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Hope Spot / Literature

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  • To Owen and his friends, in A Prayer for Owen Meany, it seems like the day he dreamed that he would die, when it comes, would go about without a hitch. Then Dick walks into the area with a live grenade...
  • In the 12th and 13th books of The Dresden Files, Harry sees the light at the end of the tunnel after being shot. It turns out to be a train, headed his way. In general, if there haven't been several of these, the book isn't over. By Changes, the series is almost a breathless litany of these.
  • I Am Not a Serial Killer has a love for kicking John while he's down, but I Don't Want to Kill You has the most memorably crushing example. After years of battling with mental illness, John is finally finding a balance, and his hunt for the next Serial Killer on his hit list is going smoothly. He feels free, free enough to go out with a beautiful girl and try happiness and normalcy for once in his life. Then, in the space of a few chapters, the main villain murders the girl he's just now letting himself love, possesses his only friend, attempts to Mind Rape him, and then burns his mother alive in front of him. He spends the rest of the series trying to escape the pull of a sanity-shattering Despair Event Horizon.
  • In Surface Detail by Iain M. Banks, this forms a major plot point, and is subverted, inverted, averted, invoked, exploited, played straight... Yeah. There's a lot you can do when you have an entire virtual reality construct devoting itself to messing with your afterlife.
  • The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy includes what is presumably a parody of these in the scene where Ford and Arthur are Thrown Out the Airlock:
    Ford: Wait a minute... what's this switch?
    Arthur: What? Where?
    Ford: No. I was only fooling. We're going to die after all.
    • In the TV version the first part of this scene is accompanied by swelling music, just to heighten the effect.
  • In Dan Brown's Angels & Demons the third of the Preferiti is burning over a large fire but still alive when Langdon and the police get to where he is. They attempt to bring him down, but then The Dragon interferes.
  • A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini has so many Hope Spots that you begin to dread something good happening, because it will most likely lead to the book, once again, getting worse.
  • In A Song of Ice and Fire:
    • In A Game of Thrones, when Cersei arranges Robert's death, she decides that Ned Stark must be silenced. Eventually she decides to let him live and have him sent to the Night Watch instead, in exchange for a public false confession. Ned Stark agrees, but then her son decides to go off-script at a pivotal moment...
    Joffrey: "My mother bids me let Lord Eddard take the black, and Lady Sansa has begged mercy for her father. But they have the soft hearts of women. So long as I am your king, treason shall never go unpunished. Ser Ilyn, bring me his head!”
    • In A Clash of Kings Theon is facing a battle he cannot win, when Maester Luwin reminds him that he can surrender to Rodrik Cassel and join the Night's Watch to save his life. Theon considers this, and seems to be on the verge of agreeing when Ramsey Snow and his men betray and kill Cassel, meaning Theon has no-one to surrender to.
    • In A Storm of Swords, the fight between the Red Viper and the evil, evil Gregor Clegane, the Mountain that Rides, includes not merely a hope spot but a giant hope searchlight. At first the Viper looks rather outclassed by the Mountain. Then the Viper turns it around and puts the Mountain on his back, badly wounded by a poisoned spear. He steps on the Mountain's chest to finish him off — and the Mountain grabs his foot, yanks him down, and taunts him horribly before smashing his skull with one enormous fist.
    • Also in A Storm of Swords: After breaking his word to marry the daughter of his ally Walder Frey, King of the North Robb Stark tries to salvage the alliance by suggesting a marriage between his uncle and a Frey daughter in his place. Frey's alliance is desperately important to Robb's campaign. After sulking and rubbing Robb's face in the fact of his broken promise, Frey appears to acquiesce and mend the fences. Then comes the Red Wedding, where Robb and a good number of the Starks and their supporters are massacred by the Freys and the Boltons, including many characters we had come to like.
    • Also from A Storm of Swords, Sansa looks like she's about to escape King's Landing and Cersei with Ser Dontos, who gets her off the grounds, through a forest, and to a ship, where she finds out the one behind her rescue was none other than Littlefinger, the closest thing the series has to a Big Bad who's already given off some creepy vibes for her.
    • An inversion occurs in A Dance with Dragons when a hero does this to a villain. Jon Snow is fed up with Janos Slynt after he refuses a direct order, and Jon orders Janos hanged. Watching his men prepare this while Janos is pleading, Jon thinks that this is wrong and tells his men to stop. Janos, shaking, thanks Jon Snow for his mercy. To which Jon famously responds:
    Jon Snow: Edd, fetch me a block.
  • Near the end of 1984, after being worn down by months of torture and brainwashing, Winston Smith finds one last reserve of strength and devotion to Julia... which gives his captors the excuse to introduce him to Room 101, and kill even that source of hope forever. The end. Unless you read the Newspeak glossary and notice it's in the past tense...
  • Done purposely in Terry Pratchett's Going Postal:
    • Moist von Lipwig, imprisoned, attempts the old trick of digging his way out of prison with a spoon. Having worn his spoon down to the hilt to loosen one stone in the wall he takes it out only to discover... Another wall. With fresh mortar, implying it had been made while he was digging his way through the last one. Vetinari, of course, knew and had it put in intentionally, to give the prisoners something to focus on and increase their morale while still making sure they wouldn't get out. He also provided a new spoon, placed in a small hollow between the two walls.
    • Hope Spot becomes a Running Gag in this book. Moist gets another spot when he's about to be hanged and Vetinari's clerk shows up... not to tell them there's been a reprieve, but to hurry up.
    • Vetinari gives Moist and Reacher Gilt the option to work for him... or, if they don't want to, just walk out the door and he won't bother them again. Of course, there's a loooooong drop on the other side of that door...
      • This particular one is lampshaded in a brilliant fashion by Moist's narration; he instantly recognized from Vetinari's tone and Exact Words ("you will never hear from me again") that he should file the door idea under "Deeply Suspicious".
  • A quiet yet significant one is featured in The Magic Mountain: Hans Castrop, the protagonist, is out hiking when overtaken by a blizzard; he stumbles in desperation through the blinding snows looking for shelter. He thinks he sees it in the far-off form of a snow-shrouded inn, only to discover on close approach that it's just a covered hayrick.
  • In the end of book 5 of The Saga of Darren Shan, when Darren rushes back to help his friends fight a group of enemies, and sees that Kurda has made it in time to help Gavner... only then to see Kurda stab Gavner himself. Captured brilliantly by artist Takahiro Arai in the manga adaptation.
  • The Harry Potter series has at least one per book, usually around the climax of the novel.
    • In Philosopher's Stone, Harry manages to retrieve the titular stone completely unintentionally, and without Quirrell noticing. For a moment, it looks as if he can bluff his way out and escape with the stone, before Quirrell catches on. And then, he finds out who Quirrell has sticking out of the back of his head...
    • In Chamber of Secrets, Harry manages to find Ginny still alive in the Chamber, but only just. As he struggles to carry her out, he runs into a living memory of Tom Riddle, who thus far has been shown as a charismatic, likeable guy who Harry almost viewed as a long-lost friend. Then, we find out that Riddle was the teenage version of Voldemort, and that he is more than happy to summon the Basilisk to kill Harry and Ginny both.
    • In Prisoner of Azkaban, Harry discovers that Sirius is innocent and willing to take him in, so he won't have to live with the Dursleys anymore. Pettigrew is also caught, so that Sirius's innocence can be proved. And then we find out that it just happens to be the full moon, Lupin happens to be a werewolf who forgot to take his potion, and Pettigrew escapes in the confusion, all while Dementors show up to suck out Sirius's soul.
    • In Goblet of Fire, Cedric and Harry reach the trophy at the end of the last task, and agree to secure a Hogwarts victory by taking it together and thus both being the winners. They are both teleported to the graveyard, where Harry is used as a means to resurrect Voldemort, while Cedric is killed as a "spare".
    • In Order of the Phoenix, the Order has arrived and scattered the Death Eaters, the prophecy has been destroyed so Voldemort can't learn what it foretells, and everyone has survived with minimal injuries...then Bellatrix gets a lucky hit on Sirius, knocking him through the Veil and killing him instantly.
    • In Half-Blood Prince, Harry has been trapped with a Body Bind, Dumbledore is weakened by a potion and surrounded by Death Eaters ready to kill him, and then Snape walks in... only to kill Dumbledore himself (It turns out to have been a Mercy Kill that Dumbledore not only arranged ahead of time, but was literally asking for at that moment, but we don't find that out until the next book)
    • The visit to Godric's Hollow in Deathly Hallows, seemingly a turning point because the readers and characters are just that desperate for one, brings nothing but a broken wand, a threefold close brush with death (Nagini, Voldemort, and the locket), the profound doubts that come of Harry experiencing Voldemort's memories, and, just to bring the utter despair to a climax, Harry's faith in Dumbledore is shaken to the core. Moral of the story: When grasping at straws, beware of snakes in the grass. Or in the corpses of little old ladies.
      • When the trio are caught by Snatchers, Harry lies about his name being "Vernon Dudley" and having a father who works in the Ministry of Magic to hide his identity even though he knows how ridiculous it sounds. It turns out there actually is a guy called Dudley in the Ministry department Harry mentions. Just when he's thinking that he's being saved by sheer luck, the Snatchers find his glasses and discover his scar, and things just become worse from there...
  • Star Wars Legends:
    • Legacy of the Force: Sacrifice:
      • Chapter 20 closes with Mara about to shoot Jacen in the face. He uses the Force to save himself, and proceeds to murder her in the next chapter.
      • After Mara's death Luke goes after Lumiya, mistakenly blaming her. He out-fights Lumiya, and then saves her from falling off a cliff saying "I would never let you fall," giving the audience the momentary impression that he's going to spare her and then he decapitates her. Then again, her death was all part of the plan.
    • In Dark Force Rising, Luke, a crew, and Rogue Squadron find the Katana Fleet and board one of the long-abandoned ships. Fey'lya, with Leia in tow, shows up to arrest them. A Star Destroyer comes out of hyperspace. Fey'lya overrides Leia and flees while the Rogues fly a Delaying Action, but Leia tricks Fey'lya into an Engineered Public Confession, causing his forces to return and help the Rogues. This isn't enough. Then Talon Karrde's smuggler fleet comes out of hyperspace to attack the Star Destroyer. Still not enough. Then Bel Iblis shows up with his six heavy Dreadnaughts, and this is enough to start beating the Imperials... until a second Star Destroyer comes out of hyperspace. They actually manage to take it out eventually with two counts of Ramming Always Works, and after chasing off the first one they find that they are too late, most of the abandoned fleet's already been salvaged by the Empire. They tell themselves that it won't matter for years since the Empire is undermanned, but then they find that Thrawn has found a cache of Spaarti cloning cylinders. Interestingly, the end of that book contains both a Hope Spot and Darkest Hour, since it's a Zahn book and things do work out in the end.
    • Outbound Flight. There are so many times when characters come close to averting the disaster that's a Foregone Conclusion. Lorana Jinzler even talks to Thrawn, who encourages her to do something about C'baoth. And even after it happens, there are several spots where the reader can believe that she, at least, will survive. But she doesn't.
    • In the middle of Fate of the Jedi: Ascension Luke is back on Coruscant and is leading the Jedi Order once again; the Moff/Senatorial conspiracy is falling apart; all three villains (Abeloth, Daala and the Lost Tribe of the Sith) are on the run with few resources left; Vestara chooses to become a Jedi and Wynn Dorvan is about to be elected Chief of State. And then all goes to Hell.
    • The novelization of Return of the Jedi makes the greater part of that climactic scene when Vader takes Luke to the Emperor into a series of these, each rapidly quashed. Mind, these are dingy Hope Spots anyway; Luke wants to kill the Emperor without turning and without revealing anything, and he repeatedly almost gets a clear mind and a sense of what to do, but the Emperor just keeps reading his mind and shattering any confidence Luke manages to gather.
    • New Jedi Order: The fall of Coruscant in Star by Star contains a few moments where it looks like the New Republic's defenders, having finally become fully engaged with the enemy, might actually do enough damage to force the Vong into retreat. Oddly, the ending of the book is a Hope Spot for the Vong, who think the invasion is progressing extremely well (they just took the enemy's capital, right?) but are about to run into a severe case of "won the battle, lost the war".
    • Dark Lord—The Rise of Darth Vader: Not three paragraphs after the Wookiees offer the fugitive band of Jedi safe haven on Kashyyyk, the Empire comes calling for them.
  • In Ciaphas Cain novel For The Emperor, two guardsmen presumed dead are found alive, before being promptly shot as they had already been infected by genestealers.
    • Cain's Last Stand features Cadet Commissar Donal, appearing alive after performing a Heroic Sacrifice. He's under the Big Bad's psychic control, and is only able to hold onto his own consciousness due to Jurgen's proximity. His last words are "Kick his arse for me" before eating his gun
  • The Silmarillion has a Hope Spot on a grand scale: Beren and Lúthien steal a Silmaril from Morgoth, which inspires Elf-prince Maedhros to form a great alliance of Elves and Men and attack Morgoth. This battle is known by Elves as Nírnaeth Arnoediad - the battle of Unnumbered Tears.
    • The battle itself is just a repeated set of Hope Spots. First, Gwindor and a good part of Fingon's army charges up to the gates of Angband, and managed to terrify Morgoth himself by their banging of the door, but are then forced into a hasty retreat by hordes of orcs, who kill Haldir and take Gwindor prisoner. Then, Turgon's forces cut through the enemy to save Fingon, but they are slowly ground down by superior numbers. Then, Maedhros' force arrives, and it seems like they'll win, but before they can reach Fingon, a bunch of Balrogs and a Dragon appear between them, Ulfang's Easterlings turn cloak, and Morgoth empties Angband, killing Fingon and most of his soldiers, and forcing Maedhros and Turgon's forces to retreat- retreats that are only successful due to their human allies pulling a You Shall Not Pass!.
  • Tolkien's The Children of Húrin is basically a repeated set of Hope Spots for our hero Túrin, until he finally runs out of hope. First, he finds safety in Doriath after being forced to flee his home, but is exiled after accidently murdering another Elf. Then, he joins up with some outlaws he become a thorn in Morgoth's side, only for them to be betrayed and for him to accidently kill his best friend. Then he is rescued and taken to the hidden city of Nargothrond, where he becomes a champion of its people and persuades them to march to war, only to lose and have the city sacked, and be forced to abandon his Love Interest. He then raises a rebellion in his home, only for it to achieve nothing except more suffering for his people. Finally, he ends up in the forest of Brethil, where he meets a nice girl, they fall in love and get married, and he is content to live happily ever after with her in peace... then a Dragon attacks, he finds out she's actually his long-lost sister, and they both kill themselves.
  • The short story La torture par l'esperance (The Torture by Hope), by Villiers de l'Isle-Adam, is Hope Spot writ large.
  • In Memory, Sorrow and Thorn, the hope spot comes as Miriamele, Binabik, and Cadrach burst into Green Angel Tower to see Evil Sorcerer Pryrates completing his No-Holds-Barred Beatdown of several minor characters. Miriamele happens to have a Norn arrow nocked in her bow, and fires it reflexively, hitting Pryrates right through the neck and apparently killing him. There's just enough time for the good guys to exult over the victory before he staggers back to his feet, pulls the arrow out, and indulges in some serious Evil Gloating. This display of invincibility serves to utterly destroy what little hope the heroes had left.
    Pryrates: "You hurt me. For that I shall keep you alive a long time, girl."
  • In James Swallow's Warhammer 40,000 novel Black Tide, Fabius Bile frequently sets up apparent chances to escape for his prisoners. It's a marvel that Rafen manages to convince half the prisoners they have a real chance this time.
  • The Imperial Guard novel Desert Raiders has one after the regiment has managed to destroy the tyranid swarm in a series of Heroic Sacrifices and Last Stands. There are only a few survivors and they are without supplies in the middle of the desert. Still they are hopeful that they can last till the fleet returns. Then they found out that the defeated swarm was just a scout force and the main swarm is arriving.
  • Near the end of Anthony Reynolds’ Warhammer 40,000 Word Bearers novel Dark Apostle, Brigadier-General Havorn encounters the Possessed Marine Burias Drak’shal, and after a brief but fierce fight that sees both their entourages dead and Havorn badly injured, manages to shoot Burias in his unarmoured face. Havorn gets up and starts to walk away. He barely makes it a few steps before Burias, whose daemonic powers have already healed this seemingly fatal wound, grabs Havorn and rips out his heart.
  • Gilles de Rais of Fate/Zero has giving his victims a Hope Spot as his fetish. His Establishing Character Moment was kindly freeing an orphan only to have one of his pet monsters devour the child as he ran for the door.
    • Shown in loving detail in episode 2 of the anime. And is now the trope page picture.
      Bluebeard: Some forms of terror are fresher than others. People go numb inside when they're afraid. Terror, in its truest essense, is not a static state, but a dynamic one. It is the moment when hope turns into despair. Did you enjoy that? The freshness of terror and death?
  • In Henri Barbusse's World War I novel Under Fire, set in 1915, the narrator goes with a fellow soldier, Poterloo, to view the village where Poterloo used to live, now an unrecognizable heap of ruins. After being briefly stupefied, Poterloo begins talking about how he and his wife and their neighbors will rebuild everything after the war is over (soon!) and becomes quite cheerful. At the same time, the sun comes out and the first bird of the spring begins to sing, which to the narrator seems like a sign of the end of the war being near. A few hours later, Poterloo, still cheerful, is killed by a shell.
  • Trapped on Draconica: Ironically its the You Shall Not Pass! performed by the 300 Leondians of the Eastern Alliance. They crush a Baalarian army without lossing a single soldier. believes they can win against Baalaria and end the war in their favor. Then Yusef sells them out.
    • The sequel, Legacy of the Dragokin has one: Jihadain finally succeeds in her long term plan and releases Kthonia....only to see that the fearsome warrior has mellowed out long ago and wants no part in her desire to kill all men. Unfortunately, this drives her into a rage and she attacks Daniar which gets her killed by Kalak which enrages Kthonia so much she decides that she will take part in her desire to kill all men.
  • At the climax of Lois McMaster Bujold's The Spirit Ring, we see the evil wizard use the same spell that destroyed his master's magic ring on an animated statue of molten bronze. Obviously, a (stolen) spell to free a spirit bound to a material object would have a similar effect no matter the amount and state of metal involved, right?
    Uri: [as Vitelli walked within reach of the motionless statue] You cannot release me. I am not bound.
    • This promptly flips back on the heroes, as Vitelli's necromantic dabblings had gotten him to the point where his physical demise made matters worse.
  • In Firebird (Lackey), Just as Ilya gets his hand on the sorcerer's heart, he's captured by his monsters.
  • A crushing one occurs in the last book of Artemis Fowl when Artemis tries to escape the Berserker Gate before it kills him. He manages to jump out of the crater with Holly holding his hand and he thinks there is a new life ahead of him. But then the Gate kicks in and he is dragged back to the crater. Butler doesn't make it to pull him out a second time. Fortunately, he is able to come back from the dead but still...
  • In The Hunger Games, Head Gamemaker Seneca Crane, inspired by Katniss and Peeta's "romance", gives an extended one to the remaining district pairs when it's declared that 2 tributes can win if from the same district. Then when Katniss and Peeta are the last 2, the rule is revoked. However, they subverted this and both came out of the Games ok (for the most part anyway). Seneca... did not.
    • Over the course of the trilogy Katniss' budding romance with Peeta becomes the one thing keeping her from going over the edge. It's one long extended Hope Spot showing, that in all of this despair, she has one person capable of keeping her grounded. All this naturally builds up so that it makes the blow that Peeta didn't get rescued with Katniss in the Quarter Quell, and his subsequent hijacking, even harder.
  • Five Weeks in a Balloon: The heroes are stranded in the desert and are running out of water. Then they see two palm trees in the distance, which imply an oasis. But when they get nearby, the trees turn out to be long-dead and there is no water around.
  • Friedrich Dürrenmatt's Suspicion: Dr. Emmenberger never tortured the prisoners at the concentration camp he worked without their approval. He just promised them to bring them back from an extermination camp to a concentration camp after the "surgery" and they where desperate enough to believe him. He even kept his word after he performed a vivisection on Gulliver, the only one to survive a treatment of Emmenberger.
  • A Christmas Carol ends in an odd inversion; a Despair Spot. The day after Christmas, Scrooge appears to have reverted to his stingy, miserly ways as Cratchett arrives late for work, and appears to be preparing to finally make good on his threats to fire him...
    "Now, I'll tell you what, my friend," said Scrooge, "I am not going to stand this sort of thing any longer. And therefore," he continued, leaping from his stool, and giving Bob such a dig in the waistcoat that he staggered back into the Tank again; "and therefore I am about to raise your salary."
  • Swedish writer Simona Ahrnstedt does this in her debut novel Överenskommelser. Beatrice and Seth, the two protagonists, have what can only be described as a really hot date. Surely they will sort things out now, after eight months of misunderstandings? Surely now Beatrice won't have to marry Rosenschiöld (who's like forty years older than her and treats women like dirt), to whom she was forced to get engaged? But alas, not only does she have a tyrannical uncle. She also has a sadistic sociopath for a cousin, who now makes sure that she's separated from Seth. Cue a whole year of more misery for Beatrice...
  • In "Damnatio Memoriae" by Laura Marcelle Giebfried, this happens to Enim near the end of the novel when Enim finally thinks he has found the killer after Jack has been accused and driven away from the island. But then the author throws in a major Mind Screw and things go From Bad to Worse from there....
  • In Bubble World, after Freesia reveals the truth about Bubble World to her parents, it seems as if her mom will care for her daughters and turn away from the computer. Instead, she's offered a job at the retooled Bubble World, Bright Planet, and accepts.
  • In Allegiant, just when it looks like Tris is going to shrug off the death serum and survive, David fatally shoots her. She still manages to get her Heroic Sacrifice off, though.
  • Somewhither: Ilya finally figuring out how to climb up from his oubliette and leaving through the hole in the ceiling... at which point the portal surrounding the hole activates and dumps him in another, identical, undamaged cell.
  • Midnight's Children: After the midnight's children are gathered in the Widows' Hostel, Saleem believes that they can fight back now that they're finally all together. He encourages them to endure the torture and strike back once the Widow thinks they're finished... but then that torture turns out to remove their magic powers. Lampshaded by Saleem, who says that in addition to vasectomies and hysterectomies, the sterilization crew performed "sperectomies" — the removal of hope.
  • In Casey at the Bat, two despised, lousy batters both come through with hits to base, to everyone's astonishment. Casey now has his opportunity to shine and win the game. Alas Casey...
  • The Lorax ends on a more ambiguous note, with the Once-ler giving a child the last truffula seed in hopes that the child would fix the mistake that he once had made. But there are several things that could possibly fit this into Hope Spot territory, namely that all other life around is either dead and moved somewhere else, and that it takes one Truffula tree 20 years to grow.
  • Journey to Chaos:
    • After deftly handling three of the mooks sent to kidnap her during A Mage's Power, Kasile is feeling confident about handling the situation. Then their boss steps up and Magic Eyes her into submission.
    • In Looming Shadow, Eric briefly gets the upper hand on Reno Grade but then the reaper demonstrates the true difference between a physical god and a merely enlightened mortal.
  • Eclipse has one at the very end of chapter seven. The Humanoid Abomination calms down from its Unstoppable Rage, the Governor of Cessair (who provoked that Unstoppable Rage) is forced to resign in disgrace, the Team Mom gets set to become the next head of state for Cessair, and the House of Dreyvor seems to have resolved its Overprotective Dad issues. At the end of the chapter, Cessair gets attacked by an invading fleet of warships.