Follow TV Tropes

Following

Deliberate Values Dissonance / Literature

Go To

Deliberate Values Dissonance in literature.


    open/close all folders 

    Authors 
  • The Nigerian writer Chinua Achebe (most famous for Things Fall Apart) writes historical novels about the Igbo people, and doesn't fail to include disturbing cultural practices like abandoning newborn twins in the forest to die, a certain caste being forbidden to live with the rest of the people or one protagonist killing his adopted son due to an inscrutable oracular order. The point is that while many aspects of Igbo culture were good and their loss a tragedy, the novels also make it clear why so many Igbo were willing to trade them in for the colonial Anglo-Christian culture, which is also portrayed as neither wholly good nor bad.
  • James Ellroy:
    • LA Quartet, set from 1947 to 1959, features even its more likable characters occasionally indulging in racial epithets, as well as similar attitudes to Jewish people. Ellroy deliberately points out how deeply ingrained into society those feelings were, that even nice people could get caught up in them.
    • In The Black Dahlia Bucky is manipulated into killing two black men by his partner, who is trying to cover up a previous crime. He doesn't seem too bothered by it, as he's too busy obsessing over the eponymous Black Dahlia.
    • In The Big Nowhere Upshaw is hounded into killing himself with the threat of revealing his homosexuality.
    • Ellroy describes the themes of the Underworld USA trilogy thus:
      The essential contention of the Underworld USA trilogy ... is that America was never innocent. Here's the lineage: America was founded on a bedrock of racism, slaughter of the indigenous people, slavery, religious lunacy... and nations are never innocent. Let alone nations as powerful as our beloved fatherland. What you have in The Cold Six Thousand'' — which covers the years '63 to '68 — is that last gasp of pre-public-accountability America where the anti-communist mandate justified virtually any action. And it wasn't Kennedy's death that engendered mass skepticism. It was the protracted horror of the Vietnamese war.
  • The eponymous Tuareg protagonist from the book by Alberto Vazquez-Figueroa has a fifteen-year-old wife who's the mother of his son. And he isn't very fond of people suggesting that all humans (men and women, free men and slaves, Tuareg and others, smart and dumb ones, rich and poor ones, and so on) are equal. When another guy calls him a fascist for this, he just states, then he has to be a fascist (to his excuse, he doesn't know about fascism). Ironically, he saves the life of the socialist ex-president also thanks to Values Dissonance — the man was his guest, and he'll do anything for hospitality.
  • Done by Ephraim Kishon with Saadya Shabatai, the Yemenite Jew. As Kishon wrote, "they are about 2000 years behind western civilization". Used in one story where a guy wants to marry Saadya's daughter, but the father demands a high bride price (i.e. essentially selling his daughter). The funny thing is, although exploiting the rule to make money is frowned upon, this is a more or less Biblically-mandated Jewish tradition, albeit one with a more-or-less universally used loophole.note 
  • In Mary Renault's The King Must Die, there is mention of its hero, Theseus, taking sexual advantage of female servants/slaves starting from a young age, and this is completely appropriate behavior.
    • Her book The Persian Boy was blasted by Moral Guardians because one of its main themes is pederasty. In the text the narrator clearly states that his treatment as a child was horribly abusive, and if anything The Persian Boy is a scathing, vicious denunciation of child sexual abuse. Most of the main action of the novel, where the narrator finds love and happiness, takes place after he reaches adulthood. The Moral Guardians were also a bit put-out by the main character finding "love and happiness" in a romance with another man, which may have been all well and good in Ancient Greece, but apparently not so much in 1972 America.
  • Neal Stephenson frequently explores Culture Clash and Values Dissonance in his works. Friends or allies from different cultures and sub-cultures sometimes have to pause and step back a moment to understand where their companions are coming from. This also serves as a moment for the reader to be informed on the differences in culture and outlook. Many an antagonist in his works is a thoroughly evil villain from the protagonist's perpective, but is "good" by his own code as a Well-Intentioned Extremist, Knight Templar, or an example of outright Blue and Orange Morality.
Advertisement:

    # 
  • As most of 11/22/63 takes place in the Southern US when Jim Crow was still in effect, there is much of this to be had. Casual racism, sexism and homophobia is all around every corner — one elderly character is shown reminiscing about minstrel shows, the main character (a man from the 2010s) uses the image of a segregated bathroom as a way to keep himself from romanticizing the past, and women are expected to put up with less-than-savory situations (like an abusive marriage) for the sake of keeping up appearances. And in the case of the latter, Sadie knows nothing of OCD, the disorder that made her abusive ex so abusive towards her.
  • In the 1632 series, the vastly different values between people from 2000 America and 1632 Europe cause no end of confusion, hilarity, and conflict between people from the time periods.
    • A beautiful example shows up in The Kremlin Games, when a 21st century American and a 17th century Russian noble discuss the abolition of slavery. The American is shocked to hear that the high nobles (whom the American had just assumed would fall under Aristocrats Are Evil), who can afford to pay wages, are generally neutral or slightly opposed to slavery. The big supporters of the institutions are land-rich and cash-poor petty nobility and land-holding yeomen, whose only assets are farmland and the labor needed to get crops harvested. At the same time the slave-girl Anya remarks that she had never even considered that slavery as an institution could be immoral before the Americans pointed out that all humans are descendants of Adam and Eve. Before then, she had never had a bad opinion of the system, only of her place in it.
  • In 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Great White Hunter Ned Land asks Captain Nemo's permission to hunt some whales. Nemo denies it and he accuses Ned of being an Egomaniac Hunter. Next they see some cachalots and Nemo destroys them using the Nautilus's spur. When Ned accuses Nemo of being The Butcher, Nemo answers that the cachalots are mischievous creatures and the Nautilus is his weapon. Verne shows us that no matter how mistaken the philosophy of a Great White Hunter is, they will never do the damage that the Ubermensch can do using science.

    A 
  • The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn was written several decades after the Civil War. Many modern audiences fail to realize that Mark Twain meant to invoke this trope to show just how bad the South was.
  • A few books of the Animorphs series highlight that the Andalites, the nominal "good guy" alien race of the series, are quite sexist to their females and are especially ableist with disabled Andalites being viewed with a mix of disdain and pity, where being shoved out of sight is considered a mercy.
  • Often used to good effect in the Aubrey-Maturin series. One excellent example is the characters' attitude toward naval discipline and punishment; Jack Aubrey is portrayed as having liberal opinions on the subject for the day, hating indiscriminate flogging (flogging being a standard punishment at the time for offenses not reaching a court-martial level of seriousness) and doing what he can to lessen the severity of punishments issued by court-martials that he sits on. Nonetheless, he will order a set of lashes to be laid on if he deems the reason good and sufficient, e.g., for deliberate insolence toward a superior officer in The Far Side of the World or for shocking incompetence in executing a basic nautical maneuver in The Truelove.
    • Jack is also, in the early parts of the series, casually anti-Irish, anti-Catholic (Too many Irish in the starboard battery. Can't walk around down here without tripping on a rosary...) and slightly pro-slavery (more because he is afraid of the effects of abolition on the economy financing the war against Napoleon than anything else; he has nothing personal against people of color, and even makes a black man a bo'sun at one point.) Being friends with half-Irish Catholic Stephen Maturin helps him with the first two (though he occasionally relapses) and the third is effectively cured when he captures a slave ship.
    • There is also a mention that both Stephen Maturin and another character have innate cruel streaks as a result of their Spanish heritage.
    • Doctor Maturin himself, while incredibly progressive for his time in many ways, is still very much a Catalan nobleman when it comes to matter of honour, and quite ready to kill anyone over a slight, large or petty, real or imagined. He is also quite openly islamophobic, and mere mention of "the Moors" is enough to reduce the normally cold and detached doctor to frothing-at-the-mouth rage.
      • Stephen is also a proponent of settling freed African-Americans in Sierra Leone. Today, this opinion comes across as rather racist, but it was considered quite progressive at the turn of the 19th century.

    B 
  • Bas-Lag Cycle: Subverted in Perdido Street Station: Isaac immediately assumes that Yagharek's crime of "choice theft" is some inscrutable offense based on Blue and Orange Morality. For this reason he's willing to help Yagharek counteract his punishment. It turns out that Yagharek's crime is what humans would simply call rape, albeit viewed in a slightly different light from how a not insignificant number of readers might, and so he revokes his help.
  • Beautiful Losers: While 17th century priests start to worry once Katherine Tekawitha's mortification rituals start to endanger her life, they're very casual about it in general, and seem perfectly ok with acts of self-violence (such as whipping her back until it bleeds, every single day) that the 20th century narrator finds horrifying.
  • Seen somewhat in the Belisarius Series. Although many of the characters have somewhat more tolerant views than were common at the time, they're rather nonchalant about the existence of slavery. Ousanos also makes a comment about it being too bad that democracy, as the classic Greeks demonstrated, never works.
  • The Bible: Used sometimes. For example, kings were highly respected in ancient Judea, but had an extremely bad reputation in ancient Rome. So when Jesus was arrested, there was some dispute between the Romans and the Judeans as to whether to call him "King of the Jews" (a huge insult according to the Romans, but a huge honorific according to the Judeans) or merely a man who claimed to be the King of the Jews (John 19:21). Pontius Pilate, the Roman magistrate responsible for making the decision, chose the former.
  • Used and partially crossed over with Fair for Its Day in Mary Grant Bruce's stories about the fictional Australian cattle-station (USA: ranch), Billabong (The Billabong Books). All of the characters, including the main ones, view the Australian Aboriginals as inferior and having child-like minds. Also, the Chinese occasionally depicted in the books are viewed by most of the characters as degenerate and reprehensible tramps by default. The Billabong family, the Lintons, are very progressive in that they are willing to accept some Chinese as being decent and respectable (most notably, their Chinese kitchen gardener, Lee Wing). The last story in the series is notable for putting forth the progressive (for when it was written) view that Australia once belonged to the Aborigines and they deserve some respect.
  • In Book of the New Sun, the hero Severian is a torturer and executioner, who even at one point delivers a two-page speech about why penal torture is the best punishment and preferable on all counts to prison/hard labour, exile, or indiscriminate death penalty. He apparently changes his mind later, as when he becomes Autarch, he announces his intention to abolish his former guild, but clearly intends executions to continue. And given that he has previously spoken against prisons and forced labour...
    Severian: By our mercy we will grant even the foulest a quick death. Not because we pity them, but because it is intolerable that good men should spend a lifetime dispensing pain.
  • Ellis Peters' characters from the Brother Cadfael books adhere to medieval feudal values without losing her or the reader's sympathy. Especially Oliver's My Master, Right or Wrong attitude in a civil war doesn't one bit change the fact that she seems a little in love with him.
  • This trope is a strong element in A Brother's Price. It's a Romance Novel set during an age of rifles, steamboats, and horses, and so few men are born that gender roles are largely reversed. The often horrifying implications are spelled out but regarded dispassionately — Princess Ren, who's consulting holy books, concludes that the values they espouse don't include treating men like property, but that doesn't mean they're as hardy, ambitious, and constructive as women. Family structures in this world are also different, so if a sister commits treason and there isn't reasonable evidence that she acted alone, the entire family is executed down to the infants. This is regarded as unpleasant and sad, but practical for preventing You Killed My Mothers and cycles of revenge.

    C 
  • The Century Trilogy: In Fall of Giants, which is dealing with the changes in society during the time of World War I, this trope is inevitable. The most obvious example among the main protagonists would be Earl Fitzherbert, an English aristocrat who is against the very principle of women's suffrage, and (although even he disapproves of the brutal way the Russian nobility treats its subjects) also against the emancipation of the lower classes.
  • Chronicles of the Kencyrath: The Kencyrath aren't human, ands Kencyr values are appropriately alien. Incest is ok, but lying is awful enough that suicide is the only way to regain your honor. (Calling someone a liar is the worst possible insult.) Highborn women always wear masks, and not wearing one is like going nude. Highborn women also have a long tradition of being each other's girlfriends—although it's strictly secret from men. Highborn women are cloistered, and arranged marriage to strangers is the norm for them, but Kendar women get decent gender equality, and serve as soldiers alongside their male counterparts.
  • Common in David Wingrove's Chung Kuo series, taking place in a future ruled by the Han (Chinese) with much more acceptance of casual cruelty. Holding up a frozen human head to your business associates to reminisce? They will only be bothered that you are stalling the meeting.
  • "The Ass's Head" by Phyllis Ann Karr, collected in Classical Whodunnits is supposedly based on a 2nd century manuscript. It portrays Christianity as an insane anarchist death cult, with a "Not Making This Up" Disclaimer explaining that, while this isn't true, it really was how pre-Constantinian Romans saw it.
  • Codex Alera
    • The human civilization of Alera came from a Roman legion that fell through an opening in time and space and landed in this alternative world. After a thousand years of fighting, they came together in one solid society and that has lasted for another thousand years. In all that time, old Roman ideals and practices stayed in favor. So slavery and women being a second-class unless they prove themselves by pretending to be men and serve in the army are common. The nobility will fight for perceived slights against their honor and dignity. These views, as well as seeing the other races of the world as subhuman, tend to make relationships with the other races tricky and bloody.
    • The Marat, neolithic elf-like people, who form a deep bond with an animal creature, are savage barbarian fighters. They will eat the dead of their enemies, believing it will give them their enemy's strength by consuming it. They worship the One, believing in some all powerful, all-encompassing entity and will make challenges in the One's name. Such challenges can even stop a war between one tribe and some Alerans if another tribe intercedes on the Aleran's side. Those watching the fight also regularly make bets on the outcome.
    • The Cane, 7ft-9ft tall wolf-persons, have a strict honor base society. They don't believe in being friends and allies with other races or with each other. They have many words for the term "enemy". Garada is considered an enemy who one respects and will treat with respect but never forgetting this person is an enemy who will seek some advantage over the person. Even parents and children call each other Garada.
    • The brutal Icemen of the north bring two leaders to a negotiation, one who looks for peace and one who looks for war. These hulking beasts are also powerful empaths and regularly communicate by simple emotional will. One Aleran saw the Peace Leader give an emotional slap to the War Leader when the War Leader acted foolishly. The first Alerans who met them centuries ago were likely using internal fire magic to keep them warm, not anticipating the fear and intimidation the magic can bring about is sensed by the Icemen, who get agitated, which unnerves the Alerans even more, and it all escalated to a centuries-long war stemming from poor communications.
  • The alien Tendu of The Color of Distance expect anyone who can't recover from some sort of injury within a year, with the help of their powers, to "honorably" kill themselves. Suicide in general is seen as the inevitable end to anyone not unlucky enough to be killed by accidents or wildlife — adult Tendu don't age like humans do, and their populations are carefully self-limited. At various points in this book and the next they find out how differently humans do things and are appalled. They also spawn in great numbers, consume their own tadpoles, and both work their semi-intelligent older offspring like slaves and allow them to die left and right. The human observer reminds herself often that they aren't human, that she can't pass judgement.
  • The Conqueror books present killing and stealing from neighbouring clans and raping girls from allied clans as positive and heroic. Granted, life in the steppes was tough, but wow.
  • Occurs in-universe with "Consider Her Ways", a novella by John Wyndham where the narrator, a doctor from the mid 20th century, finds herself in a post-Gendercide society and engages in a fierce argument with a historian about whether things are better now. The historian maintains that while the plague that wiped out all men was unfortunate, it freed women from patriarchal oppression; the narrator claims that life in such a society would be barely worth living. note 
  • In Donald Kingsbury's Courtship Rite, this is almost the entire point of the book. Cannibalism is accepted and normal, bound with ritual, and the heretic who argues against it comes off as a bit crazy. Without cannibalism, there would be no people on Geta, or at best, only a desperate handful.

    D 
  • In Kylie Chan's Hell to Heaven (the second book in the Dark Heavens/Journey to Wudang series), a boy drugs and attempts to rape Simone. Simone, the daughter of Xuan Wu, uses her powers to kill him on impulse, and is convinced she is guilty of murder, or at least manslaughter. The Jade Emperor calls her to the Celestial Plane over the incident, where he commends her for her actions — in his eyes, she was protecting her virtue, and exercising her right as a princess to pass judgment on a criminal. This just makes Simone feel even worse about the act.
  • In The Dinosaur Lords, people of Nuevaropa see being nude in public not as funny or humiliating, but empowering. If a person appears in court or in front of a crowd naked, they show that they are honest in their beliefs and that it's their opponent who should feel ashamed.
  • Discworld:
    • Racism is mostly replaced with Fantastic Racism (dwarfs and trolls), but some old-fashioned sexism is on display, despite female heroes being common. Equal Rites features the Disc's first female wizard (as opposed to witch) getting looked down upon by other wizards, who believe a female wizard is impossible. Curiously, Granny Weatherwax shares this belief, saying that "if men were witches they'd be wizards", because there are inherent psychological differences between the genders. Esk ends up proving this false, as she can effectively be both.
    • Dwarfs typically don't advertise their genders (females are also bearded), and when one starts to do so it is treated as scandalous. Carrot, himself raised by dwarfs, also finds it a little disturbing, despite being a true Nice Guy. He also assumes that Angua was hired purely because she is a woman (she wasn't. It's because she's a werewolf).
    • Speaking of Dwarfs, many humans express outrage at the Dwarf custom of buying oneself from one's parents before getting married. To Dwarfs, this is a sensible way of letting a couple start a life together unencumbered by the past, and makes it possible for the couple's families to give the bride and groom lavish gifts without anyone's honor being insulted. To humans it is an unacceptable way of involving money in something which should be a purely emotional affair.
    • On the other hand, Snuff features a rather extreme case of Deliberate Values Dissonance within the series. Does eating babies make a race Always Chaotic Evil? Maybe not if you see it from their point of view.
  • The Dispossessed features the double planet system of Urras and Anarres, which have very different cultures. The women of Urras are shocked that the women of Anarres "don't shave". This refers not to legs-and-armpits but rather to heads.
  • Dragaera
    • The books often highlight the callous attitudes of Jhereg gangsters and the alienness of Dragaeran society.
    • Used ironically at times, as when the business Vlad sets up to conceal his office and illegal (untaxed) gambling den is a legal narcotics dealer.
    • When Vlad is relaxing in his house, he hears a sudden racket at his front door and realizes someone is smashing their fist into it. Alarmed, he scrambles for his weapons and prepares for an home invasion, only to eventually discover that it's simply a visiting Easterner who is knocking politely. Vlad, who was raised primarily in Dragaeran customs, expects visitors to clap.
  • The Dresden Files:
    • Concepts like good and bad are foreign ideals to the Fair Folk Harry regularly interacts with. They honor the deal and the words of the deal. So long as that is followed and no breach occurs, the methods of achieving those promised words are not relevant. This is why even powerful wizards refuse to make open-ended deals with the fae, or use vague wording. There is too much room for the fae to give as little as he or she needs to, while only giving the wizard exactly what he asked for. Harry eventually realizes this all can be boiled down to a respect for balance. The fae believe to their core what one is given one must be returned to in measure. If both sides agree to it, then it is a fair measure.
    • In Turn Coat, Harry sees some old journals McCoy, his two-hundred-year-old mentor, keeps in his study. McCoy mentions the ones preceding his are McCoy's mentor's journals. When he speaks of his now dead mentor McCoy calls the wizard his "master". He notes there was a time when that word wasn't as narrow meaning as it is now with that inherent negativity. It used to encompass things like teacher and mentor.
  • Frank Herbert's Dune novels:
    • None of the characters bat an eyelash at practices such as slavery, concubinage, gladiatorial games, arranged marriage, or forced marriage.
    • Fremen customs allow men to settle disputes with duels to the death, after which the victor inherits the wives and children of his dead opponent.
    • Fremen customs also condones underage marriage. In Dune Messiah, Stilgar urges Paul to marry off Alia so that she will have a legitimate outlet for her budding sexuality. Alia is in her early teens at the time.
    • The Bene Geserit test the willpower of would-be initiates through the Gom Jabbar ordeal. None of them see anything morally wrong with torturing and killing children this way.
Advertisement:

    E 
  • Used deliberately in Orson Scott Card's Enchantment. The modern-day hero finds himself in medieval Russia and unable to understand the cultural norms. No one blinks when he finds himself naked in public, but they are scandalized when he tries to used a woman's cloak to cover himself. His reluctance to enter an arranged marriage is the highest sort of insult, and when he does get married, his wife is perplexed at his reluctance to consummate it, since her body is now his property.
  • Raymond Briggs' Ethel & Ernest, being set between the 20s and 70s, is of course filled with this. For just one example, when Raymond is telling his mother Ethel about his worries about his wife and that she's been diagnosed with schizophrenia, Ethel's response is "You mean... she's a nutter?"

    F 
  • Fever 1793 uses this in a more humorous manner. The main character is supposedly foulmouthed, and everyone reacts in a horrified manner whenever she uses her favorite profane exclamation: "Dash it all!"
  • Fevre Dream by George R. R. Martin takes places in the south around the time of the American Civil War. As a result, most characters are racist. Although protagonist Abner Marsh is presented as more enlightened (he disapproves of slavery, for instance) he still liberally uses the n-word.
  • Very much the case in the Flashman series: The hero makes Gene Hunt look like Mr. PC in comparison.
  • In The Four Feathers, (a novel set during 1870s Britain) the hero's resignation from the army is treated as borderline treason, and his friends and fiancée immediately cut ties with him because of it. The latter, notably, made this judgement despite never having been in combat herself.
  • Friday's reaction to being gang-raped as an interrogation technique is simple annoyance at the idea that she could be traumatized. As an artificial human she's been raised not to have any sexual hang-ups, and has even been trained to pretend to enjoy it in order to manipulate her captors.
  • Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe has majority of the characters refer to black people as niggers over and over, with nobody batting an eye. These days, people would be horrified at how rude mentioning that word would be, even in the south. Most of the story takes place in the 1930s, where it was quite common to refer to black people like that, even with people who were friends with them.
  • The Full Matilda by David Haynes, with the eponymous Matilda's family being African-American servants to a white senator in Washington, D.C. during The Roaring '20s. This is discussed when Matilda talks about how later on many people quit having live-in servants and started hiring day maids and limo services (as opposed to having a driver and a live-in maid). The Reveal in the book is that Matilda at the age of 16 slept with the senator (who had been showing an... interest in her since she was 13) she and her family worked for in order to secure her father a house of his own, and nobody else knew but her and the senator. That scenario could probably happen now, but eventually it would come out and the senator would probably be arrested, whereas back then nobody would care because she was just a poor black girl. Truth in Television, of course.

    G 
  • The books that begin The General series have the good guy characters accepting slavery as a simple part of life and don't fuss over it (except if the threat is that it happens to them.) Similarly, Raj Whitehall over time gained a reputation as a strict commander who did not allow men to run wild when they defeated an enemy...raping women in the field was only allowed when it didn't cause operational problems, and the mass rapes which followed the conquest of an enemy town or city (if they didn't capitulate when first offered the opportunity) were organized so that they would be over within a day and then the troops could get back to soldiering. A form of punishment for units that have disgraced themselves or otherwise performed notably poorly was to not be allowed to participate.
  • Discussed in The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making. Saturday explains the strange way ocean djinn such as himself get married and have children (they see their future children wandering around and begin looking for would-be spouses that share physical features with that child). September thinks that it sounds like a very confusing way to go about things, but Saturday assures her that it makes perfect sense for his kind.
  • The Guns of the South has a two-fer, since the story is about time-traveling Afrikaners trying to help the Confederacy win the Civil War. The book generally portrays the South's conservative, paternalist racismnote  as misguided but not evil per se; this is contrasted with the Afrikaners' outright hatred of blacks, which serves to gradually drive a wedge between the two groups. Later on, the Confederate leaders learning that they will not be Vindicated by History is the straw that breaks the camel's back, and leads to the Afrikaners all but declaring war on them themselves.

    H 
  • Harry Harrison and Tom Shippey's alternate history trilogy The Hammer and the Cross is set in 9th century Europe. The values of the historical peoples of the time are accurately represented, including their attitude toward rape, enslavement, trial-by-combat, and the social status of women and conquered peoples.
  • When Alex comes out of the closet in Heart In Hand, Canadian and American reactions are mixed, but positive overall. The Ice Hockey Federation of Russia, on the other hand, threatens to ban him from ever playing in or for Russia. Darryl, the main character, reflects on (and feels somewhat guilty about) how he would never have to face the same ordeal just because he is Canadian.
  • Used heavily in the Hexslinger series, set in the Wild West with all its bigotry and casual violence and featuring an awful lot of Aztec mythology in all its bloody glory. It doesn't help that it's a very Black and Grey Morality series, either. For the most part, the more sympathetic a character is the less racist/sexist/gay-bashing they tend to be, but this is definitely not a hard and fast rule.
  • The novel Homegoing by Yaa Giasi follows two women involved in the slave trade, one who stayed in Africa and whose tribe traded slaves and one who was a slave herself, as well as their descendants. The book includes a lot of values dissonance, like "negro" and "n-gger" to refer to black people, the African characters having little moral qualms about selling enemies into slavery, and some slaves considering their master "kind" because he lets them have a five minute break every three hours.
  • Horatio Hornblower, being about England in the early 1800s, is chock-a-block full of racism, sexism, classism, and other words ending in -ism. Catholic emancipation is noted in one book as being quite recent. Horatio orders his crew to press only white men in one book a few pages away from using the n-word, but he's kind of progressive by expressing antislavery views in Lieutenant. And, naturally, everyone hates the French.
  • Discussed in How Not To Write A Novel, which advises using this trope rather than Politically Correct History.
  • To the citizens of The Capitol in The Hunger Games, sending twenty-four children between the ages 12 - 18 into an arena to fight to the death is fine entertainment and the appropriate punishment for the districts that rebelled. Even some of the districts approve of the games, with young citizens training and hoping for their chance to play as if it were some kind of national tournament.

    I 
  • I Am Mordred: Mordred thinks any bloody act a king commits to defend his throne is justified. Most people, he notes, wouldn't believe a woman can justly use deadly force to defend herself from rape, meaning Nyneve would be a murderer for doing this. Mordred is deemed a coward for not aiding his brothers to murder a helpless man in vengeance for killing their father. The idea of women being at an equal level with men is ludicrous to Mordred. Later when he reflects on his brothers killing their mother and her lover after they catch them together, Mordred thinks it's right as well.
  • In Alan Dean Foster's Icerigger, after the stranded human heroes help their Tran friends essentially slaughter all the warriors belonging to a rampaging nomadic "Horde", the good guy natives send a team to the Horde's base camp to kill off the non-combatants, including their cubs, that were travelling with them. Skua, one of the humans, points out that the locals have been suffering from Horde attacks for years, but his friend Ethan calls him out on it.
  • Imperial Radch: The Radchaai of Ancillary Justice consider their own empire to be synonymous with civilization and hold very little value for the lives of non-citizens. They therefore consider it perfectly acceptable to invade and annex neighboring countries to bring them civilization. In a more minor example, the Radchaai have a nudity taboo about not wearing gloves.
  • Inheritance Cycle:
    • The punishment of Sloan drew from this. When Eragon wonders whether he was justified in his punishment, the kings who have a concept of divine right to rule tell Eragon that he has the authority to punish people without sentencing them to death.
    • Nasuada, being female, has to go to great lengths to prove herself capable of leading the Varden.
  • The title story of Interpreter of Maladies has a married Indian-American tourist revealing to her Indian tour guide that one of her children was not her husband's. This highlights the cultural rift between the two: the tour guide is offended by this revelation and it changes his perception of her, while the tourist rebuffs the guide when he doesn't sympathize with her infidelity.
Advertisement:

    J 
  • Jackie and Craig intentionally utilizes 90s homophobia to illustrate the thoughts and attitudes of that time.
  • Susanna Clarke's Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell features such lovely aspects of Regency England as wildly different ages in marriage, casual racism, and class elitism, but also nicer aspects, such as a gentleman's code of honor. Faeries on the other hand are Ax-Crazy sociopaths who at times seem barely aware other people have differing opinions. Also note on the author's website, she wrote reviews of herself "written" by both Strange and Norrell, in which both come across as pretty sexist. Strange has never read the book and spends the review criticizing the author's looks and unladylike behavior. Norrel comes right out and states that women have no business writing books of this sort.
  • In Terry Pratchett's Johnny Maxwell Trilogy, when the gang travels back in time to the Blitz, they are shocked to hear a nice old lady call the black Yo-less "Sambo", and cook up a story about him being an African prince.
  • In the Judge Dee stories the hero has people beaten and tortured to give information. In Imperial China, there could be no conviction without a confession, regardless of evidence, and torture was often used after evidence was gathered to gain that conviction. At least theoretically, everybody involved in a prosecution would be severely punished at best if it was later proven that a conviction was erroneous, and it's often a plot point — even the superhuman Judge Dee hesitates to act until he is absolutely certain, both for his sense of justice and for preserving his hide. And in mirroring the original Dee stories and other Confucian literature, Taoists, Buddhists, and Tartars/"barbarians" are generally Always Chaotic Evil.
  • Julie of the Wolves: Certain foods and smells are described as being delicious or wonderful, but given that these items tend to be things like raw owl entrails and wolf piss, it's more Squick than anything. The former is an actual Eskimo delicacy, and the latter is due to Miyax's experience with wolves.

    K 
  • 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."
  • In Octavia Butler's sci-fi/historical fiction novel Kindred, the first sign that Dana has traveled into the Antebellum South is Rufus' casual use of the N-word and his innocent confusion when Dana gets offended by it. It's explored at length through how the plantation slaves cope with their enslavement, how Rufus comes to see Dana as another one of his slaves as he grows up and internalizes the South's morality, and how Dana is increasingly forced to set aside her 20th-century identity and act the part of a black slave to survive.
  • Knowledge Of Angels: The values of Renaissance Christians are ably demonstrated for the reader, such as the far more powerful role of religion in people's lives — to the point of harsh persecution toward dissidents. Additionally, the Christian characters find Palinor's view hard to fathom (as indeed real Christians would have at the time). The Inquisitor finds the idea of religious tolerance, as Palinor describes in his homeland, utterly appalling.

    L 
  • 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.
  • Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal features a more or less authentic representation of first century life in the region that Jesus would have grown up in. Slavery is referenced regularly, it's made clear that Mary Magdalene could be stoned to death for leaving her husband, and thirteen-year-olds having sex is normal.
  • Joanne Bertin's The Last Dragonlord has a nearly immortal weredragon having an affair with a human noblewoman, then seeing a commonborn sailor who is another weredragon, though unaware of it yet, on the side. The noble finds out and whips the sailor across the face, nearly blinding her; the weredragon is furious when he finds out, but local law doesn't condemn nobles who injure or even cripple commoners. In fact, the weredragon is aware that if he's seen to be too angry about it people will wonder why. This is despite the fact that weredragons are explicitly from every class of people, most of them born as very common humans, and that same angry weredragon states his belief that the reason why so many of his kind are born common is so that they'll be more considerate of the commonfolk than noble pride. The only reason he and the other weredragons are so upset about it is because the sailor is a weredragon, which is considered a class above nobility — the angry weredragon talks the talk about consideration for all people, but he's very much in line with the culture.
    • Some clarification is necessary: Linden the weredragon isn't only upset because it's one of his kind. Much ado is made in the early chapters that he was the last known weredragon for six hundred years. This new fledgling weredragon was the literal other half of both his souls. The reason he couldn't be seen as too upset is less due to the cultural values dissonance between his own easygoing sensibilities and that of the rank-proud nobility in Casna (although it does play a role), but because if a Dragonlord suspects what they are, they might try to force their first shapeshift (which has great cultural significance and is treated as a coming-of-age for the weredragons, and thus taken very seriously, but also because...) which could kill them. So while this trope is in full effect, it's less targeted at Linden, Kief, and Tarlna, who are instead used as audience surrogates to explain to the reader who Linden's hands are tied despite his (justified) rage at seeing the other half of his soul laid into with a whip while the person responsible gets off scot-free due to the apparent differences in the noble's rank and his soultwin's (in favor of the noblewoman).
  • Occurs quite a bit in James Fenimore Cooper's Leatherstocking Tales and other historical novels. This is most noticeable in the rather different set of values held by the white and Native American societies side by side and at the same time. In The Deerslayer Natty Bumppo tries to dissuade Tom Hutter and Harry March from raiding a Huron camp to cash in on the bounties offered by the governor for Huron scalps. For him taking the scalps of enemies is okay for Indians because it is part of their culture (or, in his terminology, part of the gifts of their nature), but it is entirely wrong for white Christians to do the same thing because it violates their values or "gifts".
  • In The Left Hand of Darkness, on the planet Gethen, there is no gender, there has never been a great war, and rape is nonexistent, though there is a kind of one-sided seduction that the other side might be unhappy about. As well, incest is not a crime (at least not the first time around). Theft, however, is regarded as a serious crime — Gethen is in an Ice Age, and if you steal someone's food, you could be damning them to a death by starvation. The only crime which is worse than theft is suicide, because a person committing it gives up all chance at repenting. It's In-Universe because there is a citizen of Earth observing the Gethenians.
  • Letters Back to Ancient China has Kao-tai, a time-travelling mandarin from 1000 years ago, who doesn't understand why he shouldn't have an affair with two women at the same time, as long as he can satisfy them both. Also, when he compliments one of them on her breasts, she is miffed. And he misses cooked dog. And so on.
  • The Long Ships is set in the Viking era. Rape, abduction, slavery, robbery, trial by combat, casual violence, blood feuding and financially motivated religious conversion are all seen as acceptable things to do and (with the possible exception of the first two, depending on how you read certain passages) indulged in by the protagonists.
    • Olof Summerbird's Norse values clashed hard with the Decadent Court of Byzantium. Above all, he considers the Byzantine belief that it is less evil to mutilate than kill proof that all Christians are irredeemably evil and should be killed on sight (though he considers both Orm and Father Willibald honourable and "as good men as if they had never been in contact with Christianity").
  • The eponymous Lords of the Underworld—immortal warriors created by Ancient Greek gods—have more or less adjusted to modern norms, but mention occasionally how many of their past actions were motivated by sexism (i.e. killing Pandora because they hated that she was a female warrior). Even in the present day, they have no compunctions about torturing and/or killing their enemies.
  • Happens a little in The Lovely Bones, about a girl named Susie who is raped and murdered by a neighbor. In the book, which takes place in The '70s, people weren't as suspicious about strangers, but now a kid would probably know not to go into the house of a male neighbor. In fact, people would probably be very suspicious of their single male neighbor who likes to sit in his car and stare at girls.

    M 
  • The Machineries of Empire:
    • The Kel culture considers brainwashing to be par for the course and values martyrdom and total obedience above all else. On a more positive side, the Hexarchate considers polygamy, as well as alternate sexualities and gender identities, nothing out of the ordinary.
    • When Jedao asks Khiruev if she has any children, she points out there are not mentioned in her files and is astonished when he specifies he means genetic offspring, as in contrast to his days, in Hexarchate a "child" is a minor you have custody over, not a blood relation, as no-one is born naturally these days. In fact, the high language doesn't even have a word for a biological child, and Khiruev has to use the phrase "genetic spawn" to clarify Jedao's question.
  • Malazan Book of the Fallen:
    • Karsa Orlong is deliberately written as a Deconstruction of the "barbarian fantasy". This entails a great amount of esoteric morals that almost one and all clash with "current" Western culture. Killing those weaker than you is seen as a good thing by the Teblor, Karsa's people, and rape is used as a social reward. This is particularly prevalent in the first quarter of House of Chains, which depicts Karsa's origins.
    • Less specifically, the authors of the Verse—who are anthropologists—go to great lengths to ensure that all peoples are depicted neutrally and non-judgementally. This often causes some sort of dissonance to crop up.
  • The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick is set in an Alternate History where Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan won World War II and divided the world between them much like how the United States and the Soviet Union did in real life, with the result that dominant cultural attitudes are shifted dramatically. A good way in which this is shown is The Grasshopper Lies Heavy, an Alternate History book written within the attitudes of the Nazi-dominated world — the Allies win World War II in 1947 and the world is split between the United States and the British Empire — the USSR is a non-entity because, as harrowingly demonstrated in this universe, the Slavs are a bunch of inferior subhumans who could never amount to anything — and the British eventually win the ensuing alt-Cold War and destroy the United States because they are a more racially pure Anglo-Saxon race, while the Americans are ethnic mongrels and therefore are racially inferior.
  • Masters of Rome:
    • Dead girl babies are thrown out the window, which may be historically inaccurate, as Tacitus wrote that infanticide, even of daughters, was a capital offense among the Germans.
    • In one of the most emotionally fraught chapters, Livia Drusa's brother Drusus not only imprisons her inside their home her entire life, but he also forces her to marry his friend Servilius, a man she despises. Later Drusus has a change of heart when he realizes what a weasel Servilius is.
    • Pompey telling his first wife that he has no intention of fathering a son with her, because he only married her for political reasons and she's not good enough to be the mother of his son and heir.
    • Gaius Marius' negotiation with Gaius Julius Caesar (grandfather of Caesar the Dictator) to marry his daughter Julia (that is, whichever of two Julias he prefers). This is a straightforward business transaction: Marius is a rich, rising New Man who needs a wellborn wife for status. The Julii Caesares are an impoverished patrician clan and need money for their sons' political careers, and their daughters need rich husbands. At the end, Caesar asks Marius, "Oh, and it won't cause you any distress to divorce your current wife, will it?" Marius says, "Not at all!" And goes straight home and tells his wife (without any prior hints), "I am divorcing you." It's all right because he offers her a generous settlement. He also apologizes, not being entirely indifferent to the pain he's causing her.
  • In The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress, Luna cultural mores are wildly different from those of Earth. Gambling is a way of life and "double or nothing" dice rolling with the shopkeeper is common when purchasing sundry items. Due to the massive imbalance between women and men, the latter outnumbering the former on a two-to-one ratio, women are completely in-charge when it comes to sex politics and chivalry is very much Serious Business: a woman could, if she were so inclined, beat a man until she draws blood with no social repercussion, but a man who so much as lays a finger on a woman without her permission would soon find himself being Thrown Out the Airlock. However, cat-calling a woman is considered a polite compliment, which actually makes sense when you remember women's social power is linked to their sexuality.
  • Used to great (and disturbing) effect in Orhan Pamuk's My Name Is Red. For instance, nearly all the male characters express their love for "handsome boys", including the elderly Master Osman, who casually mentions regularly sleeping with his Bishōnen students.

    O 
  • Claire's side of the story in The Obituary Writer greatly emphasizes how she was impressed upon by her mother to never question her husband, even if he's an ass. She also notes the societal expectation for women, even adulterous ones, to remain in their marriages, even if the men might just walk off.
  • Okuyyuki: The ancient Japanese spirit nicknamed "Audrey" is sometimes at odds with modern American culture. Among other things, her samurai values about honorable combat don't always translate well to modern battlefields. She is awed by the trench warfare of World War I when told of it — but by the honorable heroism of the millions who perished in no man's land rather than the sad waste of it. Protagonist Reilly points out that most of them probably didn't share that perspective, but she replies that the heroic deed itself is what counts.
  • The story of Our Lady Of The Nile takes place mostly in a traditionally western setting (a Catholic School), but it's still set in 1980s Rwanda, so most of the characters have a very contrasting set of values to that reality.

    P 
  • Due to being a Queer Romance story taking place in mid-1810s Connecticut, Patience And Sarah consists of a lot of this. Sarah is scandalous because she dresses like a boy, same-gender romances are strictly taboo, and no one tries to get police involved when Sarah's father beats her up black-and-blue every day for over a week. There's also smaller things like how it's acceptable to adopt an orphan just to work for you, how Sarah refuses to eat "unboiled salad", and how Sarah doesn't think much about her father drowning kittens.
  • The Pearl And The Carnelian:
    • No one would expect Lucy, a Nazi sympathizer, to be comfortable with the notion of interracial romance; however, even "good" characters, like Hester and Sophie, are at least disturbed by it.
    • Likewise, Lucy having a Nazi lover, who is significantly older than her, is (supposedly) forgiven much easier, than her lesbian affair with a sweet girl her age. Also, being an open Nazi sympathizer in the British society doesn't affect her career or social life at all. (The fact, that she is also a titled lady probably helps, though.)
  • Played for Black Comedy in Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. Regency England is far more brutal than it was in real life, likely a result of the plague. Duels to the death are common, and servants are often savagely beaten.

    R 
  • Ragnar Lodbrok and His Sons: When the teenager Rognvald is killed on his very first Viking expedition, his mother Aslaug does not mourn him, because she considers his death honorable, and (she thinks) he could not have expected more from life.
  • The Realm Of Albion is set in Iron Age Britain. There's quibbling about the maltreatment of slaves, and about the way one character "cheats" in sacred combats, but the legitimacy of slavery and Human Sacrifice is never questioned. (Though the Celts themselves are shocked when they hear about Greek disparagement of women's intelligence.)
  • The Reynard Cycle: The priestesses of Sphinx, the Lioness, are the greatest healers in the land, and highly respected. They're also prostitutes, some of whom are as young as fourteen. One of them is given as a gift to a nine-year-old King Defender of the Crown. It's implied that she'll become his personal mistress as soon as he hits puberty. His mother finds this a little odd, but quickly reflects that racking up some experience in bed might make his future Queen happy.
  • In The Roman Mysteries all the characters freak out over free Romans being kidnapped and enslaved, but most of them give little thought to the enslavement of non-Romans or those born into slavery. Also, no one has a problem with 13- or 14-year-old girls getting married to men in their 20s or 30s.

    S 
  • Schooled In Magic: Emily finds it very hard to deal with the society of the Nameless World, whose ways (ranging from treating commoners and women as second class citizens to brutal punishments of criminals) baffle or horrify her at times. Many of the inhabitants find her opinions very odd as well.
  • Second Apocalypse takes this and runs with it, being set in a world blending Biblical and Dark Ages culture, albeit with magic and Eldritch Abominations. Women are considered less than men, peasants are less than nobles, prostitutes should be stoned, heretics are the enemy and homosexuals are the lowest of the low.
  • Shiloh takes place in the mid-1900s in rural American. The main conflict revolves a young boy taking in a battered hunting dog puppy that he calls "Shiloh". He's repeatedly chastised for trying to save Shiloh, with his dad even saying that plenty of dogs are beaten and starved but you can't go around saving everyone of them. In his town, everyone keeps their private business to themselves, fighting with neighbors provokes scandal, and dogs are to be treated however their legal owner wants.
  • Snow Flower and the Secret Fan is a historical fiction story set in 19th century China, and features the main female character making remarks about how she (and her daughters) are worthless to her family and going through foot-binding to improve their lives. The author has Shown Her Work by going to China and talking to real women who went through foot-binding, and the deliberate values dissonance is commonly viewed as the best part of this book. At least one book on the role of feet and shoes in sexuality, in its extensive discussion of foot-binding, reveals that, for many centuries, foot-binding was actively sought out by every single Chinese family that could afford the procedure because small, dainty feet were considered the foremost mark of beauty and sexual attractiveness in classical Chinese culture, so girls as young as 5 were sent through it at the risk of infection and even death. Foot-binding was universally viewed in classical Chinese culture as improving the shape of the foot to give it beauty and sexual allure. Class issues also enter into the question; bound feet were associated with wealth in general and the upper classes, and unbound feet were considered uncouth and a mark of a woman's peasant status, and several references are made in the book to how "big footed girls" are looked down upon and relegated to servant status. (The association comes from the fact that's it's physically difficult to do any sort of hard labor if your feet have been forcibly maimed by foot-binding. Thus, by foot-binding your daughter, you're displaying confidence that she'll never need to work. Only rich people could afford to be so confident.)
  • A Song of Ice and Fire has this in spades.
    • Slavery, racism, sexism, prejudice against illegitimate children and dwarves. A brutal massacre committed by a treacherous House causes them to be ostracized by everyone... not because of the massacre itself but because the massacred were their guests.
    • Oathbreaking is treated as a high offense, regardless of what the oath was, who it was made to, or the circumstances of the oathbreaking. Jaime Lannister is a pariah in-universe for killing the Mad King, who was set to burn all of King's Landing alive. Meanwhile, Jaime's dead comrades are remembered as tragic heroes for pointlessly fighting and dying in service to a mass murderer.
    • Catelyn Stark treats her husband Ned's illegitimate son Jon Snow quite coldly and doesn't understand why Ned treats Jon as well as his trueborn children. In Westeros, there is prejudice against illegitimate children claiming they are "treacherous" due to the nature of their birth (said to be born of "lust" and "lies") — despite these individuals being as varied as anyone else. Different families will do different things in regard to illegitimate children. In negative cases, there are illegitimate children such as Falia Flowers who must work as her family's servant and those illegitimate kids who are murdered to ensure that inheritance falls to the trueborn children. Fortunately, there are positive cases as well where the child is well-cared for, such as Edric Storm, who was fostered in a noble household. Lord Eddard Stark goes above and beyond and pretty much treats his illegitimate son Jon Snow just like his trueborn children and raises Jon himself alongside them in Winterfell, wherein Jon and his trueborn siblings play, study, train, and grow up together, developing strong bonds as a result. The only differences between Jon and the trueborn kids are that, as an illegitimate son, Jon cannot inherit the family titles, is out of the line of succession and when King Robert visits Winterfell, Jon cannot partake in activities with the royal family alongside his trueborn family (such as not being able to sit with his family and the royals at the high table during the royal feast) as a result of his illegitimate status. In contrast to modern views, many Westerosi would consider Catelyn's cold treatment of her husband's illegitimate son as kindly in their society, especially since Catelyn never physically abuses Jon, while they would view Ned raising Jon himself as very unusual. Likewise, many Westerosi would consider the decision to have Jon live with his father and half-siblings as Ned rubbing his infidelity in Catelyn's face, which is less the case in modern times.
  • Star Trek: Rihannsu: The Romulans aren't human, and their values can be quite different from human ones.
    • They're based in part on the society of Ancient Rome, and like the Romans think nothing of conquest and slavery, and saving face is very important (a concept the Romans called gravitas).
    • And then you get to the point where they lack the concept of doing anything for someone else's good — you do things for the good of your own honor. If you're competent about it, the action ought to benefit everybody's honor, but you're supposed to be thinking of your own. A spoilerriffic example from the first book: Ael t'Rllaillieu's adult son Tafv betrays her in order to capture the Enterprise and deliver it to the Romulan government to gain leverage so they'll lift the banishment and Unpersonhood of his cousin (the nameless Romulan commander from "The Enterprise Incident"), whom Ael tried to help but failed. After he's foiled, Ael kills him for betraying her. Even though he was already dying from his wounds, it's not a Mercy Kill.
    • There's also a fair amount of casual racism by the Romulans directed at everyone else, including by the inhabitants of Romulus against their own kin on Remus. (This series predates Star Trek: Nemesis by almost twenty years; the idea of Remans being a different species hadn't been thought of yet.)
    • Also, the Star Trek: Academy novels show Worf having trouble fitting in. His classmates were aghast that he wouldn't help his opponent up in sparring practice. Offering to help someone up is an insult, an implication of weakness in Klingon culture.
  • Star Wars Legends:
    • Jedi see absolutely nothing wrong with their recruiters showing up and all but demanding parents hand over their Force-sensitive children, then cutting them off from all family ties after that. The one parent who did raise an objection (the Baby Lundi case) was blown off and treated as tabloid fodder. Their infant recruitment and isolation from most sectors of society may explain, partly, why few were sympathetic enough to help them after Order 66.
    • Mandalorians don't want to fight for the strongest side, they want to test their strength against it, and the Mandos typically think the Jedi and Republic are the best there is, so they'll often be siding with the Sith. This is a Stealth Insult to the Sith and Empire, who either don't know or don't care that the Mandos consider them unworthy of fighting. The other factor in why Mandalorians and Jedi do not typically get along? Mandalorians are fanatically family-oriented, to the point where marrying and raising children in the culture is a sacred tenet (the worst thing you could call a Mando translates to "unfit parent"). Separating a child from their parents and culture (like the Jedi do with their infant recruits) is more horrifying to them than killing the kid outright.
    • Even after Palpatine's defeat and the repeal of the worst Imperial speciesist laws by the New Republic, Human High Culture has still been internalized by many of the galaxy's humans (including even former members of the Rebel Alliance, who were primarily appalled at how Palpatine abused human rights), who are disgusted at having to live amongst and work with non-human sentients. (One otherwise liberal-minded member of an X-wing squadron is very touchy about his speciesism, and justifies not bunking with an alien squadmate by simply saying "He smells.") Of course, this being a huge galaxy (twice the diameter of our own Milky Way), there are plenty of exceptions and nuances. Han Solo, for one (among many others), uses anti-Hutt slurs even as he considers Wookiees to be his equals (though of course, considering his personal history and what happened to him with Jabba, he might believe he has N-Word Privileges and/or that Hutts are Asshole Victims). Then of course there are the Yevethans, who not only view all non-Yevethans (including humans) as inferior, but have a very brutal caste system among their own kind and see nothing wrong with a ranking individual picking a Yevethan commoner out of a crowd, slitting his throat, and drinking his blood; even more dissonant is the expectation that the commoners see these "blood-killings" as an honor.
    • Exploited by Jabba the Hutt. He got the Max Reebo Band to be his house band in a contract that would be astonishingly unfair by any other standard (essentially they get room, board, and all you can eat meals, but no actual salary). However, Max is an Ortolan, a species that comes from a planet with a freezing climate and very scarce food resources. A warm, relatively safe roof over one's head and an all you can eat buffet is something his culture would reserve as the highest honor possible.
    • At one point in the X-Wing Series there's a brief reference to an Imperial-made holofilm about daredevils who tightrope walk between Coruscant's giant skyscrapers, whose tragic ending is supposed to be An Aesop against nonconformism and rebellion, and is understood as such by the Imperial watching it.
  • In The Stormlight Archive, the eastern Rosharans consider dark-eyed people to be inherently inferior to light-eyed ones, condemn men reading, believe that females' left hands should be concealed in public and enforce strict division between sexes. Not only are professions and living spaces segregated into male and female ones, but even cuisine is different for men and women — male food should be spicy, while female must be sweet.
    • One character, who is from another planet, notes the odd "coincidence" that the social mores were all set down by a woman, including declaring all the dangerous professions to be men's work.
  • Alternate universe example: in Neil Gaiman's short story, "A Study in Emerald", the protagonists watch a historical play about Eldritch Abominations conquering the Earth to barely any resistance from humanity. And applaud the "happy ending" in which the only dissenter is beaten to death.

    T 
  • Temeraire:
    • There's an amusing moment in the first book where Laurence reacts with shock and horror at the revelation that Captain Roland's daughter is "natural born", i.e. the product of premarital sex.
    • Laurence is for the time a bleeding heart progressive in many ways (chief of which is being a staunch abolitionist from childhood in the late 18th century, and not even of the "send them back to Africa, they'll be happier there and we won't have to live with them" sort), but sexuality seemed to be his limit. Aside from his dismay at the liberal sexual mores of the Corps (which he adapts to enough that he's quite willing to carry on a semi-casual relationship with a female officer), it's made clearest when Granby confesses that he's "an invert" (i.e. gay). Laurence has a hard time reconciling the man he know with what he "knows" "those deviants" are and realizes that, were he still the man he were at the start of the series and were they in the Navy, he'd have had Granby flogged and imprisoned for such a thing, without a second thought. (Even here he is somewhat progressive — in the Navy, as long as he didn't know, it having not been confessed to him or him not witnessing it personally, he'd have cheerfully denied even the most well-sourced accusation. It's the knowing that would made it his duty. In addition, it's not him being in the Navy that would have made him do it — it's that his experiences since becoming an aviator have changed his feelings on the topic of duty.)
    • Slavery is one thing Laurence clashes with Horatio Nelson, one of his personal heroes, on. Nelson is (in contrast to Napoleon) a Glory Seeker who puts his gifts to the service of his country, rather than seeking personal power, something Laurence greatly admires of him. He is also staunchly pro-slavery, though it seems to be from a sort of ruthless pragmatism. (This pragmatism is also what allows Nelson to support biological warfare that would likely kill every dragon outside of England, France, and the Americas, which Laurence actually finds to be a greater Moral Event Horizon than slavery.) In the books, Nelson opposes abolition entirely on economic and strategic grounds: Britain's survival against Napoleon depends on trade; as an island, their trade depends on the merchant marine (which will also train the bulk of Britain's sailors for naval duty); and the merchant marine depends on slavery. As presented in the book he doesn't really oppose the idea of abolition, but definitely thinks that wartime is not the right time for social experiments.
      • While it does eventually strain their friendship past the breaking point, his former first officer in the Navy Tom Riley is not opposed to slavery at all. They made do in the past by avoiding the topic and it's not a problem until Laurence invites a freedman and his family onto a ship Riley commands as his guests.
    • Most characters outside of the British Aerial Corps don't like the idea of woman joining the military. Existence of female aviators is kept secret from the general public to avoid a scandal.
      • It's implied that the British wouldn't permit female flyers at all, if it weren't for the fact that their most powerful dragon breed (the acid-spitting Longwings) will only accept female captains for some unknown reason.
      • In-universe, China is shown to only have female aviators, because being a dragon rider was seen as undesirable and daughters were less desirable than sons.
    • In Tongues of Serpents, Laurence believes that Emily should be given a chaperone (eventually hiring one for her in Crucible of Gold) and carefully monitors her contact with boys and men in the meantime. Other aviators laugh this idea off as ridiculous. In their eyes the worst that can happen is Emily (who is, after all, the daughter of the Admiral of the Air, whose punishment for anyone who got handsy in unwelcome fashion with her daughter might start with hanging and get worse from there) getting pregnant — which would be expected of her anyway in order to produce a next captain for Excidium.
    • All the major powers use Child Soldiers, albeit usually not in a direct combat role. On dragons, they serve as messengers and lookouts, and they serve the same purpose on sea vessels like they did historically. Despite this, they die like flies in the musket and cannonball crossfire. Laurence shows little more remorse for a child dying under his command than an adult—he's more unsettled that the Child Soldiers in the Corps (as young as seven; in the case in question it's a boy of ten) are even younger than those in the Navy (no younger than twelve).
  • In C. S. Lewis' That Hideous Strength, when Merlin shows up in 20th century England, the heroes (except Ransom) are shocked by his attitudes and behavior. For starters, he treats Ransom's company as if they were servants, is surprised to find out that there are no slaves to help him bathe and dress, and suggests beheading Jane because she used contraception and hence failed to bear a prophesied child. (On the positive side, he claims to give a third of his income to the poor, which is far more charity than most moderns show.)
    • This trope actually turns out to be the main reason why Merlin is there in the first place. In order to destroy the demonic powers at Belbury, the Powers That Be have to work through the medium of a mortal magician. But for any Christian to open his mind to that kind of possession, even by angels, is forbidden in the present day, and obviously the holy angels cannot work through a black magician. Thus God arranged for Merlin, who had practiced magic in the days when it was still permissible for a Christian to practice it, to be preserved undying to act as His vessel.
  • Eliezer Yudkowsky's Three Worlds Collide, set in the twenty-fifth century, tells of humanity's first contact with two alien species, both of which possess ethical systems that seem utterly insane both to each other and to the present. 25th century Humans think that rape is an enjoyable activity for both parties. The Super Happies think that anyone who doesn't abolish all pain and spend all their time having sex must be mentally deficient, and should be forcibly placed under the stewardship of a more advanced species. And The Baby Eaters... well, just look at their name.
  • Omnipresent in Till We Have Faces, also by C. S. Lewis. The main character is queen of a barbarian kingdom just within the influence of ancient Greek civilisation, and, though rational and merciful compared to many around her, has cultural attitudes appropriate to her society. Subverted when various strange events cause her, among more dramatic changes, to come to see that being as rational and civilised as her beloved Greek mentor is not enough.
  • In How Few Remain, an alternative history novel based on the premise of the South winning the American civil war, the word "nigger" is tossed around casually. This is also seen throughout the entirety of Harry Turtledove's Timeline-191 series, of which How Few Remain is the first installment.
  • Quite common in the Tortall Universe, though just as often there are characters that disagree with the current social norms and want to change them. One of the most obvious cases is when a character from an England analogue visits Carthak, a country that's very much inspired by the Ottoman Empire. The prince Kaddar is overall a Nice Guy... except he sees nothing at all wrong with slavery, and genuinely believes that the poor are too stupid to manage themselves in anyway. He genuinely doesn't understand why these views upset the protagonist. Even when Carthak and the Copper Isles get Reasonable Authority Figure rulers, Word of God says that they don't intend to dismantle slavery. There's also the fact of teenage marriage and childrearing, children learning how to fight and kill from age ten and up, and much emphasis on the very brutal methods of medieval legal punishment (such as boiling in oil and being drawn and quartered) and torture, just in case you thought it was a cool time to live. Mercifully, magic spares us from having to read about medieval European medicine.
  • Is all over the place in Trail of Glory by Eric Flint. Slavery and attitude towards race is front and center. Then add in the views on women, individual lives, religion...
  • The Traitor Son Cycle:
    • The people of this world see nothing wrong with twelve-year-olds fighting in battles alongside fully-trained knights.
    • The creatures of the Wild consider it natural to eat (or, in case of mages, absorb) their fallen enemies, even if they're of the same species.
    • Among the Sossag, if you beat someone in a duel, you inherit his possessions and any spouses (and, presumably, children) they might have.

    U 
  • Joseph Conrad's novel Under Western Eyes is set in (and written during) Russia around the time of the pogroms. There's one scene where the protagonist, who is a fairly good guy, is angered by someone and mutters to himself to the effect that the person was a "dirty Jew". The British First-Person Peripheral Narrator makes a comment about how the offender wasn't Jewish and the protagonist knew that, but Russians were such extreme anti-Semites that this kind of expression was the norm.

    V 
  • Victoria: In the coming decades the US fractures into several successor states. Each insane in their own special way. Each serving as a Take That! to a particular group. Except the titular Victoria, who are depicted as heroic.
    • The New Confederacy is the closest to Old America, but has deep racial divides. And the respect for personal liberty and industrial might are not considered virtues by the narrative.
    • Those Wacky Nazis take over Wisconsin. The one state treated as something like a worthy foe, repugnant mostly for their aesthetics and love of industrial efficiency.
    • Cascadia, or the Pacific Northwest, becomes deeply environmental, starving people rather than profit from the deaths of plants and animals and smothering dissenters with plastic bags.
    • Azania, once California, becomes a matriarchy where men are enslaved, castrated, and eventually outlawed.
    • Much of the unmentioned countryside is overrun by 'orcs', or Black/Hispanic gangs.
    • The heroes themselves are an aversion as they're just plain Values Dissonance. The New England state of Victoria is made of Christian fundmamentalists. They burn heretics, massacre liberal college teachers, have automatic hanging for drug possession/use while Black (the punishment for White drug dealers/users is never mentioned), mass deportation of Puerto Ricans and an unofficial but very strong ban on any technology invented after the 1930s save medicine. All of this is depicted as righteous by the narrative.
  • The Vorkosigan Saga mixes a lot of this with Culture Clash. Barrayar heads a neo-feudalist interstellar empire which everyone else considers something between quaintly backwards to dangerously barbaric. They're also incredibly sexist, vicious to homosexuals and disabled people, and militaristic; infanticide is still practiced in the back country because of the risk of mutation from the half-terraformed Barrayaran biosphere. Some within Barrayar are trying to pull the empire up to more progressive, modern standards, but it's still slow going. Beta Colony, meanwhile, shares a lot of values with modern Western culture (democracy, social safety nets, intellectualism, multiculturalism) until you hit on their sexual mores — they're a Free-Love Future that defines sexuality as current practice rather than an orientation, carefully controls reproduction via implant (because of limited living space), and about the only rules are "informed consent, no permanent harm, don't cheat if you're exclusive." And exclusivity is not necessarily the order of the day. And they firmly believe in Heel–Face Brainwashing...

    W 
  • The Ciaphas Cain series is a much Lighter and Softer depiction of Warhammer 40,000 than other media, but still presents The Imperium as, well, The Empire. In For the Emperor, Cain himself is repeatedly alienated and disturbed by the Tau and their human sympathizers, making comments about how he cannot see "xenos" as people, being horrified to hear a separatist tell him to go back to "[his] Emperor", and being cheerful of the prospect of the separatists getting pummeled by the loyalists. Cain also mentions "[organizing] the occasional firing squad" in the same breath as routine clerical work while describing his job at Brigade Headquarters. In the same book, Inquisitor Vail cheerfully reminisces of one of her favorite childhood songs... which is a disturbingly cheerful ditty about heretics being crushed under the tracks of a Land Raider. In Caves of Ice, she likewise quips fondly of her favorite children's book, which depicts people being gruesomely burned alive for being heretics (i.e. humans who don't follow the Imperium). Cain's Last Stand casually mentions vans with convicts heading to a military orphanage "for live ammo exercises".
  • A lot of things in Warrior Cats are excused by saying "Well, they're cats". Cats have different morals than humans. Spottedleaf and Firepaw's age gap, and even Barley and Ravenpaw's age gap, would be squicky if they were humans but are okay in-series. Non-immediate incest involving cousins and uncle/nieces aren't given any special treatment. Even Brother–Sister Incest is ignored according to Graystripe's parents (who were accidentally named as two siblings, but when the authors learned of the flub they just shrugged because sometimes cats mate with their siblings).
  • Watership Down:
    • Adams openly states that they feel no guilt whatsoever about using force to compel weaker rabbits to yield to them. Which is probably Truth in Television for real rabbits, but needed to be pointed out for his Lapine-speaking, story-telling versions.
    • The story also points out that the discussion of the currently all male burrow about their need to get more females may seem unusual to humans but was in keeping with rabbit mentality.
  • The Eleventh Year Rite (aka female circumcision) is this both in and out of canon in Who Fears Death: Onyesonwu's mother is horrified when she discovers what her daughter has done (the practice having been banned in her home village), for instance, whereas it's common practice in Jwahir. Indeed, Onyesonwu subjected herself to it in order to fit in, and by doing so she gains a set of True Companions in Binta, Diti and Luyu.
  • Neither of the future societies in Who Needs Men? has the same values as real life "Western" culture. The Republic of Anglia is a Lady Land with socially normative lesbianism and Fantastic Racism against men, as well as a vaguely 1984-like militaristic totalitarian dictatorship, while Northerner society is rugged, primitive and sexist in much the same manner as a warrior band or full-time military unit. Characters from both sides generally consider their own way to live the only reasonable one, though the more thoughtful of them are also able to reflect on and criticize faults they perceive among themselves. Even then, though, they rarely sound like 21st-century Europeans.
  • In the novella Winter Moon, it's noted that male werewolves take a sort of primal satisfaction in eating less so their mates can have more — even when there's enough food to satisfy everyone.
  • Also present in Bujold's World of the Five Gods series, which has a culture loosely based on 15th century Spain. In the first novel, the best solution to a political problem is believed to be getting a 16-year old princess married as soon as possible to a neighboring prince who she's never met.

    Y 
  • This makes up quite a lot of The Year Of The Boar And Jackie Robinson, since the story's about a Chinese girl who moves to America with her parents at a time when Jackie Robinson was at the height of his career. When she first arrives, she begins mentally comparing life in America to life in China.
  • The Young Ancients: The nobility of Noram revile one sin above all others, breaking a heart or being cruel in love. As such, there are a number of socially acceptable dodges, like offering up a friend, but a sufficiently tenacious suitor can usually have his way, because it is more acceptable to have sex with someone you despise, or marry someone three times your age, then give a flat "no". Of course, to escape an unwanted marriage there is a simple answer: marry someone else first! But as there is no expectation of sexual exclusivity between spouses, putting off sex is much harder.


Top

Example of:

/
/

Feedback