he has other, more recent and valid motivations for opposing More, in Wolf Hall, part of the reason Anti-Hero Thomas Cromwell works to destroy Thomas More (ultimately leading to More's execution)is extremely petty. When the two first met as children, More was a student and Cromwell a serving boy, and when Cromwell asked what More was reading, More replied in a mildly condescending way. In another instance of this, all of the people Cromwell accuses of being Anne Boleyn's lovers (who again, were executed) participated in or simply laughed at a masque that mocked Cromwell's friend and mentor Cardinal Wolsey. In both situations, Cromwell's POV brings up but doesn't call attention to his less savory motives for his actions.
In Andrei Belyanin's The Plot of the Black Mass, Nikita asks the German ambassador what the Russian people need to do in order to be as efficient, polite, and hard-working as the Germans. The ambassador cheerfully reveals the secret - daily public floggings for even slightest infractions (e.g. not having a clean enough house), or just as a warning. He points out that this also applies to children, but children get no more than 10 lashes a day. The Germans are not animals, after all. When Nikita walks out on the street, he calls the ambassador a fascist in his head and tells him (mentally) to stuff his German efficiency where the sun don't shine. There are no mention of this in later novels, and Nikita and the ambassador are actually good friends.