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Clutching Hand Trap
A lot of times, people want to get a snack, though sometimes it is in a jar of some kind. When they try to grab for whatever is in the jar, they will get their hand stuck because of the way that they have a grip on the thing in the jar.

This is a Comedy trope in which when you grab the contents of a jar, your hand winds up getting stuck, because of the way you have a grip on it.

The difference with Hand in the Hole is that here, the victim does it by their own will since they know what's inside and want to get it. For example, when the Bratty Half-Pint wants a cookie from the cookie jar. Hand in the Hole is when the victim is being an idiot and putting their hand inside with no idea what's in there.

This trope can come with An Aesop about greediness if the character is unable to get their hand out of the jar because they're holding too much food.


Examples:

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     Film- Animated 
  • The Thief and the Cobbler: At one point the Thief sees a bottle filled with jewels. Unfortunately, the jewels are too big for him to get past the opening. He won't let go of the diamond, even when the palace guards have him surrounded.

     Film- Live Action 
  • In Clerks, an idiot customer needs Dante's help to get his hand unstuck from a Pringles can. Dante lampshades his stupidity by immediately tilting the can sideways to get chips from the bottom.
  • In Strangers on a Train, Bruno, a remorseless murderer, gets his arm stuck in a drainage hole by the sidewalk. This is played for suspense, as it helps buy time for Guy to finish his scheduled tennis match ( Bruno arrives at the tennis match anyway), though it does have Alfred Hitchcock's trademark dark humor.
  • Saw typically goes the Hand in the Hole route, but in Saw II had a more seriously played case of this with a glass case containing a syringe of antidote the characters needed for poison they'd been given. One character on the tail end of the poison's effects discovers the glass case, sticks her arm in and, due to the entry being lined with blades, can't get the arm back out causing her to bleed to death trying.
  • In The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, this is used as a Funny Background Event when the dwarves arrive at Bilbo's house: Dwalin is seen with his hand in the cookies jar, and he has a hard time pulling said hand out, mostly because his fingers are far too big to fit in a jar made for Hobbits.
  • Played with in Diamonds Are Forever. A Mook, frisking James Bond, reaches inside his jacket to go for the gun...and receives a nasty surprise, courtesy Q-Branch.
  • In the 2006 reboot of The Pink Panther, while talking with casino owner Larocque, Clouseau gets his hand stuck in a vase and struggles for several minutes trying to get it out. Finally, he asks the owner:
    Clouseau: Is this vase valuable?
    Larocque: It is a worthless imitation.
    Clouseau: Good. (smashes vase against a nearby desk, causing it to fall apart)
    Larocque: But that desk was...priceless...

     Newspaper Comics 
  • Happened to Garfield in this strip, but he subverts it by breaking the cookie jar on Jon's head, instead of just simply letting go of the cookie that he wanted.
    • Not a cookie jar, but Jon got both of his hands stuck in pickle jars (as did his date) in this strip.
    • Garfield gets his hand caught in an olive jar in this early strip, which was recycled into a gag in the very first Garfield animation, a nameless short from 1980 that was only shown in the special Happy Birthday, Garfield.
  • The comic strip Overboard had a strip in which Captain Henry Crow patiently explained to one of his dimwitted crew that if he'd only let go of the cookies, he could get his hand out of the cookie jar. Night falls and the crewman still has the jar stuck on his hand.

     Literature 
  • Where the Red Fern Grows has something similar as a way to trap raccoons. You cut a small hole in a hollow log, drive some nails around it pointing down and inward, and place something shiny at the bottom like cut-up pieces of tin can. A raccoon passing by will be attracted, reach in to grab it, and catch its fist on the nails trying to pull it out. The narrator thinks his grandfather is teasing him when he first tells him this method, because all the raccoon would have to do is let go of the tin. But the grandfather assures him that a raccoon will never willingly let go of anything shiny. (After the narrator has caught one raccoon like this and can use its skin to train his hunting dogs, his father makes him pull the nails out of all his traps, because if raccoons are that serious about their tin then they don't have a sporting chance.)
  • In Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins, Hershel tricks one of the goblins by offering a jar of pickles. The goblin reaches in and grabs as many as it can, but it's so greedy that it doesn't think to let go when it realizes its hand is stuck. Hershel only reveals the trick after finishing his Hanukkah celebrations for the night.

     Live Action TV 
  • In Scrubs Turk has gotten his hand stuck in an ice dispensing machine (during Carla's labor), apparently this latter also happened to Leonard the Hook-Handed Security Guard. Another time, he got stuck in a candy machine because he wouldn't let go of the candy. When Carla asked why JD wasn't mocking him, he revealed that he also had his hand stuck, in a glass coffee pot (because he dropped a penny inside).
  • One iteration of Celebrity Jeopardy featured Tom Hanks, flanderizing himself into a bumbling idiot, fall to this trap while trying to get a pickle out of a jar that came from...somewhere.
    "Alex Trebek": Just let go of the pickle.
    Tom Hanks: ...b-but I want a pickle.
  • That '70s Show: Kelso gets his hand stuck in a vase. Like Homer below, we only find out his hand was "stuck" this way after he mentioned the vase was where he hid their stash of marijuana and he has it explained that holding onto the bag is why he can't take his hand out. He then lets go of it while still holding the vase in the air, causing it to drop to the ground and break.

     Puppet Shows 
  • In a Sesame Street episode from the mid-70s, Oscar has his hand stuck in a jar. Throughout the episode, the adults try many methods of prying his hand out, even by greasing it with lard. Turns out he wanted to look at his rock collection that he kept in the jar. The adults convince him to let go and his hand comes out easily; the adults then pour the rocks into his hand. Immediately after, Luis comes by with an old alarm clock in pieces as a gift to Oscar. Luis puts the pieces in the jar, which Oscar immediately grabs. He finds his hand stuck once again as the closing credits begin.

     Oral Tradition 
  • Several old stories use this trope.
    • The Boy and the Filberts (attributed to the Greek philosopher Epictetus). A boy reaches into a pitcher of figs and filberts and grabs so many that he can't get his hand out. A passing stranger advises him to release some of them. He does so and succeeds in removing his hand. Epictetus died in A.D. 135, making this Older Than Feudalism.
    • Idries Shah's Tales of the Dervishes had a story (attributed to Khwaja Ali Ramitani, who died in 1306) in which a monkey was trapped by putting cherries in a jar. The monkey was so greedy that it grabbed too many cherries and couldn't remove its hand.

     Western Animation 
  • This happened to Socrates in the Adventures from the Book of Virtues episode "Moderation", when he tries to take a cookie out of the jar Zach gave him.
  • The idiot customer with the Pringles can in Clerks: The Animated Series. Dante subtly points this out by pouring the remaining Pringles into his hand while telling the customer that "sometimes you just need to let those hard-to-reach chips go."
  • Taken Up to Eleven in The Simpsons when Homer got both of his hands stuck in two different vending machines while trying to get a free can of soda and a candy. They think they have to cut his arms off in order to free him, but then they discover that he's still holding onto the can of soda & candy inside the machines and that his hands weren't even stuck - he just wouldn't let go of the immovable can/packet.
    Fireman: We're going to have to cut off your arms off, Homer.
    Homer: But they'll grow back, right?
    Fireman: Yeaaaaaah...
    Second Fireman: *interrupts first fireman as he is lifting massive buzzsaw to Homer's shoulder* Wait a minute, are you still holding on to the cans?!?
  • The Critic's Jay Sherman got his head stuck in a honey jar a la Winnie the Pooh. Someone even took a photo of it.
  • On an episode of Sponge Bob Square Pants, Mr. Krabs gets his claw stuck in a sink drain because a dime fell into it, and he couldn't get his claw out unless he let go. However, when SpongeBob suggested that he simply let go of the dime to get free:
  • CatDog: Cat got both of his hands stuck in a pickle jar. Since he was also about to be on a date, he had Dog substitute his arms for him in a suit.

     Web Comics 
  • Combined with an ironic cut in Sluggy Freelance: Lord Horribus and Reakk of the Dimension Of Pain discuss their plan to capture Torg, and mention how clever and resourceful Torg is to have evaded them every time prior. Cut to Riff and Torg setting up Halloween, with Torg having his hand stuck in a jar of candy corn.

     Real Life 
  • AI programmers sometimes mention a program ending up in a "local optima" where it cannot reach a target state because all available choices would place it in a worse state. For instance, a program navigating a two-dimensional grid ends up behind an obstacle in the direct path to the target position and won't sidestep it, because it's programmed to move towards the target and either movement would just move it away from the target position.
  • People can catch monkeys by putting fruit in a hole. The monkey will not let go of the fruit, allowing the person to grab it.
    • In the US, this trope is frequently referred to as a "Raccoon Trap" for the same reason.
  • This poor cockatiel falls into a jar of peanuts. Though humiliated, he was very happy to get his peanuts. (The jar was easily big enough for him to get out of.)

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alternative title(s): Jar Hand Trap
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