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Broken Aesop / Literature

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  • Aesop's Fables:
    • The aesop of The Tortoise and the Hare is "slow and steady wins the race". But the hare was winning the vast majority of the race and only lost because he was so far ahead he thought he could stop to rest, not noticing the tortoise caught up until too late. Thus the tortoise only won due to their opponent's overconfidence as opposed to the intended reason of going slow and steady.
      • There's a variant of this fable where the tortoise faces a deer, and rather than win through being "slow and steady", he gets some help by having some of his friends wait in hiding at several points during the race, which makes the deer think the tortoise is somehow overtaking him. Granted, the deer was cocky and deserved to be knocked off a peg, but winning through cheating doesn't make the tortoise better, especially when the deer, for all his attitude, ran the race fair and square.
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  • Animorphs #28: The Experiment: slaughterhouses and meatpacking plants are evil, terrifying places. Wow, that burger you're eating looks delicious. Can you get me one while you're up? Actually deliberate: the last chapter, where they get burgers, was written by Applegate, who hated what the ghostwriter had done with the book.
  • The first Arthur book, titled "Arthur's Nose" was about the titular aardvark not liking his nose and wanting to get plastic surgery to change it, before deciding he's proud of his appearance. This didn't stop author Marc Brown from eventually redesigning him so that his nose shrinks to the point where he no longer resembles an aardvark.
  • The proverb Luck favours the bold, which is in original Latin audaces Fortuna iuvat. Unfortunately this proverb is also a Lost in Translation in the original language. The stem word is audax, which means "bold" in the sense of "insolent", "impudent", "uppity", "rude" and "outrageous", giving English language the word "audacious". The proverb is intended to mean "know when it is time to break the rules and not get caught", not that "be brave and you will succeed". Luck favours the impudent and outrageous, not the virtuous and courageous.
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  • In-universe example: In The Barsoom Project, a live-action adventure about Inuit Mythology is re-staged as a "Fat Ripper", in which players are psychologically conditioned to overcome their eating disorders and other dependencies while completing their mission. This could've been a real coup for the Park's operators, if one of the game's challenges hadn't required them to smoke cigarettes as part of a magical ritual. So we're training Gamers to trade one unhealthy habit for another, are we?
  • The Belgariad: Barak and Merel fall in love and mend their Awful Wedded Life the instant Barak lays eyes on his newborn son. Babies Make Everything Better... except the birth of their older daughters didn't help their relationship any, and furthermore, the son is implied to be the product of Marital Rape.
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  • The Dr. Seuss story The Bippolo Seed has a moral against being greedy. However, the cat and the duck only lost because the duck dropped his seed while doing a Happy Dance. If he hadn't danced, they would have gotten away with being greedy and gotten all the things they wanted to sell.
  • In Blood Promise, Dimitri is turned into a Strigoi, a Fate Worse than Death. Rose is deeply hurt by this and abandons her education to trek through Russia so she can stake him, and thereby find closure. It's a long and dangerous journey that ends with Rose learning that she has to let go of Dimitri's memory and return to her friends and family, because mourning him in such a obsessive way sabotages her own life. It's a good lesson that is shot to hell by the book's closing chapter, which reveals that Spirit wielders have a completely unforeshadowed ability that allows them to resurrect Strigoi as the people they were, despite nothing else in the books even hinting that was possible. And after she learns this, Rose turns right back around and vows to get Dimitri resurrected this way, even planning to break a serial killer out of prison so it can happen!
  • Intentional in The Brightest Shadow: The Hero explicitly draws moral lessons from events that are horrifying to the characters (and presumably the reader). The fact that they often don't make perfect sense is emphasized.
  • Brown's Pine Ridge Stories: Gary is agonizing over the prospect of the Dodge Dart he disliked being the one his father would buy, but then he arrives with a Ford Starliner instead. The aesop at the end of this chapter is, to quote Gary, "Never give up and maybe the ugly ducklings you're expecting will become beautiful swans." Nowhere in the story does it involve any action on the part of the protagonist himself to change an unenviable outcome. It would be hoped that it was intended as a Spoof Aesop and not one meant to be taken seriously.
  • The original Beauty and the Beast story by Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve actually contains this. After the Beast's curse is broken and he has returned to human form, his mother returns home and is indignant that he married Beauty and refuses to acknowledge her, because Beauty is not royalty or nobility. The woman who cursed the Beast sees this and tells the mother what a horrible person she is for being so narrow-minded and refusing to see Beauty as the one who broke the curse on her son... and then reveals out of nowhere that Beauty is actually of royal birth, who was placed to be raised by a merchant and is actually part-fairy, making the mother's refusal pointless and ruining the idea that love is more important than one's birth.
  • The Candy Shop War has a pretty loud aesop, to the extent that John even states it, after having written it out for everyone in chalk. DON'T TAKE CANDY FROM STRANGERS! Great, but the kids don't take candy from random creeps on the side of the road. They get candy from a woman who owns a candy shop and a man who runs an ice-cream truck, having either paid for them or worked to earn them.
  • Older Than Print: Chaucer parodies this trope in The Canterbury Tales, by having the Pardoner tell a tale about the evils of greed... and then close the story with a sales pitch for all his crummy fake relics, because the Pardoner himself loves money above all else.
  • The Careful What You Wish For falls into the trap of Ruth (the main character) not actually getting what she wished for. First, she has a supposedly perfect life only her parents have dead eyes and her brothers are in stasis (which she never wished for, and she could clearly make her second wish "The same, but without the dead eyes and keep the brothers") and then she gets sent to a Catholic Boarding School of Horrors in the fifties... which, again, she didn't wish for.
  • The popular poem "Casabianca" ("The boy stood on the burning deck") retells the story of a young son of Commander Louis de Casabianca who perished at his post during the Battle of the Nile, supposedly heeding his father's order to remain until summoned while unaware that his father was already dead, and was a staple of British schoolboy education for at least a century despite its most obvious takeaway being "Don't obey your parents." A character in Samuel Butler's novel The Way of All Flesh observes that "the moral of the poem was that young people cannot begin too soon to exercise discretion in the obedience they pay to their papa and mamma."
  • The Dutch book The Chatroom Trap tries to convey the Aesop that chatrooms are dangerous place for underage users, by having Floor and Marcia, two 15 year old girls, do a lot of dumb things in chatroom, culminating in Marcia posing naked for various persons. The catch is, all of this has no negative consequences whatsoever (even Marcia's naked photos are kept private). Instead, the reason the girls are targeted by the criminals (which leads to them being molested) is that they post their profile on a (legit) site for aspiring models, with the entire baiting process happening via e-mails.
  • John Wyndham novel The Chrysalids initially has quite a powerful message against racism and xenophobia, being set in a backwards, post-apocalyptic theocracy in which mutants are brutally murdered for blaspheming against the likeness of God. Too bad the apparent message is fatally undermined in the last ten pages or so by having an airship full of technologically advanced mutants rescue the heroes by cheerfully massacring all of the primitive people surrounding them while talking about how it is moral and good for inferior races to be killed by their superiors.
    • An alternative interpretation is that the telepaths are the visionary elements of the counterculture, while the "normal" people are oldthinkers and the mutant tribe are the mass of stoners, drop-outs, and wastrels in the counterculture. The message then becomes that neither ordinary people nor visionaries should fear the counterculture, but that ultimately the ordinary people and the drop-outs are dead-ends, and the visionaries need to just wait for them to die. John Wyndham's stories tend to hover somewhere between Metaphorgotten and mixed metaphor, which means you can find a lot of different messages, sometimes even several at once.
  • Tom Godwin's short story The Cold Equations attempts to tell An Aesop about the uncaring nature of the universe, and how even an innocent mistake can cost a life, with no fault but that of universal law. Unfortunately, the basic thrust is undercut because of the setup of the situation. The only protection to keep someone from walking onto a spaceship where stowaways meet certain death is a sign saying "UNAUTHORIZED PERSONNEL. KEEP OUT!" This is especially bad, because it's flat-out stated that stowaways have happened before — indeed, the pilot of the ship has a gun and explicit orders to shoot them — yet the entire situation is treated as the fault of nothing but the physical laws of the universe. Readers are left to wonder why the craft had absolutely zero margin for error when modern lifeboats and transport craft are capable of handling far more than their generally required loads. (Although, part of the problem is Executive Meddling: the magazine editor wanted a story where science DOESN'T save the day, and Godwin kept finding ways to save the girl.)
  • Happens in-universe in one book in the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series. Greg's school puts out a PSA encouraging kids to Be Yourself, but a bemused Greg notes that most of the school's bullies took this as an excuse not to change their behavior.
  • One of the lessons in Dr. Seuss' Daisy-Head Mayzie is "What good is money without all your friends?". Wait, friends? You mean those bratty children who taunted her in school about her daisy (which was every single one of them, by the way. No one defended her!). And while the adults didn't torment her, they didn't exactly stick up for her either. Oh, but suddenly they all love her again once she's back to normal, so... yay for conformity? I think there's a reason Dr. Seuss didn't get this published initially.
  • Dirty Bertie: In the first book, Bertie learns that Nature Tinkling is not allowed, however, in "Twitter!" when he has to pee while birdwatching, he's allowed to pee in the woods.
  • The Dreamers tetralogy by David Eddings has a powerful one at the end. The series appears to build on the Aesop that the gods are supposed to barely affect people and use their powers sparingly and let things go naturally; so, after the gods are given children, who are their replacements, who are said to be able to save the world, they collect people from around the planet to help them fight off a Hive Mind force of super insects. How is the Aesop broken? During the last two chapters of the last book, the new gods in turn go back in time, render the original Hive Mother infertile, and give the man who almost single-handedly won the war because the loss of his wife caused him not to care about dying and made him want unending revenge his wife back. All this actively Unmakes all four books, and the main character's life is removed from existence. Now, that is first-class meddling!
  • Eight Cousins criticizes adventure books where, supposedly, boy protagonists become rich by finding a treasure or get adopted by a millionaire because he happened to find and return the millionaire's purse. Why can't we have wholesome books that teach children the value of hard work? Fair enough, but Eight Cousins itself has a heroine who is a rich heiress through no action of her own, and she "adopts" a poor orphan girl as her sister just because she sings beautifully and delivered an encouraging talk to the protagonist. "Write as I say, not as I write"?
  • The children's picture book The Elephant and the Bad Baby has an Aesop about the importance of being polite. The Elephant has taken the Bad Baby for a ride down the High Street, and asks him if he wants something from each of the shops they pass. The Bad Baby always says "Yes", and the a Elephant then steals it for him. They end up chased by a group of angry shopkeepers until the Elephant suddenly stops and complains that the Bad Baby never said "Please". The shopkeepers are appalled and side with the Elephant against the Bad Baby, even though he was the one stealing from them! So, not saying "Please" is a worse offence than stealing? And babies don't deserve to cut any slack when they forget their manners?
  • Orson Scott Card's Empire is about the dangers of divisiveness in American political discourse and the evils of extremism at both ends of the political spectrum. Fair enough. Unfortunately, it's fatally undermined by the fact that the heroes all unambiguously share "Red State values" whereas the villains are a bunch of craven liberals. Er, if the message is that people of both political opinions should work together, you probably shouldn't have all the protagonists be on one side of the aisle, and all the villains on the other like that...
  • Felicity Floo Visits the Zoo: The moral is to blow your nose when you have a cold and not wipe your nose on your hands. However, Felicity was already breaking rules by going to the zoo while sick and petting the animals despite no one being allowed to anyway. Had she followed those rules, she could have still wiped her nose on her hands without any consequences.
  • Fifty Shades of Grey:
    • Anastasia and Christian's relationship is meant to be seen as the greatest and best possible relationship, which everyone should strive for. Yet Christian physically abuses Anastasia, be it by raping or hitting her with tools like riding crops or belts, he manipulates her thoughts and actions through his words and never takes her No as an answer. In turn, Anastasia is actively scared of him and admits to this multiple times in the narrative, often stating that she is 'enduring' things for his sake, rather than wanting it herself. She actually left him, after initially realizing that she cannot consent to his fetishes in the bedroom, yet he forces his way into her life only a few days after, before she returns to him. Their relationship is anything but healthy and consensual and the fact that the eleven days marriage is dropped very soon by Christian further portrays that they are rushing their relationship horribly, Christian even admitting in Fifty Shades Freed that he actually doesn't know a thing about Anastasia.
    • The other Aesop of the book is supposed to be about a woman discovering her sexuality and enjoying it. Completely broken by the fact that Anastasia can only properly admit to herself that she is feeling horny by attributing anything regarding arousal to her Inner Goddess, a mental representation of her sexuality that she depicts as the epitome of a perpetually horny woman. She considers sex dirty and disgusting, unless one is absolutely in love with their partner, and often shames people who have casual sex mentally; including her best friend Kate. Anastasia's discovery of BDSM is also not properly done: she is not taught anything, does not understand safe words, and she is actively scared of majority of what BDSM entails. The Aesop is less 'a woman discovers her sexuality and enjoys it' and more 'a woman submits to the old Lie Back and Think of England trope'.
  • The Fountainhead has the message that all charity is evil, until the end, when Roark only succeeds in his dream because of his rich friend's charity. The friend even says that the one purpose of his fortune is to help someone like Roark, completely undermining the "people should live for themselves only" Aesop. The actual Aesop of the book seems to be "Howard Roark is awesome and everyone should do whatever he wants them to", or alternatively "Charity is a stupid and ultimately harmful sentiment...unless you're the one getting it, in which case take all you can get."
  • The main antagonists in Guardians of Ga'Hoole are Nazi expies whose belief that certain species are superior to others (barn owls specifically being the peak of evolution, and everyone else's rightful leaders) appalls every heroic character. But, the owl version of King Arthur, who's destined to rule all owls and usher in a golden age, is always incarnated as a barn owl. And his uncle of the same species inherits the crown later. And The Hero leading a group of other owls just happens to be the only barn owl among them (and the one who initiated their quest). So all those coincidences come off less as 'No race is any better or worse than another' than 'Non-Aryans can't do anything without the guidance and virtue of Aryans'. The heroic barn owls just have more noblesse oblige.
  • Halfway Across the Galaxy and Turn Left finishes with the curious alien family deciding that life on Earth is preferable to the life they lived before on an alien planet. Well, yes, life on Earth is great.. if your entire family has Psychic Powers and includes two Child Prodigies and a Proud Beauty (none of which would be unusual on Zyrgon).
  • Hobgoblin was written to cash in on the craze over Dungeons & Dragons players ostensibly going crazy and believing they were their characters. Scott, the main character, is portrayed as clinging to childish things by valuing his RPG sessions over more traditional high school pursuits. When given a chance, he starts emulating his bloodthirsty Celtic warrior character. And... by doing so, he saves the lives of multiple people and goes on to be more well-adjusted than his peers.
  • Kevin J. Anderson arguably did this well in Hopscotch. One of the parallel story threads follows a girl who joins an increasingly abusive cult whose founder is obsessed with the idea of sharing everything—this being a soft sci-fi story, this includes sharing bodies. The group is quickly set up to be "bad," and the girl is forced out of it and forced to leave her original body behind. She finds another leader-type to follow, a fellow who claims that body-swapping is bad and should never be practiced, and he gets a lengthy Character Filibuster on the subject. The astute reader might notice that this moral is actively contradicted in the other story threads, so it seems like a broken aesop. Later on, however, she discovers that her original body is dead, and gets to decide whether or not to trade for a body similar, but not identical, to the one she had. For a few seconds, she considers which choice would be more in line with the precepts she's adopted—then she realizes that she's still blindly doing whatever she's told, and for the first time in the book, she makes her decision based on her own instincts rather than someone else's advice.
  • According to The Host free will is more important than a utopia, and living parasitically in a host body is immoral. Which is why Wanderer gets moved against her express wishes into a different host body, ruining another alien's happy life in the process.
  • Racial prejudice is a recurring theme in The Icewind Dale Trilogy, The Dark Elf Trilogy, and the Legacy of the Drow Series by R.A. Salvatore. Drizzt Do'Urden is a Chaotic Good dark elf who rejects the ways of his otherwise Always Chaotic Evil people and goes to live among the "good" races. He is subjected to Fantastic Racism, which would work better as an analogue to Real Life racism if every other dark elf in the series bar literally just one or two weren't evil and if drow society as a whole weren't basically even worse than others assume it to be. The racists are still right 99% of the time.
    • Compounding this moral is the fact that Drizzt is a dark elf — a member of a race with a powerful and advanced (if dysfunctional) society, physically attractive and looking no different from a regular elf bar Palette Swap, and possessing agelessness, enhanced skill and reflexes, and low-level magic powers. Races like orcs, goblins, and kobolds, which possess none of these things, are shown exactly the same way they are in every other D&D book ever — i.e. ugly, murderous, stupid, barbaric cannon fodder, and the few times he does try to extend mercy to them, it's treated as naïveté. It's rather disingenuous to complain about being judged by your appearance and your genes when you're basically a black-painted ubermensch slaughtering the degenerates.
  • I'm In Love With the Villainess: One of the ideas espoused in the light novel is that LGBT people aren't going to immediately sexually assault anyone who fits their orientation. It's a good, sensible, and important lesson considering Japan's general stance on the LGBT community. But it is slightly undermined by the fact that Rei, the lesbian main character, had just spent the story up to that point acting within that stereotype towards Claire; stalking her, openly lusting after her, aggressively seeking physical contact, etc. While much of this was Rei deliberately messing with her and she does eventually stop this behavior, this doesn't change the fact that Claire was justified in worrying about Rei's actions, completely irrespective of any prejudice on her part. Rei herself even muses in a previous chapter that her staring at an uncomfortably nude Claire, after blackmailing the latter's father so she could become Claire's personal maid no less, was unmistakably an example of sexual harassment. This comes across as worse in the manga adaptation, which lacks Rei's self-aware internal monologue during these moments.
  • I Was a Teenage Fairy, by Francesca Lia Block: tattooing your lover's name on your chest is stupid, especially if you fail to learn from it and do it twice more - but the fourth time is okay, because now it's really true love.
  • Lady in Waiting by Jackie Kendall and Debby Jones, a religious self-help book, states first that a single woman was encouraged to pursue a doctorate, and that the spirit-filled woman is interesting and has goals for herself. But later it says that seeking fulfillment through a career is wrong and that a single woman should only seek fulfillment in serving God in whatever way, method, location, and time God wants.
  • In Little Men, Nat is caught telling a lie, and this is treated as a very serious issue and resolved with a cruel and unusual punishment. The problem is, a much older boy was threatening to beat the crap out of him if he'd ran through the boy's veggie patch - which he'd done because he was being chased by another older boy - so Nat got scared and denied it. And neither of the other boys were punished or even given a talking-to, leaving us with the message that lying to get out of a dangerous situation is not only wrong, but so much worse than threatening and bullying little kids who aren't able to defend themselves. Whoo, moralizing.
    • And in the first book, we have Amy burning Jo's book out of anger... cue Jo getting angry at her and being admonished for it.
  • In Martin Lake's A Love Most Dangerous, which focuses on a fictional mistress of Henry VIII, the Aesop is supposed to be "Be true to yourself and you will be happy." Fine—except that Alice Petherton is happy at the beginning before she is stalked and nearly raped by Sir Richard Rich. Even her threat to stick a pin in his eye doesn't stop him for long, and no matter who she goes to for help, no one will lift a finger against Rich. Alice then gets involved with the king (on the grounds that he will be able to protect her from Rich, who is very powerful), and all goes swimmingly until she begs Henry to spare a man whom Henry had condemned to death for following his own orders. As a result, Henry banishes her from the palace, and Rich takes advantage of the situation in a vicious way. At the end, Alice is back at court, back in the king's favor (having decided to be much more agreeable and never contradict the king) and is finally profiting from being the king's mistress. So the real moral seems to be "Always tell men exactly what they want to hear, because if you refuse them or contradict them, they will hurt you."
  • The Scottish children's book Max Power And The Bagpipes is about a family who run a wind farm, intended to provide the Green Aesop that renewable energy is awesome ... except that in order to provide a story, the actual message becomes "wind power is chancy and unreliable, unless you have magic bagpipes that can make the wind blow harder".
  • Monster Hunter International:
    • The series has numerous borderline Author Filibusters about the importance of the 2nd Amendment and owning guns. Of course, the reason that the main characters own guns is because they hunt zombies and werewolves for a living, which is obviously not an argument that applies well to the real world.
    • The series also has numerous arguments about personal freedom and not letting the government tell you what to do. However, sentient monsters that aren't hostile to humans are regularly rounded up and forced into black ops programs to be sent around the world to do whatever the government wants and they'll be killed if they refuse. This is also portrayed as perfectly justified because they're monsters.
  • Peter F. Hamilton's The Night's Dawn Trilogy is most infamous for its Deus ex Machina ending, but the story (particularly the third book) also attempts to promote an anti-racism message, with the Possessed as a metaphor for victims of bigotry. Unfortunately, this message is sort of lost when the victims of oppression are body-snatching ghosts who use rape and torture to increase their numbers.
  • The Poisonwood Bible: The author goes to great lengths to show that judging people without trying to understand where they're coming from is bad. But then paints all Americans as greedy, materialistic pigs except for her Author Avatars and paints Africans as saints who only ever do anything bad because they were corrupted by white people.
  • Race Against Time by Piers Anthony attempts An Aesop on how having a lot of different cultures is a good thing, but it gets broken by a moral on how you shouldn't mix romantically with other races.
  • In the Riftwar saga we get hammered about how the end doesn't justify the means, and that evil actions are irrational, by the heroes. Then they start torturing enemies, in full knowledge of this being evil, in the name of the greater good.
  • The Rizzoli & Isles series runs on this. One of its protagonists, Jane Rizzoli, relentlessly complains about how she's dismissed or ignored because of her plain looks, especially in favor of an attractive woman. Fair enough... except she does the exact same thing by taking an instant dislike to every beautiful woman that she meets, automatically assuming that she's a bitch or an idiot, and treating her as such. She also has nothing but contempt for the men who fall in love with these women, believing them to be shallow. Aside from being a grossly unfair and stereotypical assumption, she herself spends all of the first book lusting after her handsome partner and in the next book, falls for (and eventually marries) an equally handsome FBI agent. Apparently it's only shallow when beautiful people fall in love with beautiful people. When unattractive people do, it's just fine.
  • Save the Pearls is a somewhat controversial novel that is — ostensibly — a fable about the foolishness of racism, set in a world where an environmental catastrophe has left melanin content as a prized thing, with blacks on top and whites on the bottom, with an interracial romance to drive home the point. What it is, however, is a novel where white people are called "Pearls" and blacks are called "Coals," the white female lead starts off severely uncomfortable around black people (to the point of using slurs like "haughty Coal" in inner monologue), white people often wear blackface to "pass," the white lead is threatened with rape at the hands of a giant Scary Black Man, and the love story is described as a "Beauty and the Beast" fable (and the black love interest turns into a beast thanks to genetic engineering).
  • The novel Such A Pretty Girl is so devoted to portraying pedophilia as a serious issue that it portrays it as an insurmountable one. It more or less goes; 'Don't tell your parents you were raped, because they're abusive assholes who will blame you for it. Don't tell the cops, because Adults Are Useless. Don't run away from your rapist, because then he will abuse other children in your place (and you don't want to be selfish, right?)' Also, none of the many characters in the novel who have been raped ever recover from it. There Are No Therapists, and no point in ever trying to be happy again. Pretty bleak, given that in Real Life thousands of rapists are jailed per year.
  • The Sweet Valley High series (and its numerous spinoffs) ran on the power of hypocrisy. If "bad" twin Jessica dated a different boy every night, she was blasted for being promiscuous, but if "good" twin Elizabeth cheated on her boyfriend, it was glossed over to the point where HE was apologizing to HER. If Jessica acted stuck-up, she was a heartless bitch, but if Elizabeth did the same thing, she must have a good reason for it. Additionally, Elizabeth would practically demand that HER friends be forgiven for their misdeeds and given a chance to redeem themselves. Needless to say, she had no such compassion for any of Jessica's friends—not until big brother Steve blasts her for this does she even realize how insensitive and hypocritical she's being. An even better, if not outright literal, example of this trope is the fact that Jessica never once learned her lesson. She'd try to pull a zany scheme which would fall apart and leave her with egg on her face, but by the next book, would be doing it all over again, despite everyone under the sun warning her about what happened the last time.
    • With Jessica, the writers often seemed to confuse being mischievous with being a sociopath.
    • Never mind when Elizabeth was in a motorcycle accident at the end of one book, then in the next wakes out of her coma. She proceeds to act almost exactly like Jessica does—until she gets bonked on the head again, in a minor fall. She pops back to her normal self, gets forgiven by her boyfriend, and by everyone else. Jessica, who has spent the whole book picking up after Elizabeth's behavior, not only doesn't get any sort of apology or thanks, but is back to her normal self, no lesson learned or maturity earned, in the next book.
  • The first few books the Sword of Truth series have Richard being told that most people who end up doing great evil honestly believed that they were doing the right thing, and that unquestioning belief in the rightness of one's cause is the most dangerous thing in the world. Later on in the series, the author takes the opposite position: some things really are as simple as black and white, and if you really are Right, taking extreme measures when fighting against those who really are Evil is not only justifiable, but necessary. However, the protagonists end up doing some, well, morally questionable things in the process, to the point where the protagonists can end up looking like textbook examples of what the first few books warned against becoming.
    • Naked Empire, spends a good chunk of time preaching that you have to work for things, and that knowledge doesn't just come to you when you need it. In the last pages of the book, Richard's dying of poison and the knowledge of how to make the antidote just shows up in his head. Another particularly obvious one is the repeated exhortation to live your own life and think for yourself - but if you don't think Richard is right you're wrong, probably evil, and are going to die.
  • There are quite a few broken aesops in The Twilight Saga:
    • One of the themes is abstinence before marriage, yet all their waiting is all made irrelevant during the final installment. The first time they actually sleep together after their wedding, it's a violent event that leaves Bella injured and the bed destroyed. To make matters worse, the pregnancy turns out bloody, gruesome, and nearly fatal. Marriage does not protect from sexually transmitted infections, nor does it physically or emotionally prepare one for pregnancy.
    • According to Word of God, the Bella/Edward/Jacob love triangle was intended to show Bella's choice in the matter of love, namely that she had the option of Jacob but chose Edward. The "love through choice" moral is shot to hell through most of the other couples though, particularly in the case of imprinted couples (the guy can't help but feel attracted to the girl and while the girl technically is able to refuse him, there is a ton of pressure not to. To given an idea of just how much pressure, in the very first imprinted couple the books show the girl did try to refuse the guy which caused him to fly into a rage and more or less literally rip her face off.). Especially egregious is the case of Jacob, who made a number of speeches about how imprinting is essentially the loss of free will and he hopes to never have it and then finds himself happily imprinted on Renesmee, even though he absolutely hated her not five minutes prior. Which kind of contradicts everything the author said about Jacob being an option since it's implied if not outright stated that Jacob's interest in Bella was apparently only due to him being subconsciously drawn to her because he was meant to imprint on Renesmee in the first place.
    • One Aesop seems to be that a girl as plain and unassuming as Bella can find true love, but Bella's flaws fall mostly into the category of Informed Flaw, and are almost entirely removed at the end of the series. Not to mention, though Bella is intended to be plain and unassuming, nearly every man she runs into falls for her and Edward himself states that most of the boys in the school find her attractive. Clearly, not so plain. However, maybe the intended Aesop here was that if you hold off on sex until you get married and then die in childbirth, you will become a saint and absolutely perfect in every way.
    • The Cullens are portrayed as saintly vampires who value human life and therefore maintain a "vegetarian" diet of animal blood. But they never once object to other vampires killing humans — the closest they ever come is politely asking some non-veggie vamps who are staying with them to go out of town to feed, which has little to do with protecting human life and more to do with not blowing their cover. When there's a huge murder spree going on in Seattle caused by a vampire army, the Cullens never lift a finger to help until they realize the vampires are coming for them.
      • And worse still, some of the deaths the Cullens cause are glorified, the most obvious example being Rosalie murdering her fiance and his friends. This would otherwise be a pretty badass moment, if it weren't for the fact that Carlisle is supposed to be an absolute pillar of morality; if he's so moral, why did he stand by and allow his new adoptive daughter to murder humans, something he's so strongly against?
      • In the first novel Edward briefly mentions that before he went full "vegetarian" he was sort of a vigilante vampire superhero; he would make meals out of muggers and rapists when they were in the middle of attacking someone. This is presented as wrong because he's inevitably still killing, despite the fact he would also often be saving people who would have otherwise been murdered, assaulted, or raped. The option of remaining a vigilante and just not feeding on the criminals he captures is never even considered.
      • Also building on Carlisle's supposed status as a pillar of morality, the reason he saved Rosalie's life was he saw her lying raped and dying in the street and thought it would be a shame to let beauty such as hers go to waste. And then he tried to give her to Edward as a girlfriend.
  • Warrior Cats: When Firestar has to choose between reinstating his old deputy, Graystripe, or keeping Brambleclaw, StarClan tells Leafpool that Firestar should make his decision with his head, not his heart (oh so subtly hinting at Brambleclaw), completely ignoring all the times in the series characters have been told to listen to their heart or do what they feel is right. In fact, the whole reason Firestar chose Graystripe in the first place was because he was told to follow his heart.
  • Bowman, Kestrel, and their friend Mumpo spend the first Wind on Fire book learning that if they work together, they can make things happen and nothing can hurt them. In the book's two parallel plots, the twin's father convinces downtrodden people that they need to stand up and peacefully insist on being given their rights, and their mother makes her views heard and gets the town to listen to her and consider her ideas. Then... the MacGuffin shows up and makes it all better. Or at least makes them happy for the remainder of the book.
  • Kaala, protagonist of The Wolf Chronicles, spends the entire series being bullied and manipulated by its various chessmasters. There is much talk about how she can't trust anybody—even her allies—to tell her the whole truth, and must fight for her independence. Then in the finale she...suddenly trusts one of these chessmasters (Gaanan) to safeguard the future of humanity? Even though he's lied to her before? Even though she has no reason to believe he's being honest now? Really?
  • There's a children's poem about a little girl whose father brags that men are better drivers and are "built with speed and strength". He ends up driving his car straight into a truck and the poem starts to make a gender equality Aesop... which then gets completely broken by having the little girl remark "men are built with speed and strength but hardly any brains" showing she's just as sexist as her father.
  • The Robert A. Heinlein novel Farnham's Freehold. It's supposed to be an anti-racism novel, but given that Heinlein was an upper-class white man from pre-Civil Rights Era California, he really didn't have a great handle on what race issues actually were. He just flipped things around so that the protagonists ended up in a society where black people (who were also cannibals) were now the masters of enslaved white people, so the Aesop came across as something along the lines of "given half a chance, black people will turn around and be even worse to white people than white people currently are to them." Or as one review put it, it was "an anti-racism novel only a Klansman could love."
    • Heinlein's post-1960 works tend to have protagonists who preached against blindly accepting organlized religion and cultural norms, and they instead encouraged freethought and individualism. These same protagonists would also strongly chastise anyone who didn't blindly accept their beliefs.


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