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Innocent Inaccurate

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"He [Jenny's father] was a very loving man. He was always kissin' and touchin' her and her sisters. (...) God is mysterious. He didn't turn Jenny into a bird that day [as she had requested]. Instead, he had the police say that Jenny didn't have to stay in that house no more. She went to live with her grandma.(...) Some nights, Jenny sneaked out and come on over to my house, just 'cause she said she was scared. Scared of what? I don't know, but I think it was her grandma's dog. He was a mean dog."
Forrest Gump, describing what he understood about Jenny's molester father.

A form of Dramatic Irony. A horrific event is understated because the narrator is very young, very naive or is intellectually disabled in some way, and doesn't really understand what took place. Alternatively, it may be obvious to the audience that something very bad has happened/is about to happen, but the narrator/character lacks the mental capacity to realize this and interprets it in a more "innocent" light.

See also Please Wake Up and Innocent Swearing. A Tearful Smile may attempt to prevent a child's realizing another character's grief. Related to Unreliable Narrator.

Compare with Entendre Failure, which also involves naivete getting in the way of comprehension. See also A Tale Told by an Idiot, where the character doesn't have the excuse of being too young to understand what's going on.

Contrast Troubling Unchildlike Behavior, the near-opposite of this trope, where a child does not display the innocence typical of his/her age.


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  • This trope was used as the punchline for a commercial for Hansaplast condoms where a young boy did things like get a tattoo, drive a car, and take a chainsaw to his chair at school, claiming each time that his mother said he could do it. At the end of the commercial, he stands outside his parents' bedroom and asks if he can put the cat in the washing machine. We then hear his mother repeatedly saying "Yes" in an orgasmic way, revealing that the boy only assumed his mother gave him the okay for his actions because he didn't understand that his mother was only saying "Yes" as a reaction to having pleasurable sex.
    '''Note: DO NOT put anything living in a washing machine. It will not be a funny prank. It will die. At least, it will if you turn the machine on!

    Anime and Manga 
  • One case in Case Closed has a man kidnap the five-year-old son of a doctor, who he believed botched a surgery on his own child. Leading up to the kidnapping (and attempted murder), the man had been sending his dead child's favorite toys to the doctor, as a way to taunt him. When the son hears the man's Motive Rant, all he takes away is that this is the guy who sent him the cool toys, and thanks him for it.
  • Cells at Work: Baby!: In the first chapter, Red Blood Cell claims to know the cause behind the sudden earthquakes: they're under attack by a giant robot! She's wrong; of course — the earthquakes are uterine contractions — but her reasoning is both funny and the kind of thing a young child would plausibly come up with.
  • From Fullmetal Alchemist, Maes Hughes's daughter at his funeral, making it also an example of Please Wake Up.
  • This trope becomes an important plot point in Listen to me, girls. I am your father!. After 3 year old Hina's parents go missing after a plane crash (and most likely died), her uncle and 2 older sisters try to avoid the subject of why her parents have been gone so long. She doesn't think about it too much until episode 12, when she starts asking why they haven't come back home yet, and upon being told the truth, she doesn't take it very well until the very end, when everyone she's met comes to watch her classmate sing, showing she still has people who care deeply about her.
  • Revolutionary Girl Utena: Utena witnessed Anthy's pain at the Ends of the World when she was a child. She couldn't possibly have understood what she was seeing, and ended up forgetting all of it. She just wanted to grow up and be a cool prince just like the guy who showed her that whatever-it-was. (During this same sequence (but shown much earlier on in the series, before the real Wham Episode) Touga and Saionji found Utena and tried to save her. It made Saionji, who pretty much misunderstood the whole thing, realize that he wanted "something eternal"... which in turn led to his very misguided attempts at securing Anthy as his "eternal thing". Touga didn't get off much better, trying to emulate a suave prince despite a fundamental misunderstanding that his personality couldn't correct. It's complicated.)
  • Sayonara, Zetsubou-Sensei: Kafuka Fura, though whether she's naive or delusional is up for debate.
  • Yuki Takeya, the protagonist of School-Live!, undergoes a Freak Out after the school becomes overrun by a Zombie Apocalypse, and deludes herself into seeing everything as perfectly fine and happy, with her surviving club-members not having the heart to snap her out of her fantasy. She does eventually wake up to what's actually happening by the end of the anime (first arc of the manga).
  • YuYu Hakusho has the boy Yusuke died saving doing this at his funeral in the first episode.

    Comic Books 
  • Humpty Dumpty from the Batman mini-series Arkham Asylum: Living Hell, who dissected his abusive grandmother and sewed her back together with bootlace in an ill-thought attempt to "fix" her.
  • The Garth Ennis comic Rover Red Charlie depicts The End of the World as We Know It via some kind of Zombie Apocalypse through the eyes of three ordinary house dogs who don't quite understand what's going on, just that their "feeders" have started hurting themselves for some reason and are no longer around to take care of them.
  • In Watchmen, we see a drawing a young Rorschach made of his mother having sex with a client. It looks like a twisted monster, and very closely resembles both the shadow patterns throughout the book and Rorschach's own mask blots.

  • In "A Child's Innocence" from Black Crayons, young Annabelle Lennox witnesses events from Transformers: Dark of the Moon. When she ends up in Chicago when the Decepticons have taken over, Annabelle thinks the skeletons are Halloween decorations.
  • Bubbles, a My Little Pony fanfic about how Derpy Hooves got her cutie mark. It's a Dark Fic, because Derpy's mother is abusive, calling her a "retard", yelling at her, and hitting her sometimes, and Derpy's clumsiness is explained as her having some sort of birth defect that makes her move, see, and talk badly. Her mother is implied to also have something wrong with the wiring upstairs, as she takes medicine "so she doesn't cry". Derpy, however, thinks her mother is just loud and that "retard" is a strange new word. Also, at one point, Derpy goes to the hospital but doesn't understand, and thinks it's just a cool new place.
  • Invoked in build your wings on the way down by Edward and Hughes. Nina thought her time spent as a chimera was a bad dream. They let her think that to spare her the pain of what happened until she's old enough to handle it.
  • In Imposter, Adrien in his childhood believes that his mother Emille normally shifts between a serious persona with green eyes and a doting persona with blue eyes. When he is ten, her blue-eyes self asks him to pack for a trip away from their home, but when he is ready to go, his mother has green eyes and tells him to forget what he told her before, and never shows her sweet side again. Between his age and lack of knowledge, it never occurred to Adrien that the kinder side of his mother was actually a Sentimonster created to care for him, then permanently erased by the real Emilie when she tried to escape with him.
  • In Mass Effect: Synthesis, a quarian kid comes home from a playground and remarks that all the human kids must be really tired; they all fell asleep. Turns out the Council had deployed an anti-human bioweapon.
  • In Peeking Through the Fourth Wall and stories MSTed by it:
    • In the first episode of "After Dark", the version of the series where the characters read naughty stories, Lola thinks the story is adult simply because it's "scary".
    • In The Edgy House, covered in "After Dark 4", the Leni in the story until it's revealed to be a joke all along thinks that Lynn Sr.'s raping her is just "kissies".
    • In Episode 36, seven-year-old Lana reads a story in which her older sister Lori moans while eating a hamburger. Lana believes that the hamburger in the story must've been so good it hurt.
  • In Rude Preschool Person, the toddler narrator sees a fictitious Star Trek: The Original Series episode where Kirk and Spock have sex, but she interprets it as them hugging and "wanting to run around naked". Also, she interprets Spock's pon farr as sickness.
  • Sometimes happens in stories based on The Rugrats Theory:
    • In one of them, Angelica's Diary, Angelica truly thinks the babies really exist and is hallucinating them as opposed to making them up like in the original theory. So when they go to the cemetery, she thinks it's just a place that happens to have rocks with the babies' names on them. Also, Charlotte is implied to be cheating on Drew with Jonathan, but Angelica doesn't understand why Charlotte goes home sweaty and thinks she just goes for long runs.
    • In another story, Angelica sees her mother Cynthia (in the theory, Charlotte is Angelica's stepmother and her original mother died) taking drugs and assumes it's medicine.
  • In the Calvin and Hobbes fanfic A Special Place to Meet, a teenage Calvin starts doing drugs. Hobbes, who, in this fanfic, is an actual Living Toy as opposed to the probably-Imaginary Friend he is in canon, thinks that Calvin just had a bad cold and was taking medicine.
  • In the Pokémon fanfic Symbiosis, due to being raised by Pokémon, Ash is initially horrified by the concept of catching Pokémon until his adoptive father, Poison Lance, explained that most Pokémon encounters are by Pokémon who know the risk or want to be captured. He also doesn't understand why men would peek on women bathing. He believes that men do it because women hide their secret to good hygiene, which is why women smell cleaner. He vows to assist these men if he ever gets the chance because he wants to smell cleaner.
  • With Pearl and Ruby Glowing: some characters learned the hard way that just because the person taking naked pictures of you is dressed like a doctor doesn't mean it's okay. Another comes to the rape support group to ask how she can be safe around men, every one of whom she thinks is going to assault her, but fails to grasp that the other group members count her mother persuading her of this fact as a form of sexual abuse in itself. There's also the time a child brings a handful of human teeth to show-and-tell and explains how her great-uncle got them when he killed a communist, because he didn't tell her what a communist was.
  • your move, instigator (draw your weapon and hold your tongue): Sakura, Kiba and Tenten fall into this; between their youth (ranging from ages six to eight) and how they're Child Soldiers that have been Conditioned to Accept Horror, they often misinterpret things. For instance, Sakura and Kiba remember their instructor's hands constantly shaking, and assume that was from age; it's heavily implied Clanless Bekko-sensei was actually overwhelmed by how he was teaching kindergarten-aged students how to kill, knowing they'd be shipped out to the frontlines shortly.

  • A flashback in 28 Days shows the main character and her sister as children discovering that her mother has passed away. As they're being taken away by their aunt, one of the girls tells her, "Just slap her real hard, she'll wake up."
  • After Babe stops a pack of dogs from attacking a flock of sheep, he gets blood on his snout when he's mourning over Maa's corpse. Farmer Hogget assumes that Babe was the one who killed Maa and gets ready to put him down with his shotgun. He can't bring himself to after Babe innocently mouths the barrels, thus realizing that he'd never kill her. Babe's thoughts are narrated to the audience:
    Narrator: The pig had a vague memory that shiny tubes produced food, and guessed that some quite unexpected surprise would come out of the two small mouths.
  • In Barefoot, Daisy Kensington is a Womanchild who has No Social Skills becuse she was raised in isolation by a schizophrenic mother; therefore, when visits the outside world for the first time, she misunderstands a lot of things. During a scene in a strip club, she mentions that a man wanted to pay her for a hand job, then says "I've never had a job in my life!"
  • In Edward Scissorhands, Peg Boggs asks Edward, who's living alone, about his parents, to get this line about his father:
    Edward: He didn't wake up.
  • Alexandria, the five-year-old protagonist of The Fall pretty clearly had to immigrate to the United States because of a pogrom of some sort against her family—but when Roy (the adult protagonist) tries to find out more, all she says is that "angry people" were responsible.
    • The film has a lot of this. When Roy, is telling the Fractured Fairy Tale to Alexandria, she imagines things that are clearly not the way he intended them, for example he includes a Native American character that he simply calls the Indian. Alexandria imagines the character as someone who actually is from India. There's also a heavy subversion later: at one point Roy starts falling asleep in the middle of storytelling and Alexandria can't wake him back up. The audience thinks that it's because Roy has taken an overdose of morphine and is dead while Alexandria innocently thinks that he's just asleep, however the next day we discover that the "morphine" was just a placebo.
  • The opening of Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children is narrated by the young Marlene, who simplifies things quite a bit. For example, when describing Sephiroth, the Big Bad who tried to summon Meteor to strike the planet so he could become a god, she says "he hated the planet so much, he wanted to make it go away."
  • A whole lot of Forrest Gump. For example, he doesn't understand Jenny's situation with her father. ("He was a very loving man. He was always kissing and touching her and her sisters.") In general, Forrest misunderstands Jenny's entire character and sees a sweet Girl Next Door where there is actually a Broken Bird who Really Gets Around.
  • Used in My Name is Khan, in which the main character has Asperger's. He is mistaken for a terrorist and ends up in the equivalent of Guantanamo bay, where the guards change the temperature in his cell from extreme cold to extreme heat as a form of torture. His internal monologue: "This is a strange place. Sometimes it's too cold, sometimes it's too hot. Maybe they're having problems with the air conditioning."
  • One of the characters in the film Scum is in borstal until he's old enough to go to an adult prison. During a therapy session he's told he can't leave because he killed some people, but he's too young to understand and keeps asking to go home.
  • In Santa Claus: The Movie, this is why Patch — a Christmas elf who's never been beyond the North Pole — throws in his lot with toy manufacturer B.Z. He arrives in New York City and sees a display of B.Z.'s toys in a store window and assumes that the store employees clearing out the lot are doing so because they're popular. It's actually because they're all being recalled, as B.Z. is a Corrupt Corporate Executive and those toys are highly dangerous. When B.Z. realizes that Patch doesn't know about his corrupt ways and legal problems, he makes sure that Patch can't find out the truth.
  • Tideland is entirely about this trope. The conditions of approximately 8-year-old Jeliza Rose's upbringing are so warped (i.e. cooking up shots of heroin for her father so he can "go on vacation") that she has no understanding of concepts like death or abuse and blithely includes them in her games of pretend.
    • At the end, Dickens finally succeeds in defeating the "monster shark" by causing a tremendous train crash. Jeliza-Rose sees the carnage and... cheers for him, not realizing that he's just caused the deaths of countless innocent people.

  • A little girl walks in on her parents having sex. The mother claims that she's letting the air out of the father's belly, but the girl tells her not to bother because the maid blows him back up every day.

  • Adrian Mole does this in his teenage diaries. Examples include not realising his mother's affair with the neighbor, that his father is obviously the father of Doreen Slater's baby, not getting the endless and blatant hints that his mother is pregnant (her receiving a call from the Pregnancy Advisory Service, whose acronym he didn't recognize; him finding a pregnancy test called "Predictor" which he mistook for something related to "the occult" and thinking that his mother's questions about whether he'd rather have a brother or sister meant they were planning on adopting) and his references to Auntie Susan and her "friend" Gloria.
    • Lampshaded in The Growing Pains of Adrian Mole, where an older Adrian notes that he noticed nothing of his parents' extramarital affairs when they were going on and his diary of that period only records "childish fourteen-year-old thoughts and preoccupations". (He still doesn't seem to notice that his diaries actually reflect a lot of what was going on, just without him understanding it.)
  • Andy Griffiths' Just Series: In one book, Andy is nervous at nighttime. He hears a noise, and tries to reassure himself by saying it's probably the cat... only to realise they don't have a cat. Then, he realises that they used to have a cat, only for his dad to take him to the vet, come back with no cat, and claim the cat was "put to sleep". Andy wonders if the cat has now woken up.
  • The animals (except Benjamin) in Animal Farm relate the pigs' growing corruption, including selling Boxer to the glue factory and using the money to buy alcohol, while guilelessly accepting the pigs' paper-thin justifications of their actions.
  • In Being There, the mentally challenged Chance the Gardener goes through a lot of this. He understands that the Old Man (master of the house) has died, but doesn't realize that this means that the house is being closed and that he no longer has anyone to take care of him. He also does not realize, once he's met Eve Rand, that she and the other powerful people he encounters from that point on do not know what he actually is; they think he's a Purity Sue of sorts, which has results (among them, being put forward as a presidential candidate) that can be downright alarming to readers...well, not to every reader. In the movie version, this is taken further with the long sequence in which Chance walks out into the world outside the house for the first time — and into the poorer neighborhoods of Washington, D.C.
  • In The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, an eight year old named Bruno has a father who is very high up and important. His father works for the Fury (Fuhrer), and is forced to leave his old home in Berlin with the rest of the family. They move to a place named Out-With (Auschwitz) wherein he isn't really happy. He never understands why his mother starts taking so many medicinal sherries and long naps, and why the young but cruel Lt. Kotler seems to be around so much. (She's having an affair with him.) He retains his naiveté even after meeting and speaking regularly with someone from the other side of the fence, "Shmuel", who wears the titular striped pajamas (his concentration camp uniform, as he's a Jewish boy held there with his family). Naturally, it leads to tragedy.
  • Little Bunny Whistler attempts this in A Brother's Price, but when she voices her belief that Daddy has "gone away," Jerin gently tells her that no, sweetie, Daddy died.
  • The main narrator ("Chaucer the Pilgrim") of The Canterbury Tales is like this with his gushing descriptions of the immoral pilgrims.
  • In The Cat Mummy by Jacqueline Wilson, the child heroine tries to mummify her dead pet (as she was learning about Ancient Egypt in school.) She can't understand why her family is horrified that she wanted to wrap the body in bandages and keep it in her room.
    • An example that spans a whole book is Take a Good Look, in which a blind girl disobeys her grandmother's instructions that she is not allowed out unattended and goes shopping alone — which leads to her getting caught up in an armed robbery. Because she is very young and can't see what is going on around her, she seems to have no idea what a dangerous situation she is in, even at the end when this is repeatedly explained to her by adults.
  • Chickamauga by Ambrose Bierce, an account of a bloody American Civil War battle as seen through the eyes of a deaf child.
  • In Come Back, Lucy by Pamela Sykes, Lucy is a lonely 10-year-old orphan girl adopted by distant relations. She befriends Alice, the ghost of a Victorian girl who lived in the house a hundred years previously; but then finds that she can travel back in time to visit Alice. Because she is so young, she misses the obvious signs that Alice is becoming obsessed with her (eventually leading Alice to attempt to drown Lucy so they can stay together) and does not understand why her family is so concerned that she frequently disappears without telling them, especially at night.
  • Christopher, the narrator of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, is an autistic teenager, who relates the events going on around him in great detail without fully understanding their significance.
    • In particular, one of his neighbors says something at one point that makes the reader realize that Christopher's mother, who he had thought was dead, actually just abandoned him, something Christopher himself doesn't learn for another few chapters. When he does find out, he relates this in the same detached, emotionless style as the rest of the book.
    • At one point he nearly gets hit by the Underground train after going down to the tracks to pick up his pet rat. After narrowly escaping, he gets confused by everyone's frightened reactions, and never becomes aware of the danger he was in. He is actually more upset by the fact that strangers are trying to talk to him and doesn't seem to pay much attention to what they're actually saying (one woman is actually asking if he's okay), and he informs them (not threatening, just informing) that he has a small saw blade on his Swiss army knife with which he could cut off their fingers. What he leaves out is that he's uncomfortable (at best) around strangers, so the other people take this as a threat and leave him alone, not because "he's fine on his own," but because "this kid is messed up."
    • When his father starts getting physical with his much older neighbor i.e. laying his head on her breasts, this flies completely over Christopher's head. Most readers will get the implication, but to him it's just what happened. He didn't see the romantic/sexual connotations of that particular choice.
  • The novel The Dead Father's Club rewrites Hamlet as the story of a modern teenage boy who sees the ghost of his recently deceased father. The narrator seems to think it is all some kind of game, and reacts perfectly calmly when ordered by the ghost to kill his uncle.
  • The titular dog of A Dog's Purpose is a straight example with one unique twist. His innocence is not due to immaturity or mental disability, but simply because he is a dog. While he describes the conversations around him to the reader, he personally only understands a handful of words like stay and good dog. He therefore regularly fails to understand what's going on, which can be tragic since his other senses make him aware of things that could have saved a lot of pain for the humans if he just understood the importance of them. He is, however, less innocent then some examples, having a bit of an elevated sense of self-importance. More interesting, as a dog he has a highly evolved (literally in this case) ability to sense the emotions of humans around him; a trait it's believed dogs evolved when they were domesticated to allow them to work better with humans. While he doesn't understand the context of situations around him, he can read body language of humans so well that he always knows exactly the emotions they are feeling, and often discusses what emotions he senses radiating from a person. The unique case of an empathic Innocent Inaccurate means that he sometimes is more aware of his owners' needs, at least when it comes to their need for emotional support, than the humans around him despite his obliviousness to the specifics of the situation. The dog also has some examples of Innocent inaccurate beyond his inability to understand humans. Most noticeably, he doesn't seem to quite understand sex, or his mating instincts. He describes females having a scent that attracts him without his understanding why, and developing a new version of 'wrestling' where he would wrap his front legs around his bitch friend and start thrusting; a game that other dogs seem to steal from him and which for some reason the bitch in question doesn't seem to enjoy playing as much. This is mostly because he keeps being neutered (yes, multiple times, it doesn't stick) before he has an opportunity to figure out what his instincts are telling him.
  • The start and end of Flowers for Algernon. The middle may count as well, as it's unclear how much his intelligence affected his naiveté.
  • In Happy Pants, the protagonist's mother has postpartum depression, but he doesn't realise; he thinks she's just sad and acting peculiar.
  • Esperanza, the narrator and protagonist of The House on Mango Street, does this for the entire novel.
  • In I Wish Daddy Doesnt Drink So Much, Lisa does understand that her dad acts that way because he's drunk, but she doesn't understand that he has a problem. So when her mother says that he's "sick", she confusedly replies, "He's not sick; he's drunk."
  • Played for Laughs in Jeeves and Wooster now and then. In one story, shortly after Jeeves expresses hatred for Bertie's new vase, he comes in late when Bertie rings for him and claims that he's been busy "dusting" it. It's heavily implied that he's actually been destroying it, but Bertie himself doesn't pick up on this.
    My heart warmed to the fellow. If there's one person I like, it's the chap who is not too proud to admit it when he's in the wrong. No actual statement to that effect had passed his lips, of course, but we Woosters can read between the lines. I could see that he was learning to love the vase.
  • Life Isn't All Ha Ha Hee Hee by Meera Syal features Chila, who is in her early thirties but very childlike, naive and frequently described (by herself and others) as stupid. She is unable to realise that her husband is cheating on her, that both he and her family are openly abusive towards her and that she appears to have a genuine disorder for which she could get help; all of which are painfully apparent to the reader but go cheerfully over her head in the narrative.
  • In Looking for JJ by Anne Cassidy, ten-year-old Jennifer's mother is a fashion model ... but when work dries up, she gets a new job with a photographer who regularly takes pictures of her dressed as a schoolgirl. Jennifer is suspicious of this but doesn't realise her mother is working in pornography. Later, she does find out, but then her mother announces that she's got Jennifer a job modelling with the same photographer. Although Jennifer thinks the guy's a creep, she's too young to understand that her mother has sold her into child pornography.
  • In The Lovely Bones the heroine, Susie, is raped and murdered at the age of 14. She spends most of the book watching her family from the afterlife. Because she was so young when she died, she does not see the obvious clues that her parents' marriage is breaking down and her mother is having an affair, and is in fact totally shocked when the mother then walks out on the family.
  • In Magruder's Curiosity Cabinet Spencer sees a small girl driving the children's sightseeing cart, piled with bodies. Quite matter-of-factly, she tells him not to come any nearer - she has the plague. She says her parents died and she didn't want her baby brother playing with bodies, so she put them in the cart to bury on the beach. Along the way, people gave her other bodies to bury, paying her in sweets. She finishes by looking ruefully at the cart, coughing blood.
    Girl: Only . . . I sure got a lot of digging to do.
  • The protagonist of Milkweed is a young boy during the occupation of Poland by Nazis. At first, because he is orphaned and poor and uneducated, he has no idea who or what he is, even saluting and admiring the Nazis as they arrive. At first, the invasion doesn't do much to change his life one way or the other, except make it harder to steal.
  • The eight-year-old protagonist of The Orchard on Fire is the daughter of parents running a failing tea shop. She is forced to sit and have tea with the only regular patron in order to keep him coming back, not realizing that he is a pedophile who visits for the sole purpose of "grooming" her for sex.
  • Many of the flashbacks in Oryx and Crake.
  • Le Petit Nicolas plays this for laughs, as the series is written from the perspective of a young boy who puts his own interpretation on what adults do which are obvious to the reader, such as the eternal feud between Nicolas' father and his Sitcom Arch-Nemesis neighbor.
  • Professor Mmaa's Lecture: Serious termite scientists thoroughly research a house of a homo specimen. In their report, they off-handedly mention finding a fresh, horizontal homo in the ground and a small piece of metal embedded within its heart.
  • In The Unexpected Enlightenment of Rachel Griffin, Lucky (a juvenile dragon) reports that one character was "petting" another. His similarly-juvenile master (human), misses the implications of this until they are pointed out by another character.
  • In Rebecca, by Daphne du Maurier, narrator Mrs. de Winter thinks that her husband, Max, is cold with her because he is still in love with his late wife, Rebecca. She feels that she cannot measure up to Rebecca in Max's eyes. The truth turns out to be quite different.
  • Room is narrated by a very young boy who happily lives with his mother and their "roommates", i.e. Lamp, Blanket, and Book in the shed where his teenage mother's kidnapper/rapist imprisoned them. They get rescued but that just makes him confused and scared.
  • David from Rules thinks Ryan is his friend. He doesn't understand that Ryan is laughing at and not with him, even when he makes David cry.
  • At the beginning of The Secret Garden, the 10-year-old Mary Lennox lives through a cholera outbreak in India. She wakes to find herself alone but despite the unsettling signs all around does not realize the whole household has died.
  • Five-year-old Danny in The Shining is telepathic, and accidentally hears an elderly female hotel guest thinking about how she'd like to 'get into [the] pants' of a young, attractive male bellhop. This leads Danny to wonder if she's cold, and if so, why doesn't she put on some pants of her own?
  • Invoked but subverted in The Silkworm. Orlando Quine, a mentally handicapped young woman, casually mentions that a friend of her father's gave her a present to keep her quiet after he touched her, and is oblivious to the way the adults around her react to this announcement. It turns out to be quite innocent - he'd somewhat roughly pulled her away from fiddling with some delicate materials, she Hates Being Touched and started crying, and he'd given her the item to calm her.
  • Etgar Keret's short story "Siren" begins on Holocaust Memorial Day, with the teenage protagonist sitting through a lecture at school by an Auschwitz survivor. Afterwards, the boy has no idea why the janitor is crying like a baby, and at the explanation "I was also in the Sonderkommando," he simply wonders what sort of commando unit would take such a skinny fellow. (This is a plot point—a fellow student has just taken the entrance examination to become a naval commando, and to celebrate passing the test he steals the janitor's bike for a joyride. The protagonist reports his action out of outrage that one commando would steal from another.)
  • In A Song of Ice and Fire, seven year-old Bran thinks that two people having sex are just wrestling.
  • Young Stephen from Spies by Michael Frayn does this at times. His adult self, narrating, wonders if Stephen ever really understood anything.
  • There is a Happy Land by Keith Waterhouse, in which the 10-year-old narrator finds the murdered body of a neighbour girl of the same age. She clearly had a very brutal and violent death, but he only notes her skirt being pulled up and the blood coming from her mouth. His friend "Uncle Mad," a mentally simple homeless man, is then blamed for the murder and the child doesn't seem to understand the implications of this either.
  • In To Kill a Mockingbird, Scout can pull off Shaming the Mob because she doesn't realize they've formed a lynch mob, and talks to them as if the meeting was perfectly ordinary.
  • A not so horrific example is used in the Warrior Cats novel Crookedstar's Promise. As a kit, Crookedstar sees two warriors in the midst of a forbidden relationship right before they have sex, but assumes that they are on a secret mission.
  • Half the fun of Henry James' What Maisie Knew is watching Maisie grow from Innocent Inaccurate to Wise Beyond Her Years.
  • William Faulkner does this with the sections written from the perspective of Vardaman, a nine year old boy, in As I Lay Dying and by Benjy, an autistic man, in The Sound and the Fury. Five words: "My mother is a fish."
  • Horrible example in World War Z, as befitting a Zombie Apocalypse. One interviewee was a little girl when her family was killed after the dead besieged the church they and many others had looked to for shelter. The ammo was running out and the dead had broken in and were chewing through the crush of people. The last she saw of her mother was as she was trying to strangle her for a Mercy Kill. She related this all in the voice of a little girl (with sound effects!) despite being a 20 something woman, because she had lived ferally for years and/or was brain-damaged by head trauma caused in that fight.
    Sharon: Mrs. Randolph... was Ashley's mommy. Ashley was my friend. I asked her where was Ashley. She started to cry... Mrs. Randolph was dirty, she had red and brown on her dress.

    Live Action TV 
  • In 30 Rock, Kenneth is so innocent that he still believes the stuff he was told as a kid. He mentions his "mother's friend Ron" on several occasions, never realizing that they are romantically involved until they show up and admit that they got married recently without telling him.
  • Inverted and Played for Laughs at the end of an early episode of Boy Meets World. Morgan ends up stranded on the kitchen counter while the rest of her family has an impromptu water fight in the backyard. She eventually dials 911, tells the operator that she's stuck and can't get down while her parents are fighting outside, then holds the phone toward the open door so the operator can hear all the hooting and hollering. When Feeny gets squirted after complaining that the water fight is drowning his flowers, Morgan adds, "They just shot the neighbor!"
  • On Community, Troy fails to understand what Pierce's "secret gym" is actually for.
  • Jon Stewart, returning after 9/11, recalled that he was in school when Martin Luther King was shot, and "they shut the lights off, and we got to sit under our desks, and we thought that was really cool."
  • Jam had several sketches like this. A notable one used Black Comedy with a mentally disturbed woman asking a plumber to "repair" her dead child, who, she believes, was made of pipes like a household appliance.
  • The Kids in the Hall: the sketch about how "Daddy drank for the government."
  • Parodied in the Seinfeld episode "The Nap" when a kid tells his dad about a man "swimming" in the East River, to which his dad assumes this trope and lightly tells the kid that it's a dead body the mob dumped. That man, of course, is Kramer, who really is taking a swim, and the setup gets a Played Straight payoff later:
    Jerry: How could you swim in that water?
    Kramer: I saw a couple of other guys out there.
    Jerry: Swimming?
    Kramer: Floating, they weren't moving much. But they were out there!
  • In Sesame Street:
    • When Elmo's uncle Jack dies, Elmo doesn't quite grasp what death is. He thinks that Jack might be able to talk on the phone, or might come back.
    • Downplayed when Luis throws out his back. It's not that serious of a situation, but it's still misinterpreted in a more innocent way by Big Bird, who believes that Luis is simply walking slowly and making noises as part of a game. Similarly, when Maria gets a stomach virus, Big Bird mistakes her behaviour as part of their game of charades.
    • When Mr. Hooper dies, Big Bird thinks that he'll come back. The adults have to explain to him that dead people never come back.
  • A psychic girl was used by CIA to track one terrorist in Seven Days understated about the enemy because she's still a kid.
  • In Star Trek: The Next Generation, the episode "The Offspring" has Data's "daughter" Lal get laughed at by her classmates. She concludes that this means she's mastered the art of humor.

  • An October issue of Dragon had an article about how to use various Dungeons & Dragons undead, with a short vignette for each of them in which the iconics either encounter or become them. The one for Ghosts has Redgar trying to help a small child who doesn't realise her mom's dead ... and then when he reaches out to her and gets hit by a Corrupting Touch, it turns out she doesn't realise she's dead either.
  • From The Onion: "Daddy Put In Bye-Bye Box." Widely regarded as one of the saddest articles on the site. A man named Howard Lewis dies of a terminal disease (probably stomach cancer since he lost his hair and there was mention of him needing "a new tummy") and is buried, but his little son Ryan thinks he's just going on vacation and his even-younger daughter Rebecca thinks he's just asleep like Snow White, so both think Howard will be back. Ryan doesn't even understand that Howard was sick, thinking he just went to the hospital to play. The Lewis kids also have a dead cat Muffin, grandma Sarah, and uncle Brian, yet don't understand that those three are dead either. The article ends with their mother about to talk to them about what they think is eating their vegetables and cleaning their rooms, but is really about their father’s death.

  • Much of the backstory of Evelyn Evelyn is described like this, particularly the nature of the twins' time in an orphanage that was a cover for the production of child pornography and the disappearance of their friend Sandy who was a child prostitute and, it is implied, may have been ultimately murdered in order to keep her quiet.
  • The song "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus" swings a twofer for this trope. First, the narrator misses the obvious hints that it's actually their dad dressed as Santa Claus. Secondly, they fail to realize that it probably wouldn't be "a laugh" if Dad witnessed Mom kissing another man, Santa or not.
  • Taylor Swift's "seven" says the narrator's friend cries and hides in the closet, and their father is always mad; the narrator is too young to know anything about Abusive Parents and thinks this is because their house is haunted.

    Video Games 
  • Ace Attorney:
    • In Justice for All, Regina Berry's circus upbringing has left her with a rather distorted, idyllic view of the world — she does not seem to grasp the true finality of her own father's death, and believes he's "become a star in the sky." She also has this attitude regarding Bat after he fell into a coma that he likely won't ever wake up from, not truly grasping the gravity of the situation or that she unintentionally had a hand in it. It's this flippancy about Bat's condition that finally makes Acro snap. Moe takes her to Max's trial specifically to give her a dose of reality about how serious it all is, and she finally gets enough of a shock to the system to begin to understand. She realizes her role in Bat's accident and bursts into tears over it.
    • In a case in the original game, it's apparent in the testimony of the seven-year-old Cody Hackins that he doesn't realize what he actually witnessed was murder (well, a killing at any rate.) He just thought it was a superhero and villain fighting. It doesn't feel good to put him on the stand and make him break down in tears once you have to spell it out for him that his idol was killed in front of him.
    • Phoenix tries to invoke this in Case 1-4, when he asks Miles Edgeworth if he was aware, at age nine, that the gun he threw would potentially have gone off. Subverted, since Edgeworth at least knew enough about the gun to know it was dangerous.
    • In Dual Destinies, the robot Ponco is also a victim of this. Having limited understanding of humans, and a very specific recognition system (that allows her to determine who people are by their ID tags), Ponco sees a scene of Athena hugging her mother. In reality, Athena is stabbing someone wearing her mother's jacket.
  • Among the Sleep uses this as a large part of its premise. The protagonist is a toddler who is being chased by monsters, one that resembles a woman with frizzy hair, the other being a trenchcoat with eyes in the neck. Through the game's symbolism and the ending, it becomes clear that his parents are in the middle of a bitter custody battle, and that the mother is an alcoholic. The woman-like monster is his mother when she's been drinking, and it's implied the toddler believes that she's becoming a monster each time she drinks some kind of liquid. The trenchcoat monster represents his father each time he tries to take him out of his mother's care.
  • In BioShock, we have the Little Sisters, who have not only been engineered to produce ADAM but also been tampered with in the perception department. In one segment in the second game where we see though the eyes of a Little Sister, the decayed and broken corridors of Rapture appear to be shiny golden hallways of some fabulous palace. They also don't realize what corpses are or mean and simply believe them to be sleeping angels. A lot of their dialogue is pretty disturbing when considering the state that Rapture is in (or that pretty much every entity in the game except for the Big Daddies want them dead).
  • In Chrono Trigger, Marle's father relates the story of her mother's funeral, which she was too young to remember. She didn't understand what was going on, and thought (or at least claimed to think) that it was wonderful fun having all these people in the castle.
  • In Deadly Premonition, the innocent Ingram twins discover the corpse of murder victim Anna crucified to a tree and believe her to be "a goddess of the forest".
  • In Hatoful Boyfriend, Oko San is a throwback to nonsapient pigeons and doesn't seem to understand death. This comes up in the Bad Boys Love route, when the heroine and Yuuya are gone, and he asks when the survivors are going to go find them.
  • Ib: Averted for the nine-year-old protagonist for the most part, however, some story paths show that she's still too young to fully comprehend death. Two of the endings involve Garry making a Heroic Sacrifice for her, and examining his body after the fact give the message "Garry is sleeping...". In addition, there's a more downplayed example where words that a nine year old wouldn't understand are written as "???" unless Garry is with her. This leads to a humorous moment where Ib reads a book that says "??? by the ???, I ??? my finger over her beautiful ??? ... With her ??? she...", only for Garry to take it away and say that she should wait until she's older.
  • My Child Lebensborn:
    • There is an incident upon which the child's schoolbooks or backpack get damaged, to which the Player Character will always respond by writing a letter to the child's teacher. The game gives the player a couple opportunities to decide against sending the letter out with the child. Neither choice will prevent the child from being humiliated in class that day, and the teacher's choice if the letter isn't sent will be to make the child stand "with their hand raised out" during an entire lecture about war. Considering the reason for which the child is being ostracized, it's easy to figure out that they were being forced to demonstrate the Nazi salute.
    • The drawing made by the child that establishes that they were sexually assaulted depicts the male assaulter with three full fledged arms.
  • The Sandman (2014) includes a Flashback where a much younger Sophie explains to a friend why her mother's no longer around, referencing a "Ban Crobber".
  • "Meet The Pyro" revealed that the Pyro, flamethrower-toting nightmare of Team Fortress 2, sees the battlefield as a Sugar Bowl, and him/herself as spreading rainbows and happiness, and giving candy and blowing bubbles to winged babies when he is in fact slaughtering people.
  • In Umineko: When They Cry, Maria doesn't seem to grasp that Rosa is abusing her and instead believes that her mother's beatings are caused by the "bad witch" that sometimes possesses mommy. She also thinks that she's the result of something akin to a virgin birth as a result of her mother claiming that she has no father. Her father walked out on Rosa when Rosa was still pregnant with Maria. This is zigzagged a little though, as it also becomes apparent in light of later installations that she also believes that her mom has been slipping away with a boyfriend when she had claimed to either be working extremely long hours or trying to take some time to unwind, granted that this occurs with the help of some speculation from a social worker. In fact, Rosa actually was working extra-long hours in order to pay off Maria's father's debt in a bid to get him to come back home and be a proper father to Maria.
  • In Viricide, EXADI doesn't seem to realize that her designer committed suicide by overdosing on his antidepressants, and continues to hope that he will return.
    EXADI: My designer once told me about medication that cured sadness. He said that he was taking some. Over the course of a few weeks, he slowly seemed more and more vacant. Any time I asked what the problem was, he would fabricate a vague answer. One day he seemed strangely… positive. He said that his problems were solved. He explained that later that night, he would stop taking two pills at a time, and instead, finish the bottle. He never came in after that. I hope it worked.

  • A possible inversion in Achewood:
    Phillipe: Lie Bot, what is the saddest thing?
    Lie Bot: The saddest thing is a retarded man who is crying and promising a broken egg that it will still be a chicken someday.
    Lie Bot: And that they'll play together in a field when it gets better.
    Phillipe: Noooo!
  • In Commander Kitty, Fluffy tells the real Nin Wah what happened while she was out in this fashion.
  • In Eerie Cuties, Nina's history assignment about an ancient vampire queen.
  • In Freefall, Florence has her moments of this. For instance, she thinks people behave better around her after she explains that she is a wolf, not a dog, because many more people have been injured by dogs than by wolves. Later on, she has a momentary miscommunication when a human scientist underestimates how bad something is when she calls it "mosquito dangerous", before she points out that mosquitoes kill over two million people per year when "scary" animals like sharks and lions only kill a few.note  It seems to be caused by her being a naturally predatory animal uplifted to human-level sapience. She doesn't quite get some human emotions because she doesn't have the distant prey animal instincts that humans do, so all she can do is base her understanding off of logic and her own predatory instincts. Her "egghead" type personality doesn't help, though.
  • In Gunnerkrigg Court, before Annie came to the court, she lived in a hospital with her sick mother. She made friends with the Psychopomps who visited the hospital when she was very young, but didn't really grasp what they actually did until later.
    Annie: They let me acompany them on their visits to patients in the hospital. [...] It was like a game to me. And for the longest time I never understood why these people were gone the next day.
  • This was the main shtick about Fnar in the webcomic Jack. His absolute innocence was the only thing that let him wander around Hell unharmed, but because he wandered too much around Hell so unharmed, he tended to have a warped understanding about the dangerousness of the place and its inhabits, to put it mildly.
  • Pixie and Brutus: During one Halloween strip, Pixie starts watching A Nightmare on Elm Street, thinking that it's about a group of kids playing hide-and-seek with a man called "Freddy Cougar". Luckily, Brutus figured out what was actually happening and took steps to protect her from the movie's content.
  • The title character of Sabrina Online has tried to hide the fact that she works at a porn studio from her kid sister Tabitha, but at one point has to introduce Tabitha to her boss Zig Zag. As soon as Tabitha gets internet access, she Googles Zig Zag, much to the horror of the family. Her response to seeing the pictures she found is, "She sure likes to hug people with her clothes off."
  • In Sinfest, the Enlightened Illuminati drones don't realize that Home Sweet Home is not Heaven but rather Satan's lair, or understand why Satan wants to get rid of them.

    Web Original 
  • Parodied in "7 Reasons Santa is Totally Real, Duh". The narrator is a woman who thinks like a kid, so she Still Believes in Santa. She doesn't catch on that her dog was the one who ate Santa's cookies and that the letters are actually written by her grandma (even when the handwriting changes right as Grandma gets arthritis), thinks Santa is the one keeping his wrapping paper in other people's houses, mistakes The Polar Express for a true story, thinks a creepy man calling her "naughty" was actually the Elves on a Shelf speaking, mistakes the barcodes on the gifts for a tracking device from Santa, and doesn't realise that it's actually her husband giving her presents.
  • One CollegeHumor article involves a little boy writing a book about his divorced parents. He thinks his dad's girlfriend is just his friend, and when they have sex, he thinks they're wrestling. He also misinterprets his mother calling his father's girlfriend a bitch as the girlfriend's name being Bich.
  • Cracked has an article called "5 Things I Learned as Sex Slave in Modern America". It has 2 examples. The girl who was interviewed said it started as her parents telling her to sit on men's laps. She would do as she was told because she didn't know what was going. Then, after the sex slavery escalated to actual sex acts, she let it slip (to her teacher) that this was what going on and said she having "fun" with her "uncles" because that's what her parents would call it.
  • Parodied in the Hardly Working skit "Business Kids," which depicts adult business professionals who talk and think like children. One, played by Dan Gurewitch, has this to say about recent sources of stress in his life:
    "Well, I'm getting ready to put my parents in a home, right? My daddy pulled me aside, he said that he and our neighbor, Miss Walsh, are more than friends. Mommy caught them yucky-wrestling and now Daddy's moving far, far away where he can't drink angry juice and make Mommy sad. On top of that, my daughter needs braces."
  • The Season 1 Torchwood website, now defunct, featured Epistolary and Scrapbook Stories from Torchwood's past. One of them was about a scientist and his young daughter, who had contracted an alien disease and were now quarantined in a caravan until they died. It was told from the perspective of the daughter, who had no idea what was going on.

    Western Animation 
  • In one episode of Arthur, DW discovers her pet bird, Spanky, has passed away. When her father tells her he believes Spanky to be dead, DW responds with, "Well, when is he going to stop being dead?"
  • Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood: In "Daniel's Fish Dies", four-year-old Daniel doesn't understand that his fish is dead. He thinks that the fish is just staying by the castle because he loves it.
  • In the Father of the Pride episode "Donkey", one of Hunter's classmates mentions that the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer lion "took a nap" with his mother.
  • King of the Hill has a grown-up example in "Luanne Gets Lucky", where Lucky tells the story of how his grandfather found the perfect walnut tree stump. Lucky talks about how it happened while "Grandpappy" was at a church picnic, while the actual flashback shows that he was trying to escape from prison and ended up getting killed by the guards. Since Lucky isn't the type of person to lie about this sort of thing, it's more likely that he's just repeating the cover-up story told to him by the rest of his family.
  • In The Loud House episode "Tripped", Lana sees a man with a tattoo of a naked woman. She assumes the tattoo artist just forgot to put clothes on the woman.
  • On Recess: "There's a whole convention of swingers in town!"
  • The Simpsons has a couple of examples:
    • When Ralph Wiggum views pornographic images:
      Ralph: Everybody's hugging!
    • In "New Kid On The Block", Homer had a flashback where he was older, but not old enough:
      Homer: Zookeeper! Zookeeper! Those monkeys are killing each other!
      Zookeeper: (whispers) They're having sex.
      Homer: Oh.
    • In "Two Dozen And One Greyhounds", Bart and Lisa observe their rather "excited" dog finding another dog...
      Lisa: What's Santa's Little Helper doing to that dog?
      Marge: Uh-oh...
      Bart: It looks like he's trying to jump over her, but he can't quite make it. C'mon boy! You can do it!
      [Marge covers their eyes]
  • South Park: In "Butters' Very Own Episode", Butters is told by his mom to spy on his father to see what he's getting her for their anniversary. Throughout the episode, he doesn't quite realize that his dad had been secretly partaking in homosexual activities, or that his mom had gone insane and tried to kill him because of it.
    Linda: Butters, where did Daddy go after the movie?
    Butters: To the gym.
    Linda: To the gym?
    Butters: Yeah, the White Swallow Spa.
    Linda: Aah!!
    Butters: Yep, he went in there and he wrestled with all kinds of guys. He wasn't too good, though. This one black guy had him pinned down for fifteen minutes straight.

    Real Life 
  • The infamous murder of Rachel Nickell, committed in front of her two-year-old son. The police were confused by the piece of paper stuck to her forehead, until they realized the little boy had put it there because it was the closest thing he could find to a plaster (a British Band-Aid)...
  • This pet store customer quote. Basically, the customer mistook her dog's balls for a tumour.
  • When gun activist Jamie Gilt's 4-year-old son accidentally shot her (non-fatally) in the back in 2016 after picking up her pistol from under her seat, the only way he could cope was by dissociating himself from the event. His account was that a T-Rex had shot her with help from a Velociraptor, and that he wasn't even in the car when it happened.


Video Example(s):



When Trisha innocently declares "America first!" during their first meet up with the French models, the Alpha Bitches Mackenzie and Brittnay quickly inform Trisha they are NOT going down that route.

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Main / ThatCameOutWrong

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