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Niles: It's time to do the honorable thing.
Martin: What, divorce your wife and marry the woman carrying your brother's child?
Frasier

A man who isn't the father of the child proposes to a pregnant woman in order to preserve her honour in a society with strong views on extramarital sex. Whether this is a suitable basis for a happy marriage largely depends on the work's idealism.

If it happens nowadays, the guy either has a very strict sense of duty or is just in love with the woman and making excuses. Also, expect his actions to be criticised for implying that a single mother can't raise a baby alone. The man might face ridicule for such a noble act. In modern, urban, Western society, that is. There are, regrettably, still plenty of places in the world where single mothers are vilified by society and raising a baby under such circumstances can be very harsh indeed. In Period Dramas, the man doing this will definitely be seen as a wonderful person. If the mother faces Slut-Shaming, then the man might be mocked for accepting "used goods."

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Can be considered a Defied Trope (or Subverted Trope) to Defiled Forever. Also compare Remarrying for Your Kids.

Subtrope of Honorable Marriage Proposal. Sister Trope to Shotgun Wedding, when the actual father is pressured into "doing the honorable thing".


Examples:

    open/close all folders 

     Anime and Manga 
  • In Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu, Kyouji aka Yotaro Yurakutei not only marries the daughter of his master, Konatsu, but becomes the father figure to her baby whose actual father remains unknown.

    Comic Strips 
  • In the newspaper comic 9 Chickweed Lane, Gran/Edna says this is the reason she and Bill ultimately got married: He was "protecting her honor" after they discovered she was pregnant by the man she left to be with Bill.
  • Long before he would become Fantastic Four villain Puppet Master, Phillip Masters' business partner Jacob Reiss was killed in an explosion that happened as a result of an argument between them; the explosion also blinded Reiss's daughter Alicia. Reiss's widow would later marry Jacob for this reason, and as a result of Alicia being his stepdaughter, Masters would develop a personal grudge against the Thing years later, when Alicia and the Thing start dating.
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    Fan Works 
  • Happens in the Naruto fanfic Teamwork.
  • Also happens in a Neon Genesis Evangelion fanfic (Father) where someone takes advantage of a drunk Asuka during a house party and she gets pregnant. Shinji instantly proposes to her. This, of course, is not something Asuka's father would tolerate and he attempts to force Asuka at gunpoint to cancel the engagement and have an abortion before returning to Germany for an Arranged Marriage. The emphasis is on "attempts" as Shinji, Misato and Gendo all gang up on him. Special mention goes to Gendo being a Papa Wolf to Asuka.
  • Another fanfic, Acts of Kindness, has Asuka finding out that Shinji is now engaged with one of their classmates because they had an affair and he accidentally got her pregnant. That's actually a cover story; what really happened is that the girl got raped by her own father and got pregnant from it. Since the bastard was a Nerv employee, Gendo quickly has him disposed of by Section 2 and Shinji volunteers to provide the cover story. Of course, the girl then has a Convenient Miscarriage and she moves out of the city, knowing that Shinji and Asuka love each other but Cannot Spit It Out.
  • Inverted in the Berserk fanfic "Happy Ending", where Casca asks Griffith to be the father of her unborn child in Guts' absence. Internally, Griffith doesn't like the child, due to it being a symbol of Gut and Casca's union, but he ultimately relents since he cares for — and is physically dependent on — Casca. And just to add a classic Griffith creep factor, he hopes that the child will at least grow up to look and act like Guts.
  • In The Goblin Emperor fanfic The Honourable Thing Beshelar is invited to a wedding, but then gets a letter that the wedding is cancelled because the bridegroom - a (former) friend of his - ran away and left the pregnant bride to her fate. Having a very strong sense of duty, Beshelar asks the Emperor for some extra time off and attends the wedding as bridegroom.
  • In the Law & Order: UK fanfic "Choices", Alesha learns she's pregnant as a result of her rape. She can't bring herself to have an abortion and after she decides, "I'm having a baby", pal Matt Devlin corrects her—"No, we're having a baby." They never get a chance to discuss the logistics of whether this means they're now a couple or if they'll ever tell the kid about her true parentage, because of course, she has a Convenient Miscarriage.
  • In Apprentice And Pregnant, Hollypaw was raped by a ShadowClan cat named Longtail and left pregnant as an apprentice. Her friend Greyclaw offered to act as her kit's father. The two ended up pairing up and, though their kits know their biological father is an unknown-to-them ShadowClan cat, they see Greyclaw as their father.
  • An odd case is brought up in Secret Sunshine, when Shiro, after hearing Ryuuko tell him that Satsuki became pregnant and that she's been raising Kiko, suggests that he marries her (not Satsuki). Of course, Ryuuko isn't sure as to how to respond to the idea.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Central to The Miracle of Morgan's Creek. Made awkward by her technical marriage to someone she couldn't remember and would probably never see again.
  • In People Will Talk, Cary Grant's doctor/professor character meets Jeanne Crain's coed character, gives her the "yes, you are pregnant" news, upon which she says she's not married and immediately attempts suicide after leaving. Naturally, he does what any ethical medical professional would do given the circumstances: apologize for the "misdiagnosis", court and marry her lickety-split, and be overjoyed at her becoming pregnant very soon after—as far as she knows—the wedding. He eventually reveals the deception, but convinces her he didn't do it out of pity but really loves her. Values Dissonance, anyone?
  • This is part of the background narrative in Racing Daylight. As often happens, an engaged couple couldn't wait. He went off to fight in The American Civil War, leaving her pregnant. He's mistakenly declared dead, so she marries his cousin. Then her fiancé returns, and thereby hangs the tale.
  • In Michael Bay's Pearl Harbor, Danny (Ben Affleck) does this to his ex-girlfriend Evelyn (Kate Beckinsale), who is pregnant with the kid of Danny's best friend Rafe (Josh Hartnett) after he is shot down and killed in battle by the Japanese. This also neatly ties up the Love Triangle.
  • This is what drives the plot of the Keanu Reeves movie A Walk in the Clouds. He gets home from World War II and meets college student Victoria, who is pregnant from an affair with one of her professors. The professor has written her a letter ending the romance, so Keanu's character offers to pose as her husband (and thus the father of her child) and then send the letter after leaving her with her parents. Of course, things don't go as planned.

    Literature 
  • Sam Clay proposes to Rosa Saks for this reason in The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay. She's pregnant with his cousin Joe's child, Joe has gone off to war and probably isn't coming back, and he's gay and heartbroken as he's just split up with his lover.
  • In Emile Zola's book La Curee (The Kill), Aristide Saccard uses this ploy to marry a rich girl.
  • In the novel The Lady and the Unicorn, by Tracy Chevalier (author of Girl with a Pearl Earring), set in the late Middle Ages, Philip marries Aleinor after she gets pregnant from another guy, to help her escape from an Arranged Marriage to yet another man.
  • In My Year of Meats, by Ruth L. Ozeki, when Jane finds out her ex got her pregnant, one of her coworkers offers to marry her. Naturally, the fact they're also quite good friends isn't enough to make her accept.
  • In The Governess Affair by Courtney Milan, Hugo is hired to prevent a duke's ex-governess from causing a scandal. However, he learns that the duke had raped her, after which she was fired for not being a virgin (and thus too immoral to raise children), after which Serena realized she was pregnant with the duke's child. The threatened scandal is Serena's desperate attempt at child support. Hugo marries her himself and claims the child as his own, giving Serena and her child both respectability and financial support.
  • In Salman Rushdie's Midnight's Children, Saleem reluctantly proposes to Parvati the Witch to save her honor after she gets pregnant with his archrival's son—whom she had an affair with on purpose in order to get Saleem to marry her. To be fair, he probably would have married her on his own if not for certain... issues he has with his sister.
  • In The First Law, Glokta marries Ardee to save her life and that of her unborn child; she's the mistress (and carrying the bastard) of the new king, and it's the only way for him to get out of killing her to protect the throne.
  • A variant in Bluestar's Prophecy, the eponymous character has a forbidden inter-Clan relationship with Oakheart, and ends up having his children. Thrushpelt - despite also having feelings for Bluestar - offers to help her care for the kits and let their Clanmates assume that Thrushpelt was the father, which Bluestar accepts. note 
  • The Halo: Evolutions story The Impossible Life and Possible Death of Preston J. Cole implies that Admiral Cole did this for his first marriage.
  • Gene Stratton-Porter's The Keeper of the Bees has Jamie MacFarlane, a dying (he thinks) World War I veteran, encountering a distraught woman who says she needs a marriage certificate and a name for an unborn child. He marries her at once, thinking he won't be around but the kid will be legitimate. Nine months later and starting to recover his health, he is called to the hospital, where his "wife" — another woman entirely — has just died in childbirth. The nurse catches on and hands him the kid once he assures her that his landlady can help to care for it. The women were sisters, the elder standing in for the younger: when she'd met Jamie, she never said the items she needed were for her. Jamie later marries the older sister.
  • Will Mclean tries to do this in 'Lords of Discipline' to the mysterious and enigmatic Annie-Kate, with truly tragic results. This is invoked mostly due to the novel being set in mid-1960's Charleston, and Annie-Kate being from a prominent family within the city's social structure. The late, great Pat Conroy stated, in his memoir My Losing Season, that Annie-Kate was based off of a real woman with whom he had a romance during his Senior year at The Citadel.
  • In The Masterharper of Pern, which explains Masterharper Robinton's backstory, it's revealed that the simple-minded workman of Harper Hall, Camo, is actually Robinton's son by the headwoman Silvina. When Silvina tells Robinton that she's pregnant, he offers her marriage. She refuses because she knows he's still in love with Kasia, his dead wife.
  • A non-pregnant version in "Madame Baptiste" by Guy de Maupassant: a young girl is raped by a valet named Baptiste, turning her into a pariah in her village (hence the nickname). A man marries her anyway in spite of public opinion (on occasion joking that he at least is assured of her fidelity). Then one day, some asshat with a bone to pick with the husband uses the nickname again, driving the poor woman to suicide (the story opens with the narrator seeing the sparsely-attended funeral and joining in).
  • In Somebody Killed His Editor, the first book in the Holmes and Moriarty series by Josh Lanyon, part of the reason novelist and amateur sleuth Christopher Holmes thinks fellow author and former fling J. X. Moriarty is unavailable on meeting him again ten years later is that Moriarty was said to be married; but it turns out that the marriage was this trope, both to give his dead brother's child a father for the first few years and to placate conservative family members.
  • In The Fall of Atlantis, this is a relatively common practice; since, in the priestly caste, a fatherless child is seen as having no status and being basically an Un-person, in cases where a unborn child's father can't or won't acknowledge them a woman may have another man stand acknowledge paternity.
    • Chedan acknowledges Lissi, his fiancee Elis' daughter, as his even knowing he's not the father. He dislikes it at frst, but grows to love her. Later we discover her real father is Arvath
    • When Domaris is pregnant by Micon, Arvath, out of jealousy, spreads a rumor that he is invoking this trope and that the real father is Rajasta, which would be deeply dishonorable if it were true, sicne it would violate their mentor-student relatonship.
    • Reio-Ta acknowledges Tiriki as his child for two reasons; first, because with Riveda dead, he would be unable to acknowledge her and second, so he can legally take her away from Atlantis, where she would be persecuted for her true father's crimes.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In Laverne & Shirley, when Laverne thinks she might be pregnant (a few days after a drinking contest at a party where she can only remember bits and pieces), Lenny comes down to talk to Laverne.
    Lenny: So, me and Squiggy flipped a coin to see which one of us was gonna volunteer to be your husband.
    Laverne: Awwww, and you lost, huh?
    Lenny: No, I won.
    • He then adds how he's going to go out for an exam to get a better job.
    Lenny: I'm gonna make a good living. Plus, I'll practically never hit you or nothin'...
  • In Deadwood, Ellsworth to Alma Garret, as she's bearing the child of a guy who's only (lovelessly) wed for the similarly-honorable reason of dutifully marrying the widow of his dead brother. Something of a Deconstruction; they're both (relatively) good people, they like each other, they work well together... and they are terrible spouses for one another.
  • Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip: Danny proposes to Jordan while she's giving birth. He first asked her out shortly after discovering she was pregnant, and she was initially worried that this trope was the sole reason for it.
  • In A Woman Of Substance, Blackie tells Emma to list him as the father of her child on the birth certificate when she refuses to name the real father, so the child will not have the shame of having the father listed as unknown.
  • Friends: Joey proposed to Phoebe when everyone thought that she was the one that was pregnant (not to "preserve her honour", but because it's tough to be a single mother). Once they find out it's really Rachel, he promptly asks the ring back from Phoebe so he could propose to Rachel. Made funnier by the fact that Phoebe gleefully accepted Joey's proposal, then seems upset when Joey says he needs the ring back.
  • In The Secret Life of the American Teenager, Ben, convinced that he is in love, proposes to Amy shortly after finding out she's pregnant with Ricky's baby. Since they're 15 and have only been dating a few weeks at that point, their parents don't approve. In fact, no one thinks that Amy needs to be married just because she's pregnant. None of these things stop Amy and Ben from secretly getting married. But since it's with fake IDs, the marriage is invalid and they end up breaking up later anyway.
  • In Frasier Niles (somewhat drunkenly) proposes to Daphne after an overheard conversation leads him to believe she's pregnant with Frasier's child. While he's at a Masquerade Ball. Dressed as Cyrano de Bergerac. And he tries to challenge Frasier to a duel for actions which he interprets as an attempt to bully Daphne into keeping quiet. This being Frasier, it's all a spectacular web of misunderstanding. Of course, it's really just Niles finding a way to express his love for Daphne via loophole. Once he finds out it's Roz who's pregnant, his desire to 'do the right thing' evaporates.
  • In How I Met Your Mother, after Robin sarcastically says she's pregnant after Ted asks why she was throwing up, he's down on one knee immediately, swearing that he'll marry her and help her raise the kid — though he quickly stipulates that it'll have to be "one of those marriages", where they date other people (this was long after Ted and Robin broke up). Later, the exchange is repeated between Robin and Barney, whose reaction is instead to bolt from the room in a panic at the thought of this trope.
  • Horshack in Welcome Back, Kotter proposes to Rosalie Totsie after she claims to be pregnant by one of the Sweathogs. She's lying to trick them into taking back rumors about her being "easy," but after the reveal, she thanks Arnold for offering to do the right thing and asks him out on a date.
  • In Brazilian soap opera Chocolate Com Pimenta, Ana Francisca is tricked by her boyfriend's aunt into thinking he knows about their yet to be born child but doesn't care. A rich man who had previously befriended her before she learns he's rich proposes to marry her and her family agrees for her honor's sake. People who don't know the real reason behind the marriage think she's a Gold Digger because of the big age gap between her and her husband.
  • Days of Our Lives Jan is raped and too terrified and ashamed to tell anyone but her friend Shawn. When he learns that she's pregnant, he declares that he's the father to spare her any humiliation, even as it results in him being blasted by virtually everyone, including his girlfriend's family, for supposedly having cheated on her. She eventually has a Convenient Miscarriage, resulting in everything being revealed.
  • One Life to Live's Jessica conceives after a drunken tryst with her friend Will. Despite her having cheated on him, her boyfriend Christian declares that he is her baby's father, presumably not wanting people to think she's a tramp.
  • In Midnight Caller, Devon's boyfriend leaves her to sail around the world, not knowing she's pregnant. Shortly before her due date, Jack proposes to her, since his own father left him when he was seven and he doesn't want her child to go through what he did. However, the father soon finds out about the pregnancy and returns, and Devon chooses him over Jack.
  • Ezel: One of the reasons Eyşan marries Cengiz is to give her unborn child a father. As it's early on in her pregnancy, she is able to keep his true parentage a secret for many years, until an offhand comment prompts Cengiz to investigate.

    Myths & Religion 
  • Joseph hesitated to wed Mary because she was pregnant and he knew darn well it wasn't his. Not wanting to humiliate her, he planned to quietly cancel their engagement. An angel from Heaven had to step in and tell him everything was okay. Even though Joseph was aware that the pregnancy was honorable, the marriage served the same purpose of this trope by legitimizing her pregnancy in the eyes of society.
  • King David tried to pass his marriage to Bathsheba off as one of these (or even as just a regular marriage), but he actually was trying to cover up the fact that he got her pregnant even though she was already married... and he had killed her husband to facilitate the cover-up.
  • In the Book of Genesis, Dinah is raped by Shechem, who then wants to marry her; instead, her brothers Levi and Simeon kill him and raze his town. According to some Jewish accounts, Dinah was pregnant from the rape and was angry at her brothers, since she didn't think she could ever find another husband after the incident. She then forces Simeon to take her into his home like a wife and raise her child, though the two never actually consummate the arrangement.
    • There is an alternative Rabbinical legend making her Job's wife. In yet another one, she goes to Egypt ahead of her family, where her daughter is adopted by a priest, named Asenath, and grows up to marry Dinah's half-brother Joseph.
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    Theater 
  • The 1932 Broadway musical Face the Music has the song "I Don't Wanna Be Married," in which a compromised girl refuses such a proposal:
    I never would change my name,
    Even after the baby came,
    'Cause I don't wanna be married,
    I just wanna be friends.

    Webcomics 
  • In Tina's Story, this was Tina's backstory. Tina's mother, Georgette (a Hybrid, a race of half-human/half-canines) had been raped by humans, and Tina's stepfather, Stan, (also a Hybrid) stepped up to give her child a father. Later, we find out That was a cover story. Stan was Tina's biological father all along. They made up the rape to cover for the fact that Georgette was underage when she got pregnant.

    Western Animation 

    Real Life 
  • Grover Cleveland did something roughly similar in real life. He didn't marry the mother, but did support the child, even though he was only one of the possible fathers. His political opponents tried to use the scandal against him, but the fact that he owned up to the situation and took responsibility despite no one being sure he was the actual father made him look better in the long run.
    Opposing Political Slogan: Ma! Ma! Where's my pa?
    Response: Gone to the White House! Ha! Ha! Ha!

  • In Alberta, Canada, there was an incident in the 1960s where an older man married a young widow so that she'd have someone to support her and her four children. This was seen as an admirable act of charity.

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