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Literature / The Trees of Pride

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The Trees of Pride is a 1922 novella by G. K. Chesterton.

The story is in the public domain and can be read here.

Tropes featured in this work include:

  • Arbitrary Skepticism: The Doctor accuses Ashe and the Squire of this at the climax. As he points out, they generally treat the peasantry as rational. They trust them to do their jobs competently, and they would even have hung Doctor Brown on their evidence. Yet on the one matter of the peacock trees, they give no weight to the peasant's testimony.
  • The Cuckoolander Was Right: Defied by Squire Vane, whose particular strain of Scully Syndrome compels him to dismiss utterly anything which has been presented to him in the form of a popular legend, no matter how much supporting evidence it may have.
  • Framing the Guilty Party: When he is forced to provide evidence to fake the Squire's death in order that Barbara might inherit and destroy the peacock trees, Doctor Brown is careful to include multiple details that will ultimately cause the crime to be traced back to him. While he knew that he could at need simply explain what had truly happened and produce the Squire alive and well, as he did at the book's climax, he didn't want to run the risk that someone else might be hung for a murder that had never been committed.
  • Hollywood Atheist: Squire Vane is noted In-Universe as an example of this trope, in that something in his psychological makeup causes his atheism to manifest itself in a particularly argumentative and combative fashion. He is contrasted with Doctor Brown, who is willing to accept that a popular legend may actually be true if that is what the evidence seems to show.
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: Discussed by the Doctor at the book's climax. While his researches have all but conclusively shown that the peacock trees were doing something to cause the fevers that ravaged the neighborhood, he was never able to establish the exact mechanism by which they did so. His suspicion was that the fevers were some kind of allergic reaction to the pollen of the peacock trees, but for all he could actually prove, they could be the result of a literal Curse upon the trees.
  • Scully Syndrome: One of Squire Vane's defining traits is an absolute and categorical rejection of anything that is presented to him in the form of a popular legend. It did not matter how much evidence and how many cases Doctor Brown could provide to show the peacock trees to be poisonous; there was a legend that the trees were poisonous and therefore, in the Squire's mind, the trees could not possibly be poisonous.
  • Outgrown Such Silly Superstitions: Deconstructed by Doctor Brown in his Motive Rant.
    Doctor Brown: "In other words, the peasants were right. But if I put it that way, somebody will cry: 'But do you believe it was supernatural then?' In fact, that's what you'll all say; and that's exactly what I complain of. I fancy hundreds of men have been left dead and diseases left undiscovered, by this suspicion of superstition, this stupid fear of fear. Unless you see daylight through the forest of facts from the first, you won't venture into the wood at all. Unless we can promise you beforehand that there shall be what you call a natural explanation, to save your precious dignity from miracles, you won't even hear the beginning of the plain tale. Suppose there isn't a natural explanation! Suppose there is, and we never find it! Suppose I haven't a notion whether there is or not! What the devil has that to do with you, or with me in dealing with the facts I do know?"