What Girls Can Be, a picture book released by Hallmark in the 1960's that comes off as downright depressing today. The book was for showing little girls the career choices they had to pick from, which ranged from schoolteacher to typist. The book ends with "housewife." Hallmark also put out a What Boys Can Be equivalent, which ended with the boy in that book becoming President.
The D'Artagnan Romances, better known as The Three Musketeers and its sequels, feature characters who routinely commit adultery in pursuit of wealth or advantage, shamelessly mock the least intelligent among them, consider beating up their servants as a valid alternative to giving them their wages when they are short on money, and commit high treason several times a novel—and those are the protagonists. The books being historical fiction, the author himself lampshades it as an example of people behaving differently in the old days (in a way that's inspired suspicion that he was mocking people who behaved that way in his own time).
Some American fans of Sir Terry Pratchett have a more lukewarm response when it comes to Men at Arms, a book with an anti-gun message. If the Discworld novel Men at Arms seems harsh in its depiction of firearms (i.e. the Gonne being an Artifact of Doom that turns all but the strongest-willed into vengeful murderers), keep in mind that the UK has notably strict gun control laws banning handguns entirely and regulating rifles and shotguns to almost the same effect. Not only does this make flanderization easier, it make gun regulation close to a political non-issue. (Shopping malls are given a very similar treatment in Reaper Man.)
In the story, an important point is that The Gonne doesn't want to be duplicated, because that would reduce its specialness and remove its power. Still, in the novel The Truth, firearms are, by then, illegal, but Mr. Pin has what amounts to a spring loaded pistol. Legally this is considered a crossbow; however the book says that if he was caught with this weapon by the police, his unofficial punishment for having it would be worse than the official one of owning a firearm. Similar comments are made about a similar weapon possessed by Inigo Skimmer in The Fifth Elephant.
A kind of subtle example can be found in English classrooms everywhere that read books like The Adventures of Tom Sawyer or other novels from earlier time periods that depict boys engaging in activities that nowadays many would consider "gay." Despite their more "manly" activities like playing at wargames or going exploring, whenever young male characters go swimming naked together or engaging in an emotional connection of any kind that doesn't revolve around anger, the eyebrows raise and the children (mostly boys) start wondering if they were a little gay.
The more shocking part of the book is probably the bit when Tom kisses his sleeping aunt on the mouth. Then he tells her he did it, and she asks him to do it again. Of course, it’s perfectly innocent, but it still comes across as very, very squicky these days.
And, obviously, there’s the notorious racism expressed in the depiction of Injun Joe, and using corporal punishment by legal guardians and teachers.
Corporal punishment is still employed in some public schools in the U.S.A. Including in Missouri where the book takes place.
In Theodor Fontane's 19th century novel Effi Briest, the eponymous, sixteen-year-old protagonist is married off to the much older Baron Innstetten by her parents. She consented to this, passing up a chance to marry a cousin she genuinely liked, because of his excellent career prospects. This is, for the time and in the opinion of everyone involved, a sensible and normal decision. Bored and feeling constrained in her marriage, she then has an extramarital affair with an (even older) military officer. Modern readers may feel unsympathetic to Effi because marrying for money is now considered by many cold and unscrupulous. This book is remarkable for the amount of Alternative Character Interpretation for both Effi and Innstetten, and how widely opinions vary on which characters readers blame or excuse.
The novel Beau Geste follows three upper class English boys who have been raised by their aunt. The family is in dire financial straits, so the aunt sells a treasured family heirloom to make ends meet. The narrator and his brothers immediately leave home to join the French Foreign Legion, leaving notes claiming to have stolen the jewel, as a way of allowing their aunt to save face by not having to admit she was forced to sell her jewelry to survive. The narrator's brothers die in Algeria, and the narrator himself deserts the Legion. It's depicted in the story as making a noble sacrifice to save family honour; from a modern perspective, it comes across as three young men throwing away their lives for no good reason.
Colleen McCollough's Masters of Rome series has several mentions of the ancient Roman practice of abandoning unwanted girl babies, or throwing away their bodies (God only knows what killed them). It makes for... interesting reading.
Gene Stratton Porter's 1904 novel Freckles is based in large part on the notion that the hero, raised in an orphanage, thinks he's the bastard child of abusive parents, and therefore unworthy of love or respect. The other characters, particularly the love interest, spend much of their time convincing him that he is worthy — not because he's a good and decent man himself and therefore it doesn't matter what his parents are, but because his goodness and "fineness" prove that his parents must necessarily have been upstanding, righteous, and probably well-to-do. The clear implication is that an abused child is unworthy of compassion, because as the offspring of abusive parents it must be innately incapable of anything good.
In Gene Stratton Porter's novel Her Father's Daughter, a major plot thread revolves around one of the heroine's male classmates struggling to win first place in his high school class over a "Jap" for the honor of true Americans. It's revealed that the supposed Japanese teenager is really a mature man posing as a teenager to "steal" a better education than he could have obtained back home, and this is presented as a common practice that should be rooted out. The Japanese student also turns out to be deviously dishonorable and willing to kill to maintain his standing in the class. Nowadays, of course, the Japanese educational system has the reputation of being much more exacting than our own. Another oddity, from today's perspective, is the belief that the Japanese are incapable of creating anything original; instead, they steal technology from advanced countries such as the U.S. The heroine also engages in extended rants about the danger of the colored races, especially Asians, overrunning the world because American women are too self-centered to have lots of babies as they ought to.
Agatha Christie, in many of her stories. Her most infamous example would have to be the controversy over the title of And Then There Were None which started out as Ten Little Niggers. When that was viewed as too offensive, it was changed to Ten Little Indians. And when that was viewed as too offensive, it was changed to the now commonly-used title And Then There Were None.
The reason it was called "Ten Little Niggers" is because that's the name (and the subject) of the Real Life nursery rhyme the novel was based on.
In Growing up Gracefully, in the 50s Noel Streatfield points out that parents must teach their children that, while it is okay to sing this rhyme, they must never use the word in any other context.
To Christie's credit after WWII she herself revised many of her early books to eliminate the kind of casual anti-semitism common in the twenties and thirties. Case in point: the minor character of Morris in ATTWN, referred to as a "little Jewboy" originally, was changed in later editions of the book to be a "solicitor" instead.
In Murder on the Orient Express, some of the suspects on board the train are listed as "American subjects" in Poirot's notebook. Plenty of Americans would object to being called "subjects" rather than "citizens", as the former term implies fealty to a monarch and Americans consider it a matter of pride that their nation, since its founding, has never had one of those.
Likewise, James Joyce's Ulysses used the word "nigger" freely. It referred to "nigger lips" three times, for example. Ireland had virtually no non-white population, and people used the word with impunity.
Geoffrey Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales was a collection of tales, many featuring some incredibly un-PC events and viewpoints. However, because each tale is heavily influenced by the various tellers' prejudices, it's difficult to gauge Chaucer's own opinions on the matter. For example, the Nun tells an incredibly racist blood libel portraying Jews killing a Christian child. However, the Nun herself is shown to be a shallow twit. While Chaucer likely wasn't much friendlier to Jews than his contemporaries, the seriousness of the Nun's Tale is inconclusive.
Popular opinion places this as the reason Victor Hugo killed off the protagonist of Les Misérables, Valjean. The book was written about 19th Century France for 19th Century France, and in 19th Century France, a criminal is a criminal until he dies not a criminal. Letting Valjean live, which would seem the logical choice today, would seem a Karma Houdini to 19th Century France. Mind you, with Valjean's sympathetic portrayal throughout, as well as the critique of the class system disguised as a Betty and Veronica, one could form a fairly solid argument that M. Hugo was not very fond of The Rules Of 19th Century France(tm).
It would be pretty much surprising if he was fond of the rules of the Second Empire, which pushed him into exile. Not to forget also that during his brief political career in the 1840s, Victor Hugo earned some renown by publicly speaking against the death penalty and social injustice... in the Royalist Parliament's Chamber of Peers. The establishment had plenty of reasons to think of him as a royal pain in the ass.
Alternatively, his death had more to do with the fact that 19th century stories tend to end with the main character either married (or about to marry), dead, or in despair. Valjean was "too old" to get married by 19th century literary conventions. Indeed, Victor Hugo very often had his main characters die at the end of his novels, even when they were young, innocent and in love. Marius and Cosette's Happy Ending is quite the exception. Read Notre-Dame de Paris (aka The Hunchback of Notre Dame) for another example that ends like this.
On the subject of Marius and Cosette, modern female readers are likely to have their skin crawl off when reading about the early parts of their "courtship" (or, in modern terms, Marius's stalking of Cosette). However, when the novel was written, Marius's extreme shyness, his ardent desire to see Cosette and holding her on a kind of mental pedestal all came across as intensely romantic. (It doesn't help that many of the older female readers of the time would not have objected to having a cute twentysomething follow them around like a lost puppy in the slightest.)
Also, lots of modern readers felt sorry for Eponine, who loved Marius and tried her hardest to please him, and thus weren't much pleased by how he basically ignored and looked down on her. At the time however, there wasn't really the concept of the "virtuous poor" or the mixing of social status. Marius was a baron and above Eponine and Cosette appeared to be the same as the daughter of a wealthy gentleman. This is also why Marius was so appalled by Valjean's distant past as a convict - despite the fact that modern readers would see Valjean's lifetime of redemption as far overshadowing what he did all those years ago, it would have meant that to Marius, Valjean was just a convict. This is also why Thenardier tried to use Cosette's illegitimacy as blackmail - the fact that she was the bastard daughter of a woman considered to be a whore would have been scandalous.
And on the subject of Marius and his treatment of Valjean, many modern readers would probably be rather disgusted by Marius's behavior towards Valjean once he learns that Valjean once committed some vague crime far in the past. The fact that Marius isolated Cosette from the man who worked so hard to raise her all those years (and that Cosette went along with it despite knowing her father figure's kindness) can be rather vexing to modern readers. Sort of the point, though: The novel makes it very clear Hugo thinks these prejudices are wrong. You're supposed to be vexed by seeing them applied to a very sympathetic protagonist.
There's also the portrayal of Gypsies as child thieves. Esmeralda is shown sympathetically because she turns out to be the daughter of a French woman.
Homer's The Iliad centers around women being treated as pieces of property, to be looted in warfare. The play The Trojan Women was already deconstructing this in ancient Athens. In general, prisoners taken in war automatically became slaves, something that was no different at the time The Trojan Women was written than in Homer's two epic poems (the treatment the Athenians meted out to the Melians during the Peloponnesian War for instance is rather similar to the fate of the Trojans - men slaughtered, women sold into slavery). At the time slavery was seen as a fact of life that could happen to anyone if s/he was unlucky. Consider the swineherd Eumaios in The Odyssey, a prince abducted as a child and sold into slavery by Phoenicians, yet apparently nobody thought of freeing him all these years.
There are readers out there who seem to think Achilles falling in love with Penthesilea as she died is highly romantic. Clearly they only know this story by hearsay or the sanitised versions — and don't know exactly what he did to her corpse afterwards...
The claim of necrophilia only appears in some variants of the story, notably that recounted by the 12th-century Byzantine scholar Eustathius of Thessalonica; Penthesilea doesn't appear in the Iliad (she only came to Troy later). What we do know is that Achilles apparently fell in love with Penthesilea as she died of her wounds, was incensed by what he took to be the disrespectful behavior of another Greek warrior, Thersites (who is claimed in some variants to have cut out Penthesilea's eyes from her dead body) and killed him, thereafter giving Penthesilea's corpse a proper burial.
Achilles's behavior in general often oscillates between dickish and unspeakably cruel, yet many Greeks, e. g. Alexander the Great, considered him one of the greatest heroes ever. His companion Patroclus was killed in a fair fight, but Achilles goes into a crazed rage, mercilessly slaughtering as many Trojans as he can lay his hands on, and even capturing twelve alive so he can kill them as human sacrifices at Patroclus's funeral. And he is far from the only Greek hero who by modern standards would have to be considered a war criminal (especially through the wholesale slaughter at the sack of Troy).
It should be noted, however, that Achilles' actions while he was in a rage, especially his violation of Hector's corpse, were also considered crossing the Moral Event Horizon even in the Iliad and by the standards of the Ancient Greeks and is considered one of the reasons why Paris was able to kill him. In fact, the deaths of many of the Greek heroes in the Iliad were the result of them crossing a line and the Gods who favored them stripping them of their divine favor.
In addition, Odysseus was far from the only person to have problems when returning home. The only person who had no problems, in fact, was also the one not participating in the looting.
For an even greater Values Dissonance, check out The Odyssey, where Odysseus brags about the sacking and raping of the Cicones. Of course, this angered Athena, who set them adrift.
There's also his killing of the suitors, which while being seen as his right as the master of the house and considered to be his most triumphant moment in the story, can come off as extremely brutal and cruel to today's readers, with moments like having his servants barring the doors so nobody can get out, executing some of them while they beg for mercy, and having all the servants who were complicit in the suitors' actions killed.
Virgil's The Aeneid serves as an example from a Roman perspective; Aeneas is much more concerned with protecting his men than Odysseus was. That is, he shows some interest in protecting his men.
The Hound of the Baskervilles has an example which also qualifies as Science Marches On: a secondary character is an expert on phrenology and various racial "sciences" of the day, traits which would certainly be villainous in any modern work. Watson clearly finds the phrenology absurd but is tactful enough not to say it aloud, especially how the character gushes over the shape of Holmes's head and wishes for it to be displayed should the Great Detective depart from his mortal coil.
When Doyle depicted Mormons as a Religion of Evil, that wasn't considered controversial, whereas his similarly unsympathetic depiction of the Ku Klux Klan was. Nowadays, this is essentially reversed. He supposedly later issued an apology to the Mormons after being taken to task by them.
In "The Yellow Face" (a reference to a mask), when the mother of a mixed-race daughter showed Holmes and Watson a locket with a picture of herself and her black husband, Watson commented that the man was "strikingly handsome and intelligent-looking, but bearing unmistakable signs upon his features of his African descent." Authors of the time would often describe sympathetic non-white characters as being very attractive except for their non-white features.
There are also different degrees of values dissonance between the UK and US. In the UK the husband took two minutes of thought before he accepted the daughter and took her and his wife home. In the US edition he needed ten minutes of thought.
"The Three Gables" opens with a black man in an ugly salmon-colored suit coming in to threaten Holmes. Both Holmes himself and Watson's narration insult him repeatedly, in a manner that would certainly be considered racist today; Holmes repeatedly refers to Steve Dixie's smell and even comments about his 'woolly head'. And it has a Jewish villainess. Way to go, Sir Arthur! The villainess of this short story even delivers this line about a good young Englishman who traveled to Italy:
It was as if the air of Italy had got into his blood and brought with it the old cruel Italian spirit.
A non-racial Holmes example is the Great Detective's drug use, which began being dissonant when cocaine started being banned, but is particularly noticeable when the stories are billed as young adult literature. A common perception is that Watson was essentially Holmes's drug dealer. This is one of the things addressed and debunked in the pastiche The Seven Percent Solution. It is Canon that Watson disapproved of Holmes's excessive drug use, when he bothered to mention it at all. He even mentioned it to Holmes at the beginning of The Sign of Four, but it didn't help. In Victorian times, a gentleman could freely walk to any drugstore and buy as much cocaine and morphine (and after 1899, heroin) as he saw fit. The Jeremy Brett adaptation addressed this by having Watson clearly and repeatedly voicing his disapproval about Holmes's drug taking. Finally in "The Devil's Foot", Brett (with the explicit approval of Doyle's granddaughter) had Holmes give up this habit and bury his syringe.
This is a description of the Andaman Islanders from The Sign of Four:
"They are naturally hideous, having large, misshapen heads, small fierce eyes, and distorted features. Their feet and hands, however, are remarkably small. So intractable and fierce are they, that all the efforts of the British officials have failed to win them over in any degree. They have always been a terror to shipwrecked crews, braining the survivors with their stone-headed clubs or shooting them with their poisoned arrows. These massacres are invariably concluded by a cannibal feast. Nice, amiable people, Watson! If this fellow had been left to his own unaided devices, this affair might have taken an even more ghastly turn. I fancy that, even as it is, Jonathan Small would give a good deal not to have employed him." (Not exactly hideous cannibalistic savages in real life, as it turns out.◊)
Naturally for Victorian literature, many acts of murder, extortion and conspiracy in Holmes's casebook were committed to cover up scandalous intimate liaisons which, if exposed publicly today, would be greeted with a resounding "So What?" from everyone except the paparazzi or a divorce attorney.
In a story from The Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes, a man confesses to concealing his sister's death so he can retain use of her properties long enough to clean up at the track. These days, his hiring someone to impersonate her smacks of identity theft, and would be prosecuted as fraud. Holmes lets him walk, apparently not considering it objectionable once he's confirmed the sister was not murdered. The fact that both he and the suspect refer to his creditors as "the Jews" doesn't help.
Quite a few culprits are allowed to go unprosecuted on the condition that they leave Britain, or are treated as if the crimes they've committed outside of Europe are none of Holmes's affair. Crimes outside the U.K. may not be Lestrade's jurisdiction, but Holmes takes pride in not having the same constraints as the police, so it seems hypocritical when his commitment to justice ends at the British coastline.
In more of an in-universe example, Holmes will sometimes let a criminal go free even on British soil, usually if he empathized with the criminal's motivation. When Watson expresses surprise, Holmes responds that he's interested in justice and the truth, not necessarily with upholding the law.
Sherlock Holmes also shows some classism which he uses to deduct people's job and standing, and of course he is always right. From The Adventure of the Solitary Cyclist:
"I nearly fell into the error of supposing that you were typewriting. Of course, it is obvious that it is music. You observe the spatulate finger-ends, Watson, which is common in both professions? There is a spirituality about the face, however" —she gently turned it towards the light—"which the typewriter does not generate. The lady is a musician."
In one of Doyle's "Professor Challenger" stories, "The Poison Belt", the Earth passes through a toxic region in the Ether, which gradually kills knocks out the entire population of the world... in order of darkest to lightest skin. (e.g. "The Slavonic population of Austria is down, while the Teutonic has hardly been affected.") Professor Challenger's plan to protect people from its effects was offered to his friends, but not to his servants.
In the book Gone with the Wind, all the sympathetic male characters (except Rhett, who is something of a rogue) are in the Klan. Moreover, all the black characters speak in a stereotypical slave dialect, while the white characters speak perfect English. Readers might also be surprised by the fact that Gerald and Ellen name each of their three infants who died in infancy Gerald Jr, as reusing names lost to infant mortality was a common practice at the time.
It's not so much that they "speak perfect English". The problem is that the slaves' accent is written in eye dialect — non-standard spelling, used to indicate an unusual accent and frequently an illiterate one — while the whites' accent is not, as if somehow the white accent isn't an accent at all. (Some Americans do this unconsciously when they say that someone from the Midwest "doesn't have an accent". Oh yes they certainly do, and as strong an accent as any other.)
And, seeing as Mammy is a house slave, her accent likely wouldn't have been all that different from Scarlett's (as is the case in the movie), yet she gets the eye dialect treatment while Scarlett does not.
Although arguably the phonetic spelling could be said to signify class more than race (or at least apply to both). Take for instance Will Benteen, a white man of a lower social standing whose lines aren't written in perfect English anymore than Mammy's or Uncle Peter's are.
Also the fact that Scarlett's mother married at 15 and the rather sexual way in which the narrator describes Scarlett and her younger sister's attractiveness to men (they are 16 and 14 respectively) is somewhat squicky.
This is commented on in the books - Mrs. Tarleton mentions that the constant inbreeding has weakened the Wilkes and Hamilton stocks, and they need fresh blood to mix things up before they die out. Granted, today we'd probably be talking about how gross it was that they were all inbred, but hey, landed gentry have always been the same.
In the book when Scarlett's white friends complain because of the prison labor, she furiously calls them on their hypocrisy, reminding them that up until recently they had had slaves. In the movie, Ashley answers that "it's not the same", because he would have freed his slaves when his father had died (and he seems to think he has the moral high ground there). The book is worse, the narrator stating that it was different because the blacks had been better as slaves. Scarlett is meant to be the unsympathetic bitch that *gasp* enslaves whites. She's actually the only character honest enough to say she only wants money and prosperity, and is willing to enslave anyone, regardless of their skin color. Due to Values Dissonance, what made Scarlett a bitch in the 40s, makes her the most sincere character of the cast now, and makes everyone else (except Rhett) annoying hypocrites. Because Melanie and Ashley don't like the prison labor, but in fact, they basically live off Scarlett and off said prison labor.
James Bond series is extremely... well, there's no other word for it, bigoted - indeed, it was considered questionable even by the standards of its time:
In novel Goldfinger, Bond "cures" a lesbian by being sexy enough. But this is in fact only the beginning of what's wrong with Goldfinger. Koreans are treated as an irredeemably savage, lustful, chippy, and generally monstrous sub-species of humanity, with Bond considering them lower than apes and Goldfinger telling how he imports London prostitutes for them to have sex withnote "The women are not much to look at, but they are white and that is all the Koreans ask – to submit the white race to the grossest indignities.". This reaches a nadir when Goldfinger rewards Oddjob for completing a task for him:
Goldfinger took the cat from under his arm and tossed it to the Korean who caught it eagerly – “I am tired of seeing this animal around. You may have it for dinner.” The Korean’s eyes gleamed.
Though Pussy Galore is viewed as a lesbian throughout the book, she admits at the end that it was a label she never really applied to herself. Where she was from apparently being a tomboy who could out run their brother automatically meant they must be a lesbian.
From Russia with Love, where not only does Darko Kerim hold a stated belief in the Rape Is Love principle, but his own history with women also makes his role as a sympathetic character (one of a very small group of people Bond considers friends) border on the absurd.
Not that it makes it any better but Darko was referring to a pair of gypsy brides at the time when he made the rape comment. And as any kind of research into traditional old-fashioned gypsies will tell you, this is exactly how they go about things.
Live and Let Die is over-the-top with crazy racism. Hilariously, James Bond's Texan sidekick Felix Leiter tries to educate him about black culture in America. Also, Bond is surprised to see a "Negress" driving a car in New York.
Felix makes a joke in Diamonds Are Forever about how you can't call a measure of whiskey a "jigger" anymore; now you have to call it a Jegro.
In "The Hildebrand Rarity", Bond muses that "the only trouble with beautiful Negresses is that they don't know anything about birth control." Admittedly, he was having a conversation about Nigeria at the time, where contraception is indeed less prevalent, but the line's still jarring.
There's a bit in Thunderball where Bond is impressed by a woman (later revealed to be the book's Bond girl) because she "drives like a man".
Orson Scott Card, in his novel Enchantment, quotes an unspecified Fleming story as having the line, "All women love semi-rape." Even if it is true for some women (which it might be, Rule 34 being what it is), it still comes across as rather creepy. (Said short story is "The Spy Who Loved Me". It's just as jarring in context, in a rather shitty and out-of-place novel full of it.)
Helen Bannerman's children's story Little Black Sambo has long left a bad taste in people's mouths due to the horrible "darky" caricatures that illustrated most of the early publications. However, apart from this and the name of the title character (which, with remarkable tone-deafness, the author borrowed from a minstrel-show character), the story is rather innocuousnote Sambo is depicted as being rather clever in solving his problems and has been retold (sansUnfortunate Implications) several times in recent years. Here◊ is an example of some earlier artwork for the story. Contrast that with the cover of one of the later editions...
Ciaphas Cain almost subverts this, in that the title Commissar will tell anyone who asks that he refrains from shooting his own men because he knows that if they like him, he won't be the victim of "accidental" friendly fire like many, many Commissars tend to be. However, it's plainly obvious that, while he certainly believes in this logic, he also genuinely cares for them.
Gaunt's Ghosts and Ciaphas Cain suggests that most effective Commissars are relatively judicious in how they perform their duties — which are maintaining morale, discipline, and field leadership when necessary. While field execution for cowardice or failure is indeed an option, it's one most successful commissars use sparingly. Since both heroic commissars are effective and inspiring leaders, and their soldiers are excellent units with high morale and valuable soldiers, field execution would be a bad idea and utterly unnecessary anyways. The stereotype of the excessively execution-happy commissar is linked to the older, more game-version theme of the Guard as a generally incompetent Redshirt Army instead of the modern, more story-version theme of them as a well-trained and well-equipped force that can battle most Orks, Chaos cultists, and Tyranids on an equal footing.
Though even Cain has some values we would find abhorrent. The series' page on this site explains it best under Deliberate Values Dissonance.
In the Doc Savage novels, Doc runs a facility known as "the Crime College", where captured crooks are given brain surgery to erase their memories and wipe out criminal impulses, than retrained into productive, law-abiding citizens. This leaves a bad taste in the mouths of many modern readers, and some later authors have gone so far as to suggest that Doc was lobotomising criminals. (The college was phased out in later novels, probably as a result of Science Marches On.)
"The Charge of the Light Brigade" was treated at the time, most notably in Tennyson's poem, as an act of tragic heroism, exemplifying military courage despite the unfortunate mix-up in the orders making it all a futile blunder. A watching French general commented "it's magnificent, but it's not war". The modern sentiment is that it wasn't heroic at all, just tragic, and above all an indictment of a military system that made soldiers "lions led by donkeys". The lesser-known but much more amusing part of that quote, "it is stupidity/madness" would suggest that he caught it well enough. Unfortunately it seems to still work that way... but at least communication speed means botched orders can (usually) be corrected in time.
Note that poem has been deconstructed at least since 1890, when Rudyard Kipling wrote "The Last of the Light Brigade", influenced by firsthand accounts of the Brigade's few survivors.
There's an interesting dissonance in how modernity tends to look at "fops" in both historical fiction and works actually written in the 18th century. There's often an assumption that a man wearing makeup, facial powder, and elaborate clothing must either be Ambiguously Gay or a Camp Gay, even though this was the style of the time for heterosexual men. Many people dressing this way were more along the lines of being The Casanova. (Possibly including Casanova.)
To make matters even more dissonant, male characters derided as "effeminate" in seventeenth- and eighteenth-century literature aren't any sort of Camp Gay. Instead, they're hyper-heterosexuals whose feminine mannerisms are supposedly a way of attracting women. Indeed, this "superficial-femininity as a means of attracting females" has seen a recurrence in several modern subcultures, most notably the Anglo-European Glam Rock scene of the early- to mid-1970s and those influenced by it, and the Japanese Visual Kei scene. Although both of these did include some degree of bisexuality, they had a profound influence on later subcultures which more closely replicated the feminine-but-hyper-heterosexual fops of the 17th and 18th centuries, most notably the Glam Metal scene of the mid-1980s
Romance of the Three Kingdoms (the novel, not the anime) manages to have a TON of Values Dissonance because it is set in early-AD China (the main story is from 184 to 234) and because of the Confucian moral slant of the novel. Some of the most extreme examples are ironically from the main protagonist Liu Bei, who sometimes puts Honor Before Reason to the point where other good guys, despite sometimes having similar moral slants, have to call him on it.
It's not helped by the fact that Liu Bei comes across like a Designated Hero quite often (especially in pure Values Dissonance scenes like throwing his infant son at the ground because the valuable general who managed to save the child could have been killed in the process, and Liu Bei considered his general far more valuable than his son), and Cao Cao is more of a Designated Villain.
One of the most blatant examples of this is when Liu Bei stays at the home of a commoner. The commoner goes out hunting and promises him a fresh kill but fails to kill anything, so the would-be hunter murders his wife and serves her for dinner instead. When Liu Bei finds out, he weeps tears of gratitude for the man's noble sacrifice.
The 18th-century idea of children's literature and poetry was painfully moralistic and didactic. Goody Two-Shoes was an actual book. This trend was mocked by Lewis Carroll in his Alice in Wonderland books.
Likewise what we'd call a Marty Stu, especially the Jerkass Stu kind, was once considered a role model and pinnacle of manliness, and the classical definition of 'hero' was more like an Übermensch. Naturally, today these characters come off as an Anti-Hero at best, Designated Hero at worst.
While it is still regarded as a masterpiece of world literature, War and Peace is not known for espousing the feminist philosophy. It never becomes so bad that women are considered inferior in the book, but anyone looking for it (and ignoring the actual morals of the book) could probably find enough subtext to dismiss it as male chauvinist propaganda.
There's also the Sonya/Nikolay/Marya love triangle. Sonya is secretly delighted when Andrey and Natasha reunite because Nikolay can't possibly have an 'incestuous' relationship with Marya; this despite the fact that Sonya is his blood relation (first cousins), while Marya is only his brother-in-law's sister.
Which, to clarify, made her his actual sister by the standards of the time, while a cousin is just extended family and therefore at least one step removed.
Even better, the scene in question plays out exactly like the opening to a standard smear campaign to harass a woman out of her position (She's his boss, who he's been disrespecting, belittling, and treating like his secretary because he thinks she's not good enough). Buck brings up, out of nowhere, "Well, what if I go around telling everyone you're a lesbian? How will you like that?" It's not even clear initially that she is a lesbian, since her response is simply to panic at the idea he's going to start spreading the rumor and deny it (not that this stops him from taking this as "proof"). Later Buck takes over her office and, when she comes in to demand to know what he's doing, he attempts to kick the door into her face. This is, of course, presented as one of his great heroic actions in the books, and also totally hilarious, even more than blackmailing her.
The blackmail story itself reveals even more Values Dissonance between the writers and a large chunk of contemporary society, namely that blackmailing someone about being a lesbian would even work; most people these days in North America wouldn't care if someone working at a newspaper (or anywhere, now including the military) was gay.
There's a huge blog dedicated to discussing the Values Dissonance and general craptastic writing in that series. Notable examples: The protagonist Airline Pilot who considers himself a hero for refusing to ride on a bus from his plane to O'Hare Terminal, even though this requires him to walk around plane wrecks and ignore the dead and wounded inside. And the protagonist Reporter who discovers an International Conspiracy after it murders his close friend, and then runs right to the head of that conspiracy and trades silence for his life.
The Underground Zealot series, by one of Left Behind's co-authors, features an underground Christian movement fighting against the atheist government of the United Seven States of America because the government has prescribed the death penalty for religious belief. While the movement's anger is understandable, the fact that they respond by killing much of Los Angeles' population for having the sheer gall to live under an atheist government is not. They also consider the idea of world peace to be reprehensible on the grounds that only God can do that.
Simon Black in the Antarctic (1956). While the patronizing attitudes toward a lost tribe of Neanderthals was expected, one thing that stood out was how contemporary novels about Antarctica emphasize its beauty, whereas this novel went on about how terrible the place was. In the same way, older writing tends to portray rainforests as hellish environments, challenges to be heroically overcome, rather than precious ecosystems. Granted, rainforests and Antarctica aren't pleasant places to try and survive in, but even so...
Regarding the Neanderthals: modern-day anthropologists concede is that they are not our direct ancestors, not that they don't belong to the "Homo" family. They were "humans", but of a different kind. Their cultural development does not put them on woolly mammoth level either.
To further complicate things, the latest evidence is that Neanderthals interbred with Homo sapiens. Specifically, most non-Africans have 1-4% Neanderthal blood. (It's not as simple as white/black, and it's certainly not Europe/Africa or Europe/other, it's sub-Saharan Africa/everywhere else. At least, that's the early-2012 sequencing data.)
Frank Herbert's The Dosadi Experiment features an out of nowhere aside that homosexuals make ideal suicide bombers, as they already don't have to worry about spreading their genes. The number of terrible jokes that could arise from that statement just fills it with Unfortunate Implications
He argued at various points in the Dune series that homosexuals made ideal warriors, for precisely the same reason. (For example, Leto II's army was made up exclusively of lesbians.) Herbert thus achieved the remarkable feat of pissing off both sides of the gays-in-the-military controversy.
The Fish Speakers were not an army of lesbians, many of them had kids and husbands, they frequently wanted some Idaho action and one even orgasmed at the sight of Duncan climbing a wall. Some were lesbians or bi-sexual, but they were not at all exclusively such.
For the Fish Speakers, the argument wasn't about the army consisting of homosexuals, it was about whether an army of men or an army of women was better. The male army was argued to be destructive in times of peace when there wasn't an external threat, while the female army was argued to be better because women, since they could come close to death during labor, valued life a lot more than men do, and they would take a more nurturing role during peacetime.
Nonetheless Mark Twain shared this himself; needless to say he did NOT like Native Americans.
In the original Doctor Dolittle books, the African animals were portrayed with considerably more dignity and sympathy than the human natives.
The king is shown to be pissed off at the whites because the last white man who came to his country first dug up holes everywhere looking for gold, and started to kill lots of elephants for ivory when he didn't find some. And the second book introduces an African character who has studied at a university and loves Cicero (he still dislikes algebra and shoes, on the third hand).
The last is a standard English trope: the degraded, disgusting African cannibal/murderer who is also a graduate of Oxford or Cambridge.
The greatest naturalist in the world, greater even than Charles Darwin, is an Indian shaman, who is also a great warrior. He's illiterate, sometimes naive and quite realistic in the description.
Sir Walter Scott gives an ambivalent portrayal of Jews in Ivanhoe. Isaac and Rebecca are both sympathetic characters who constantly suffer from unfair persecution. However, the book still indulges rather heavily on Jewish stereotypes by making Isaac a typically greedy, rich Jewish usurer. On the other hand, Isaac is said to only be this way because it is the role society placed upon him. He frequently shows that his love for his daughter outweighs his love of money, and his daughter Rebecca shows no signs of greed. The book also portrays plenty of period-appropriate views on Jews, even from the hero Ivanhoe, who considers himself a different race from Isaac and never considers courting Rebecca due to their differences in heritage. Because Rebecca is a much more developed character, many readers are annoyed that Ivanhoe never sways from Rowena. Among the nineteenth-century annoyed readers: W. M. Thackeray, who satirically "corrected" Scott's plot in Rebecca and Rowena — and by "corrected," we mean "had Rebecca convert to Christianity."
In lines 53-56 of Juvenal's fifth Satire, he describes a black waiter 'you would not want to meet by night among the tombs on the Latin Way.' This is because ghosts were believed to be black instead of white in those days, the afterlife being dark and gloomy in general, not because of the stereotypes now current in some parts of the world.
In Lord of the Flies, the heretofore admirable and sensible character Piggy shouts at Jack's tribe "Do you want to be a bunch of painted niggers, or do you want to be sensible like Ralph is?" The phrase was changed in later editions: some replace it with "a bunch of painted Indians" (which may have been a case of Acceptable Targets at the time of the reprinting, but by today's standards isn't a whole lot better), and some substitute it with "a bunch of painted savages" (which is probably the best and most fitting to the story).
Robert A. Heinlein's Have Space Suit – Will Travel (1958). While trudging across the surface of the Moon in a life and death situation, Kip takes dexedrine tablets when he gets exhausted. There is a major Values Dissonance in that the reason he has dexedrine is that when he rebuilt a surplus space suit as a hobby while living on Earth, the town doctor wrote him prescriptions and the druggist he worked for filled them so the suit could contain the original medical supplies. This is when no one, including himself, ever expected him to actually go to the Moon. It is about impossible to imagine a modern law abiding doctor and pharmacist agreeing to provide dexedrine to a minor with no medical condition requiring it no matter how impressed they were at his hard work in rebuilding a space suit (about like turning a junked car into a pristine one). And this is a young adult story!
Most Heinlein characters written in the 1950's guzzle pills by the fistful - sleepy pills when it's time for a nap, dexedrine or the equivalent when they need an energy burst, pills mixed with alcohol when in the mood for a party. A mere reflection of how things were done at the time, but the characters look like suicide risks / addicts to the modern eye.
Heinlein walked into his own Values Dissonance in an earlier work, If This Goes On—, about a brutal religious dictatorship overthrown by a revolutionary cabal. The original magazine edition, published in 1940, had the revolutionaries literally brainwashing the populace into mental independence and skepticism: "More than a hundred million persons had to be examined to see if they could stand up under quick re-orientation, then re-examined after treatment to see if they had been sufficiently readjusted. Until a man passed the second examination we could not afford to enfranchise him as a free citizen of a democratic state." When Heinlein revised the story for book publication in 1953, he rejected his own idea, instead having a minor character (described as resembling "an angry Mark Twain") shout, "Free men aren't 'conditioned!' Free men are free because they are ornery and cussed and prefer to arrive at their own prejudices in their own way—not have them spoonfed by a self-appointed mind tinkerer!"
The Sheik, a 1919 novel, is practically the epitome of this trope. Young, independent heroine who has no use for traditional feminine values takes a trip into the desert and is kidnapped by a cringeworthy-stereotype of an Arab Sheik. Said Sheik proceeds to rape her more or less daily, giving her what is actually a fairly accurately written case of severe PTSD. The dissonance sets in when, halfway through the novel, she realizes she's in love with him because he's 'mastered' her, made her realize she's a woman and weak and needs a man, and proceeds to give up her personality and do whatever he wants to make him happy. While he eventually falls in love with her, too, he feels so terrible about what he did that he wants to send her away so he won't hurt her anymore, and only agrees to let her stay because she tries to shoot herself in the head. And even today, a lot of people consider this romantic. (The heroine's abrupt change of heart could easily be read as Stockholm Syndrome, but nobody knew what that was in 1919 and that clearly wasn't the author's intent.)
The cherry on the sundae of dissonance: he's not even Arabic, but rather the product of an English father and a Spanish mother. God forbid our heroine should fall in love with someone who's not white!
The racism really is a category of dissonant fail all on its own. While Diana is favorably impressed by the Sheik's intelligence, it's because she's surprised he's not the savage idiot she assumed all Arabs to be. (It's worth noting that the Sheik's nemesis is the brutal slob she was expecting.) She's also very contemptuous of the native people of India, where she and her brother were staying before, and doesn't hesitate to say so. None of which would even be blinked at in 1919, but it's pretty cringe-worthy now.
"One View of the Question" by Rudyard Kipling is about Values Dissonance among other things. Only, this time the narrator is Shafiz Ullah Khan and readers encounter a good (and very cynical) exposition of how thoroughly perverted, small-minded, self-righteous and plain stupid "progressive" and "modern" Europeans themselves may seem from outside... complete with hopeless attempts to understand their quirks.
Mark Twain in The Innocents Abroad offhandedly poured a cup of acid on purportedly respectable books of travelers bragging what "great dangers" they encountered in moderately visited locations and what "brave explorers" these tourists were, by presenting similar situations through his own eyes.
Tristan and Iseult, a classic romance about true love, is full of the titular couple engaging in behavior that seems to be absolutely reprehensible. Of course this is all justified by their having true love... except this "true" love only came as a result of their accidentally drinking a love potion. Before that Iseult hated Tristan to the point of wanting to kill him. But apparently getting drugged is enough to make their love justify infidelity on both sides, deceit, the death of a dwarf whose crimes were being ugly and telling King Mark the truth about them fooling around and then proving it, and Tristan taking a young boy's dog.
Some other translations have Iseult actually in love with Tristan despite their earlier "misunderstanding", getting her servant's hint that she served them the Love Potion, and drinking it willingly.
That carries values dissonance as well in that Iseult would then be fine with forcing a man she loves to fall in love with her by letting him drink the love potion he didn't know was there and did not willingly consume.
Don Quixote has the usually lovable Sancho Panza fantasizing about getting rich selling Africans into slavery, as well as a man who raped one woman and abducted another being instantly forgiven and counted as a friend by the heroes as soon as he agrees to let go of the second woman and marry the first. And let's not even get into the stuff about Muslims, which sadly probably isn't Values Dissonance for a lot of modern readers...
On the other hand, Don Quixote is notable for having the character of Ricote, a sympathetic Morisco (descendant of Muslims converted to Catholicism after the conquest of Granada), right at the time the Moriscos were subject to an extensive political bashing that led to their final expulsion by royal decree in 1609. And when 'real' Muslims do show up as characters in a Book within the Book set in Algeria (based on Cervantes's own experience as a prisoner of war in Algiers), the Arabs do get a fair good portrayal compared to the Turks, who are said to be ruthless imperialists that treat all the locals as their slaves (and might be a reason for Don Quixote's modern popularity in the Arab world, especially in North Africa). Cervantes even claimed the whole book was a translation from an Arabic original found in the Jewish quarter of Toledo, at a time when simple knowledge of Arabic or Hebrew was reason enough to spend some days in company of The Spanish Inquisition.
Sancho Panza's remark about slavery were made in Part I, chapter 29, and he also makes a derogatory comment about Jews in Part II, chapter VIII. Maybe Sancho is lovable, but in those chapters he also is a naive fool who talks a lot of silly nonsense. His evolution to a wiser character is in the next chapters of Part II, so we can say that those are not Cervantes's point of view. Also, Cervantes has some experiences that most of us lack: he was a war prisoner and was very near to be made a slave, and certainly his views about slavery cannot be the same that someone who never has suffered such things.
Don Fernando, who had consensual sex with Dorotea after promising to marry her, and abducted Lucinda when she didn't want to marry him, choosing Cardenio, certainly is instantly forgiven and counted as a friend by the heroes as soon as he agrees to let go of Lucinda and marry Dorotea, but he is forgiven because he is the very richsecond son of a powerful Duke, and the world of Don Quixote is, sadly, clearly the same as ours... but Don Quixote and Sancho are not aware of his evil deeds, only the curate and the barber, and Don Fernando pays for all the things Don Quixote broke in the inn.
The Great Gatsby was written and takes place in the 1920s, providing for some in- and out-of-universe Values Dissonance.
Tom, the novel's resident Jerk Ass, fancies himself an intellectual by spouting a lot of racist tripe that he's read, which is intended to make him seem like an even bigger tool. His favorite racist screed, "The Rise of the Colored Empires by this man Goddard" is thought by most critics to be a parody of Lothrop Stoddard's The Rising Tide of Color (1920), and that Fitzgerald is having at laugh at its expense.
Jay and Nick see a car with three black men in it being driven by a white man, which prompts Jay to comment how "anything can happen in this town".
This scene takes place shortly after the incident mentioned above.
The character of Meyer Wolfsheim raises a lot of modern eyebrows. The only overt Jew in the story, he's also a gangster who fixed the world series, wears human teeth for cufflinks, and speaks with a Funetik Aksent. However, he's an obvious expy of real-life Jewish gangster Arnold Rothstein, who is widely suspected to be behind the Black Sox fix.
There's several complaints about Mercedes Lackey's Elizabethan novels, specifically the sexual relationship between the 15 year old Elizabeth and the much older Denoriel, and the attempted seduction of Elizabeth by her stepfather Thomas Seymour. Never mind that in the 1500s a fifteen year old female is old enough to already be a mother (per Shakespeare), and that Seymour did try to seduce Elizabeth.
Farmer Boy has numerous chapters in which Almanzo and/or his siblings stay out of school because there are more important things to do at home, and it's mentioned several times that "the big boys" only go to school during the winter, when there isn't any farm work. This was more important than regular school attendance - many tasks on a farm like the Wilders' are extremely time-critical and if left undone could cause the family to starve or lose their land - but is still likely startling to modern readers accustomed to things like compulsory school attendance and child labor laws. The rest of Little House books, focusing on Laura and her family, are more in line with today's "You're a kid; school is your job" attitude, since Ma is a former teacher and had firm ideas on the subject of proper education.
The Little House books were recounted by Laura in her old age and rewritten by Laura's daughter Rose Wilder Lane, and so were most likely white-washed to match then-current values. There's still plenty of stuff (like her father doing a black-face routine) that would be shocking today.
As with a lot of entries in this page, by today's standards there's some age issues. Laura was fifteen when she started being courted by twenty-five-year-old Almanzo, something which would hardly be blinked at in the 1880s but which wouldn't be legally tolerated in modern America. Ma has some problems with it, but because of Laura's youth in general, rather than Almanzo's age in comparison. Laura herself is somewhat surprised, once she figures out she's being courted (she's fifteen, it takes her a while), but not because she herself is so young. Interestingly, Pa subverts the Overprotective Dad trope and seems to actively encourage it; he knows Almanzo well and trusts him, even if Ma is convinced he's going to get Laura's neck broken taking her driving every Sunday. (It's also worth noting that fifteen-year-old Laura is considered old enough to have a teaching license and lead a school.)
Another example occurs in the school scene, when three teenage toughs try to beat up the teacher, and he produces a whip and beats them to a pulp instead. These same boys had "thrashed" the teacher and broken up the school every year without comeuppance, beating last year's model so badly that he died of it, so the current teacher borrowed a whip from Almanzo's pa and came armed.
One example not explicitly stated, but causes squick amongst today's readers who think about it: the Ingalls clan generally lived in one-room cabins though Laura's childhoold. Yet Ma kept pumping out kids after Laura and Mary (Carrie, then Charles Jr who died in infancy, then Grace). This means, to put it bluntly, Ma and Pa were having sex in the same room with their children. This was no doubt considered normal back then, but would get the parents arrested today.
The Perry Mason novels. The mysteries are great, but sometimes the morals and ideas from those days can... really be distracting. There will be times where certain characters will go on long monologues about how a woman should know her place in order to keep a man, to never ask questions or inquire into his decisions or affairs, and must make it her duty to make the home heaven on earth for him. And then there's his racism in terms of Asians... in one story, he pretty much had a bunch of characters bashing on how sneaky and untrustworthy "Japs" are, and used rather unflattering terms to describe them.
The author of these novels defended quite a few Chinese-Americans in court, so that was probably just anti-Japanese sentiment, not anti-Asian sentiment. Not that that makes it any better.
In the Chinese folk tale Water Margin, there's a section where some of the main characters (who are a part of the rebellion) are drugged at an inn. It turns out the inn is just a front for a black market for human meat. Just as the owner is about to cut them up into meatbuns, his accomplice comes back in time to stop him and tell him the identity of his would-be victims. He spares them, and when they wake up, they're so thrilled that they're "all on the same side," they decide to become sworn blood brothers with him, and act like everything is completely rosy. Nothing like becoming best friends forever with a cannibalistic serial killer.
Hugh "Bulldog" Drummond was one of the great 'Boy's Own' adventure heroes of British literature between the wars (1920s-1930s). You rarely see him or his adventures these days, mostly because the character was jingoistic to the point of naked racism, and was incredibly anti-semitic to boot.
Most of the 'imperial' British adventure heroes of the early twentieth century, such as the works of John Buchan (best known for The 39 Steps), are similarly jingoistic and not without their tendency to resort to crude racial caricatures; for perhapsobvious reasons, they're particularly harsh on Germans. When put up against Drummond, however, the works of Buchan are downright progressive by comparison.
Jules Verne's Les aventures de Hector Servadac has a repulsive Jewish merchant, portrayed with an array of anti-Semitic clichés, who is consistently treated with contempt by the novel's French and Russian protagonists. It is implicit that the reader ought to share their view of him. In several post-1945 translations, all references to Judaism have been removed, making said merchant merely a repulsive and greedy individual.
Robur the Conqueror from the same author may be an even bigger offender, since its black character Frycollin is the Butt Monkey and a sum of just about every flaw imaginable - he's gluttonous, cowardly, stupid - with the only "redeeming" quality of "not speaking like a nigger" (Verne also makes sure to tell the reader how loathsome "Black English" is).
To be fair to the man, he was a determined French nationalist in the times when Jews were believed to be easily bought by any foreign influence because of them being "rootless", so his early Antisemitism was more political than racist. His opinions changed, though, and by the end of the Dreyfus Affair he, convinced by his friends in the literary circles, had become one of his most staunch supporters. And as for his attitude towards blacks, Frycollin is actually an exception, and is a clear transplant of a classical French archetype of a comically stupid and cowardly servant, who's black only because it was natural for an American servant in the mid-XIX century to be black. Verne's other black characters are portrayed fairly and openly, and while they might be ignorant or even evil (like an African king in Dick Sand, Captain at Fifteen), they're evil because they're evil, not because they're black.
All of Jane Austen's novels suffer from this to varying degrees:
Sure, today's readers of Pride and Prejudice tend to find Mrs. Bennet from cringe-worthy to utterly repulsive, but they still might miss how, in the Regency era, her indiscretion, attempting to talk to Mr. Darcy (who is, of course, of much higher station than herself) before they are formally introduced, and blatant mercenary attitude would be considered the worst sort of poor manners and was, in fact, a valid reason for Darcy not to want his best friend to marry into her family. Similarly, Darcy's refusal to dance at an assembly where there are more ladies than gentlemen is also phenomenally rude, although modern female readers have the exact opposite reaction to his silence and stoicism as the women of Hertfordshire.
And in the 1995 adaptation, Lydia's being caught in only a chemise might be cause for a blush akin to one being caught in one's nightgown today, but by the standards of the day, she was practically in flagrante delicto.
Lydia's situation in general is likely to create Values Dissonance for modern readers, for whom the best possible resolution for "scoundrel runs off with sixteen-year-old girl and lives alone with her for two weeks, leaving a pile of debt behind" would not be "he is bribed into marrying her." In that time period, however, living alone with a man for two weeks would leave Lydia Defiled Forever as far as society was concerned, making it impossible not only for her to marry, but for any of her sisters to make decent marriages either. And while Mrs. Bennet's fuss about her daughters getting married may also seem shallow and silly to a modern reader, the issue of the entailment on Mr. Bennet's estate helps to clarify that marriage is literally the only way to make sure that any of the Bennet girls will be provided for after Mr. Bennet's death.
It should perhaps be pointed out that Mr. Darcy is the only character who seems at all concerned with whether or not Lydia actually wants to marry Wickham.
Sense and Sensibility runs into problems concerning the ages of the characters. A modern reader would find it laughable that nineteen-year-old Elinor should legitimately worry about being an old maid, but back in the Regency era, that was really a concern. Furthermore, the "right guy" for sixteen-year-old Marianne is 35-year-old Colonel Brandon, who has a niece slightly older than her.
Mansfield Park has two major plot points that turn on the morality/scandalousness of certain actions. The second is that of a woman who leaves her husband for another man and eventually is divorced (which is still not that all cool in modern Western society, although no longer shocking), but the first is that a group of friends are acting out a "racy" play amongst themselves — a total WTF? to modern readers. Although, the latter scandal was also a WTF? for some of the characters, and the man who was especially upset by the play is frequently portrayed as domineering and unreasonable.
Modern readers tend to judge Anne Elliot of Persuasion harshly for breaking off her engagement with Captain Wentworth, but in Austen's day, it would have seemed like the most prudent thing to do. Like most women at the time, Anne would have to rely entirely on her husband for financial stability, and Wentworth was in a dangerous line of work in which promotion was by no means guaranteed. For all anyone knew, he could have died at sea a year later, leaving her penniless and helpless.
A couple of Austen's books have characters marrying or wanting to marry their first cousins, which was totally acceptable at the time.
And it's still common (and legal) in the modern day, too, but is often frowned upon when it's first cousins.
Today's readers are often shocked that so many of the male characters talk about joining the church. In most Western churches, the clergy for the major religions have advanced degrees with special focus on religious studies and may also need training in psychology/counseling. It's also expected that you were "called" to service, which is a big deal and not especially common. Lately there are less-formal churches where "minister" is more on par with "counselor," where you're involved in the church but still have a day job, but if a reader thinks of that, they assume it's a modern development. In Austen's world, however, the church was one of the few respectable professions a young man could enter. Since a university degree was also required (though it was just a general course of study, not specifically religious) the requirements were more "someone who can afford a degree, knows the right people...and to the best of anyone's knowledge is of good character." Some may have legitimately had a vocation, but it wasn't considered necessary. This article explains it better.
Jonathan Swift's Gulliver's Travels depicts the Houyhnhnms as a perfect society based on Reason—infinitely superior to the narrator's native humanity anyway—but to a modern reader they're contemptible. Whether Gulliver's value judgments at that point are meant to be taken at face value or not may be questionable, but in any case Ted Danson didn't tell us the nice horses had a rigid racial hierarchy (among themselves, based on their coat colors) and were last seen contemplating genocide...
Swift's proposition of a perfect society might fully well have seemed just as alien to his contemporary audience. Further elaborated in this essay by George Orwell.
In-universe example: there are a few places in the 1632 series where the values of the "downtimers" and those of the "uptimers" Clash. Liberal schoolteacher Melissa Mailey is fairly shocked to see refugee-matriarch Gretchen Richter hitting anyone who doesn't obey her promptly. Gretchen finds her reaction confusing, until she sees Melissa ordering around her uptimer students, and concludes that Melissa has probably never had to smack anybody to make them listen to her.
Also, the "uptimers", whose view of 17th-century people is heavily colored by the image of the prim, uptight Puritan, are quite startled to find out just how frank - and bawdy - "downtimers" can be in discussing sexual topics and using so-called "barnyard" language. On the other hand, the "uptimer" habit of casually taking the Lord's name in vain often causes sticky moments with "downtimers", for which this is a serious no-no.
Values dissonance is a central theme of the entire series. Another stellar example would be the confusion the downtimers have with the uptimers referring to an early altercation as "The Battle of the Crapper" because the uptimers find it shocking and significant that camp followers would have to hide little girls in an excrement and spider filled hole in order to save them from brutal gang rape, while the downtimers are used to such atrocities occurring as a matter of course.
A stand-out instance is the tale of Sir Pelleas and the lady Ettard, whom he has fallen in love with. He proves himself in a joust and thus feels himself entitled to her love, even though she hates him (and it's implied she's not just Tsundere, she literally hates him). Pelleas refuses to leave her be, harries her, hangs around outside of her castle, and she is described as afraid of him. He's a creepy guy. And the heroic Sir Gawain gets involved in a scheme to convince Ettard to love Pelleas, because women in those days had no right to decline a passing fair knight like Sir Pelleas, but he ends up bedding Ettard himself. Pelleas demands vengeance - against Ettard - and in the end the Lady of the Lake uses magic to make Ettard fall in love with Sir Pelleas. Then Sir Pelleas falls in love with the Lady of the Lake, leaves Ettard, and Ettard dies of sorrow. Pelleas gets to become a Knight of the Round Table.
King Uther falls in love with Lady Igraine, wife of the Duke of Cornwall. She realizes this and warns her husband, who prepares for Uther's advances. Merlin helps Uther to get to Igraine and sleep with her about two hours after her husband coincidentally dies. Igraine does not know this because Uther is magically disguised as her husband. After she receives word of her husband's death, Igraine marries Uther and her only concern is that she is pregnant with what she believes to be her first husband's child. Uther assures her that it is his child since he was disguised as her husband at the time. And she is happy, because it means that the child was not illegitimate!
Not entirely dissonant from modern values; this would still be a big problem if it happened to, say, a member of the royal family of the UK or another constitutional monarchy. Many modern readers would understand the situation easily enough, though they'd rationalize it in terms of politics rather than solely religion.
Igraine might also simply be more focused on the repercussions of what she has just learnt rather than the moral acceptability of being raped by a man who wasn't at that time legally allowed to. That her baby will not only live past its birth but have vastly improved life prospects is a pretty good reason for joy.
Nibelungenlied has a scene where the protagonist heroically pins his best friend's love interest down, so that his friend won't be rejected.
O. Henry's racial attitudes are particularly jarring, because they're usually not immediately relevant to the story, so they're not expected when they appear. For instance, an out-of-work match salesman in one of his minor stories talks about how gasoline is so much better for setting black people on fire (and the word he uses is not "black").
Cup of Clay by Carole Nelson Douglas contains a brief scene in which a traveller from our world thinks a woman from a pseudo-European society is bisexual. A man who knows the woman is appalled at the concept—"Such a monster would be destroyed."
The Famous Five are often criticized for the fact that Anne takes pleasure in preparing food for the boys. Also, while Anne being at the bottom of the hierarchy is justified by her being the youngest of the four children, the older George (Georgina) is also subtly shown to be considered subordinate to Dick by the boys. Additionally, George's resistance to traditional gender roles is every bit as disturbing as Anne's cheerful compliance: George hates herself for being a girl and constantly attempts to find self-worth and gain the respect by being "as good as a boy". (Both attitude and ambition are treated as unimportant by the other characters and narration.)
Also, while "Dick" and "Fanny" were terms for genitalia as well as names even at the time, their use in a children's book was not at all controversial.
The Faraway Tree series had Miss Slap (a teacher who slapped children) changed to Miss Snap in modern editions (she just shouts a lot), and even changed a boy who didn't go to school (he worked on his father's fishing boat) into a boy who went to school and only went on the boat at weekends.
As early as 1960, a publisher (Phyllis Hartnoll) rejected a story of hers, saying: "There is a faint but unattractive touch of old-fashioned xenophobia in the author's attitude to the thieves; they are 'foreign'...and this seems to be regarded as sufficient to explain their criminality."
However, in 2008 Anne Rice made a video on bbc.co.uk defending her. You can watch it here!
The first Six Cousins book has a nasty case involving Jane, a tomboy who pays no attention to her appearance because she lives on a farm and spends most of her time working on it. At one point, she meets a friend of her brother Jack by chance, and Jack later calls her out for being so untidy and dirty, saying that his friend must have got a terrible first impression of her, which would reflect badly on the rest of the family. That might have been OK, except that he then tells her that it's a woman's duty to look good and that he's ashamed of her, and Jane ends up in tears, leaving a bad taste in a lot of readers' mouths.
Enid Blyton's Noddy books (1949-1963) used to have recurring mischievous characters named The Golliwogs who were black dolls and caused a lot of trouble in Toy Town and around Noddy. While there were other Golliwog characters that were friendly such as Mr Golly, they were all replaced in the mid 70's by new characters such as Mr Sparks, who replaces Mr Golly, and The Goblins, who replaced The Golliwogs. One of Enid's daughters has mentioned that The Golliwogs are never making a comeback in modern Noddy books and animated shows.
The Naughtiest Girl books are set at a progressive boarding school where one of the things they do are the weekly Meetings, where the entire school gets together and discusses important matters. One of the regular features of said Meetings is the complaints section, where anyone with a complaint about another student can voice it and the matter will be discussed. Except that these matters can involve anything from 'X won't stop pulling my hair' to 'Y cheated on a test', and these matters are discussed in front of the entire school, with the other students doling out punishments. Sure, the students who run the Meetings take care to point out that sometimes matters turn up that are too serious to be discussed in public, but they're still publicly humiliating students every week in front of everyone, including their friends and teachers. Who the fuck thought that was a good idea?
When Samuel Richardson's Pamela first came out, one of the complaints of "antipamelists" was not that Pamela fell in love with her boss/kidnapper after several Near Rape Experiences but that a real man wouldn't have nearly raped her. One of the other complaints was that the book was a bad example - not because near rape is bad, but because an upper class man marrying the help is the worst possible thing.
For societies which value the concept of romantic love, folk tales (even from previous periods in the people's own history) where the heroine's reward after her ordeal is essentially to bag a man of wealth can be a bit jarring.
Herodotus in his Histories narrates an illustration of this trope which may be the Ur-Example. King Darius of Persia asked some Greeks at his court how much he'd have to pay them to eat their fathers' corpses; they said they wouldn't do it for any money. He then summoned some members of an Indian tribe who did in fact eat the bodies of their dead and asked them, in the Greeks' presence, what he'd have to pay them to cremate their fathers' bodies (the ancient Greek norm); they said he shouldn't speak of such a horrible thing.
Tall Tale America has a fair bit of this, but the most flagrant is probably the part that was meant to Bowlderise the original story. In the chapter on Pecos Bill, he no longer shoots his wife to keep her from starving to death. Instead he threatens her with this fate to teach her not to "disobey her lord and master" (a.k.a. her husband). Yeah ... that Aesop wouldn't really fly well these days.
The Divine Comedy can be seen as Values Resonance. Dante didn't put any Jews in Hell; very important because a piece of literature at that time would expect and condone anything that shows Jews as sinners or marginalizes them in anyway. Notably when the moneylenders that he encounters are all gentiles. He also puts a poet who writes homosexual love poems in heaven, as well as a few virtuous pagans. He lets Cato the Younger be the caretaker/gatekeeper of Purgatory which implies that one day he will be allowed into Heaven. One time in Paradise he actually says (paraphrased) that an Indian who is a good person but has never heard the name of Jesus should be allowed into heaven. Dante was not happy about the Catholic doctrine that made anyone who isn't a Christian go to Hell or Limbo. Especially poignant throughout Inferno and Purgatory where Virgil guides him and Dante cannot reconcile how Virgil is a great man and has saved his life but will have to return to limbo for what is essentially an accident of not knowing Christianity.
Also notable is the inclusion of eminent Muslims such as Averroes in Limbo. Even Muhammad, who Dante places in Hell (for being a "schismatic"), still tells Dante to warn a contemporary schismatic of his wrongdoing, so as to spare him from the same fate.
The part about the Jews not being in Hell might have to do with the fact he was a good friend of the Jewish poet Immanuel the Roman.
In Beverly Cleary's Beezus and Ramona, pre-school age Ramona is left to play in a sandbox in a public park with no supervision. Modern parents would be too terrified of her being scooped up by a pedo to do such a thing. Later in the series, Kindergarten Ramona hides all day because she doesn't want a substitute teacher (with no concern over where she is that we see), walks to and from school, crossing a busy street, is left home alone, and is punished by having to sit outside the classroom—when the classroom opens not onto a hallway, but a playground!
The classic mystery novel The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins, first published in 1859, centers on the dire and terrible Secret with a capital S that the evil baronet Sir Percival Glyde is going to great lengths to conceal. The nature of the Secret? Turns out, his parents weren't married when he was born, so he is not the legitimate heir to the baronetcy or to his father's property. Granted, this does mean he's committed some pretty serious fraud — he falsified a marriage register to make a claim on a title that wasn't legally his — but still, a modern reader is likely to think "really? That's all?" and possibly even be sympathetic to him. This is probably why some recent adaptations add something extra to give the Secret a bit of spice; both the 1997 BBC adaptation and the Andrew Lloyd-Webber musical version add the detail that he raped Anne Catherick when she was a child.
Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day, written in Britain in 1938, features a night-club singer called Miss Fosse trying to choose between her three lovers, Nick, Phil and Michael. Nick's a thorough cad, but the main point against him seems to be that he's a "foreigner", with various slurs against Italians made throughout the book - never mind that his family appears to have been in England for at least five generations. Likewise, the title character sees Phil as a kind, generous man, but openly says that Miss Fosse shouldn't marry a man who's possibly of Jewish ancestry ("he's not quite English, and one should marry within one's own nationality"). Meanwhile Michael, who believes that Miss Fosse needs "physical correction" from time to time, wins out as the ideal husband. Not entirely surprisingly, when the movie adaptation finally showed up in 2008, while the basic plot remained the same a lot of these elements had disappeared.
George Orwell wrote about Values Dissonance in his essay on Tobias Smollett: Duelling, gambling and fornication seem almost morally neutral to him. It so happens that in private life he was a better man than the majority of writers. He was a faithful husband who shortened his life by overworking for the sake of his family, a sturdy republican who hated France as the country of the Grand Monarchy, and a patriotic Scotsman at a time when — the 1745 rebellion being a fairly recent memory — it was far from fashionable to be a Scotsman. But he has very little sense of sin. His heroes do things, and do them on almost every page, which in any nineteenth-century English novel would instantly call forth vengeance from the skies. He accepts as a law of nature the viciousness, the nepotism and the disorder of eighteenth-century society, and therein lies his charm. Many of his best passages would be ruined by an intrusion of the moral sense.
H. Rider Haggard's adventure novel King Solomon's Mines, which pre-dates Heart of Darkness, is equally unlikely to be regarded as a balanced picture of African tribal societies, although Haggard at least seems to regard the tribespeople who aren't villains as noble savages - and the sequel, "Allan Quartermain," begins with a diatribe against racism. However, an even more striking piece of Values Dissonance is that the first thing on Allan Quartermain and chums' agenda, before even starting their adventure, is mowing down numerous elephants and giraffes on a hunt. In his defense, he does make elephant hunting sound like the most fun you could have standing up.
Interestingly this novel also contains a complete inversion of the Value Dissonance trope, id est something that would have been a very unusual opinion by the time the book was printed but actually a fairly commonly held view today. At the end of the book Ignosi states that he will now close Kukuana to outside influence arguing that white men are mostly a destructive force in black Africa. Both Allan Quartermain and the author seems to agree.
Similar attitudes about wildlife are extremely common in older wilderness-adventure fiction. Even the Hardy Boys were known to shoot wild animals on sight, either because they were attacked by a predator for no reason, or because the creature in question was considered a dangerous pest at the time.
Jules Verne's In Search of the Castaways is especially notable—at one point one of the heroes shoots a jabiru bird to show his hunting skills, and the narrator specifically says that the bird is "very rare and vanishing", yet sees nothing wrong with killing it.
Paradise Lost regularly gets criticized for being misogynistic due to Eve's role in the plot. This is partially Fan Dumb because Paradise Lost is based on The Bible (at least in the Christian tradition, with the Jewish tradition holding that the serpent just saw Eve first), which defines Eve fulfilling that exact role. However, for the time and culture it came out in, Eve is a very progressive female character. The level of character development, her level of intelligence and reasoning, and her extremely significant role in the plot were almost unheard of in female characters, who were regularly little more than background characters added when needed by the plot.
Also, Milton goes to great lengths to distinguish that Eve and Satan are distinct and unalike. Consider that at the time, it was an acceptable artistic portrayal to have the serpent or tempter possess Eve's face, showing that in fact the serpent was an aspect of Eve, therefore women are evil, a-ha!
A substantial part of Plato's Charmides involves a group of middle-aged men discussing a 15-year-old boy's beauty, having him brought before them, and lusting after him. There are descriptions of the men almost falling out of their chairs at the sight of him, and jokes about how seeing the boy naked would make them forget about other things.
Truth in Television: This type of attitude was considered normal in most of the Hellenistic world at the time. In the 21st century, some teachers really do fawn over their favorite students like this, although it isn't usually sexual in nature and is probably more related to the paternal instinct than the sexual one. Lookism exists in adults' treatment of youths as well, even when this lookism isn't sexual.
In the short stories of Carnacki the Ghost-Finder, the titular character regularly expends the lives of cats or dogs in his paranormal investigations, leaving them confined as live bait in order to test if a potential ghost is dangerous. Servants and underlings of named characters tend to soak up a lot of abuse, such as a constable who is thrown bodily down the stairs of a haunted house by his superior, or a butler who doesn't press charges, sue, or even quit when he's wounded near-fatally by a booby trap set by his employer's father.
A Little Princess ends with Sara being restored to her wealth and position and her friend Becky ends up as Sara's personal attendant. Modern audiences may find this a little shocking but in the context of when the novel is set, it's a fitting happy ending. Considering that Becky would have risen into a very powerful position and gained security as well as a kind and friendly mistress it's a very happy ending indeed. This trope is likely the reason the film adaptation has Becky being adopted by Sara's father at the end.
Sara's complaints that she is ugly because she has a slender build, short dark hair, green eyes, and olive skin may lead modern readers to see Sara as Suetiful All Along. However, Sara does not in any way match the Victorian-Edwardian image of child beauty and she compares herself to another child who has "dimples and rose-colored cheeks, and long hair the color of gold." Black hair was also not a good hair color to have in 19th-Century British India — as it suggested Sara (or her mother) might be mixed-race. Also at various points we get mentions of Sara's "brown" hand and "small dark face".
Although the "brown" hand and "small dark face" most likely is not indicative that Sara is dark-skinned by nature, but simply tanned from being outside in India's hot climate a lot until she goes to England to live in the seminar. Similar to the meaning of the words "browned" and "darkened" today.
One of his McAuslan stories is about a black soldier who wants to join the pipe band in a Highland regiment (ca. 1947). It's notable because even though the outcome feels right to modern readers - the piper joins successfully - every one of his superior officers was against it, to greater or lesser degree, and he's only allowed to join because the Colonel tricks the pipe sergeant into sticking up for his piping skills.
Edward Everett Hale's short story "The Man Without a Country" was written in 1863 as a deliberate piece of propaganda. A young man who commits treason against the United States and who cries "I wish I may never hear of the United States again!" and gets just what he asked for. He's forced to live on US Navy ships always stationed just out of sight of land, his news and conversation is censored, magazines he reads are cut up so that all references to the States are omitted. By the end of his life, the narrator finds that he's made a shrine to the United States in his bedroom and he blabs on his deathbed about how one should hold your country sacred, love it, cherish it, etc. Good sentiment and all, but such patriotic fervor seems a little scary nowadays. Basically it was low-key Brainwashing, revolving the man's entire life around the lack of the United States. Wouldn't it have just been kinder all around to exile the guy rather than torture him with a cruel half-life at sea?
Jahnna N. Malcom's Jewel Princess series had a couple of cases. In the first book, Roxanne, the future princess of the Red Mountains, runs away before the coronation because she doesn't want to be a princess—she'll have to move to a place she either hasn't been to or doesn't know well, she prefers running around and climbing trees to remaining indoors, her future kingdom is a desert mountain range unlike her sisters', which are all much more widely populated and idyllic, and she'll have to rule over her people, despite not wanting to rule and having no real experience at it. After running away, she makes some allies, foils an attempt to put an impostor on her throne, and returns to the coronation willingly. OK, fine. Except that Roxanne is about eleven (though she doesn't act like it), and the idea of giving a pre-teen that kind of responsibility, especially since she wasn't prepared for it, is a ridiculous idea.
Another example comes from the third book. In it Emily, the princess of Greenwood, is a notorious practical joker who has played tricks on everyone while refusing to see that most other people don't think that they're funny. Eventually, when a prank is played on a subject that seriously harms him, the people of Greenwood believe that Emily played it, and one of them says that he's going to talk to her father (the King) about her, because 'when a princess starts harming her own people, it's time for her to stop being a princess'. Again, fine, but like Roxanne, Emily is eleven, and expecting an eleven year old to be responsible and mature on that level is simply ridiculous—not to mention that there was no proof that it was Emily, and she had several witnesses that would have given her an alibi and testified to her non-violent nature if it had come to it.
Sisterhood Series by Fern Michaels: There certainly is this! In the first book Weekend Warriors, Kathryn Lucas insults Yoko Akia about being wishy-washy just because she's Asian and she's different. Indeed, the series portrays Asians as being different from other people to the point of being virtually alien. That, and books in the series like Vendetta cheerfully play the Yellow Peril trope as straight as an arrow!
The modern reader of Margery Allingham's Police at the Funeral are likely to abruptly realign their sympathies when the secret minor villain George Faraday is using to blackmail his aunt is revealed: George is the result of a 'messalliance' with a mullatto woman (i.e. a woman who was the product of an interracial marriage) - a fact of which George is not at all ashamed but his aunt would do anything to keep hidden. Good on you, George!
The Land of Oz series has a few of this. One of the major ones is in the second book, where young boy Tip learns that he is the lost Princess of Oz and is transformed into his "true form". After he does so, he changes from his previous personality into an out-and-out girly girl who does little to no adventuring. A few other bits of dissonance show up as well, such as in the first book when the Tin Man, who can't bear to see any other creature die at the hand of another... kills a wildcat that was chasing a small mouse by chopping off its head with his ax.
On the other hand, the book series is actually quite Fair for Its Day regarding topics such as feminism. The Land of Oz is ruled by four women and a man in the first book, and the women are portrayed as equally likely to be Wicked as they are to be Good. Female characters that appear later on range from good to bad on the morality spectrum, and each and every one of the characters, female or not, are different and varied characters. Same goes for the male characters; they are all equally as likely to be good characters as they are to be bad characters, and just as varied as the females.
The reckless use of magic in the latter books would likely raise many eyebrows if used in modern fantasy. It's disturbingly easy to deconstruct the Ozma-Glinda regime as 1984 with wizards and talking animals (all but three people in the kingdom are banned from using magic, Ozma has a magical mirror to spy on her citizens, dissenters are memory-wiped, etc.) Deconstructing Ozma's gender identity is also popular among fanfic writers, in particular the idea that she still sees herself as the boy Tip and the pretty princess thing is merely an act.
The last book written by Baum himself has a former wizard who believes the magic ban to be a childish action, and fully expects it to be lifted someday. It is possible Baum himself didn't like the implications too much.
"Mario and the Magician" contains this In-Universe as well as outside with the the beach scene: when the narrators 8 years old daughter get naked for a few seconds, the Italians react with rage, whistling and treat this as personal insult. The narrator considers his daughter's behaviour fully normal, and is disgusted by the Italians' reaction. Of course, the issue of public nudity remains highly contested to this day.
Alexander Pushkin's Ruslan and Ludmila has two characters, a sorcerer and a sorceress who are mortal rivals. The cause? When the future sorcerer was a young shepherd, the future sorceress rejected him. He went on a ten year long raiding spree, returned a rich war hero, and she rejected him again. So, he went to study sorcery in order to win her love, cast the proper spells, she came to him... and he rejected her because the studies took 40 years, and she (him as well, of course) grew old. Did I mention that the sorcerer is the good guy?
In the original Dracula Lucy is a complete Purity Sue and is described as virtuous yet most modern adaptations will portray her as extremely promiscuous and "slutty" purely for the fact that she has three men that want to marry her and her sole ambition is to get married before she turns twenty. Needless to say, an upper class Victorian woman wouldn't be expected to have much more ambitions than that. And Lucy genuinely seems to care deeply for all three men that woo her though that normally gets changed to her flirting shamelessly with each of them, even after she's chosen Arthur.
Explored in Obasan, by Joy Kogawa. The family is Japanese, and the protagonist's brother is a fan of Captain America comic books. During WWII, Captain America's archenemy was the worst kind of Japanese stereotype. The family in the book goes to a Japanese interment camp. Yet the brother remains a fan of the comics.
Besides the use of "Gypsy", when "Romani" is preferred in modern times, there's the big, central theme of poaching being a whimsical and fun bonding experience between father and son. For animal rights advocates, the idea of killing birds as being delightful fun is rather abhorrent.
Though arguably collecting a few free range birds fresh from the woods is much kinder than buying battery bred chickens in a supermarket. Moreover Danny's father was clear about killing the birds cleanly, contrasting this with shooting them for sport, the fate they were bred for (either way).
Villette has the same attitude present in a more elaborate form. Lucy is very noticeably turned off by the Labascurians' (Belgians', really) hedonistic attitude. The issue of religion (Protestant Lucy vs Catholic locals) doesn't help either. Both this and the passage in Jane Eyre were presumably inspired by the same thing: Brontë's experiences as a teacher in Brussels.
Not to mention the May-December Romance that is the feature of the book: Jane's 18-20 to Mr. Rochester's nearly 40.
While fairly progressive for its time in how it depicted women and racial minorities, It Can't Happen Here depicted gay men in a stereotypical manner. The only gays in the novel — Saranson and several unnamed M.M.s — are depicted as depraved villains. The novel's homophobia may seem jarring to modern readers who accept LGBTQ people.
Meanwhile, it's an entirely different trope to readers who are aware of the fact that the villains are No Celebrities Were Harmed versions of Nazis, and Saranson as Ernst Rohm, who was the leader of the Brown Shirts and, by the time's standards, openly gay.
C. S. Lewis wrote in the middle of the twentieth century and his writing abounds with tropes from the first half. His novels universally favor the country in The City vs. the Country, with people from the city being stunted, mean, and dirty, while the country is Arcadia and the people therein kind and beautiful. While he was progressive in having female heroes, he tended to bounce around a bit in his depiction, and the final fate of elder sister Susan has drawn some criticism; she's not allowed into Narnia because she's gotten interested in lipstick and nylons. It's YMMV because defenders say she's become materialistic, while detractors say that both indicate she's become a sexual being and Christianity has never been too keen on women liking sex. Oh, that's another thing that can hit readers; most Christian fiction nowadays is clearly labeled as such.
Lewis left himself an out — Susan may have lost interest in Narnia, but the primary reason she's not in The Last Battle is simply that she was not on that train ride and so is not killed in the crash. As Lewis himself wrote, there is no reason to assume that she won't come back to Narnia someday 'in her own time and her own way'.
The Lion, the Witch & The Wardrobe also has the unfortunate line "battles are ugly when women fight". To Lewis's credit, this Stay in the Kitchen attitude disappears in later books in the series (likely due to meeting and eventually marrying feminist Joy Gresham). In The Horse & His Boy Aravis has been trained in swordplay and knows how to hunt while Lucy also participates in the battle. Also Jill Pole actively fights in battle in the final book. The dissonance also comes into play when you realise that Lewis is saying that the idea of Lucy fighting in battle is bad because she's a girl and not because she's a child. It's fine for Edmund, who's barely a year older than her, to fight in battle.
The Professor's casual dismissal of the idea that Lucy might be delusional, simply because she doesn't look mad, can now come across as pretty ignorant and insensitive about mental illness.
Song of the Lioness, the first series in the Tortall Universe, features George, then in his mid-20s, telling the heroine Alanna, then a teenager, that they're obviously destined to be together. He then keeps harping on this until Alanna herself thinks of his behavior as "stalking," and in the worst moment to audiences today, covertly slips a drug into her drink so she'll be properly rested the night before her final test for knighthood. Though they don't officially hook up until Alanna is also an adult, Word of God is that we were meant to find the relationship nothing but romantic the whole way through. When Mark Does Stuff covered the series, Tamora Pierce was shocked by the extremely negative reactions to those early bits, and upon rereading the scenes admitted that times had changed enough to make them seem quite creepy.
Sandro of Chegem by Fazil Iskander contains a number of examples. One is about the people from the titular place (a conservative mountain village) displeased at the sight of an old female guard with a gun. Suspicious of their constant proximity, she summons a militia man. He explains to her they merely "have never seen female guards; somewhat savage highlanders." Upon hearing it, they laugh out loud -what could be more savage than an armed woman?
Although Nancy Mitford's Love in a Cold Climate is still an amusing novel for the most part, nowadays someone writing a light-hearted comic novel would and should not feature a man sexually abusing a group of young girls as a plot point. This is portrayed as part of the girls' sexual awakening, one of them grows up to willingly marry the man who molested her, (although it doesn't work out,) and it is heavily implied at the end of the novel that said man is going to live happily ever after with a character who is adored by every other character.
The Rise of the Saxons by Ryan West depicts its heroes slaughtering defenceless children, mutilating their slaves for fun, flirting with thirteen-year-old girls and performing human sacrifice. At first, this may seem like Deliberate Values Dissonance: after all, the story is set in the fifth century AD and is told through the eyes of a hardened warrior, so we can't expect it to be entirely consistent with Enlightenment values. However, the author's essay at the end makes it clear that he believes that modern English people should celebrate the Anglo-Saxon ancestors portrayed in the story.
This trope may have contributed to Lisi Harrison's The Clique series falling into obscurity in The New Tens. The protagonists of the novels are an Alpha Bitch and her Girl Posse at an elite all-girls school, and they behave in ways reminiscent of the villainous Plastics from Mean Girls (which the books have been compared to). While their behavior was a deep well of Snark Bait for readers even at the series's height, starting in the late '00s a spate of teen suicides turned youth bullying into a far more pressing issue, making the characters seem like Designated Heroes at best and unintentional Villain Protagonists at worst.
Marlowe and other characters show a distinct revulsion toward homosexuals. At one point, Marlowe gets punched full-force on the chin by a gay man, but he states that he recovered quickly because "men like him have no iron in their bones."
Marlowe uses racial slurs, such as wop.
Although he doesn't display overt anti-Semitism, Marlowe will refer to Jewish people as "Jews" as a defining characteristic.
Marlowe is morally disgusted with the concept of pornography. The fact that pornography is illegal in the Forties is a plot point in The Big Sleep.
In The High Window, the fact that a young woman does not usually wear makeup is a symptom of her neurotic disorder. Marlowe encourages her several times to put some on.
The works of J. R. R. Tolkien are not immune to this trope, but generally subverts it as often as it's played straight:
In The Lord of the Rings, there are few significant roles for women and generally the fighters and commanders are all men. Even among the Elves, men are usually the warriors, while women are primarily shown as engaging in the healing arts. Other information in the various histories published after Tolkien's death suggests that the Elves draw a strict boundary between healers and warriors in general (with rare individuals such as Elrond who have been both), and it just happens that women tend to take on the healer role more often. And in the "Laws and Customs of the Eldar", Tolkien wrote that elves considered males and females equals and there were no tasks or jobs considered improper for a male or a female.
When the Fellowship departs Rivendell, Arwen remains behind as Aragorn's prize for becoming king, and plays little real role in the story. Had the story been written today, Arwen would almost without question have become a member of the Fellowship herself and accompanied Aragorn. Additionally, the entire concept that Elrond can set such a stringent set of conditions for Aragorn to have his daughter's hand in marriage is alien to many modern western audiences. Incidentally, Arwen's character did not show up in the history until the third draft, so that she has a very small role is understandable.
It's also expected that Éowyn's role in Edoras is to take care of her uncle, though she does ultimate achieve one of the greatest feats of arms in the entire book by slaying the Witch-king. On the other hand, Éowyn is also placed in command of the defenses of Edoras by Théoden when he rides out to attack Saruman, and later when the Rohirrim ride to answer Gondor's call for aid. This is no small charge, as it means that she is the one who will be responsible for the last defense of their people should Sauron be victorious. Unfortunately, Éowyn is unable to see it herself in her current state. It must also be noted that she complained bitterly about being forced to be her ailing uncle's caretaker when she was a warrior, and the main characters sympathized with her point of view.
Galadriel plays with this, as she's one of the most important leaders of the White Council, and though Celeborn officially rules Lothlórien she holds a great deal of power herself. She leads the defense against the attack by Dol Guldur during the War of the Ring, and the counter-attack in which she personally throws down the tower. In fact in The Silmarillion it's made clear she left Valinor and came to Middle-earth precisely to have lands of her own to rule.
Aragorn's hereditary destiny as the true King of Gondor is portrayed in the books as something Aragorn naturally expects and desires. This is portrayed as noble and an entirely correct attitude for him to have. Modern audiences see being made a ruler as something you earn, rather than are just given to you due to your blood. Of course, Aragorn is repeatedly shown as being a wise, honorable and strong leader, worthy of the title, but seeing him boldly state that the throne is his by right primarily because he is the heir of Isildur, and having people mainly side with him due to his heritage rather than anything he personally does, does not play well today. This also seems to fly in the face of Tolkien's depiction of a desire for power as being corruptible. This is why Peter Jackson wrote him as trying to run from his destiny, having no desire for power.
The relationship between Frodo and Sam also raises eyebrows among modern readers. Tolkien based their relationship on that between British officers and their loyal "batmen" from the First World War. Frodo is clearly the upper-class gentleman and Sam his servant, and that difference in social classes heavily affects their interactions in the early part of the story. On the other hand, Tolkien certainly expresses a high opinion of such "lowly" individuals, with Sam as perhaps the single most courageous character in the entire book, while making it quite clear that without Sam the Quest would have failed.
Along with this, the frank displays of emotion between Frodo and Sam, Aragorn and Boromir, and many other male characters has created a tremendous Fountain of Memes regarding the story containing an excess of Ho Yay to modern audiences. Many modern readers aren't accustomed to seeing platonic relationships between men depicted with such outward showings of emotion.
The Irish novel Sisters?...No Way! has a few instances of casual racism that are a normal part of Irish culture that might shock foreign viewers. Cindy remembers her father trying to train her American mother to pronounce words the Irish way and not sound American. He also stopped her name from being spelt 'Cyndi' because it was "too American". In Ireland it's expected for any foreigner to immediately adopt Irish pronunciations and customs. Cindy also casually mentions her friends going out on a drinking binge when they get their exam results. Her friends would be fourteen-fifteen at the time, which is a shock to anyone not familiar with Irish drinking culture. Cindy herself also drinks wine at many meals without her father batting an eyelid - and the fourteen-year-old Alva has also apparently had champagne plenty of times.
L.M. Montgomery's Anne of Green Gables series falls victim to this trope, having been written in the early 1900's and set at least thirty years earlier. The most glaring example is the impetus for the entire series: adoption now versus adoption in the 1800's. Marilla and Matthew originally wanted to adopt a boy from off the island; not to love or raise, per se, but for help on the farm. Anne herself had been orphaned since infancy and spent much of her young life caring for other people's children. Many times she was denied proper food, clothing, or education, none of which were investigated by the orphanage she had come from. She is around 11 at the start of the series. This was quite common for the time period; the US and the UK had similar programs by which orphans were taken from their hometowns and put to work for foster families, but since that practice has long since been abolished, it can be quite shocking to the modern reader.
The last book, being set in World War I, often makes reference to "savages" living in remote parts of the world, and that it is the duty of good Christians to educate them. Whether or not these are to be taken seriously (they were said by a rather eccentric older woman) is up for debate.
Pregnancy and other womanly matters are often glossed over, which is understandable given the time period. Around the time Anne would start menstruating, her doctor tells Marilla that she should leave off studying and get plenty of exercise; a common thought in the medical community was that menstruation made women anemic and nervous and that too much cerebral activity would make it worse. Definitely not something a modern reader would pick up on. The references to pregnancy are equally as vague, and modern readers are wont to miss them until the actual births. Anne calls herself a "dreamer of dreams," tells her husband she can't wait for spring, and Marilla promises to visit for a few weeks in early June for her first pregnancy. For her second, there is only one reference—Anne is "once more a dreamer of dreams" though the avoiding talking about that pregnancy makes a little more sense in context; Anne's first baby died a few hours after birth and she is understandably hesitant to get attached. Birth scenes are also avoided (except, oddly, for the first one, which is rather plainly written). For Jem's birth, the old analogy of a stork is used. The only other birth we read about is Rilla's, which is conveniently written-out by having the events told from her older brother Walter's point of view, and he spent the night at a friend's house.
Rilla and Kenneth Ford share one kiss before he leaves to fight in World War I, and as a result, everyone from her mother to her friends think she and Ken are engaged. Rilla is 16, by the way, to Ken's 22 or so.
Rilla raises a baby, mostly by herself, from age 14. The baby's mother had died and his father was overseas fighting, so Rilla opted for taking him with her instead of letting him die. The entire scene where she brings Jims home is rather reminiscent of a child bringing home a stray kitten; her father tells her that she is on her own and that if she cannot take care of him, he will go to the orphanage. And this is just accepted by everyone around Rilla. Very hard for modern readers to swallow. She does well, aided in part by the family maid Susan and a parenting book she holds great faith in. The entire family comes to love Jims and she raises him until the age of 3-4, but no adult really offers to help beyond Susan.
The novel Killer by David Drake and Karl Edward Wagner, set in the Roman Empire, says: "That the strange Egyptian was wealthy enough to occupy an entire suite of rooms by himself did not excite half as much curiosity as did the scandal that N'Sumu lived there without a single slave to serve him."
Browns Pine Ridge Stories: Published in May 2014, one chapter ("A Tragedy and A Miracle"), that takes place in Telfair County, Georgia in 1937, mentions in passing that an elderly woman had to take care of her grandchild... while at work... as a Cafeteria lady at an Elementary School. The lack of any sort of adequate Day Care for young children of working parents would likely strike some readers as odd at the mildest and at worst, especially working single mothers, as appalling.
The Lovely Bones is an interesting modern version. The book ends with the deceased victim and her family both moving on without justice ever being served, the body being found or knowledge of harm to the killer. This was more than likely intended as An Aesop on what is really important, but by modern standards a lot of people see the ending as bad because there isn't justice/revenge served. Had the book been published back when it took place, the message may have been better received.
A book by Dirk Braeke, Het uur nul, contains a scene in which the main character is having sex with a prostitute (the titular prostitute is a 16 year-old shopaholic who sells her body in order to get clothing) in the toilets of school (though to be fair the school is not tolerant to those things) played completely unironically. It was probably only released in Belgium (though it might also have been released in The Netherlands), where the book is rated 12+. It is not exactly something that would fare well in foreign Western countries.
The Thorn Birds: When the book was first published it was considered a somewhat scandalous romance because it dealt with Ralph, a Catholic priest, falling in love with a girl named Meggie and having a sexual relationship with her (even fathering a child). Those who read the book today are more likely to be scandalized by the fact that Ralph practically raised Meggie, having known her from early childhood.
The work of T. S. Eliothas been criticised on the grounds that it contains a strong element of anti-semitism, and it's hard to argue, as some have done, that lines like "The rat is underneath the pile. / The jew is underneath the lot." are in no way offensive. The real question is not whether Eliot is or isn't offensive at times, but how we're going to handle it; even those who admire him have to admit that, in his poetry, he played with anti-semitism in a way that strikes us now as being at best questionable. It doesn't mean that he wasn't a major poet; just that he could be a pretty malevolent one.
George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire gives us a rare inverted example. Although Martin himself is an American, he noted that American readers were turned off by the amount of nudity and sex in his books. He stated that this was strictly an American response, as this reaction was not the case in Europe.
The Secret Garden: In 1911, the British Empire was in full swing, and it shows in this book. Indian people are referred to as "blacks" and they're considered less respectable than white people. The narration even refers to Mary having used violence against her servants in the past.
Mary's abuse of the Indian servants, however, is meant to reveal that she is a spoiled brat. Martha also reprimands Mary for her racist attitudes when Mary becomes outraged after learning Martha thought she was "black" at first.
It's also quite clear that bringing up a small girl in the belief that she's inherently superior to those around her—even her caretakers—is what made Mary so dysfunctional in the first place.
On a less serious note, Mary, a ten-year-old girl, is often and bluntly referred to as "ugly" by both the narrator and other characters and often to her face. Also, compare the approving references to her getting "fatter" (i.e. healthier and less scrawny) with today's concerns with obesity.
Mrs. Medlock, and even some of the more sympathetic characters like Martha and Mrs. Sowerby, also often refer to Mary as sour, contrary, or with adjectives that indicate a perpetually bad attitude. One wonders how much self-fulfilling prophecy played into her character.
Also, this: "She used the wrong Magic until she made him beat her." Ben Weatherstaff mentions a woman in the local village who nagged her husband until he beat her up and left for the pub. Colin's response is that she used the wrong Magic and Ben agrees.
More a case of Society Marches On, but we're supposed to see Mary—at least through Martha's eyes—as dysfunctional and hopelessly coddled because at the advanced age of nine she never goes anywhere by herself. In the same part of the world now, Mary would be at about the minimum age that children would start going out of sight of home without an adult.
As a slightly tamer version, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory experiences Pragmatic Adaptation because of this trope. More modern takes tend to emphasise that Mike Teevee is addicted to unsavoury television and video games like violent shoot-em-ups to make sure his vice is still as repulsive to the audience as it was intended to be. Likewise, Violet Beauregarde has her gum-chewing toned down in the 2005 film (as gum-chewing, even for extended periods of time, is no longer as disgusting as it was) to play up her pridefulness and competitive streak - she doesn't just chew gum because she particularly enjoys it, she chews to win.
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: (1971) The night before the drug conference, Duke and Gonzo ended up at a restaurant where they ate a cheap meal and "watched four boozed-up cowboy types kick a faggot half to death between the pinball machines." Then they went back to their hotel. People writing nowadays would probably be less casual about witnessing homophobic violence, and definitely wouldn't refer to the victim as a "faggot."
At the time of The Babysitters Club's release having middle schoolers babysit seemed reasonable however nowadays it's considered dangerous and neglectful. Heck, the babysitters could easily have been babysat themselves.
Raymond Chandler's Phillip Marlowe is, by the standards of modernity, not a particularly politically correct fellow; he's overtly misogynistic and homophobic and in Farewell, My Lovely casually throws around racist slurs about African Americans (although it is perhaps worth noting that when interacting with African American characters face-to-face in the same novel, he seems fairly tolerant and polite to them).