[[quoteright:183:[[Webcomic/{{Sinfest}} http://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/SinfestBewildering_2833.GIF]]]]
[[caption-width-right:183:[-Enlightenment didn't tell them that.-] ]]

->''"All right guv! All right! Whatever I did, I'm sorry! And if you tell me what it was I won't do it again!"''
-->-- '''One of the player's hoodlums''' (after some "Bloody-knuckled discipline"), ''VideoGame/FallenLondon''

Alice is about to be punished -- anything from being dumped by her LoveInterest to a FateWorseThanDeath. She'd really like to know one thing: What did she ''do''?

Unless the character is showing ItsAllAboutMe or MoralMyopia or even worse ButForMeItWasTuesday -- which are possible -- this is a sympathetic characterization. An innocent character taken for a crime that no-one will identify is common, especially in RevengeByProxy, SinsOfOurFathers, and CriminalDoppelganger, but not the only possibility. DisproportionateRetribution will often inspire it. Even if the crime was real, and the punishment not disproportionate, punishing an amnesiac character tends to come off as wrong. Those with ignorance of the law, stemming [[ChildrenAreInnocent child-like innocence]] or [[NaiveNewcomer unfamiliarity with the location]], generally come off almost as well. Especially if YouKnowWhatYouDid follows. KarmicMisfire and GuiltByAssociationGag are related but generally involve the target genuinely not being involved at all.

This almost always occurs when a character tries to SetRightWhatOnceWentWrong by killing someone before he commits his crimes (particularly in regards to HitlersTimeTravelExemptionAct). In a (often) less nasty style, this can also happen in cases of being MadAtADream.



* Briefly comes up in a commercial for Lunchables, where we see a youngster getting day after day of bad lunches. At one point he asks "was I bad?"

[[folder:Anime & Manga]]
* Casshern of ''Anime/CasshernSins'' has no idea why he's woken up in a world that despises him, full of half-crazed robots who believe they'll be saved from destruction if they [[ImAHumanitarian eat his flesh]] [[ImmortalityImmorality and become immortal]]. Of course, it's no secret that this is ultimately because he ''made'' the world that way, but he has no memory of his actions, [[YouKnowWhatYouDid and there are precious few willing to elaborate on what exactly Casshern did and why]] before trying to kill him. Making things worse is the fact that [[SuperpoweredEvilSide he goes into a mindless berserk rage]] if his life is in genuine danger, exacerbating his reputation as a harbinger of death and destruction.
* Shinji Ikari in ''Anime/RebuildOfEvangelion 3.0'': after he wakes up from being extracted from Unit-01, everyone treats him with intense dislike and barely acknowledges his existence, leading to him wondering just what is going on that's making everyone act that way. It isn't until halfway through the movie that he gets an answer: [[spoiler:his actions at the end of the last movie inadvertently caused Third Impact, and although Kaworu stopped the Impact before its completion, the world still pretty much died. The survivors have been living in a post-apocalyptic wasteland for the past 14 years because of what he did, and they've lost all sympathy they once had for him.]]
* In ''LightNovel/ACertainMagicalIndex'', Othinus briefly traps Touma Kamijou in an alternate universe where he's Public Enemy #1. Everybody in the entire world hates him and tries to kill him on sight, even his own parents. Until he's pulled out of it, nobody will explain to him why they're trying to kill him.

* Ed Byrne joked in ''Pedantic And Whimsical'' that women in general have an annoying habit of instead of telling their boyfriend/husband what they did wrong, they'll just "acted pissed off" and let the man guess what he's done. So after the man has asked what he's done wrong, the woman will hit him with the line:
--> "'If you don't know what you've done, there's no point in me telling you.' [[FlatWhat What?]] You know it doesn't make any sense. Where's the logic in that statement? [...] It's like saying 'If you haven't eaten, there's no point in us making any dinner'."
* Adam Ferrara has an equally pointed comeback to the old "If you don't know, I'm not telling you" card:
--> "Well then, don't be surprised when the shit happens ''again!!''"

[[folder:Comic Books]]
* At the end of ''ComicBook/ArkhamAsylumLivingHell'', Batman suggests the entire experience was another incident with the Scarecrow's fear gas. Finding this entirely logical rather than the possibility that demons from Hell literally took over the Asylum, Dr. Arkham has Scarecrow tossed into solitary.

[[folder:Fan Works]]
* In ''Fanfic/RobbReturns'', where Robb's mind [[TimeTravel returns to his past body from the point of his death in the series]], Theon is genuinely confused by Robb's newfound hostility towards him since they're still friends at this time in the timeline. It takes Ned pointing how Robb's behaviour is unfair for the youth to act more civilly.

[[folder:Films -- Live-Action]]
* In ''Film/Terminator2JudgmentDay'', the heroes track down the guy who'll invent the chip which leads to the RobotWar in the future, and Sarah immediately tries to kill him in front of his family, even though he hasn't finished his research (much less known what would come of it). He calls her out on this after the situation's explained, but agrees to help destroy his work.
* In ''Film/AChristmasStory'', after Ralphie's [[SoapPunishment punishment]] for swearing, he must tell his mother where he heard the word. Not wanting to tell the truth that it was his dad, he blames his friend. Ralphie's mom informs the kid's mother and we hear that kid being smacked and asking "What did I do?" coming from the other end of the phone.
* In ''Film/TheEmpireStrikesBack'', Han and Chewbacca are being tortured by Vader (Han by electricity and Chewie by sound), and think it's [[ForTheEvulz just petty revenge]] since they weren't asked any questions. Vader is counting on Luke psychically sensing their torture and coming to rescue them.
* In ''Film/{{Oldboy|2003}}'' the protagonist is kidnapped and held in a private prison. When released, he spends the rest of the movie trying to track down who did this to him and why.
* In ''Film/TheTrial'', the accused never does learn what the charges are against him or why he's executed (see also Literature below).
* An Eastern European film taking place in an unnamed state had a communist functionary being reassigned. She thinks she's been promoted, but instead ends up in a frozen rat-infested hovel with an old man who says only, "They sent you here, so you could think about why they sent you here."
* In ''Film/TheManInTheIronMask'', Philippe had no clue why he was taken from the farm he grew up on, forced into the iron mask, and locked away. He recalls how when he was first imprisoned, all he did was shout for someone to say what he did. He eventually realized it must have something to do with his face. It isn't until the Musketeers rescue him that he learns it was because he's the identical twin of the king.

* In Creator/JohnCWright's ''Literature/TheGoldenOecumene'', Ungannis tries to invoke this trope by splitting herself into many personalities, some of whom would try erasing memories of her crimes, and still be executed for them. This is not greeted with horror by the Transcedence mass mind -- legally, you can not evade punishment unless you rework your personality into a new person, and none of the split personalities had tried to redact the beliefs that had led Ungannis to commit the crime.
* One of the most important points of Creator/FranzKafka's ''Literature/TheTrial'' is that the reader is never let in on the charge against the protagonist. It's also ambiguous as to whether the protagonist himself knows.
* In Creator/JaneAusten's ''Literature/LoveAndFreindship'', [[MoralMyopia Laura]] is outraged at accusations of theft -- which she and Sophia have committed, and Sophia was caught doing.
-->''At this period of their Quarrel I entered the Library and was, as you may imagine, equally offended as Sophia at the ill-grounded Accusations of the malevolent and contemptible Macdonald.''
* One Literature/SherlockHolmes story featured a young man, arrested for the murder of his father, showing no surprise and saying he deserved it. Watson thinks it proves guilt -- an innocent man would have had this trope. Holmes counter-argues that the man had to know the strength of the evidence against him, and since he raised his hand against his father he may have regarded his arrest as just.
* In the first ''Literature/{{Harry Potter|and the Philosophers Stone}}'' book, the Dursleys punish Harry for causing magical things to happen. Since they never told him he was a wizard, Harry just thinks that weird things inexplicably happen around him and doesn't understand why they're considered his fault.
* In ''Literature/KingRat'', the main character denies the king his throne back, for reasons that any human would agree with but a rat could likely never understand.
* Pretty much any incarnation of ''Literature/TheCountOfMonteCristo'' features this. Edmond has no idea why he's imprisoned, until many years have passed in Chateau D'if. Then he's out for some serious ''revenge''.
* Aviendha is subject to this type of punishment by the Wise Ones for much of book twelve of ''Literature/TheWheelOfTime''. She is ordered to do useless labour, which is the ultimate insult in the Aiel culture where even prisoners from enemy clans (''gai'shain'') are put to useful work. It turns out that [[spoiler:she is meant to complain rather than stoically bearing it. This shows the strength of character necessary to become a Wise One.]]
* In ''Literature/TheDarkHalf,'' the killer [[EnemyWithout George Stark]] has the same fingerprints as novelist Thad Beaumont. Sheriff Pangborn arrives at Thad's house to arrest him, and his first clue that Thad isn't the killer is that Thad is utterly confused by the arrest. Pangborn has been a cop long enough to know that criminals who know they're guilty just don't act like that.
* Specifically averted in Jack Vance's ''Literature/TheDemonPrinces'' quintet. Although it's been years since the Mount Pleasant raid and some of them (with still worse atrocities committed in the meantime) have put it out of their heads, Kirth Gersen goes out of his way to ensure the Demon Princes ''know'' who's bringing them undone and why.

[[folder:Live-Action TV]]
* The protagonist of the ''Series/BlackMirror'' episode [[Recap/BlackMirrorWhiteBear White Bear]] wakes up in a room with no memory of how she got there, and a masked figure stalking her and attempting to kill her. Worse, everyone else around her appears to be brainwashed into recording her suffering on their phones instead of helping her or even telling her what is going on. [[spoiler:It turns out this is her punishment for being an accessory to the murder of a young girl - she gets her memory wiped, then she is terrorised by actors to the point of breakdown and her crimes exposed to her, before her memory gets wiped to repeat it all again the next day, while visitors get to watch and record it.]]
* Poor [[spoiler:Gale]] has no idea what hit him in the ''Series/BreakingBad'' third season finale, although [[spoiler:someone as smart as him who's helping to build an industrial level meth lab should be smart enough to know that there might be unseen dangers in working for rich criminals]].
* ''Series/TheInvisibleMan'': After the Official is badly beaten, Darien is bewildered when Hobbes attacks him, points a gun at him and starts ranting at him. Hobbes has assumed Darien did it while suffering from Quicksilver madness.
* ''Series/OnceUponATime'':
** Due to IdentityAmnesia preventing her from knowing that she's really Snow White, Mary Margaret has no idea why Regina has such a strong grudge against her that she'd [[FrameUp frame her for murder]].
** Snow White herself has no idea as to why Regina hates her and tries to kill her. [[spoiler: When Snow was a child, she was tricked by Cora into telling her about Regina's secret affair with the stable boy, Daniel. Given that Cora murdered Daniel, Regina's hostility is sympathetic. Sort of.]]
* ''Series/ElChavoDelOcho'': Doña Florinda usually slaps Don Ramón for things that weren't his fault. There were occasions he doesn't even know what she's faulting him for.
* Averted in ''Series/BabylonFive'', where a {{Mind Wipe}}d serial killer [[spoiler: turned mild-mannered monk]] has his memories forcibly returned to him, because the people hunting him down want to make damn sure he knows why they're after him.
* An episode of ''Series/{{Friends}}'' has Phoebe giving Ross the cold shoulder because she's mad at him. He doesn't know ''why'' she's mad at him, though, and after some prodding, Phoebe admits that she doesn't know either. She's actually forgotten whatever it was Ross did to upset her, she just remembers being mad about it. [[spoiler:And then it turns out it's because she had a dream where Ross called her boring.]]
* In the ''Series/StarTrekTheOriginalSeries'' episode "The Conscience of the King", Kevin Riley sees his transfer to Engineering as this. In fact, Kirk is trying to protect him by keeping him as isolated as possible because he's one of the remaining witnesses who could identify Kodos the Executioner.
* Played with for (black) humor in the Krayt Brothers sketch of ''Series/MontyPythonsFlyingCircus''. There is an interview with one of their subordinates who said that Dimsdale would nail his head to the floor on a regular basis. Part of the joke was that Dimsdale never said why the minion needed to be punished, and the minion never asked, taking it as a given that he must have done ''something'' to deserve such treatment, even though he kept trying to apologize.

[[folder:Tabletop Games]]
* In ''TabletopGame/{{Warhammer}}'' dwarfs can cause this effect. Dwarfs tend to treat ''everything'' as a deadly serious matter, and also tend to assume that anything people do that displeases them is a deliberate insult. In one notable case, the people of a fortress found themselves besieged by an army because they employed dwarfs to build it and accidentally underpaid them by a few pennies. As far as the dwarfs are concerned this was a deliberate attempt to rob them of their labor (again, by shortchanging them something like 0.001% of the total cost), so the appropriate response is to never tell them the payment was short, raise an army, then burn the place to the ground.

[[folder:Video Games]]
* In the ''Half-Quake'' series of Mods for ''VideoGame/HalfLife1'', the strange people(?) behind the scenes of the bizarre, punishing world the player character finds himself in claim that he deserves their torture simply for the "crime" of [[HumansAreBastards being human]]. But as a number of areas seem to be designed to showcase or even glorify sadism, the protagonist- and others- are given weapons so that they can survive longer (and therefore prolong their own suffering), and the grisly deaths of the [[InsistentTerminology victims]] are apparently televised for the entertainment of others, the possibility exists that they're simply [[FreudianExcuse rationalizing their own sick enjoyment]].
* ''VideoGame/{{Off}}'': If the whispers in [[spoiler:the purified zones]] are anything to go by, the residents are understandably confused and upset about [[spoiler:having been killed during the purification]].
-->[[spoiler:What did we do to deserve this? Why did you kill them?]]

[[folder:Visual Novels]]
* Franziska von Karma of ''Franchise/AceAttorney'' fame likes to whip people for reasons which may or may not be valid. At least once, she whipped Phoenix instead of the actual target.

[[folder:Web Comics]]
* ''Webcomic/{{Sinfest}}'',
** [[http://www.sinfest.net/view.php?date=2012-06-15 The enlightened Illuminati drones have no idea why Satan decides to get rid of them.]]
** A MirrorMonster [[http://www.sinfest.net/view.php?date=2012-06-28 ensures that Slick gets snubbed for no reason visible to him.]]
* In ''Webcomic/{{Weregeek}}'', this is one of the reasons why Sarah was so upset over [[spoiler:Mark and Jesse breaking up]]. She hadn't realized what had happened (specifically that [[spoiler:Jesse believed Mark was cheating on her with Sarah]]) and had no clue what was going on when she innocently approached [[spoiler:Jesse]], only to be screamed at.

[[folder:Web Original]]
* Many a ''Website/GoAnimate'' [[YouAreGrounded "Grounded"]] video will have the target of the groundings punished for no reason or for reasons outside of their control.

[[folder:Western Animation]]
* ''WesternAnimation/SouthPark'';
** The episode "Proper Condom Use" has some of this, wherein Cartman shows the other boys how to "milk a dog". Stan shows this off to his parents in front of company without knowing what he's doing, which results in this.
-->'''Sharon Marsh:''' Stanley, do you know why you're being grounded for 10 months?!\\
'''Stan Marsh:''' No!
** "Sexual Harassment Panda" played Stan's trial for sexually harassing Cartman in this fashion (it was probably meant as a commentary on a real life case of a grade schooler being charged with sexual harassment for kissing a girl in his class).
--->'''Judge:''' What do you have to say in your defense?\\
'''Stan:''' I'm eight?
** And this trope is pretty much par for the course with Butters and his [[AbusiveParents parents]].
* An episode of ''WesternAnimation/ThePowerpuffGirls'' has them accidentally discovering a new swear word, which they proceed to use constantly. Ms. Keane hears them say it in class and punishes them, but of course [[InnocentSwearing the girls don't know it's a bad word]], and when they ask her what they did, she answers, "[[YouKnowWhatYouDid You know perfectly well what you did!]]"
* One episode of ''WesternAnimation/TheSimpsons'' has Homer [[RunningGag strangling Bart]] when he learns he needs to go attend to other matters. He orders Bart to think about what he's done since he can't carry out the full punishment. Bart has no idea why Homer was strangling him, and it turns out that Homer doesn't know what Bart did wrong either.
* This happened to poor Fred twice on ''WesternAnimation/TheFlintstones'':
** One time had Fred unintentionally switching places with a business tycoon and while Fred was doing the tycoon's job the tycoon was going around town being an asshole to everyone, and in the end Fred goes home and gets beaten up by Barney and chewed out by Wilma, Barney and Betty all the while Fred looks confused.
** Another time, aliens had been making clones of Fred, and ''they'' were acting like assholes and ruining his reputation. It had a happier ending though, because when Fred told them how it happened, Wilma, Barney and Betty simply thought he was under stress from his diet, and said he could go off it. [[DudeWheresMyRespect Fred was upset]], until he realized he [[HellYesMoment was off his diet.]]
* An episode of ''WesternAnimation/{{Rugrats}}'' has Angelica overhear a DepravedKidsShowHost using a curse word to describe the children she works with and, thinking it's the show's new special phrase, [[InnocentSwearing repeats it to her parents]]. She gets in trouble for it repeatedly, including when she tries to get her dad to tell her exactly which word in the sentence is the "bad" one. [[spoiler:By the end of the episode, she's still not entirely sure why the word's bad. Her dad just says that it "makes people feel bad".]]
* ''WesternAnimation/CourageTheCowardlyDog'': Almost every episode has this:
-->'''Eustace:''' What did I do?
* In the ''WesternAnimation/SpongeBobSquarePants'' episode "The Camping Episode", Squidward gets repeatedly mauled by a sea bear for intentionally trying to provoke it by doing thing such as wearing a sombrero in a goofy fashion, then trying to run away, trying to limp away, and trying to crawl away. The fifth time, it attacks him for no reason.
-->'''Squidward:''' What did I do that time?!\\
'''[=SpongeBob=]:''' I don't know, maybe he just doesn't like you!

[[folder:Real Life]]
* [[AncientRome Tacitus']] ''Annals'' contains an anecdote where after their father's downfall, [[SinsOfOurFathers Sejanus' children were led off to be executed as sympathizers,]] his daughter Junilla having no idea what she'd done wrong and in tears pleading to be beaten like other children who'd been naughty. The children were strangled [[ValuesDissonance (and in Junilla's case sexually assaulted, as there was no precedent for the execution of a virgin)]] and their bodies thrown down the Gemonian Stairs.
* Attempts to teach small children and animals how to behave are at risk of falling foul of this trope if the time between the misdeed and the scolding is too long. Instead of correcting the misbehavior, this can actually make it worse by creating stress and confusion.
** Punishing an older animal for behaviors that were allowed when it was younger because it was "cute" at the time can also cause this, regardless of how fast the punishment is delivered.
* Some schools have a practice of outrightly punishing children for saying a swear word, even if the child was simply repeating a word that they heard and had no idea that it was a swear word.
* People with aspergers or autism will sometimes wonder why a friend either blows up or ghosts them seemingly out of the blue. They may not have seen the hints the friend was dropping, and will end up thinking this friend was doing this deliberately.
* A study of the process used to turn men into torturers for the Greek military junta showed the recruits were subjected to this. The random punishment not only brutalized them, it made them pay constant attention to their superiors in the hope of avoiding future punishment, and not question any order they were given.