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False Widow
A woman who falsely claims widowhood. Usually to avoid the stigma of having a child with no husband, or to escape a loveless marriage, or to play on people's pity for widows. The colloquial term "grass widow", which properly means a married woman who lives away from her husband, is often used as a euphemism in this context.

Can be depicted as a Wicked Widow or a Wonderful Widow, depending on the circumstances.

Examples:

Comic Books
  • In a bizarre twist on this trope, Victor Mancha of the Runaways comic books thinks that his dad was a marine who died in the first Gulf War. It turns out that he never had a dad in the traditional sense at all—Victor is a cyborg created by the evil robot Ultron using his mother's DNA.

Film
  • Inverted in Bounce: Gwyneth Paltrow's character is a widow but claims to be divorced because she was sick of people pitying her. Since, in her words, "everyone is divorced these days", they don't pity her as much when she tells that lie.
  • Inverted in the movie Mr. Belvedere Goes to College. A young woman (Shirley Temple!) who really is a widow still hides the fact that she has a son because she's afraid everyone would think her story was bogus and she'd be expelled from college.

Literature
  • Fawn at the beginning of The Sharing Knife by Lois McMaster Bujold claims to be a "grass widow" to explain why she is pregnant and alone. Dag delicately inquires if she knows what a grass widow is. Fawn had thought it meant a woman recently widowed; it really meant a woman in her exact situation, never married but claiming to be widowed in order to escape the stigma of unwed pregnancy.
    It seemed she'd told the truth despite herself.
  • One of the earliest examples is Helen Graham from Anne Bronte's The Tenant of Wildfell Hall. She's escaping a horrible marriage.
  • Maxi in the novel I'll Take Manhattan decides that it's much cooler to be a widow than a teenage divorcee, and fakes being a widow (runs around in black, sighing tragically, what have you) instead. In her defense, she was 19 and way dumb for it.
  • The topic was discussed in one of the Anne of Green Gables books. In one of those "out of the mouths of babes" situations, a schoolgirl expresses the desire to be a widow. Consider that this is the nineteenth century, where divorce is practically unknown and being unmarried is socially unacceptable. A widow gets the best of both worlds.
  • Vianne in The Girl With No Shadow changes her name and pretends to be a widow to explain the existence of her two children.
  • Pharinet in The Chronicles of Magravandias claims widowhood even though there's no solid proof her husband is dead. It serves the practical purpose of letting her move out of her husband's house and back with her own family, which she always wanted.
  • In Repeat It Today With Tears by Anne Peile, Susie's mother did this after having two children in the space of a few years with a man she never married. Susie explains that her mother regretted they were born in the 1950s thus she couldn't use the excuse of her husband dying in World War II.
  • In The Lark and the Wren, from Mercedes Lackey's Bardic Voices series, Rune's mother wore a wedding ring and claimed that her nonexistent husband had been a muleteer killed by bandits in order to cover up the illegitimacy of Rune's birth. Other than the husband and wife that owned the inn she worked at, none of the villagers believed this story, especially when Stara acted like a 'loose woman' outside the inn.

Live Action Television
  • A male version in an episode of CSI: Miami had the Villains of the week being a group of con artists posing as a widower and his two children (actually a 30 something married couple) murdering a man in order to use his wife as a means to get into a yacht club and steal gold from another of its members.
  • In an episode of Carnivāle, Sophie pretends to be a widow in order to get into bed with a random stranger in town.
  • Ethel Parks, one of the housemaids from Downton Abbey, uses this to explain away the child she had by one of the officers convalescing at Downton (who is actually dead, but was never her husband). This is easier than usual, as the child was born in 1918: both the War and the Spanish Influenza provided convenient causes of death for the father. Ethel chooses to claim flu, as it saves her the trouble of explaining why she doesn't get a war widow's pension.
  • In Supernatural, after Sam gets involved with Amelia Richardson, he finds out her husband did not really die in the war, but in this case Amelia really believed her husband was dead.

Theatre
  • Mrs. Arbuthnot of Oscar Wilde's play A Woman of No Importance.
  • Another male example: In The Rainmaker, File falsely claims to be a widower.

Western Animation

Unsorted
  • Constance MacKenzie in Peyton Place. She moves away from her small town and has an affair with a married man, who dies shortly after impregnating her with their illegitimate daughter, Allison. Forced by the circumstances to return to said small town, Constance takes the dead lover's name and pretends to be his widow, even altering Allison's birth certificate by one year to make her appear legitimate. Allison has a Heroic BSOD after learning the truth (and finding the corpse of her best friend's mother hanging in her bedroom closet).


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