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The Anvil Of The Story

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When the moral of a story is made incredibly blatant. This just defines a term.

This work is a proposed Trope, Tropers can vote and offer feedback in the comments section below.
Proposed By:
WaterBlap on Mar 7th 2019 at 11:00:37 AM
Last Edited By:
WaterBlap on Mar 14th 2019 at 4:14:31 PM
Name Space: Main
Page Type: trope

This is a supertrope for Anvilicious and Some Anvils Need to Be Dropped as discussed in the TRS thread here. The crowner has been called in favor of making a supertrope. That was the only option where the yays had it.

The following is the mock-up mentioned in the crowner, edited in light of the discussion below.


An Aesop is a given work's ethics lesson; it's the whole point of the work. Usually, it's shown to the audience in such a way as to not interfere with watching the show or reading the book, and then it might be stated or made more clear by the end of the work. Ethics philosophers might be referenced and famous thought experiments might be shown, but it's usually subtley done so as not to interfere with the story. We generally just call these morals, and if they're ever stated outright, they're likely in the forms of aphorisms. Here on TV Tropes, we call these aphorisms "Aesops."

An "anvil," meanwhile, is a heavy-handed ethics lesson. In fact, it's so heavy-handed that you could say it's like getting hit with an anvil. Hence the name.

Anvils are tools, first and foremost. They could be "done poorly" and they could be "done well," but at the end of the day, an anvil is simply what it is: a clumsy ethics lesson that insists upon itself.

That said, just because it's clumsily done does not mean it's an anvil. It must be (1) some kind of ethics lesson and (2) heavy-handed. So, the creator must actually give the audience something to be learned, like "Slavery is wrong" in Uncle Tom's Cabin. It must also be heavy-handed, like stopping the story in order to explain the evils of slavery in Uncle Tom's Cabin.

While the lesson doesn't need to be "successful," it does still need to be a coherent lesson. Thus, if the work contradicts its own Aesop, then it isn't an anvil but rather a Broken Aesop. Moreover, the lesson must be heavy-handed, so if the Aesop isn't intentional, it isn't quite an anvil but an Accidental Aesop. In addition, a Lost Aesop is the total opposite of an anvil, as it's done so subtley that it might not even exist.

Other types of Aesops are prone to this, however, such as Captain Obvious Aesop, Scare 'em Straight, and Family-Unfriendly Aesop. Basically, if the writer is climbing uphill, then they may be inclined to make an anvil rather than an Aesop.

Sister trope to An Aesop. Contrast Lost Aesop. Specific aphorisms can be found on Stock Aesops. Supertrope to Anvilicious and Some Anvils Need to Be Dropped. See also Author Tract and Propaganda Piece.

Feedback: 10 replies

Mar 7th 2019 at 1:50:42 PM

Since the crowner went against the option of changing Anvilicious and Some Anvils Need To Be Dropped, can you please remove the potholes in the third paragraph?

Mar 7th 2019 at 4:30:53 PM

Perhaps there are other ways of making the moral "heavy handed". I want you to list it (preferably exhaustively).

Mar 8th 2019 at 3:04:28 AM

Capitalized the title so the proposal can be launched properly.

Mar 8th 2019 at 9:20:43 AM

^^ That comes off a bit pushy, no? Regardless, that just seems silly, and would only serve to clog up the description. Besides, this isn't an index of heavy-handedness tropes. If you want some guideline for what constitutes "heavy-handed," then just look at a dictionary. If the work isn't clumsy, oppressive, or harsh in its approach, then it isn't heavy-handed.

Mar 10th 2019 at 6:19:58 AM

Will this include examples? Also, as someone asked in the TRS thread, what will happen to the definition of Anvilicious and SANTBD?

Mar 10th 2019 at 6:32:17 AM

One Troper (out of a dozen) agreed to change the definitions to conform to the misuse. That's consensus for keeping the current definitions. Anvilicious shares the same definition as the supertrope, so there won't be any examples exclusive to The Anvil Of The Story and Some Anvils Need To Be Dropped will continue to be misused for "I liked this Aesop".

Mar 11th 2019 at 8:29:18 AM

To the question of will this include examples, it depends. If it's best that it just defines the term "anvil," then I think wiki policy is that it doesn't get examples. If it's best to siphon off neutral examples, or simple "This work has X anvil," then it should get examples. It depends on discussion, I guess, idk. I only made this one before the crowner was called because the option was in a significant lead for a long time.

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