Unbuilt Trope / Literature

  • The Iliad is the first war story and one of the founding works of Western Literature. However it can be surprisingly modern in its depiction of war and the characters. It is clearly shown most of the men are sick of war, the overall commander is a selfish character who misjudges his men and almost ruins his cause with his own inabilities and arrogance. The best fighter is an unruly Anti-Hero at best, and his insubordination and inability to work with his commander makes him the Trope Namer for Achilles in His Tent, leading to the men almost getting defeated. Meanwhile Hector, though often portrayed as the most moral figure in a Crapsack World, has a self-destructive sense of war and has quite an unpleasant side, wanting to despoil Patroculus's corpse. The story also makes it clear that war will bring about the destruction of many innocent people.
  • The Odyssey is one of the oldest examples of The Quest in Western literature, inspiring countless later tales about rugged heroes journeying through strange landscapes and battling monsters with their companions. People often forget that Odysseus' quest is nothing as grandiose as Saving the World, or even searching for treasure. Instead, his situation is one that plenty of modern veterans know all too well: he's a soldier who just wants to go home again after years of being separated from his wife and son on the battlefield, and his journey is less a grand adventure than a punishment from the gods determined to deny him his homecoming. Even his arduous quest can be pretty easily read as symbolic of a soldier's struggle to reintegrate into civilian life.
  • Arabian Nights is arguably the oldest classic to feature Cliffhangers. It is however not presented directly to the reader, but happening in-universe as a Framing Device. The framing story is about Sheherezade who creates an intermission in her storytelling, to keep herself alive to the next day.
    • Arabian Nights is also the most cited example of the Genie in a Bottle. But the first story wasn't about a genie granting wishes to the person that freed it. The genie, driven mad from years of being trapped in a bottle, tries to kill the person that freed it. Some stories imagined the genie being trapped inside of a ring, instead of a bottle. This disconnect becomes a plot point in I Dream of Jeannie, when Roger suggests Jeannie read Arabian Nights to learn how to be a genie. Hilarity Ensues.
    • In fact, the Genie in a Bottle trope really dates to the original Aladdin, which was not added to the Nights until the 18th century, a good thousand years after the oldest stories. And even then it is not played completely straight, as there is no suggestion of the "three wishes" limit that usually accompanies the trope.
  • Going way, way, back, in ''The Battle of Maldon" – one of the oldest surviving works of English literature – a earl under the Anglo-Saxon King Aethelred assembles a Ragtag Bunch of Misfits to repel some tough, well-trained Viking raiders. Both the hero and his men get slaughtered horribly, partially due to an act of Pride from the hero. What's worse is that before the battle, the Viking chief offered to leave peacefully in exchange for a tribute of silver. The hero refuses angrily, calling the offer "shameful". After the battle, King Aethelred pays the tribute. The hero accomplished nothing except getting his men killed.
  • Dante's Inferno, despite being the Trope Namer of Fire and Brimstone Hell, and the source of many of the beliefs thereof, actually depicts the lowest and worst level of hell as covered in ice. Further, Satan, far from being the Ruler of Hell, is actually a pathetic (if monstrous) figure who refuses to acknowledge that trying to escape hell (by flapping his wings) is exactly what keeps his ice prison cold. Calling Satan the Emperor of Hell is a joke, Satan coming across as a grotesque parody of God. Even though Satan is by far the largest being in Hell and terrifying, they don't even seem to notice Dante and Virgil and really prove no threat, Dante and Virgil easily climbing down his back to escape Hell. There's even an interpretation that the attention drawn to Satan's size and measurements actually shows their limitations, Angels are supposed to be spiritual beings but by drawing attention to Satan's very physical body it shows how Satan has lost his power from the Fall.
  • Thomas More is the Trope Namer for the term Utopia, aka a world free of problems. Interestingly enough, Thomas More wasn't writing an escapist fantasy, and more a social commentary on the problems he found in the time period he grew up in, Tudor England. The name "Utopia" is a pun in Ancient Greek, on the words eutopia, meaning "good place" and outopia, meaning "no place", implying that More knew a perfect world was impossible.
  • If you read a cynical poem about the agonizing, unglamorous experience of having to paint pictures on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel for hours at a time, you would probably (naturally) assume that it was a deconstructive satire on society's rosy view of the artistic genius of the Renaissance, which Michelangelo's paint-job on the Sistine Chapel is considered the classic example of. Well, there is such a poem. And you'd be right to think that... except it was written by Michelangelo himself when he was actually in the process of painting the Sistine Chapel. Yes, it's just as hilariously self-deprecating as it sounds.
    My stomach's squashed under my chin, my beard's
    pointing at heaven, my brain's crushed in a casket,
    my breast twists like a harpy's. My brush,
    above me all the time, dribbles paint
    so my face makes a fine floor for droppings!
    My haunches are grinding into my guts,
    my poor ass strains to work as a counterweight,
    every gesture I make is blind and aimless.
  • Long before Yaoi Fangirls penned their stories about men bearing children, Journey to the West had Sanzang and one of his disciples accidentally drink from a magical river which causes whoever drinks from it to become pregnant. The pregnancy itself is described as horrifying and painful for both of them, and is immediately aborted.
  • A lot of early European novels like Tristram Shandy and Don Quixote seem to be deconstructions of the form, with the author intervening, characters reading earlier parts of the story, etc, and yet they can't be deconstructing the novel because Don Quixote is often considered the first modern novel, and Tristram Shandy is an early English novel. With its metanarrative, its extensive use of references, the narrative's exploration of the processes of memory and writing, and the manipulation of excerpts from other works of literature in order to give them new meanings, some critics suggest that Tristam Shandy – along with the later Moby-Dick – is this to the postmodern novel, long before the term postmodern was even coined.
  • Don Quixote:
  • The Nymph's Reply to the Shepherd seems like a modern satire of flowery love poems, and an indictment of consumerism. It mocks "The Passionate Shepherd To His Love", one of Christopher Marlowe's most famous works, with the nymph being unimpressed with the shepherd trying to buy her love and trust with luxuries that inevitably break down over time. But it was actually written by Sir Walter Raleigh in Elizabethan times, who felt the poem was too schmaltzy.
  • Paradise Lost is the earliest example of a work where Satan is portrayed as a sympathetic character, rather than being pure evil, and probably one of the earliest examples of Draco in Leather Pants. However, Satan gradually admits to himself that he doesn't really believe any of the noble causes he espouses, his justifications for his actions are fallacious and self-defeating, and that he's really just a petty, sadistic rebel without a cause trying to bring everyone else down to his level. To many scholars, Milton wrote Paradise Lost to demonstrate how easy it was for humans to fall into temptation.
  • Gulliver's Travels is one of the oldest examples of adventure fiction, and is often seen as a classic of that genre. However, it was never meant as such. It was in fact a rather heavy-handed satire of European society of the time. It wasn't until Victorian times (the golden age of adventure fiction) that a Misaimed Fandom lumped it together with newer works. Similarly, another early "Adventure novel", The Swiss Family Robinson, was meant to be "educational", designed to teach boys Naturalism, Christian Values, and the Philosophy of Jean-Jacques Rousseau. Doesn't very much evoke the treehouse-building, zebra-riding, and pirate-fighting of the Disney adaptation, does it?
  • The original novel of The Three Musketeers is a lot like The Prisoner of Zenda in that while it's a major influence on the swashbuckler genre, it's much more cynical than the films it inspired (including most of its own adaptations). D'Artagnan is something of an anti-hero: he has several love affairs and is not above tricking Milady into sleeping with him while she thinks she's sleeping with her lover. Unlike the malevolent Evil Chancellor of adaptations, Richelieu is an Anti-Villain who has France's welfare in mind. Ultimately, D'Artagnan ends up working for him and becomes good friends with Rochefort, Richelieu's Dragon, after besting him in several duels. The later books tended to deconstruct it further, with all of their antics in the first book biting them in the ass repeatedly in the later ones, and the most chivalric of the four suffering the most for his Royalist and traditional stances.
  • Another famous example from literature: The Sorrows of Young Werther seems like a Deconstruction of the Romantic protagonist, whose intense sensitivity and emotional instability lead him to commit suicide due to an unfortunate Love Triangle. The novel had been created before the Romantic movement even started.
    • The artistic archetype of Romanticism seems unreachable for Werther as well, since he's too lazy and untalented to be a genius.
    • Werther's long pretentious rants about art, emotion, and life only reveal an eventually Narcissist character.
    • The Empathic Environment trope seems like a Deconstruction as well: Wahlheim is flooded as the Downer Ending approaches.
    • Even the form gets its share: an "editor" steps in at the end, proclaiming that Werther's thoughts became too disordered and insane to be published. And of course because Werther can hardly report about his own suicide.
  • In the earliest vampire folklore, vampires are most definitely not tall, elegant, sexy aristocrats. Instead, they're short, ugly, smelly peasants—which you might realistically expect of animalistic human predators forced to live at the the fringes of society and prey on other humans for sustenance. Nosferatu, one of the first vampire films in history, even uses elements of this early vampire lore in its portrayal of Count Orlok: a tall, ugly, probably smelly, aristocrat. Realistically speaking, living as an outcast subsisting on human blood is not glamorous.
    • Dracula (which codified so many of the characteristics of modern vampires) had Drac running around in the daylight note  and being killed by a couple of knives. He was also described as hairy (even hairy palms!), moustached, and rather brutish-looking, rather than the suave aristocrat he's been commonly depicted as after Bela Lugosi; he could pull off a more handsome body, but it required magic to shapeshift and he rarely bothered. His breath stank of rotting corpse, too. Also, Renfield isn't quite The Renfield: although more-or-less controlled by Dracula, he's not willingly so, and even tries to kill him.
    • The villain of the very first vampire novel, aptly-named The Vampyre by John Polidori, did not have fangs. He did bear an uncanny and insulting resemblance to Polidori's boss, though. It wasn't until Varney the Vampire that fangs showed up, but that was a weird book, too: it ends with Varney killing himself at the crater of Vesuvius. Varney was also the first morally-ambiguous and conflicted vampire, before Dark Shadows, The Vampire Chronicles and Angel came along.
    • Prior to Twilight's vegetarian vampires. The Vampire Chronicles skewered the concept of a "vegetarian" vampire in the first book, Interview with the Vampire, with its protagonist Louis. Although he tried to retain his humanity and survive on the blood of animals, his efforts were in vain and his creator scolds him for his hypocrisy of loathing the downsides of being a vampire while enjoying its benefits. In general, Louis is regarded with mild contempt by most vampires for trying to remain human to begin with and is generally considered the weakest of Lestat's children.
    • Carmilla is the Trope Maker for Lesbian Vampire, but it's not sexploitation. Instead, it's written more as a standard "vampire victim" story, just with the victim and the aggressor of the same gender. It's not really a Romance either, although Carmilla can be interpreted sympathetically.
  • If your only exposure to Yiddish-Jewish culture is Fiddler on the Roof, reading Mendele the Book Peddler, the first Yiddish novelist, is a shocker. His work is about how poverty and anti-Semitism have brutalized Jews, turning them into sadistic bigots – and how their faith in being "chosen people" is a sick joke. In his short story "The Calf," a happy young boy is essentially brainwashed and tortured by his teachers into regarding fun as sinful. His work reads like an angry Deconstruction of Fiddler on the Roof. But the Shalom Aleichem stories that Fiddler on the Roof is based on were actually a Lighter and Softer reaction to Mendele, and were about finding dignity and meaning even in a cruel world. As Tevye puts it:
    Trying to scratch out a pleasant tune without breaking his neck.
  • If the Dr Mabuse books were published today, they'd look like a deconstruction of Bond Villain Stupidity: the title character has several inherently self-destructive tendencies that always ruin everything for him, his plan isn't to Take Over the World but to bring about The End of the World as We Know It and then rule the ashes, and even his name is a pun on the French "m'abuse" – "I abuse myself." These books were written long before James Bond got started, and it's been argued that Mabuse was the direct forerunner to Blofeld, but with the latter's plot devices an integral part of his character.
  • Frankenstein was one of the first major "monster stories". But going back and reading it now, after growing up exposed to generic Frankenstein's Monster stereotypes where it wanders around aimlessly, groans, and kills people, one may be a bit surprised to find an urbane woobie of a monster who is in many ways more sympathetic than his creator, quotes liberally from literature, is strong, agile, and quite dexterous, and also carries firearms for self-protection. The only things that make him appear inhuman are his height and his eyes, and it's decidedly ambiguous whether Frankenstein's true crime was creating the monster or a form of Parental Abandonment. Also, there's no Igor or peasants waving Torches and Pitchforks while running up to the castle — or for that matter (with occasional exceptions) any public knowledge of the thing at any point. And there is no castle; the monster is created in an upper-floor laboratory of a university.
  • Jane Austen
    • Pride and Prejudice was written at a time when women found men like The Stoic Mr. Darcy completely unattractive. Today, of course, this only augments his attraction right off the bat rather than detracting from it.
    • Emma: Emma Woodhouse is an example for Spoiled Sweet. Emma is a young woman of landed gentry in the position to behave like a Rich Bitch. She is spoiled by her doting father and her loving governess, but she also has a happy disposition, loves her family and friends, and treats servants and people of lower social standings really well. She is charitable to the poor, but doesn't have romantic ideas about them. She lacks the naivety and cheerfulness associated with the archetype. She befriends a young orphan Harriet for whom she intends to find a suitable match. However, Emma is prone to attitude: she doesn't consider a young farmer who is in love with Harriet good enough and she actively separates the couple, though with good intentions and her heart tells her she's not being fair. Quite realistically, she cannot be sweet to everyone: she doesn't like Jane Fairfax and really dislikes the insufferable Mrs Elton, but tries to be polite to them. She finds some of her neighbours tiresome, but treats them with compassion and respect. She rarely slips and is rude or unkind, but whenever that happens, she repents deeply.
  • In Dickens' Oliver Twist:
    • The original The Artful Dodger generally fits the Loveable Rogue characterization of later adaptations/trope examples, but is still presented as The Corrupter to Oliver, and ends the book being tried for a theft, and his amusing bluster and insistence on being a victim of society does nothing to impress the judge, and he is sentenced to transportation to Australia. Subverting this along with the related trope of Satisfied Street Rat, the narrator indicates that all of the children in Fagin's gang, except for Charley Bates, went to bad ends. Of course whether this is truly an illustration of Dickens' originality or his tendencies as a Victorian moralist is another matter.
    • The book is also a Trope Namer for The Fagin. While initially portrayed as a worldly old man, it's clear Fagin's charm is only skin deep. He is portrayed as a greedy, selfish, cowardly, and abusive man and ends up getting others injured and killed. By the end of the story, he's been sentenced to hang for his crimes, and is reduced to a self-pitying loser. Completely different from the Lighter and Softer Fagin from the 1968 film, as well as the other portrayals of this trope. Of course this is for understandable reasons since Dickens' Fagin is an anti-semitic stereotype that made him unacceptable to portray as originally conceived.
  • A Christmas Carol:
    • The book's formula has been repeated over and over again for almost two hundred years. But what people forget is that Charles Dickens wrote it (like many of his works) as an Author Tract about the cruel attitudes Victorian elites had about the poor. The story is not just about Scrooge not just regaining his love for the holiday, but learning to feel compassion for his fellow man.
    • Also, when Scrooge saw the ghost of Marley, he assumed he was undergoing a severe hallucination, and scoffed at the idea of seeing ghosts.
    • Scrooge has become the Trope Namer for greedy jerks, but the story dissects just how miserable a person's life would be to make them so selfish.
    • Tiny Tim might be a prototypical example of a Littlest Cancer Patient, but he's probably suffering from something like the rickets, a disease common around the time of the book's initial publishing in 1843. It's outright said that the disease Tiny Tim has (whatever it is) isn't necessarily fatal; it's just that Bob Crachit and his family are too poor to afford the treatment. In the alternate future, Tiny Tim does succumb to the illness, but after Scrooge changes his ways, not only does Tiny Tim not die, but Scrooge "became a second father" to him.
  • Robert Louis Stevenson:
    • The Genre Popularizer for pirate fiction would have to be Treasure Island. But the pirates in the book are actually the villains, not the swashbuckling lovable rogues or the care free lay-abouts seen in later works. Also, not a single act of piracy actually occurs in the book: the actual crime committed is mutiny, with the piracy itself in the backstory. Having said that, Long Jon Silver, the double-dealing pirate cripple who befriends the hero Hawkins, is more or less the Trope Maker for the roguish pirate archetype except it's made clear that Silver is a remorseless murderer and Noble Demon.
    • The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is the originator of split personalities, but is more sophisticated than many modern versions. Jekyll is fully aware of what he does as Hyde and takes the potion willingly. Towards the end the novel becomes a character study on why he does this and what it says about his own morals. He tries to use the split as an excuse for what he does as Hyde, but the account makes clear that he is evading responsibility.
  • A Blink-and-youll-miss-it Unbuilt Trope can be found at the end of Les Misérables. The narrative describes the Mardi Gras revels in 1833, coinciding with the wedding of Marius and Cosette. Victor Hugo states that carriages, normally being able to carry about six people, seemed to be carrying twice as many, when they were being dressed up for the carnival, disguised as clowns or whatever. The author managed thus to present the Unbuilt Trope of the Clown Car, some 30 years before actual cars were invented, in an action set 30 years before that.
  • The Prince and the Pauper named a trope about a poor man and a rich man trading places, and is also the Trope Maker for a lot of tropes associated with that plot. What most stories miss is that both sides immediately find intense faults with the others' life after their plan goes horribly right. The pauper's life is extremely taxing on the prince, and the entire crux of his Character Development after seeing just how bad the underclasses have it, coming close to death several times and ending up with bloody and sore feet from having to walk around barefoot. The prince's life is immensely stressful on the pauper, to the point he acknowledges that he's way out of his league the moment it starts, having to play along with the ruse to avoid being executed for treason. Also, both the prince and the pauper try to resolve the situation and admit who they are immediately, but no one believes them, thinking it to be either madness or stress caused by the recent king's death.
  • "Casey at the Bat" is likely the Trope Maker for Down to the Last Play... except mighty Casey struck out rather than drive in the winning run.
  • Uncle Tom's Cabin is the Trope Namer for the Uncle Tom, a Category Traitor in a racial context, which is the very opposite of the title character, who makes a Heroic Sacrifice to protect fugitive slaves. It was later Uncle Tom-themed minstrel shows which codified the "Uncle Tom" character as a coward.
  • Alice's Adventures in Wonderland is the Trope Namer and Trope Codifier for Down the Rabbit Hole to such a degree that the character name Alice in any later work implies an Alice Allusion. The original does however break several of the "rabbit hole" conventions. The main story turns out not to be Alice's first visit to Wonderland; she had already been there, but disregarded it to be All Just a Dream, just as she does to the second visit. Later speculations that What Do You Mean, It Wasn't Made on Drugs? have been disregarded by scholarship; the author was mainly inspired by logic and mathematics.
  • H. G. Wells:
    • Many of his works, particularly his short stories, were thought experiments about some potential change, technology, or even paranormal phenomenon. As such, they were incredibly light in plot and heavy in analysis of the physical and econo-social implications. The most extreme example is likely The New Accelerator, in which a chemist and his friend try out the former's new potion for moving so fast that Time Stands Still and walk around noticing the way physics work around someone moving that fast (for example, they quickly realize that heat from friction means that they have to stay in a relatively narrow band of speed, as standing around can cause buildup in the surfaces they touch and running can cause their clothes to catch fire) while chatting about the potential uses and social ramifications, with particular concentration on the need for a slowing drug to control accelerator severity and length and possibly create a Sleeper Starship situation for inconveniently long train rides by allowing a person to slow his personal time to the point that a three hour trip feels like nappable ten minutes.
    • Most of the limitations on invisibility were already predicted in The Invisible Man. The eponymous character even complains that the power is good for little other than assassination, as going undetected long enough to, say, eavesdrop on an important conversation was nearly impossible.
    • The Island of Doctor Moreau in modern times looks like a particularly Deconstruction of Petting Zoo People and Uplifted Animals. The "humanoid animals" were created in a lab via painful and unethical experiments, and have to be subject to brutal mental and physical torture (to the point where their society fears their Mad Scientist creator as a God of Evil) to prevent them from regressing to their animalistic instincts... which ultimately proves futile, as the creations slowly revert anyway. Dr Moreau himself is also an example for the A God Am I archetype, since he only puts on a God Guise as a desperate attempt to prevent his creations from killing him, and in the end he is not killed by his rebelling creations as a modern reader would expect, but dies anticlimactically when one of his experiments goes awry. Rather than break the masquerade to allow the creations to live in peace, the main character lies to maintain their fear of Moreau in order to save his own skin. On a deeper level, he was actually intended as an outright grotesque parody of a creator God, as at the time of writing the book H.G Wells believed God Is Evil to be Truth in Television.
    • We Will Use Manual Labor in the Future is subverted in The Sleeper Awakes by H. G. Wells, before Fordism was invented and assembly-line mass production took off. The future society contains a large slave class, and the narrator is initially led to believe that the slaves are like the slaves of his day – labourers. It's only later on that he realises that almost all production has been industrialised, and the slaves are just machine operators. Unlike the laborers of his day, they have pale skin and almost no muscle.
    • The War of the Worlds:
      • One of the first stories of a war between humans and aliens, rather than the exciting battles, heroics, and scientific ingenuity of Independence Day, Doctor Who etc., features human beings as panicking, weak, or mean, entirely unable to defeat their invaders, who are eventually felled by earthly microbes. It's more about how badly human beings deal with the collapse of civilization, rather than focusing on the fight with the Martians.
      • Unlike all the later Scary Dogmatic Aliens (such as the Nazi aliens in the Orson Welles radio version, the Communist aliens in the '50s movie, or the Bin Laden aliens in the 2005 movie version), the aliens in the book represent the exact cultural values of the society they are invading, being an allegory for imperialism. Invaders come from far away with vastly superior technology rendering resistance futile. In actual history, it was not local resistance that kept European colonies out of Africa until the late 19th century, but disease, hence the ultimate fate of the invaders. Worlds was an attempt to put Europeans in the shoes of Africans (or any other peoples oppressed by imperialism). The part where a soldier talks about what will happen in an invaded world takes some ideas from this, where he talks of resistance groups and some people collaborating with the aliens.
      • Partially because of war paranoia and also due to the limitations of visual media, future aliens as evil outsiders would usually appear human. Only in later years did the Starfish Aliens become a trope in popular science fiction again. However, perhaps because he codified the Alien Invasion genre (a subgenre of the "invasion story"), Wells was free to provide an early example of the truly alien. In the context of a century of Rubber-Forehead Aliens, it manages to come off as Deconstruction, with scientific explanations about the aliens, such as they have trouble moving on Earth due to the higher gravity, and trouble breathing from the atmosphere.
      • One could see Kurd Laßwitz' Auf zwei Planeten ("On Two Planets") as a subversion or a counter-statement to the alien invasion genre Wells initiated if not for the fact that it was published a year before The War of the Worlds. Laßwitz' Martians (who also do not hold on to the Idiot Ball with the limpet-like perseverance of Wells') are human-like and socially advanced, so the way their military confrontations with the states of Earth turns out is more reminiscent of that of a former colony becoming independent and then entering a friendly relationship with its former colonial power. (Ironically, the Royal Navy is even more summarily wiped out in Auf zwei Planeten as Laßwitz' Martians don't use inefficient walkers, but airships which the British warships can't harm.)
    • The Time Machine is the Trope Codifier for Time Travel. The novel is however focused on social issues, instead of typical Time Travel Tropes. However, once the main character mentions time travel, one of the other men present immediately thinks of using it for checking the stock market.
  • Jules Verne invented many tropes of Science Fiction, but he handled them in a remarkably more realistic way than many later works that he inspired. Among Asimov's Three Kinds of Science Fiction many belong to the third kind, exploring the technical and social implications of technology, often concluding that Reality Ensues, Science Is Bad, and Ludd Was Right. Today we remember Verne, together with H. G. Wells, as the grandfather of Golden Age science fiction and later Steam Punk, which more often make a straight celebration of technology.
    • Journey to the Center of the Earth is probably the first work of fiction that features live dinosaurs. Even though these monsters are the most startling things the protagonists have seen, they are only seen briefly, and do not interact with the main characters at all.
    • From the Earth to the Moon is the Ur-Example of many Tropes in Space, still surprisingly realistic. Batman Can Breathe in Space was unbuilt, as Verne addressed the dependence on oxygen.
    • 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (published in 1869) unbuilds numerous tropes. Most generally, it is the first Submarine Pirates story; however, Captain Nemo certainly has a deeper cause than pirates.
      • The book has probably the Ur-Example of Almost Out of Oxygen. Oxygen is not a problem, due to the Nautilus having plenty of electricity and water around, but without caustic potash to bind the carbon dioxide the heroes are screwed anyway.
      • Also, as the probable Ur-Example of Atlantis Is Boring, the ruins of Atlantis itself are not much to see; the rest of the underwater voyage is however adventurous.
      • Before the Conspiracy Theorist trope was established, the story has it Played for Laughs when Ned Land believes that the ship's crew are cannibals.
      • A probable Ur-Example of From My Own Personal Garden... though the "garden" is the ocean.
      • Captain Nemo is an Unbuilt Trope of the Übermensch: A Wicked Cultured Well-Intentioned Extremist who claims to be Above Good and Evil because he has done with society and is practically above any law of the civilized nations thanks to the power of his submarine, the Nautilus… however, he is a Deconstruction of the trope, because the contradiction between his unlimited power (that lets him cross the Moral Event Horizon) and his compassionate nature causes him a Villainous Breakdown. This dialogue between him and Professor Aronnax lampshades it 14 years before Also Sprach Zarathustra:
        "I have hesitated some time," continued the commander; "nothing obliged me to show you hospitality. If I chose to separate myself from you, I should have no interest in seeing you again; I could place you upon the deck of this vessel which has served you as a refuge, I could sink beneath the waters, and forget that you had ever existed. Would not that be my right?"
        "It might be the right of a savage," I answered, "but not that of a civilized man."
        "Professor," replied the commander, quickly, "I am not what you call a civilized man! I have done with society entirely, for reasons which I alone have the right of appreciating. I do not, therefore, obey its laws, and I desire you never to allude to them before me again!"
        This was said plainly. A flash of anger and disdain kindled in the eyes of the Unknown, and I had a glimpse of a terrible past in the life of this man. Not only had he put himself beyond the pale of human laws, but he had made himself independent of them, free in the strictest acceptation of the word, quite beyond their reach! Who then would dare to pursue him at the bottom of the sea, when, on its surface, he defied all attempts made against him? What vessel could resist the shock of his submarine monitor? What cuirass, however thick, could withstand the blows of his spur? No man could demand from him an account of his actions; God, if he believed in one – his conscience, if he had one – were the sole judges to whom he was answerable.
    • Phileas Fogg from Around the World in 80 Days, published in 1872, is the Trope Maker for the Clock King, but also explores all the ramifications about that trope: He is a rare case of the protagonist being a Mysterious Stranger, the readers never know any of his Back Story, and only in the very last chapters do they know if he was one of the Villains or not. In the last chapters the reader realizes that Fogg’s extreme reserve was not an Evil Brit case, but only a severe case of British Stuffiness. Unlike all his imitators, Fogg is very good at Xanatos Speed Chess and the Indy Ploy, because that’s the only way he can win The Bet. Fogg’s plan didn’t work, but it didn’t work in his favor: the Universe rewards him, granting him almost an extra day. And the one obsessed with his clock was not him, but his employee, Jean Passepartout.
      • The best-known scenes from many motion-picture adaptations of the book, was the protagonists riding a balloon. The book however brings up the idea of riding a balloon, disregarding it as being too risky. Very few balloon rides were mentioned in literature before; Verne's first novel, Five Weeks in a Balloon, was the first example.
  • In Facing the Flag, Roch is the Ur-Example of The Worm Guy. While he is kidnapped, he does however retain control over his Weapon of Mass Destruction, and it is his patriotism that makes him destroy his creation.
  • Master of the World contains the Ur-Example of the Transforming Mecha. While incredibly powerful, it is not however invincible, having a mundane Achilles' Heel.
  • The Purchase of the North Pole is the first known example of the Evil Plan. The villain wants to eliminate the world's axis tilt. In contrast to most later Evil Plans, the contraption gets activated. However, Reality Ensues, as the physical effect is close to zero; The Hero does not stop the villain; he only discovers that the plan was impossible all along, based on a miscalculation.
  • Invasion of the Sea, Verne's last book, is a very early Terraform story. However, the project ends up Gone Horribly Right through an earthquake, which creates a larger inland sea than the engineers could imagine.
  • Sherlock Holmes:
    • What if somebody told you about a mystery novel where a brilliant Victorian detective spends seven chapters relentlessly hunting down a murderer who, instead of being a hardened criminal or an evil genius, turns out to be a completely sympathetic vigilante who was just trying to avenge his wife (but dies for his efforts anyway), and where the murder victims themselves are the closest things in the story to actual "villains"? Sounds like a deconstruction of the Black and White Morality of old-fashioned "superhero detective" stories, right? Nope. That's the plot of A Study in Scarlet — the 1887 novel that first introduced the world to Sherlock Holmes.
    • The Hound of the Baskervilles also gives us an early example of the "Scooby-Doo" Hoax (The Castle in Transylvania by Jules Verne is the Ur-Example) in a gritty mystery where the perpetrator is a hardened criminal who actually kills people, and specifically uses the charade because he knows that it's less likely to be investigated by the police than a string of more conventional murders. This was all written about 68 years before Scooby-Doo ever saw the light of day, but it shows how horrifying the archetypal "fake haunting" plot would be if it actually happened.
    • Many of the original short stories look like deconstructions of some of the standard tropes of detective fiction, when in fact Doyle was one of the authors who first laid down many of those tropes. It isn't Always Murder, and much of the time Everybody Lives. Sometimes, no actual crime was even committed (which is lampshaded by Watson). Sometimes, even when a crime is committed, Holmes will let the criminal go if he takes pity on them, believes they have learned their lesson and will commit no more crimes, and/or concludes that the scandal would do unacceptable damage to innocent bystanders. Sometimes, even if the crime is a murder, if Holmes decides the murder victim was enough of an Asshole Victim, he'll let the killer go free.
    • Sherlock Holmes is the Trope Namer for Sherlock Scan (maybe Dupin was the Ur-Example) but the trope is deconstructed in the second story, The Sign of the Four, when Holmes deduces that Watson's brother was a scoundrel by studying his pocket watch. This is Watson's Berserk Button, and he accuses Holmes of knowing the sad story of his brother's destiny beforehand, and of using Phony Psychic techniques to claim he deduced it from a simple watch. In a rare moment of humility, Holmes recognizes that he is an Insufferable Genius, and that he has hurt his friend's feelings by doing the Sherlock Scan For Science! without thinking into the consequences.
    • The Butler Did It is a Discredited Trope which is more often Played for Laughs than used straight, and can be described as either a Dead Horse Trope or a Dead Unicorn Trope. While straight uses of the trope are rare, they can be found in classics such as some Agatha Christie stories (Three Act Tragedy, Black Coffee, The Adventure of the Italian Nobleman and arguably in Murder on the Orient Express). A very early example is The Musgrave Ritual, a Sherlock Holmes short story where a butler committed a crime, but the mystery was instead the butler's disappearance.
    • Many classic detective stories are rather infamous for their Protagonist-Centered Morality, as they're generally told entirely from the perspective of their detective protagonists, end abruptly when the detective solves the crime and catches the perp, and generally spend little time—if any at all—addressing how ordinary people caught in the crossfire are affected by the detective's quest to bring the bad guys to justice. Which makes it particularly surprising that almost the entire second half of A Study in Scarlet is a flashback sequence told from the perspective of the perpetrator, where Holmes drops entirely out of focus as we see the chain of events that drove the supposed bad guy to murder, coming to sympathize with him along the way. It would seem like a deconstruction of the classic Holmes formula...if it weren't the first story in the series, and the novel that created the Holmes formula.
  • The Murders in the Rue Morgue by Edgar Allan Poe is probably the first detective novel ever written. However, C. Auguste Dupin does not rely entirely on a logical Sherlock Scan, and the imagination of the detective plays a key role in the story. Also, the culprit comes from nowhere, subverting both Foreshadowing in general and the elements of a Fair-Play Whodunnit.
  • Trent's Last Case by E C Bentley is generally credited with starting the inter-war Fair-Play Whodunnit boom. However, the Great Detective in it gets the solution of the murder completely wrong.
  • Lord Dunsany had a taste for cruelly ironic endings for his Adventurer Archaeologist protagonists (see "The Hoard of the Gibbelins" for example), which seems like a subversion of the good fortune common to your average Barbarian Hero appearing in Heroic Fantasy stories. However, Dunsany predated Howard, Leiber, etc. who were inspired by Dunsany. "The Sword of Welleran", "Carcassone" and "In the Land of Time" as well, though "The Fortress Unvanquishable, Save for Sacnoth" has a happier ending. The King of Elfland's Daughter is a bit more ambiguous.
  • A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court invented the Giving Radio to the Romans trope while pointing out all the problems it would realistically cause. While all of its adaptations and later users of the trope are comical and fairly idealistic, the original is pretty dark. There's humor about Medieval Morons, but there's also realistic depictions of a Corrupt Church and a generally dysfunctional society. Moreover, instead of being a hero, like in the adaptations, the protagonist becomes a warlord through his technological savvy, and gets corrupted by power.
  • Flatland is probably the first novel that introduces the concept of Alien Geometries. However, to the flatlanders, it is the Real Life three-dimensional world that is unfathomable.
  • The Prisoner of Zenda falls into this in respect to the "Swashbuckler genre". The antagonist usurper to the throne isn't a Card-Carrying Villain with 0% Approval Rating, instead he's more of an Anti-Villain who is liked by the populace, and for good reason, as the legitimate ruler is a drunken boor who doesn't care about the average citizen. Nor does his Dragon have this characterization, instead being an Affably Evil/Faux Affably Evil type who is a Draco in Leather Pants in-universe. Also notable is that the book has a Bittersweet Ending which becomes a Downer Ending in the sequel which is in keeping with Ruritania being presented realistically, rather than as a story-book country. The book was meant as a satire, partly of Austria and Russia's even then outdated method of ruling through absolute monarchy, partly of the politically unstable Balkan countries.
    • Speaking of Ruritania, most Ruritanias are backwards nations, whereas Stephenson's Ruritania is a (for the time) modern country. Zenda is a medieval castle, but recently renovated and equipped with all modern conveniences, Rassendyll (a Londoner) describes Strelsau as "a great city", and the narrative notes that Ruritania has played a pivotal role in European history on many occasions.
      • Also, while most of Stephenson's imitators wrote about their particular Ruritanias as small idyllic kingdoms, Ruritania is anything but. Banditry is rife, class divides and income disparity are high, the rule of the monarch is unchecked and unquestioned, the current king is neither particularly well-liked nor competent and the infighting in the royal family is vicious and on the verge of kicking off a civil war.
  • A good forty years or so before the concept of The Man began to take root in the public consciousness, it is discussed without being named in 1922 novel One of Ours. Progressive young Gladys takes a moment to ruminate on how protagonist Claude Wheeler's asshole brother Bayliss is one of the type of people who runs the world.
    “She believed that all things which might make the world beautiful—love and kindness, leisure and art—were shut up in prison, and that successful men like Bayliss Wheeler held the keys.”
  • The Picture of Dorian Gray is one of the very first uses of the term Prince Charming, about Dorian. Modern fairy tale parodies, reacting to the Flat Character of the stock Prince Charming, will tend to portray him as stupid (see Enchanted) or will have the character be Prince Charmless and act like a selfish cad (see Shrek, The Princess Bride, Fables, Into the Woods, etc.) Both of these subversions are used in Wilde's novel, but in a much darker way. When introduced, Dorian seems like the benevolent Flat Character version, but it's taken further since he's a Blank Slate or even an Empty Shell, which explains why when he goes bad, he goes really bad, since his shallowness is at Lack of Empathy levels. Dorian would come across as a very dark take on/deconstruction of Prince Charmless, were he not the first example of it.
  • H.P. Lovecraft wrote a few stories that deconstructed the central tropes of his own Cthulhu Mythos, like "The Case of Charles Dexter Ward", where it turns out that some cosmic entities actually like humans. Case in point: the Lovecraft Lite subgenre is usually seen as a Lighter and Softer reaction to Lovecraft's traditional Cosmic Horror—but many of Lovecraft's own stories are essentially Lovecraft Lite. Since Lovecraft largely invented Cosmic Horror, he was free to tweak its conventions as much as he wanted, giving us stories like "The Dunwich Horror" (where a group of benevolent human warlocks successfully stop the invading Eldritch Abominations), and "The Call of Cthulhu" (where Cthulhu's introductory appearance ends with a brave sea captain postponing his awakening by ramming him with a ship).
  • Gladiator features an invulnerable and super-strong protagonist who is unable to end a war, clean up Washington, or even make a living off his talents, his college football career ending prematurely when he kills another player. It reads as a deconstruction of the Superman myth, but it's the book that inspired much of the early Superman comics. Hugo Danner's attempts to find a Mundane Utility to his Invulnerability and Super Strength were the things that doomed his life. It deconstructs These Look Like Jobs for the Superman: Bully Hunter as a child, a Scholarship Student at college, a Super Soldier at war, manual laborer and Adventurer Archaeologist were not ways to Cut Lex Luthor a Check.
  • The Great Gatsby is arguably the Trope Codifier for the Self-Made Man and The American Dream. It is however a tragedy, and Gatsby turns out to be a cheat, who is destroyed by the chase for Daisy.
  • The 1933 Norwegian novel A Fugitive Crosses His Tracks by Aksel Sandemose is famous for codifying Janteloven ("the law of Jante"), the ten-commandment Scandinavian interpretation of the Tall Poppy Syndrome, and a cornerstone of the Norwegian, Danish and Swedish self-image; Sandemose has been one of few authors to write in all three languages. Today, the "law" is usually read as a satire of Scandinavian socialism and egalitarianism. However, the novel describes the early 1900's society; a conservative town with abysmal class divides. As a side note, many Scandinavians believe that the doctrine is unique for their region; the Tall Poppy Syndrome however seems to be more or less universal.
  • Vera Claythorne of Agatha Christie's And Then There Were None is seemingly the originator of the Final Girl trope – in a work in which a Serial Killer preys on victims, she has the personality of The Ingenue, and is the last one standing. However, Vera plays out as a very skewed take on the trope – beneath her innocent persona, Vera is actually mentally unbalanced, and is guilty of a very evil act – in fact, the reason she is designated as final is because the killer perceived her as (one of) the most evil of the bunch – in contrast with all later versions in which the Final Girl is the most innocent. The reason she survives is because the killer wanted to punish the most guilty by letting them live longer and suffer the mental trauma, and Vera kills the last remaining character then hangs herself.
  • Adaptations of Agatha Christie works since the 1970s have sometimes been criticised for romanticising and idealising the Genteel Interbellum Setting. One of the last Miss Marple novels, At Bertram's Hotel, written and set in the 1960s, depicts the "timeless" and old-world atmosphere of the titular London hotel as a front for a criminal conspiracy, and ends with Miss Marple deciding that one must accept that the world has changed and not try to live in the past.
  • Horatio Hornblower: Even in what's arguably the flagship of the Wooden Ships and Iron Men genre, Hornblower is a brilliant captain, and a frequently self-doubting man who has difficulty remembering or believing that people actually like him.
  • Readers of Robert E. Howard's original Conan the Barbarian stories may be struck by how different the character – an intelligent, often cheerful, polyglot who wears heavy armor into battle – is from the Barbarian Hero archetype he inspired.
  • Edmond Hamilton's short story "He That Hath Wings" is one of the first stories to feature mutants, written in 1938. The protagonist is a Winged Humanoid. He never uses his power to help people or to hurt them, he has his wings amputated once his fiancee demands it, and once they grow back, he flies himself to death.
  • Tolkien's Legendarium:
    • The Lord of the Rings bears this relation to High Fantasy, with its quasi-pacifistic overtones, Bittersweet Ending, and inverted Plot Coupon. The heroes do not stick together to the end, and their victory did not preserve the doomed Golden Age but merely warded off total conquest by evil. Also, the plucky hero, while exhibiting enormous fortitude, nevertheless fails in his mission; it was Gollum's unlucky slip which destroyed the Ring. And when some of the heroes return home they find it has been taken over by one of the villains and they have to overthrow him.
    • In the earlier, children's book The Hobbit, the dwarves' plan for the quest is shown as very flawed and they turn out to be helpless against the dragon, who is killed by someone else entirely; when this happens, the humans, elves, and dwarves all immediately turn on each other to fight over the dragon's hoard and peace between them only happened due to the Goblins attacking. The hero betrays his companions (stealing the most precious gem of the hoard) in a (fruitless) attempt to buy peace. And finally the secondary character, Thorin, is killed in battle by the Goblins. Bilbo doesn't come off much better himself, finding it more convenient to take only a small portion of his treasure back after using the rest of his share to buy peace, and it is even pointed out he loses his reputation from the adventure.
      • Thorin Oakenshield almost reads as a deconstruction of a traditional fantasy hero. He's a great warrior, a long-lost son of a royal family, a Determinator, and his primary goal is to reclaim his lost kingdom. These things have made him bloodthirsty, aloof, hardheaded, and selfrighteous. Even his motivation of restoring Erebor turns out to mostly be because he wants the treasure inside it. He ends up kicking off a lot of the events of the climax, and ultimately doesn't solve that many problems, either, concluding on his deathbed that Bilbo was the better of them. He almost reads as a takedown of Aragorn, and pretty much every other hero in that vein, despite preceding most of them.
    • The trend of Grim Dark fantasy is somewhat motivated by Hype Backlash against Tolkien. However, Tolkien had been creating Grim Dark fantasy (The Silmarillion, The Children of Húrin) long, long before Stephen Donaldson and George R.R. Martin.
      • The Silmarillion: Violent, morally ambiguous antiheroes? Check. Black and Grey (though still a little bit of white) morality? Check. Hypocritical, brutal, imperialist elves who'd give the Lannisters nightmares? Check. Sexual themes like incest? Check. Dead kids? Check. Downer Ending? Oh boy, yes. In fact, the first story Tolkien wrote for the Legendarium, the Fall of Gondolin, is a very bleak story about a city of Elves getting destroyed by the forces of evil, and features a villainous Elf who desires his cousin and tries to murder her young son.
      • The Children of Húrin: Let's see, it's an epic Dark Fantasy novel featuring an (unconsciously) incestuous Anti-Hero, the fate of a family over the course of an epic struggle, a morally ambiguous dwarf, loads and loads of Black and Grey Morality, a sinister supernatural force encroaching from the north and a serious downer ending. And it's got nothing to do with George R.R. Martin.
    • Nowadays, the trend of fantasy worlds having few actual wizards (or none at all) seems like an attempt to avoid imitating Tolkien's Middle Earth—but there are no human mages in The Lord of the Rings either, and magic actually plays a more minor role in the trilogy than many people assume. Elves are definitely magical, but they don't use magic in combat; Gandalf occasionally uses his magic as a weapon, but he's not actually a human sorcerer—he's a Maia, a being roughly akin to an angel or a demigod in Tolkien's universe; as a general rule, Maiar like Gandalf and Saruman are only supposed to use magic as a last resort, and are much more likely to use their skills to lead and guide humans; and while the One Ring is definitely a powerful magical artifact, its actual powers are largely shrouded in mystery, and it can only grant true power to people like Sauron and Galadriel, who were powerful in the first place.
    • While Tolkien is largely the inspiration for the modern conception of elves, many uses of them would count as subversions today. That's especially true of the Noldor of Nargothrond, a group of elves living in a large secluded cave city obsessed with craftsmanship and smithing. The "one with nature" stereotype, in particular, is only seen in a small group that is mostly insignificant within his greater mythos.
    • Medieval European Fantasy works inspired by Tolkien tend to resemble The High Middle Ages more than anything else; people who make fiction that deliberately avoids this particular aesthetic often paint it specifically as trying not to create "Tolkienesque" settings. Tolkien's fantasy, however, is more directly inspired by The Low Middle Ages, particularly pre-Norman Conquest Anglo-Saxon culture (the most notable exceptions being the Shire, which is essentially a compact version of early modern England; and Gondor, which has architecture and weaponry reminiscent of either The Roman Empire or The High Middle Ages).
    • Though most people consider the Orcs to be the Trope Codifier — if not the Trope Maker — for the Always Chaotic Evil trope, it should be noted that Tolkien went on record saying that he didn't consider the Orc race to be uniformly evil; because of his strong Catholic upbringing, he expressly rejected the idea of an entire race being beyond salvation, and said that he would have taken the time to include sympathetic Orcs if he'd been able to fit them into the narrative. In The Silmarillion he writes the Orcs began when Melkor imprisoned and corrupted elves, and that far from enjoying evil "the Orcs loathed the Master whom they served in fear". They're also rather different from later portrayals of orcs in that they're neither near-mindless animalistic savages nor Noble Demon Proud Warrior Race Guys; Tolkien orcs have roughly human-level intelligence and are more skilled with torture and machines (particularly weapons) than they are in direct combat.
    • The Orcs' homeland—the basis for another rather famous trope—can also be considered a deconstruction of the classic "Realm of Evil". While it is a pretty grim place, with plenty of dark skies and exploding volcanoes to go around, Tolkien actually took time to point out that a place like Mordor would have to include huge tracts of exceptionally fertile farmland in order to support a huge military juggernaut; this is actually borne out by reality, as volcanic soil generally does make very good land for planting crops.
    • Despite the stereotype of an Evil Overlord being evil for the sake of it, in Morgoth's Ring Tolkien goes into a lot of detail on the actual motives of the two Dark Lords, Morgoth and Sauron. Morgoth is shown as essentially nihilistic and his apparent eventual plan was to destroy everything basically out of spite that he hadn't created it. Sauron, meanwhile, became evil out of a desire to bring order to the world, which used to be a very noble feature of his, and after Morgoth's defeat his motives seemed to be restoring Middle-Earth after the war, however he was too proud to humble himself, which led to his corruption. It is even mentioned that in the beginning nothing was evil, showing there is free will.
    • The Elf Fëanor contains many qualities of a traditional fantasy hero, being a King's oldest son who wants to avenge his father's murder by the Big Bad, handsome, charismatic and an excellent warrior. However he comes across as a deconstruction of The Ace, as he is very arrogant and hot-headed. His rallying the Noldor to war against Morgoth also deconstructs The Charmer, as it leads to the Noldor killing other Elves so they can get to Middle-Earth, and the oath he and his sons swear leads to terrible consequences for centuries afterwards, which curse the Noldor. Fëanor is also set up as a major character for the First Age, however his hot-blooded nature means he dies shortly after reaching Middle-Earth when he attacks Angband ahead of his main army and is fatally wounded by the Balrogs.
    • A lot of this is due to Tolkien being inspired by older stories featuring quite morally ambiguous characters, such as Kullervo, a direct inspiration for Turin.
    • Even the trilogy format itself is this - Tolkien wanted The Lord of the Rings published as a single volume, but it was just too damn long, especially considering the paper shortage in post-World War II England, which meant that a single volume would have had to be priced so high that nobody would have bought it. Later authors made the trilogy format a fantasy genre cliche in itself.
  • Arguably the first nuclear-themed After the End and Wagon Train to the Stars stories is the 1956 Aniara poem by Harry Martinson. In contrast to most later works, it is at the hard end of the Mohs Scale of Science Fiction Hardness, and might have the darkest Downer Ending of science-fiction classics.
  • Jorge Luis Borges' "The Library of Babel" is this for the Great Big Library of Everything trope. The library contains not only every book ever written, but every book it is possible to write, the overwhelming majority of which are complete gibberish.
  • Nineteen Eighty-Four is perhaps the Trope Maker for the surveillance state. However it is pointed out not everybody is watched, only the middle-class, who the upper class considers the biggest threat. A political tract in the book claims that predictably the middle-class will try using the lower class for a revolt, then become the new upper class. Also the hero does not overthrow the regime, he and his lover end up beaten into submission and "loving" Big Brother. The book also deals with a lot of aspects of totalitarianism that other later dystopian works fail to address. For example, it's mentioned that to become a member of the ruling class, a citizen does, in fact, have to pass a set of civil exams. Just being evil/cruel/power-hungry isn't enough. Also, while the ruling class do have a pleasant life compared to the rest of the populace, they do not at all live like kings. They burn so much resources maintaining their absolute stranglehold on the population that their own standard of living would be considered poor by today's standards.
  • Isaac Asimov was a pioneer of science fiction; constructing and deconstructing several tropes.
    • He created the Three Laws of Robotics, which have been imitated by many other science fiction writers. However, Asimov's Robot stories were mostly dedicated to the Laws' inadequacies. This was largely in response to the opinion that robots would be inherently dangerous and unpredictable, but Asimov believed that robots, like all technology, are merely tools, and any danger they might pose would be the result of misuse or abuse by humans. He deconstructed his own laws in many ways, but also reconstructed them as well. For example: manipulation of the laws to subvert their intent; exploring how adjusting the laws in an apparently benign way could have disastrous consequences if viewed from an extremely literal perspective (like, say, that of a robot); the problem with interpreting what it means to "cause harm", especially in ways more subtle than robots (and even humans) can understand; and how a sufficiently intelligent robot could avert the sometimes Lawful Stupid aspect of the laws by applying them less literally where appropriate (the basis for the Zeroth Law Rebellion trope).
    • The Foundation series codified The Federation, though called "the Empire". The main plot describes the inherent weakness of the interstellar democracy, and its decay into a corrupted entity, similar to the Empire trope. Also, the titular Foundation neither plays the typical Space Opera roles as an Action Hero nor a Science Hero, but rather a Guile Hero, using social and political tools against its enemies.
  • Starship Troopers introduces many concepts of military organization and weaponry which later became common in science fiction, such as the Space Marine and the Powered Armor. The book is however not primarily a celebration of technology, but rather a deconstruction of modern democracy, and the Cold War, with references to the Korean War. Also, the book describes the limitation of futuristic weapons, and the continued need to put infantry on the frontline.
  • James Bond:
    • The original novel of Dr. No prominently features Doctor No's incredibly elaborate, cozy island lair, which was later immortalized in the film adaptation and set the standard for larger-than-life evil lairs everywhere. However, it also goes into detail about the time, money and resources that would go into constructing such a thing – Dr. No first appears in person as Bond wonders just how he managed to build a window facing out into the ocean into the wall, and how much such an operation would cost. Bond is also well aware of how strange, surreal, and (given that he isn't expected to leave alive) morbid his welcome is. The whole thing exists to serve Dr. No's special brand of megalomania. The movie included the impressive lair, but cut out the details of its construction and the kind of mind that led to its creation, making it seem a good deal less extraordinary.
    • Imagine if someone set out to write a Darker and Edgier version of the tuxedoed playboy spy that everyone knows today. It might involve Bond being utterly outclassed by the Big Bad, have him fail to notice that the girl of the week is actually working with him, and might end up with him totally disillusioned about his job and the demands of real politics. The basis of the very first Bond novel Casino Royale then.
    • Consequently, the movie adaptation of Casino Royale (2006) seems like a deconstruction of the previous Bond films (and was even hyped as such, at a time when it was perceived that the Bond franchise was wearing thin), particularly the Moore era, when it's in fact being faithful to the source material, although there's definitely a certain mockery of the campier moments in Bond's history.
    • Fleming's writing of Bond in general feels like a deconstruction of the adventurous and badass ladies man that film Bond is. In the books, Bond is depicted as a stone-cold and ruthless assassin with a hinted-at lust for violence whose womanizing comes across more like the behavior of a sexual predator than The Casanova.
  • The Catcher in the Rye marked a major Genre Turning Point for American literature with its fully fleshed-out portrayal of a teenage protagonist in the throes of adolescent angst, but it can come off as a Genre Deconstruction of "teen lit" by today's standards. Holden Caulfield has his fair share of admirable qualities, but the book isn't shy about pointing out that he's ultimately a very naive kid with a lot of growing up to do, that he isn't nearly as perceptive or eloquent as he sees himself, and that his hatred of "phonies" is a tragic result of his cynicism warping his view of the world—making him a classic Unreliable Narrator. The book also drops all of its School Tropes after Holden is expelled from Pencey Prep, then decides to leave the school to wander the streets of New York. It also subverts audience expectations of a Coming-of-Age Story, intentionally leaving it ambiguous whether Holden will actually grow from his experiences or simply stay angry at the world.
  • I Am Legend was the inspiration for many of the classic zombie stories, including Night of the Living Dead (1968). It also has the inhuman hordes being depicted as sentient, and the lone survivor is their version of a boogeyman. The ethical questions concerning his attempts to survive in this new world are a primary theme of the end of the novel.
  • One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest is arguably the Trope Maker for Go Among Mad People. In contrast to most cases of the Only Sane Man in an asylum, McMurphy tries Obfuscating Insanity with poor success. As the staff sees his sanity from the beginning, the intrigue is less about his diagnosis, and more of a power struggle against the staff until the end, when he becomes so dangerous that they need to lobotomize him. Some established asylum tropes are broken; the patients have a wide range of mental symptoms where the more clichéd ones (such as delusions) are a minority, and only a few patients are grounded.
  • The Man in the High Castle:
    • Considered a hallmark of classic Alternate History, though it wasn't the first, the book manages to deconstruct the genre by having the title character write his own alternate history in which the Allies won World War II, but in a different way than in real life. The ending is a Mind Screw which seems to hint that the characters realize that neither that fictional history nor their own is real.
    • Probably the first serious "The Nazis win" Alternate History, it seems to deconstruct several clichés associated with the genre nowadays. Rather than being a venerated father figure for the Reich, Hitler is in a lunatic asylum and none of the current Nazi leadership can bring themselves to admit that they have built a world based on the ideas of a man even they now think is mad. We spend much more time looking at the Japanese-ruled part of the US than the Nazi-ruled part. One character talks about how the Nazis' policies appeal to some white working-class Americans, making blue-collar jobs more celebrated in culture and socially acceptable (reflecting how they built their support in Germany in Real Life) rather than the usual modern Nazi Nobleman stereotype.
  • Lolita was the Trope Namer for Lolicon and Shotacon — the Japanese loanword is short for "Lolita Complex" — but if you read it carefully, you'll realize that it's a Deconstruction of that very trope by showing how Humbert Humbert's flowery prose and profession of his love for Lolita doesn't change the fact that he's a pedophile who took advantage of a pre-adolescent girl and destroyed her childhood. The novel also implies that if Humbert could see Dolores Haze objectively, he would see just another normal, banal suburban girl who is neither poetically pure nor some sexually precocious nymph.
  • The Moviegoer has a series of insightful and utter deconstructive extrapolations about the flaws of 60's counter culture but the book was published in 1961, well ahead of the popular outbreak of what he was describing.
  • The Godfather, arguably the Trope Codifier of The Mafia, deconstructs some of the central tropes of mafia fiction before they were established, including The Mafia itself. The main storyline starts In Medias Res, as the Corleone family is already an underworld superpower, though they face competition which threatens to destroy the whole empire. In the end, as Michael Corleone becomes the new Don, he orders the murder of all opposing mafia leaders. Then, he dismantles the family's criminal business in New York, to go legal. A recurring theme is the downfall of Mafia gangs; the Corleones, as well as their rivals.
    • The Godfather series launched the public image of gangsters as glamorous jetsetters, living in luxury, with little notice that the novel and the film series show that the Corleones are an inevitable family tragedy.
    • Nothing Personal is a classical mafia trope, taken apart by none other than Michael Corleone himself:
      "Tom, don't let anybody kid you. It's all personal, every bit of business. Every piece of shit every man has to eat every day of his life is personal. They call it business. OK. But it's personal as hell. You know where I learned that from? The Don. My old man. The Godfather. If a bolt of lightning hit a friend of his the old man would take it personal. He took my going into the Marines personal. That's what makes him great. The Great Don. He takes everything personal. Like God. He knows every feather that falls from the tail of a sparrow or however the hell it goes? Right? And you know something? Accidents don't happen to people who take accidents as a personal insult."
    • Shame If Something Happened (protection racket through implicit extortion) is another cornerstone of Mafia fiction. The first occurrence in The Godfather chronology is in the prologue (the Second Book of the novel, and The Godfather, part II film). Don Fanucci extorts money from young Vito Corleone, but Vito realizes that nobody backs up Fanucci, and kills him. This move makes Vito the new Don. Thereby, the prologue describes how the mafia's revenue model fails. While the book and the films tell that the Corleones have made a fortune out of illegal gambling and protection rackets, the business itself is never depicted.
    • The Godfather has a codifying example of a Mob War. The titular Godfather is however the opposite of a warlord; while he is in the hospital, his son Sonny leads the Corleones into a war, which Vito ends as soon as Sonny gets killed.
  • Creatures of Light and Darkness by Roger Zelazny has a novelty martial art – known as "Temporal Fugue" – practised by godlike superhumans, which involves practitioners projecting themselves through space and time to a place behind their enemies, striking right before their foes strike. If both practitioners use Temporal Fugue at the same time, it results in an infinite cascade of recursion and duplication, which strains the time-space continuum. At first, this would seem like a deconstruction of No, I Am Behind You, but Creatures of Light and Darkness was written in 1969, long before anime dealing with the subject first started to boom.
  • A Clockwork Orange is one of the earlier works to feature Heel–Face Brainwashing (arguably the Trope Codifier), which is often played as a more humane way to resolve things with a bad guy than simply killing him or imprisoning him, especially as he will probably learn that Good Feels Good and turn for real. The book, however, goes straight into the Fridge Horror of the idea when it's used on Alex and ultimately condemns it as a horrific and terrible crime against humanity, as what it's essentially done is remove Alex's free will, making him less than human. Alex also doesn't learn anything about Good Feels Good while under its influence: he's beaten and terrorized by his past victims, unable to defend himself, and ends up attempting suicide to escape the horror his life has become. And at the end, after the brainwashing procedure has been reversed, he just decides to become a good person anyway, having grown up a bit.
  • The Noon Universe predates many of the famous Star Trek-esque utopian future stories as well as a lot of space operas, but it also deconstructs its own ideas. The future while outwardly nice is hitting a decay, the eccentric scientists are turning towards dangerous experiments out of boredom, the government is increasingly paranoid, The Precursors are manipulative asses, First Contact almost always ends in tragedy, and the Flash Gordon-style protagonists tend to do more harm than good. The Federation isn't destroyed by its own ideals, but Word of God says the only reason it didn't happen is because one of the writers died.
  • Dune:
    • Dune may not have been the very first science-fiction novel ever to feature mystic cults, a prophecy about a chosen one, or a rebellion against a galactic empire—but it was a major Trope Codifier for the modern Space Opera, and (as you can probably tell) one of the biggest artistic influences on the Star Wars saga. Today, though, it can seem like a cynical deconstruction of the kind of escapist sci-fi epics that it inspired. The Fremen aren't just noble freedom fighters, they're a xenophobic band of religious fanatics who aren't above waging jihad on the galaxy or executing prisoners of war who refuse to convert to their religion. Their rebellion also doesn't bring the Imperium down, but simply replaces one Emperor with another; Paul Atreides is even forced to marry the Padishah Emperor's daughter to solidify his claim to the throne. Paul himself, while mostly sympathetic, is just as much a wealthy aristocrat as the villains, and he becomes revered as a Messianic Archetype by exploiting a fake prophecy that was supposed to make the primitive Fremen easier to manipulate; his powers actually come from a centuries-old selective breeding program that runs on eugenics.
    • The series went in-depth examining the full social and religious implications of the Robot War long before it became the archetypal plot that it is today – and it did it without ever showing the war itself. Instead, the story takes place millennia after the war, in a universe where its aftermath led to a religious crusade against artificial intelligence... and gave rise to oppressive aristocratic governments and subcultures of power-crazed Ubermenschen who manipulate the human race with mystical powers. Not to mention the struggle to control the substance that fuels said mystical powers, which ends up controlling the universe's economy and touching off centuries of ever more destructive wars. It's an entire Space Opera setting built around drug-dealing. Though the Robot War merely forms the background of the story, its results imply that in Real Life, even victory in such a conflict could turn out to be disastrous for humanity.
    • The central "desert planet" planet of Arrakis (or "Dune") was the Trope Codifier—if not the outright Trope Maker—for the Single-Biome Planet, notably influencing the Star Wars films in their depiction of the Galaxy. note  But unlike many later derivative works, Dune actually examined some of the inherent consequences of living in such an environment, and also bothered to explain how such a planet could come to be. Throughout the series, it's heavily implied that the native sandworms—the dominant lifeforms, who maintain the desert landscape by constantly eroding the crust on the surface—were an artificially introduced species, and that they slowly caused the planet's natural water sources to vanish as a side-effect of the process that produces the spice melange. Correctly recognizing how utterly hellish it is to live on a planet of endless deserts, the native Fremen spend centuries working on a plan to finally fertilize the deserts and make them green. note  Also unlike almost all other examples, Arrakis doesn't stay a Single-Biome Planet: the Fremen's efforts lead to the endless deserts being overtaken by forests and grasslands, but the inevitable consequences of this (the slow erosion of the native culture, and the gradual collapse of the economy centered on melange) are examined in full.
  • To a modern reader, Tuck Everlasting reads like a Lighter and Softer rebuke to Twilight and other books like it: Girl meets immortal boy, girl falls for boy, boy's family adores girl, girl must decide whether or not she wants to live forever with boy. Only in this case, the method of becoming immortal is much gentler than what we see in modern Who Wants to Live Forever? books (drinking from a spring as opposed to being bitten by a vampire), the family's love for the girl is justified because, being immortal, the Tucks have become weary of living and are overjoyed to have a "natural, growing child" nearby, and the reason for the family's Masquerade is justified as well, because they (correctly) suspect that someone will try to market and sell the secret of immortality if they discover them. Most surprising of all, Winnie decides not to drink the water, instead living out a natural life and dying some 70 years later. This is portrayed as a wise decision on Winnie's part. Tuck Everlasting was published in 1975.
  • The Bourne Identity further unbuilds The Bourne Series franchise. In the novel, Jason Bourne is not an assassin. He only takes credits for assassinations.
  • A Confederacy of Dunces: Though written in the 1960s and published in 1981, John Kennedy Toole's masterpiece unbuilds the crackpot ideas and philosophies that emerged from the Internet, and the kind of people who promote them. Ignatius is a predecessor of those very crackpots: he promotes the idea of returning to feudalism and conservatism, predating the modern "Dark Enlightenment" movement, but is a lazy slob who leaches off his mother, and spends his time watching cartoons and movies just to complain about their "degeneracy". And it's all but stated he engages in pseudo-intellectual nonsense just to stick it to his liberal activist girlfriend.
  • Despite being the Trope Maker of Consulting a Convicted Killer, the original Hannibal Lecter books viciously deconstructed the concept by having Reality Ensue hard:
    • In Red Dragon Lecter's advice and ramblings are either thought of already or don't help Graham at all. Eventually Graham learns the hard way that trusting a sociopathic murderer is a really bad idea when Lector uses their interviews to give Graham's home address to the killer, which results in Graham being disfigured. Crawford later bluntly states that consulting Lecter was a terrible idea.
    • Then at the end of The Silence of the Lambs, Hannibal exploits the agreement Clarice made to interview him and get Buffalo Bill's real name to get transferred to another, laxer asylum from which he can escape.
  • Misery. Both the book and the film seem to be a rather disturbing deconstruction of the Straw Fan trope. Keep in mind that the book was written in 1987 and the film debuted in 1990, well before the full extent of Fan Dumb would be exposed on the Internet.
  • While hardly the first steampunk novel, The Difference Engine is a surprisingly early dystopian take on the genre. Many of the flaws of Victorian society – socio-economic tensions, poor understanding of medicine, police surveillance, pollution, British imperialism – are all exacerbated by London getting its hands on advanced technology way too early to be trusted with it.
    • Though it arrived years later, The Diamond Age is also a striking example. All the archetypical steampunk technology is there, but Neal Stephenson doesn't waste a single opportunity to highlight the shortcomings and Values Dissonance of (neo-)Victorian society: Hackworth is a genius but socially bound to remain working-class; his wife divorces him per Victorian custom after he is kidnapped and raped by the Drummers; Nell is alienated by the rigidness and impracticality of her boarding school, and on and on.
  • The Giver was published long before the massive boom in young-adult dystopian novels, but it reads like a deconstruction of them in many ways. "The Community" has aspects of a utopian and a dystopian society, and the book repeatedly shows that most people who live there are perfectly happy with their way of life, simply because they don't know any other way to live. Things only get chilling when we see the Community's casual support of euthanizing a pilot who made a single, non-lethal error, and veer into full-on horror when Jonas' dad "releases" an infant. Perhaps most strikingly: there is no real villain in the book, as there is no single figure responsible for ruling over the Community. Everyone collectively bears responsibility for keeping the Community's way of life going, meaning that the protagonist has no convenient authority figures to rebel against, and can only show people what life was like before the Community. Even then, the ending is intentionally ambiguous about whether any of it worked, and (before the sequels, at least) leaves open the distinct possibility that Jonas and Gabe die and nothing changes.
  • The Harry Potter series deconstructed the standard formula of young adult dystopian literature before it really existed, even though it directly inspired most of the sub-genre's defining works (The Hunger Games, Divergent, The Selection, etc.). Sure, it's about a teenage hero "fighting the system" and resisting a tyrannical government with the help of his True Companions, but it does not advertise itself as being about that, and it takes a good five installments before the dystopian themes become apparent. In the meantime, the audience gets to see every step in the slow rise of an authoritarian regime, starting with ordinary prejudice and racism. When it happens, Voldemort's return is all the more harrowing because we've already had four books to get attached to the Wizarding World before seeing it fall prey to authoritarianism, and we see what a hard moral choice it can really be for young people to take action against the government that they were raised to trust.
  • The Mystery of Marie Roget features a detective reading through a series of newspaper articles that spout theories that sound straight out of a modern Fair Play Mystery. The detective quickly dismisses much of their content, because they repeatedly assert that vague evidence can only be interpreted in a single way.
  • Pollyanna
    • The heroine was so memorable that she named her own trope. But Pollyanna herself is given a reason for her eternal optimism; the Glad Game is something she and her father came up with to find a reason to be positive about things. It's strongly hinted that Pollyanna plays the Glad Game because it's essentially all she has - edging her close to being a Stepford Smiler. When she's injured and left crippled, gladness does not come so easy to her. She gets better through other people's kindness rather than her own optimism.
    • Parts of the story feel like a deconstruction of White Man's Burden - in the 1910s. Aunt Polly is one of the richest women in town and she gives many charitable gifts to the less fortunate. But she only does so out of a stuffy sense of obligation, and it ends up being interpreted as a backhanded way of asserting her superiority over them. She has to learn An Aesop that people don't like false charity.
  • Plato's dialogues are the oldest known written works of philosophy. However, characters in his writings frequently make very good arguments that are completely antithetical to the point Plato wants to make, and more often than not Socrates comes to the conclusion that he has no way of really knowing what the correct answer to the dialogue's central question is.
  • Stephen King's Rage, published in 1977 under the pseudonym Richard Bachman, is a novella about a high school student killing two teachers holding his class hostage at gunpoint. The story inspired several real-life school shooting incidents by young readers of the book. King requested that his publishers cease to publish the book in 1997 after one such incident. As he said 10 years later with regard to Rage, "Now out of print, and a good thing."
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