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  • Isaac Asimov was a pioneer of science fiction; thus he constructed and deconstructed several tropes.
    • He created the Three Laws of Robotics, which have been imitated by many other science fiction writers. However, Asimov's Robot stories were mostly dedicated to the Laws' inadequacies. This was largely in response to the opinion that robots would be inherently dangerous and unpredictable, but Asimov believed that robots, like all technology, are merely tools, and any danger they might pose would be the result of misuse or abuse by humans. He deconstructed his own laws in many ways, but also reconstructed them as well. For example: manipulation of the laws to subvert their intent; exploring how adjusting the laws in an apparently benign way could have disastrous consequences if viewed from an extremely literal perspective (like, say, that of a robot); the problem with interpreting what it means to "cause harm", especially in ways more subtle than robots (and even humans) can understand; and how a sufficiently intelligent robot could avert the sometimes Lawful Stupid aspect of the laws by applying them less literally where appropriate (the basis for the Zeroth Law Rebellion trope).
    • The Foundation Trilogy: This trilogy codified The Federation, under the name of the "Galactic Empire". The main plot describes the inherent weakness of interstellar democracy, and its decay into a corrupted Empire. While it is one of the formative works of the Golden Age of science fiction, Hari Seldon is neither the archetypal Action Hero or Science Hero character, but instead a Guile Hero who uses social and political tools against the Foundation's enemies... he dies of old age before the plot begins in earnest, not that it stops him from guiding the development of the next Hegemonic Empire.
  • Jane Austen
    • Pride and Prejudice was written at a time when women found men like The Stoic Mr. Darcy completely unattractive. Today, of course, this only augments his attraction right off the bat rather than detracting from it.
      • Elizabeth Bennett and Mr. Darcy are often cited as the quintessential Belligerent Sexual Tension couple — passionate dislike is just a mask for passionate love. But Elizabeth herself tells her first suitor Mr. Collins (whom she legitimately cannot stand) that this is a ridiculous notion and sometimes, no; not everyone who claims to dislike someone is in denial (otherwise, she may just as well have feelings for Mr. Collins!). A paragraph comparing Elizabeth's changing feelings for Wickham and Darcy clearly shows that the initial conflict between the Official Couple was just supposed to show how feelings can evolve in the real world as opposed to the Fairy Tale Love at First Sight. Dislike can evolve into love; nowhere does anyone imply dislike automatically equals love... except Mr. Collins.
      • Far from being the perfect, misunderstood romantic ideal his fangirls tend to swoon over him as being, Mr. Darcy himself admits to Elizabeth that a significant part of her earlier dislike and condemnation of him was entirely justified, that he actually was a disdainful snob (albeit to not quite the extent Elizabeth had presupposed), and that he genuinely did have to work at taking her criticisms on board and improving his character in order to earn her affection.
    • Emma: Emma Woodhouse is an example for Spoiled Sweet. Emma is a young woman of landed gentry in the position to behave like a Rich Bitch. She is spoiled by her doting father and her loving governess, but she also has a happy disposition, loves her family and friends, and treats servants and people of lower social standings really well. She is charitable to the poor, but doesn't have romantic ideas about them. She lacks the naivety and cheerfulness associated with the archetype. She befriends a young orphan Harriet for whom she intends to find a suitable match. However, Emma is prone to attitude: she doesn't consider a young farmer who is in love with Harriet good enough and she actively separates the couple, though with good intentions and her heart tells her she's not being fair. Quite realistically, she cannot be sweet to everyone: she doesn't like Jane Fairfax and really dislikes the insufferable Mrs Elton, but tries to be polite to them. She finds some of her neighbours tiresome, but treats them with compassion and respect. She rarely slips and is rude or unkind, but whenever that happens, she repents deeply.
  • Jorge Luis Borges:
  • Agatha Christie:
    • Hercule Poirot is the Trope Namer for Poirot Speak. But unlike many later examples, it's a deliberate affectation on the character's part. Poirot talks the way he does in order to make himself seem like a Funny Foreigner and get people to underestimate him.
    • Vera Claythorne in And Then There Were None is seemingly the originator of the Final Girl trope – in a work in which a Serial Killer preys on victims, she has the personality of The Ingenue, and is the last one standing. However, Vera plays out as a very skewed take on the trope; beneath her innocent persona, Vera is actually mentally unbalanced and is guilty of a very evil act; when she was a governess, she killed the boy she was responsible for while making it look like she had nothing to do with it so her lover (who was the boy's uncle) could inherit his estate instead so he could have enough money to marry her. In fact, the reason she is designated as the final survivor is because the killer perceived her as (one of) the most evil of the bunch and the killer wanted to punish the most guilty by letting them live longer and suffer the mental trauma – in contrast with all later versions in which the Final Girl is the most innocent. And Vera still doesn’t survive long enough to be rescued by anybody; after she kills the last remaining character she hangs herself.
    • Adaptations of Agatha Christie's works since the 1970s have sometimes been criticised for romanticising and idealising the Genteel Interbellum Setting. One of the last Miss Marple novels, At Bertram's Hotel, written and set in the 1960s, depicts the "timeless" and old-world atmosphere of the titular London hotel as a front for a criminal conspiracy, and ends with Miss Marple deciding that one must accept that the world has changed and not try to live in the past.
    • Christie also established Everyone Is a Suspect, and deconstructed it in Murder on the Orient Express, where Everybody Did It.
  • Charles Dickens:
    • A Christmas Carol:
      • The book's formula has been repeated over and over again for almost two hundred years. But what people forget is that Charles Dickens wrote it (like many of his works) as an Author Tract about the cruel attitudes Victorian elites had about the poor. The story is about Scrooge not just regaining his love for the holiday, but learning to feel compassion for his fellow man.
      • Also, when Scrooge saw the ghost of Marley, he assumed he was undergoing a severe hallucination and scoffed at the idea of seeing ghosts.
      • Scrooge has become the Trope Namer for stingy and unsentimental jerks, but the story dissects just how much it would take to be miserable enough to end up like Scrooge.
      • While Scrooge is a deeply unpleasant person, the story also goes to some lengths to point out that he is also a relatively virtuous person. He is avaricious, but the money he is after is money he is legitimately owed. Bob Crachit is poorly paid, but his wages are average for a clerk in London at that point in time. The story isn't about a non-virtuous person suddenly becoming virtuous, it's about him realizing that his "mercantile" virtues (honesty) are nothing compared to "Christian" virtues (love of his fellow man).
      • Tiny Tim might be a prototypical example of a Littlest Cancer Patient, but he's probably suffering from something like the rickets, a disease common around the time of the book's initial publishing in 1843. It's outright said that the disease Tiny Tim has (whatever it is) isn't necessarily fatal; it's just that Bob Crachit and his family are too poor to afford the treatment. In the alternate future, Tiny Tim does succumb to the illness, but after Scrooge changes his ways, not only does Tiny Tim not die because Bob Crachit's salary has been increased to a livable wage and thus is able to pay for the medical treatment, but Scrooge "became a second father" to him.
    • Oliver Twist:
      • The original The Artful Dodger generally fits the Loveable Rogue characterization of later adaptations/trope examples, but is still presented as The Corrupter to Oliver, and ends the book being tried for a theft, and his amusing bluster and insistence on being a victim of society does nothing to impress the judge, and he is Sentenced To Downunder. Subverting this along with the related trope of Satisfied Street Rat, the narrator indicates that all of the children in Fagin's gang, except for Charley Bates, went to bad ends. Of course, whether this is truly an illustration of Dickens' originality or his tendencies as a Victorian moralist is another matter.
      • The book is also a Trope Namer for The Fagin. While initially portrayed as a worldly old man, it's clear Fagin's charm is only skin deep. He is portrayed as a greedy, selfish, cowardly, and abusive man and ends up getting others injured and killed. By the end of the story, he's been sentenced to hang for his crimes, and is reduced to a self-pitying loser. Completely different from the Lighter and Softer Fagin from the 1968 film, as well as the other portrayals of this trope. Of course, this is for understandable reasons since Dickens' Fagin is an anti-semitic stereotype that made him unacceptable to portray as originally conceived, and even Dickens later regretted this.
  • Alexandre Dumas:
    • The Count of Monte Cristo is the Trope Maker of the Bodybag Trick. As Edmond Dantes's mate Abbé Faria dies, Edmond takes his place in the body bag, intending to get buried, and dig himself out. He is shocked when he gets thrown into the sea instead, but narrowly manages to escape.
    • The original novel of The Three Musketeers is a lot like The Prisoner of Zenda in that while it's a major influence on the swashbuckler genre, it's much more cynical than the films it inspired (including most of its own adaptations). D'Artagnan is something of an anti-hero: he has several love affairs and is not above tricking Milady into sleeping with him while she thinks she's sleeping with her lover. Unlike the malevolent Evil Chancellor of adaptations, Richelieu is an Anti-Villain who has France's welfare in mind. Ultimately, D'Artagnan ends up working for him and becomes good friends with Rochefort, Richelieu's Dragon, after besting him in several duels. The later books tended to deconstruct it further, with all of their antics in the first book biting them in the ass repeatedly in the later ones, and the most chivalric of the four suffering the most for his Royalist and traditional stances.
  • Homer
    • The Iliad is one of the founding works of Western Literature. However, it can be surprisingly modern in its depiction of war and the characters. It is clearly shown that most of the men are sick of war, while the overall commander is a selfish character who misjudges his men and almost ruins his cause with his own inabilities and arrogance.
      • The best fighter is in modern terms, a man without discipline, who commits insubordination, and is a warrior rather than a soldier, being the Trope Namer for Achilles in His Tent. His actions lead to his faction facing their Darkest Hour. Meanwhile, Hector, though often portrayed as the most moral figure in a Crapsack World, has a self-destructive sense of war and has quite an unpleasant side, wanting to despoil Patroculus's corpse. There's no hiding the fact that every faction gleefully and unrepentantly commits war crimes, hypocritically going to war to avenge the honor of one woman's husband while in the process raping and dishonouring priestesses, temples, and the Gods they claim to believe in.
      • Homer also portrays the Greek Gods as little more than Spoiled Brats with too much time and power on their hands; they are fundamentally indifferent to human suffering, and the support of one faction of Gods for the Greeks and the Trojans is more or less whimsical. Athena, the supposed goddess of wisdom, is a bigger warmonger than Ares, who gets defeated by Diomedes armed and aided by other Gods. Zeus gets distracted from his Trojan sympathies after being seduced by Hera and having sex with her, while the Greeks get the upper hand on the Trojans, and after the climax, when realizing that he was fooled by Hera, he more or less decides to wash his hands of the Trojans because he's humiliated and shunned enough. The cosmic nature of their coupling, the link between sex and war, and the amorality at the heart of the cosmos and existence itself is a major theme of the epic. Some interpretations of the story hold that the reason the Gods are so callous is because, being immortal, their conflicts inevitably end with the participants alive and well, which makes it difficult for them to appreciate the seriousness of war for humans.
      • When viewed on its own, the Iliad can also read like a deconstruction of The Epic as a form of storytelling, as it's considerably more personal and intimate than most later self-proclaimed "epics" in Western literature. Despite its massive scope and action-packed narrative, the momentous events of the Trojan War are really just a backdrop for the real story, which is a fairly downbeat tale about an angry soldier who gets into a feud with his commanding officer and seeks to avenge the murder of his best friend. Not only does it begin after the Trojan War has already been going for ten years, most of it occurs over the course of just four days, and the war is still far from over by the time it ends. The resolution of the conflict doesn't come from the war ending, but from the protagonist swallowing his anger and showing a small act of kindness to the father of his enemy, even if they are the overall enemy leader.
    • The Odyssey:
      • The story is one of the oldest examples of The Quest in Western literature, inspiring countless later tales about rugged heroes journeying through strange landscapes and battling monsters with their companions. People often forget that Odysseus' quest is nothing as grandiose as Saving the World, or even searching for treasure. Instead, his situation is one that plenty of modern veterans know all too well: he's a soldier who just wants to go home again after years of being separated from his wife and son on the battlefield, and his journey is less a grand adventure than a punishment from the gods determined to deny him his homecoming. Even his arduous quest can be pretty easily read as symbolic of a soldier's struggle to reintegrate into civilian life.
      • Odysseus' crew might seem to be a cynical deconstruction of the noble and loyal True Companions who would typically accompany The Hero on his quest. For all their courage, they regularly prove themselves to be disobedient, cowardly and idiotic at the worst possible times, to the point that they hinder Odysseus' progress nearly as often as they help him. They even (temporarily) ruin his chances at getting home by opening Aeolus' sack containing the winds in the belief the sack contains treasure, and all of them are ultimately killed by a divine thunderbolt when they can't resist the urge to kill and eat Helios' cattle—forcing Odysseus to finish his journey alone.
      • However, the story is also sometimes touted as the epitome of a loyal husband struggling to get home to his wife and son (whom he last saw as a baby); when in fact the longest time away was not spent at war, nor at sea, but with another woman who only let him go after some divine intervention. And then he met several other women on the way...
  • Stephen King:
    • Rage, published in 1977 under the pseudonym Richard Bachman, is a novella about a high school student killing two teachers and holding his class hostage at gunpoint. The story allegedly inspired several real-life school shooting incidents by young readers of the book. King requested that his publishers cease to publish the book in 1997 after the Columbine incident. As he said ten years later with regard to Rage, "Now out of print, and a good thing."
    • Another book written under the Bachman pseudonym, The Long Walk, is about young children sent out to walk without rest, and those who stop for any reason are killed until only one remains, who then gets one wish. The protagonist wins, but can do nothing to stop the system and is strongly implied to have gone completely insane from stress, exhaustion, and watching executions on a daily basis. The walkers also all willingly volunteered for a chance at winning the prize, and things as simple as walkers' bodily functions are a much more of a hindrance to them than any kind of interpersonal rivalry. It would almost certainly be considered a Take That! to Deadly Game based YA dystopias like The Hunger Games or Battle Royale if it didn't predate them by decades.
    • Misery. Both the book and the film seem to be a rather disturbing deconstruction of the Straw Fan trope. Keep in mind that the book was written in 1987 and the film debuted in 1990, well before the full extent of how horrible some fans can get would be publically exposed on the Internet.
  • H. P. Lovecraft wrote a few stories that deconstructed the central tropes of his own Cthulhu Mythos, like "The Case of Charles Dexter Ward", where it turns out that some cosmic entities actually like humans. Case in point: the Lovecraft Lite subgenre is usually seen as a Lighter and Softer reaction to Lovecraft's traditional Cosmic Horror—but many of Lovecraft's own stories are essentially Lovecraft Lite. Since Lovecraft largely invented Cosmic Horror, he was free to tweak its conventions as much as he wanted, giving us stories like "The Dunwich Horror" (where a group of benevolent human warlocks successfully stop the invading Eldritch Abominations), and "The Call of Cthulhu" (where Cthulhu's introductory appearance ends with a brave sea captain postponing his awakening by ramming him with a ship).
  • Plato:
    • The original Atlantis, as described by Plato in his dialogues Timaeus and Critias, is considerably different from later conceptions. While Atlantis is often given a Greco-Roman feel, Plato made it clear that Atlantis was very much a non-Greek civilization, claiming the Greek-sounding names were just a result of Translation Convention. It didn't have much in the way of magic or incredibly advanced technology either, even orichalcum was just a very valuable metal. What it did have was an abundance of natural resources that made it very wealthy. This brings us to another difference: the flaw that caused the destruction of Atlantis wasn't simply hubris, it was their luxurious lifestyles eventually causing them to become decadent warmongers (Plato saw luxury as inherently corruptive to all humans, bringing out humanity's fundamental flaws). Nor did the Atlanteans directly cause their own sinking; they became so brutal and imperialistic that the Gods sunk their island to stop them. Lastly, the civilization didn't survive under the sea, it was completely destroyed.
    • Plato's dialogues are the oldest known written works of philosophy. However, characters in his writings frequently make very good arguments that are completely antithetical to the point Plato wants to make, and more often than not Socrates comes to the conclusion that he has no way of really knowing what the correct answer to the dialogue's central question is.
  • Edgar Allan Poe:
    • The Murders in the Rue Morgue is probably the first detective novel ever written. However, C. Auguste Dupin does not rely entirely on a logical Sherlock Scan, and the imagination of the detective plays a key role in the story. Also, the culprit comes from nowherenote , subverting both foreshadowing in general and the elements of a Fair-Play Whodunnit.
    • The Mystery of Marie Roget features a detective reading through a series of newspaper articles that spout theories that sound straight out of a modern Fair Play Mystery. The detective quickly dismisses much of their content, because they repeatedly assert that vague evidence can only be interpreted in a single way.
  • Robert Louis Stevenson:
    • The Genre Popularizer for pirate fiction would have to be Treasure Island. But the pirates in the book are actually the villains, not the swashbuckling lovable rogues or the care free lay-abouts seen in later works. Also, not a single act of piracy actually occurs in the book: the actual crime committed is mutiny, with the piracy itself in the backstory. Having said that, Long Jon Silver, the double-dealing pirate cripple who befriends the hero Hawkins, is more or less the Trope Maker for the roguish pirate archetype except it's made clear that Silver is a remorseless murderer and Noble Demon, and even Jim Hawkins the hero is troubled with the fact that someone so evil is still capable of affection for him, and that he feels conflicted about being indebted to such a man, and the ending of the book comments on and Lampshades Silver becoming a Karma Houdini.
    • The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is the originator of split personalities, but is more sophisticated than many modern versions. Instead of being a nice person that has his polar opposite manifest itself, Jekyll is a secretly perverted man who takes the potion willingly, as it allows him to indulge his worst traits without ruining his reputation as an esteemed doctor. He is fully aware of what he does as Hyde, and in fact, Hyde may not even be a split personality at all. Towards the end, the novel becomes a character study on why he does this and what it says about his own morals. He tries to use the split as an excuse for what he does as Hyde, but the account makes clear that he is evading responsibility.
  • Jules Verne invented many tropes of Science Fiction, but he handled them in a remarkably more realistic way than many later works that he inspired. Among Asimov's Three Kinds of Science Fiction many belong to the third kind, exploring the technical and social implications of technology, often concluding that Reality Ensues, Science Is Bad, and Ludd Was Right. Today we remember Verne, together with H.G. Wells, as the grandfather of Golden Age science fiction and later Steampunk, which more often make a straight celebration of technology.
    • Journey to the Center of the Earth is probably the first work of fiction that features live dinosaurs. Even though these monsters are the most startling things the protagonists have seen, they are only seen briefly, and do not interact with the main characters at all.
    • From the Earth to the Moon is the Ur-Example of many Tropes in Space, still surprisingly realistic. Batman Can Breathe in Space was unbuilt, as Verne addressed the dependence on oxygen.
    • 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (published in 1869) unbuilds numerous tropes. Most generally, it is the first Submarine Pirates story; however, Captain Nemo certainly has a deeper cause than pirates.
      • The book has probably the Ur-Example of Almost Out of Oxygen. Oxygen is not a problem, due to the Nautilus having plenty of electricity and water around, but without caustic potash to bind the carbon dioxide the heroes are screwed anyway.
      • Also, as the probable Ur-Example of Atlantis Is Boring, the ruins of Atlantis itself are not much to see; the rest of the underwater voyage is however adventurous.
      • Before the Conspiracy Theorist trope was established, the story has it Played for Laughs when Ned Land believes that the ship's crew are cannibals.
      • A probable Ur-Example of From My Own Personal Garden... though the "garden" is the ocean.
      • Captain Nemo is an Unbuilt Trope of the Übermensch: A Wicked Cultured Well-Intentioned Extremist who claims to be Above Good and Evil because he has done with society and is practically above any law of the civilized nations thanks to the power of his submarine, the Nautilus… however, he is a Deconstruction of the trope, because the contradiction between his unlimited power (that lets him cross the Moral Event Horizon) and his compassionate nature causes him a Villainous Breakdown. This dialogue between him and Professor Aronnax lampshades it 14 years before Also Sprach Zarathustra:
        "I have hesitated some time," continued the commander; "nothing obliged me to show you hospitality. If I chose to separate myself from you, I should have no interest in seeing you again; I could place you upon the deck of this vessel which has served you as a refuge, I could sink beneath the waters, and forget that you had ever existed. Would not that be my right?"
        "It might be the right of a savage," I answered, "but not that of a civilized man."
        "Professor," replied the commander, quickly, "I am not what you call a civilized man! I have done with society entirely, for reasons which I alone have the right of appreciating. I do not, therefore, obey its laws, and I desire you never to allude to them before me again!"
        This was said plainly. A flash of anger and disdain kindled in the eyes of the Unknown, and I had a glimpse of a terrible past in the life of this man. Not only had he put himself beyond the pale of human laws, but he had made himself independent of them, free in the strictest acceptation of the word, quite beyond their reach! Who then would dare to pursue him at the bottom of the sea, when, on its surface, he defied all attempts made against him? What vessel could resist the shock of his submarine monitor? What cuirass, however thick, could withstand the blows of his spur? No man could demand from him an account of his actions; God, if he believed in one – his conscience, if he had one – were the sole judges to whom he was answerable.
    • Phileas Fogg from Around the World in 80 Days, published in 1872, is the Trope Maker for the Clock King, but also explores all the ramifications about that trope: He is a rare case of the protagonist being a Mysterious Stranger, the readers never know any of his Back Story, and only in the very last chapters do they know if he was one of the Villains or not. In the last chapters the reader realizes that Fogg’s extreme reserve was not an Evil Brit case, but only a severe case of British Stuffiness. Unlike all his imitators, Fogg is very good at Xanatos Speed Chess and the Indy Ploy, because that’s the only way he can win The Bet. Fogg’s plan didn’t work, but it didn’t work in his favor: the Universe rewards him, granting him almost an extra day. And the one obsessed with his clock was not him, but his employee, Jean Passepartout.
      • The best-known scene from many motion-picture adaptations of the book is the protagonists riding a balloon. The book, however, brings up the idea of riding a balloon, disregarding it as being too risky. Very few balloon rides were mentioned in literature before; Verne's first novel, Five Weeks in a Balloon, was the first example.
    • The Begum's Millions deconstructs All Germans Are Nazis and Weapons Of Mass Destruction several decades before Nazis and WM Ds came into existence in Real Life. The novel was inspired by a disastrous French defeat in a Franco-Prussian war, (Prussia was part of Germany at the time) and while Shultze is a proto-Nazi in every single way and believes that the Germans are the superior race, the whole story is clearly a Take That! at the Prussian militaristic tradition and the German arms industry of the pre-World War I era. This all gives off vibes of Putting on the Reich long before Nazism even existed. The gas shells that Schultze develops to kill enemies instantly is also portrayed as horrifying long before the technology developed in Real Life.
    • Robur the Conqueror deconstructs Zeppelins from Another World before it was a trope. The protagonists use lighter-than-air vessels, which was a Real Life technology during Verne's days. Robur however shows that his secret heavier-than-air-vessel is superior.
    • The Castle in Transylvania (1893) unbuilt the "Scooby-Doo" Hoax eight years before The Hound of the Baskervilles. The castle wasn't actually haunted, the Baron used holographic projections and voice recordings to scare away the locals, so he'd have a place to escape the law. And every single major character is dead by the end of the novel in order to keep it that way.
    • In Facing the Flag, Roch is the Ur-Example of The Worm Guy. While he is kidnapped, he does however retain control over his Weapon of Mass Destruction, and it is his patriotism that makes him destroy his creation.
    • Master of the World contains the Ur-Example of the Transforming Mecha. While incredibly powerful, it is not however invincible, having a mundane Achilles' Heel.
    • The Purchase of the North Pole is the first known example of the Doomsday Device. The villain wants to eliminate the world's axis tilt. In contrast to most later Evil Plans, the device gets activated. However, Reality Ensues, as the physical effect is close to zero; The Hero does not stop the villain; he only discovers that the plan was impossible all along, based on a miscalculation.
    • Invasion of the Sea, Verne's last book, is a very early Terraform story. However, the project ends up Gone Horribly Right through an earthquake, which creates a larger inland sea than the engineers could imagine.
  • H.G. Wells:
    • Many of his works, particularly his short stories, were thought experiments about some potential change, technology, or even paranormal phenomenon. As such, they were incredibly light in plot and heavy in analysis of the physical and socio-economical implications. The most extreme example is likely The New Accelerator, in which a chemist and his friend try out the former's new potion for moving so fast that Time Stands Still and walk around noticing the way physics work around someone moving that fast (for example, they quickly realize that heat from friction means that they have to stay in a relatively narrow band of speed, as standing around can cause buildup in the surfaces they touch and running can cause their clothes to catch fire) while chatting about the potential uses and social ramifications, with particular concentration on the need for a slowing drug to control accelerator severity and length and possibly create a Sleeper Starship situation for inconveniently long train rides by allowing a person to slow his personal time to the point that a three hour trip feels like a nappable ten minutes.
    • Most of the limitations on invisibility were already predicted in The Invisible Man. The eponymous character even complains that the power is good for little other than assassination, as going undetected long enough to, say, eavesdrop on an important conversation was nearly impossible.
    • The Island of Doctor Moreau in modern times looks like a particularly brutal Deconstruction of Uplifted Animals. The "humanoid animals" were created in a lab via painful and unethical experiments, and have to be subject to brutal mental and physical torture (to the point where their society fears their Mad Scientist creator as a God of Evil) to prevent them from regressing to their animalistic instincts... which ultimately proves futile, as the creations slowly revert anyway. Dr Moreau himself is also an example for the A God Am I archetype, since he only puts on a God Guise as a desperate attempt to prevent his creations from killing him, and in the end he is not killed by his rebelling creations as a modern reader would expect, but dies anticlimactically when one of his experiments goes awry. Rather than break the masquerade to allow the creations to live in peace, the main character lies to maintain their fear of Moreau in order to save his own skin. On a deeper level, he was actually intended as an outright grotesque parody of a creator God, as at the time of writing the book H.G Wells believed God Is Evil.
    • We Will Use Manual Labor in the Future is subverted in The Sleeper Awakes by H.G. Wells, before Fordism was invented and assembly-line mass production took off. The future society contains a large slave class, and the narrator is initially led to believe that the slaves are like the slaves of his day – labourers. It's only later on that he realises that almost all production has been industrialised, and the slaves are just machine operators. Unlike the laborers of his day, they have pale skin and almost no muscle.
    • The War of the Worlds:
      • One of the first stories of a war between humans and aliens, rather than the exciting battles, heroics, and scientific ingenuity of Independence Day, Doctor Who etc., features human beings as panicking, weak, or mean, entirely unable to defeat their invaders, who are eventually felled by earthly microbes. It's more about how badly human beings deal with the collapse of civilization, rather than focusing on the fight with the Martians.
      • Unlike all the later Scary Dogmatic Aliens (such as the Nazi aliens in the Orson Welles radio version, the Communist aliens in the '50s movie, or the Bin Laden aliens in the 2005 movie version), the aliens in the book represent the exact cultural values of the society they are invading, being an allegory for imperialism. Invaders come from far away with vastly superior technology rendering resistance futile. In actual history, it was not local resistance that kept European colonies out of Africa until the late 19th century, but disease, hence the ultimate fate of the invaders. Worlds was an attempt to put Europeans in the shoes of Africans (or any other peoples oppressed by imperialism). The part where a soldier talks about what will happen in an invaded world takes some ideas from this, where he talks of resistance groups and some people collaborating with the aliens.
      • Partially because of war paranoia and also due to the limitations of visual media, future aliens as evil outsiders would usually appear human. Only in later years did the Starfish Aliens become a trope in popular science fiction again. However, perhaps because he codified the Alien Invasion genre (a subgenre of the "invasion story"), Wells was free to provide an early example of the truly alien. In the context of a century of Rubber-Forehead Aliens, it manages to come off as Deconstruction, with scientific explanations about the aliens, such as they have trouble moving on Earth due to the higher gravity, and trouble breathing from the atmosphere.
      • One could see Kurd Laßwitz' Auf zwei Planeten ("On Two Planets") as a subversion or a counter-statement to the alien invasion genre Wells initiated if not for the fact that it was published a year before The War of the Worlds. Laßwitz' Martians (who also do not hold on to the Idiot Ball with the limpet-like perseverance of Wells') are human-like and socially advanced, so the way their military confrontations with the states of Earth turns out is more reminiscent of that of a former colony becoming independent and then entering a friendly relationship with its former colonial power. (Ironically, the Royal Navy is even more summarily wiped out in Auf zwei Planeten as Laßwitz' Martians don't use inefficient walkers, but airships which the British warships can't harm.)
      • The Martian Heat Ray is a lot more realistic than the Death Ray trope it helped popularize. No flashy visible beam or cool noise, just the hum of machinery and a lot of energy dumped on the target.
    • The Time Machine:
      • This book is the Trope Codifier for Time Travel. The novel is however focused on social issues, instead of typical Time Travel Tropes. However, once the main character mentions time travel, one of the other men present immediately thinks of using it for checking the stock market.
      • It's also hardly conventional in its portrayal of future humans, with twists on tropes like Extreme Speculative Stratification and The Morlocks that would make its portrayal of Earth in the distant future come off as atypical if written today. The uses of the aforementioned tropes also seem pretty unusual today, even though the book codified both of the mentioned examples and named the latter. The Eloi and the Morlocks are far-future descendants of humans. The Eloi evolved from the upper classes and live idyllic lives on the lush surface, while the Morlocks evolved from the working classes and live Beneath the Earth. However, rather than being a hyper-advanced race with incredible technology, the Eloi are extremely deficient mentally. They don't even have a concept of a future tense. Not only that, they're also lazy and lacking in virtue; when Weena falls into a river, none of the other Eloi even try to help her. Eventually, it's revealed that they're not the rulers of the planet: they're livestock. The Morlocks, meanwhile, aren't the degenerate, subhuman savages you'd expect, despite seeming bestial at first; as it turns out, they maintain and operate machinery underground. They also farm the Eloi, providing them with necessities and luxuries and capturing individuals to eat them. Heck, they don't even attack the protagonist except in self defense! Multiple times the light goes out on him when they're nearby, and all these underground-dwelling post-humans do to their now-blinded foe when it happens is curiously carres and prod their many hands across his body.
  • Long before books like The Hunger Games, Divergent, The Selection, The Maze Runner and Arc of a Scythe helped turn dystopian fiction into a major sub-genre of Young Adult Literature, many early YA writers also toyed with dystopian ideas and themes. But since the conventions of the "teen dystopia" sub-genre hadn't really been established yet, they were free to explore those ideas as deeply as they wanted, often leading them to cynical or morally complex conclusions. To name a few examples:
    • Karin Boye's 1940 novel Kallocain depicts many tropes of a totalitarian state later codified in Nineteen Eighty Four. The title is the name of a Truth Serum, developed to expose Thought Crime against the "World State". At the beginning of the plot, citizens have already given up material wealth, comfort, health and personal relationships for honour and national security, and their minds will be their final sacrifice. The protagonist Leo Kall states already in the prologue that his life in prison is not much worse than his life used to be as a leading scientist of the World State. The drug itself works just as intended, but its consequences are unforeseeable. So many citizens express dissent under the influence of the drug that the police need to limit the indictments. Leo is however no rebellious hero; he is one of few named characters to remain loyal to the State all along, even when influenced by the drug. And while he believes from the beginning to the end that his drug will be good for mankind, he uses it for his own gain, to find out whether his wife is cheating. While The Resistance exists, it has no agenda to overthrow the State, but instead to allow personal development and self-expression. In the end, their efforts turn out to be in vain, as "The Universal State" captures the City. The nature of the Universal State is obscure until the epilogue, allegedly written by a censor, who finds the whole book to be so dangerous that it needs to be kept secret.
    • Nineteen Eighty Four is perhaps the Trope Maker for the surveillance state. However, it is pointed out not everybody is watched, only the middle-class, who the upper class considers the biggest threat. A political tract in the book claims that predictably the middle-class will try using the lower class for a revolt, then become the new upper class. Also the hero does not overthrow the regime, he and his lover end up beaten into submission and "loving" Big Brother. The book also deals with a lot of aspects of totalitarianism that other later dystopian works fail to address. For example, it's mentioned that to become a member of the ruling class, a citizen does, in fact, have to pass a set of civil exams. Just being evil/cruel/power-hungry isn't enough. Also, while the ruling class do have a pleasant life compared to the rest of the populace, they do not at all live like kings. They burn so much resources maintaining their absolute stranglehold on the population that their own standard of living would be considered poor by today's standards.
    • Orson Scott Card's Ender's Game is set in a grim futuristic society where most of the world is ruled by a brutal military government that openly spies on its citizens and indoctrinates children, and the plot revolves around a battle of wills between a precocious child and the highly unsympathetic authority figure who tries to bend him to his will. But Ender doesn't even try to overthrow the oppressive system, and ultimately does exactly what Colonel Graff wants. The government also has a very good reason for being as oppressive as it is, since the whole story takes place in the aftermath of a devastating alien invasion, and the International Fleet is trying to prepare humanity for the next one. In the end, nobody overthrows the Hegemon's regime; it voluntarily steps down after the Buggers are defeated, having no reason to exist anymore. And even that creates a devastating power vacuum that nearly ends in World War III, and ultimately leads to Ender's sociopathic brother ruling the world.
    • In Lois Lowry's The Giver, "The Community" has aspects of a utopian and a dystopian society, and the book repeatedly shows that most people who live there are perfectly happy with their way of life, simply because they don't know any other way to live. Things only get chilling when we see the Community's casual support of euthanizing a pilot who made a single, non-lethal error, and veer into full-on horror when Jonas' dad "releases" an infant. Perhaps most strikingly: there is no real villain in the book, as there is no single figure responsible for ruling over the Community. Everyone collectively bears responsibility for keeping the Community's way of life going, meaning that the protagonist has no convenient authority figures to rebel against, and can only show people what life was like before the Community. Even then, the ending is intentionally ambiguous about whether any of it worked, and (before the sequels, at least) leaves open the distinct possibility that Jonas and Gabe die and nothing changes.
    • Even Harry Potter deconstructs many of the tropes that it helped popularize. Sure, it's about a teenage hero "fighting the system" and resisting a tyrannical government with the help of his True Companions, but it does not advertise itself as being about that, and it takes a good five installments before the dystopian themes become apparent. In the meantime, the audience gets to see every step in the slow rise of an authoritarian regime, starting with ordinary prejudice and racism. When it happens, Voldemort's return is all the more harrowing because we've already had four books to get attached to the Wizarding World before seeing it fall prey to authoritarianism, and we see what a hard moral choice it can really be for young people to take action against the government that they were raised to trust.
    • Battle Royale takes place in an alternate 1997 Japan that is run by the Republic of Greater East Asia, a dictatorship that resembles the 1990s North Korean government and uses similar isolationist and information control policies to maintain its reign. Notably, the references to real world events and politics, such as totalitarianism in Korea, and the lack of fantastical sci-fi technology make the setting more grounded in reality. There are also romantic elements among certain characters be it Love Triangles, couples, and one-sided crushes, but they tend to act as mental/physical obstacles to said characters and end disastrously. The protagonists eventually are able to strike back against one administrator of the Program but recognize that they are ill-equipped to take on the entire government. The protagonists then flee to the democratic America, but it is ambiguous whether or not they make it.
  • In the earliest vampire folklore, vampires are most definitely not tall, elegant, sexy aristocrats. Instead, they're short, ugly, smelly peasants—which you might realistically expect of animalistic human predators forced to live at the fringes of society and prey on other humans for sustenance. Nosferatu, one of the first vampire films in history, even uses elements of this early vampire lore in its portrayal of Count Orlok: a tall, ugly, probably smelly aristocrat. Realistically speaking, living as an outcast subsisting on human blood is not glamorous.
    • Dracula (which codified so many of the characteristics of modern vampires) had Drac running around in the daylight note  and being killed by a couple of knives. He was also described as hairy (even hairy palms!), moustached, and rather brutish-looking, rather than the suave aristocrat he's been commonly depicted as after Bela Lugosi; he could pull off a more handsome body, but it required magic to shapeshift and he rarely bothered. His breath stank of rotting corpse, too. There are also other ways it comes off as subversive:
      • Renfield isn't quite The Renfield: although more-or-less controlled by Dracula, he's not willingly so, and even tries to kill him.
      • The original Van Helsing isn't portrayed in the same way as later iterations of the character; he's not a Vampire Hunter or even all that action-oriented, just a scholar who happens to know a good deal about vampires. Even then, he doesn't immediately figure out that Lucy's illness was caused by a vampire and is heavily implied to not have any personal experience with vampires before he comes into conflict with Dracula.
      • Dracula has a trio of vampire women who serve and live with him. Sounds like a typical Vampire's Harem, right? Except it isn't; there's no confirmation that the "brides" (who are never actually called that in the original book) are romantically or sexually involved with him, and it's implied that at least two of them are actually related to the Count. They also unbuild the idea of the sexually alluring female vampire; Jonathan is terrified of them despite acknowledging their attractiveness, and their attempted "seduction" of him comes off as more like harassment if not outright sexual predation.
      • While Dracula is a villainy who dreams to Take Over the World, he has also grown weary with his immortality and wants to end it all. SO he's planning to create a vampire army to march on the rest of the world, figuring that he'll either win or be destroyed trying, either outcome of which he'd be happy with.
    • The villain of the very first vampire novel, aptly-named The Vampyre by John Polidori, did not have fangs. He did bear an uncanny and insulting resemblance to Polidori's boss, though. It wasn't until Varney the Vampire that fangs showed up, but that was a weird book, too: it ends with Varney killing himself at the crater of Vesuvius. Varney was also the first morally-ambiguous and conflicted vampire, before Dark Shadows, The Vampire Chronicles and Angel came along.
    • Prior to Twilight's vegetarian vampires, The Vampire Chronicles skewered the concept of a "vegetarian" vampire in the first book, Interview with the Vampire, with its protagonist Louis. Although he tried to retain his humanity and survive on the blood of animals, his efforts were in vain and his creator scolds him for his hypocrisy of loathing the downsides of being a vampire while enjoying its benefits. In general, Louis is regarded with mild contempt by most vampires for trying to remain human to begin with and is generally considered the weakest of Lestat's children.
    • Carmilla is the Trope Maker for Lesbian Vampire, but it's not sexploitation. Instead, it's written more as a standard "vampire victim" story, just with the victim and the aggressor sharing the same gender. It's not really a Romance either, although Carmilla can be interpreted sympathetically.

     Individual Examples 
  • Arabian Nights is arguably the oldest classic to feature Cliffhangers. It is however not presented directly to the reader, but happening in-universe as a Framing Device. The framing story is about Sheherezade who creates an intermission in her storytelling, to keep herself alive to the next day.
  • The Art of War (Sun Tzu) is the Trope Codifier for the Big Book of War. However, unlike what one may presume, it doesn't glorify war. It opens on an essay where Sun Tzu stresses how undesirable it is to go to war in the first place, and therefore it's best to end a war as quickly as possible. Sun Tzu also holds something of a Martial Pacifist attitude, stating that "supreme excellence" isn't winning every battle in a campaign or conflict, but defeating the enemy without engaging in battle at all.
  • Lucian of Samosata's True History (or A True Story) has long been an object of fascination among literary scholars for possibly being the oldest survivng science-fiction story in the world. Written in the 2nd century (yes, the 2nd freaking century), it's the first known literary work to feature space travel, interstellar warfare, and descriptions of extraterrestrial life... yet it's all written in a distinctly tongue-in-cheek style, without an ounce of seriousness. Instead of encouraging Willing Suspension of Disbelief, the story deliberately makes it all seem as ridiculous as possible, featuring overtly silly elements like giant birds with wings of lettuce, soldiers with armor fashioned from giant beans, and a trip to a giant island made of cheese; most scholars believe that it was intended as an irreverent satire of Greek heroic epics, with the sci-fi elements included because they were seen as unrealistic to the point of being absurd, taking the fantastical elements of Classical Mythology to their bizarre conclusion. In other words: it's a Deconstructive Parody of science-fiction written before science-fiction was a genre.
  • Going way, way, back, in ''The Battle of Maldon" – one of the oldest surviving works of English literature – an earl under the Anglo-Saxon King Aethelred assembles a Ragtag Bunch of Misfits to repel some tough, well-trained Viking raiders. Before the battle, the Viking chief offers to leave peacefully in exchange for a tribute of silver. The hero refuses angrily, calling the offer "shameful". The hero and his men then get slaughtered horribly. After the battle, King Aethelred pays the tribute, meaning the hero accomplished nothing except getting his men killed.
  • The trope of King Arthur and his knights rescuing a Damsel in Distress is one of the most standard tropes, often subverted, averted, deconstructed and so on. However early appearances of this trope in Arthurian literature play with the trope. In "The Life of Saint Cadog", when a women is being chased by Knights, Arthur's first reaction is to say the Knights will take the woman for him, before his knights tell him otherwise. Another of the standard stories of Medieval Arthurian literature, first appearing in Geoffrey of Monmouth which popularised many of the Arthurian tropes, involves a Giant kidnapping a Breton noblewoman. In most such stories, a monster or villain lusting after a damsel is treated in a lighter-hearted sense, with a hero arriving before anything too horrible happens. However, in this story, by the time King Arthur gets to the Giant's lair the damsel has already been raped and murdered, and all Arthur can do is avenge her death by killing the Giant. This story actually remained quite popular - numerous adaptations of this story up to Malory include this feature, though later adaptations of Arthur remove this story. Most modern adaptations owe more to Chretien de Troyes' overall more light-hearted stories of quests; for example when another Giant in "Yvain, The Knight of the Lion" is threatening a maiden, Yvain is able to kill it and save her.
  • Dante's Inferno, despite being the Trope Namer of Fire and Brimstone Hell, and the source of many of the beliefs thereof, actually depicts the lowest and worst level of hell as covered in ice. Further, Satan, far from being the Ruler of Hell, is actually a pathetic (if monstrous) figure who refuses to acknowledge that trying to escape hell (by flapping his wings) is exactly what keeps his ice prison cold. Calling Satan the Emperor of Hell is a joke, Satan coming across as a grotesque parody of God. Even though Satan is by far the largest being in Hell and terrifying, he doesn't even seem to notice Dante and Virgil and really proves no threat, Dante and Virgil easily climbing down his back to escape Hell. There's even an interpretation that the attention drawn to Satan's size and measurements actually shows their limitations - Angels are supposed to be spiritual beings but by drawing attention to Satan's very physical body it shows how Satan has lost his power from the Fall.
  • Thomas More is the Trope Namer for the term Utopia, aka a world free of problems. Interestingly enough, Thomas More wasn't writing an escapist fantasy, and more a social commentary on the problems he found in the time period he grew up in, Tudor England. The name "Utopia" is a pun in Ancient Greek, on the words eutopia, meaning "good place" and outopia, meaning "no place", implying that More knew a perfect world, or a good world, was impossible at least in keeping with his Catholic beliefs and sympathies (i.e. be content with your lot in life, and man is born sinful and can only find salvation in the Church).
  • The Prince, published in 1513, was the first European book to establish the afterworld's idea of The Empire as an ideal society, and the Magnificent Bastard as an ideal ruler. Its harsh rhetoric was provocative even for its time. However, Machiavelli was a republican; his ideas were Fair for Its Day, in the sense that he did not hope for tyranny. The proposed intent of the book has been disputed. One interpretation is that Machiavelli wanted to be a Deep Cover Agent, infiltrating the Medicis and other Italian elites to pave the way for democracy.
  • If you read a cynical poem about the agonizing, unglamorous experience of having to paint pictures on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel for hours at a time, you would probably (naturally) assume that it was a deconstructive satire on society's rosy view of the artistic genius of the Renaissance, which Michelangelo's paint-job on the Sistine Chapel is considered the classic example of. Well, there is such a poem called "Labor Pains". And you'd be right to think that... except it was written by Michelangelo himself when he was actually in the process of painting the Sistine Chapel. Yes, it's just as hilariously self-deprecating as it sounds.
    My stomach's squashed under my chin, my beard's
    pointing at heaven, my brain's crushed in a casket,
    my breast twists like a harpy's. My brush,
    above me all the time, dribbles paint
    so my face makes a fine floor for droppings!
    My haunches are grinding into my guts,
    my poor ass strains to work as a counterweight,
    every gesture I make is blind and aimless.
  • Long before Yaoi Fangirls penned their stories about men bearing children, Journey to the West had Sanzang and one of his disciples accidentally drink from a magical river which causes whoever drinks from it to become pregnant. The pregnancy itself is described as horrifying and painful for both of them, and is immediately aborted.
  • A lot of early European novels like Tristram Shandy and Don Quixote seem to be deconstructions of the form, with the author intervening, characters reading earlier parts of the story, etc, and yet they can't be deconstructing the novel because Don Quixote is often considered the first modern novel, and Tristram Shandy is an early English novel. With its metanarrative, its extensive use of references, the narrative's exploration of the processes of memory and writing, and the manipulation of excerpts from other works of literature in order to give them new meanings, some critics suggest that Tristam Shandy – along with the later Moby-Dick – is this to the postmodern novel, long before the term postmodern was even coined.
  • Don Quixote:
    • Sancho Panza is not a villain, but he is the first example of exploring Cut Lex Luthor a Check, someone who realizes that he can get rich if he works for himself and not The Hero: He follows Don Quixote under the promise of a governorship in the future, but when he hears Don Quixote's claims about having the recipe of the Balsam of Fierabras, a Healing Potion from a Chivalric Romance that could revive a man cut in half, Sancho analyzes how to get rich with that: He quits the promise and only wants the recipe, planning to be rich selling it to sick and wounded people. He even asks Don Quixote how much it would cost to make it. Once sure that it’s profitable, Sancho helps Don Quixote prepare the potion. The potion seems to help heal Don Quixote, but makes Sancho very sick, so he concludes it only works with Knights, and Don Quixote is the only Knight left, making it not profitable.
    • The first part of the novel established firmly Quixote's character as a Lord Error-Prone, but Misaimed Fandom considered him the Ur-Example of a Mad Dreamer. In the second part, Cervantes decides to explore all the ramifications of that trope: it shows us a lot of people – nobles, bandits, soldiers – holding Don Quixote in higher esteem within the work for his imagination and vivacity, organizing a Massive Multiplayer Scam that convinces Don Quixote he really is an Knight Errant... because they want to make fun of him. The Only Sane Man calls Don Quixote a fool for making all the others be as mad as he. At the end of the novel, Don Quixote realizes that even when he lived the life of a Knight Errant exactly as the Chivalric Romance books said, he didn't do anyone any good; if anything, he just made things worse. So those books that Don Quixote loved enough to base his life around were all lies. The Fan Disillusionment is so great, Don Quixote dies of despair. The really disturbing part is that the novel claims this is the best scenario for a Mad Dreamer: Don Quixote could never be as famous or as lovable as he was when he was totally insane.
      "O señor," said Don Antonio, "may God forgive you the wrong you have done the whole world in trying to bring the most amusing madman in it back to his senses. Do you not see, señor, that the gain by Don Quixote's sanity can never equal the enjoyment his crazes give? But my belief is that all the señor bachelor's pains will be of no avail to bring a man so hopelessly cracked to his senses again; and if it were not uncharitable, I would say may Don Quixote never be cured, for by his recovery we lose not only his own drolleries, but his squire Sancho Panza's too, any one of which is enough to turn melancholy itself into merriment.
    • The novel explores the Book Burning trope in a far more comedic way than you'll find in a post-World War II environment, with an emphasis more on the Moral Guardian aspect of the trope, since all the censorship in Cervantes' day was by the Spanish Inquisition; indeed, the anonymously-written Lazarillo de Tormes, the first picaresque novel and a major target for the Inquisition, was either a huge influence on Cervantes or else something he himself wrote, so he would have known how frustrating it could be to have your books burned. In chapter IV of the first part, Don Quixote’s niece and Old Retainer asks the Moral Guardians' permission to do the Book Burning in a desperate attempt to cure him. The Moral Guardians are the most educated people in the village (a curate and a barber); they never wanted to impose their ideas and are doing this as a favor to the family, so they don’t care much for this Book Burning, and end up stealing a few volumes they think are actually pretty good. In Chapter XXXII, the curate jokingly threatens to burn two of the four books an innkeeper has: two of them are Non-Fiction Literature about awesome Real Life soldiers, and the other two Chivalric Romance books heavy on Rule of Cool. The curate wants to burn the latter, and the innkeeper the former.
    • More modern authors on returning to the book have noted how the novel goes beyond the parody. Vladimir Nabokov pointed out that Don Quixote actually wins more fights than he loses, and others having followed on have noted that the joke of Cervantes about Quixote wanting to be a knight because he read it in a book is that this is all knighthood ever amounted to i.e. it is possible, as Quixote proves, to actually become a knight by reading books of chivalry provided you have determination, grit, and an obsessive spirit, and that the institutions of chivalry, authority, and power really are just fictions we choose to believe in. The episode where Sancho Panza becomes a governor also highlights this, since even though it's framed as a prank by some nobleman, the point is that Sancho is actually good at the job, and that he takes his office way more seriously than the ones actually in power (who spend their time on elaborate time-consuming and really cruel gags on Quixote and Sancho).
  • The Nymph's Reply to the Shepherd seems like a modern satire of flowery love poems, and an indictment of consumerism. It mocks "The Passionate Shepherd To His Love", one of Christopher Marlowe's most famous works, with the nymph being unimpressed with the shepherd trying to buy her love and trust with luxuries that inevitably break down over time. But it was actually written by Sir Walter Raleigh in Elizabethan times, who felt the poem was too schmaltzy.
  • Paradise Lost is the earliest example of a work where Satan is portrayed as an empathetic character, and probably one of the earliest examples of Draco in Leather Pants being discussed by major writers (as William Blake said, "Milton was of the Devil's party though he did not know it"). However, Satan gradually admits to himself that he doesn't really believe any of the noble causes he espouses, his justifications for his actions are fallacious and self-defeating, and that he's really just a petty, sadistic rebel without a cause trying to bring everyone else down to his level. To many scholars, Milton wrote Paradise Lost to demonstrate how easy it was for humans to fall into temptation, and to others, about how humanity is only possible outside of paradise and hell, both being extremes where humanity cannot exist.
  • Gulliver's Travels is one of the oldest examples of adventure fiction, and is often seen as a classic of that genre. However, it was never meant as such. It was in fact a rather heavy-handed satire of European society of the time. It wasn't until Victorian times (the golden age of adventure fiction) that a Misaimed Fandom lumped it together with newer works.
  • Similarly, another early "Adventure Novel", The Swiss Family Robinson, was meant to be "educational", designed to teach boys Naturalism, Christian Values, and the Philosophy of Jean-Jacques Rousseau. Doesn't very much evoke the treehouse-building, zebra-riding, and pirate-fighting of the Disney adaptation, does it?
  • Another famous example from literature: The Sorrows of Young Werther seems like a Deconstruction of the Romantic protagonist, whose intense sensitivity and emotional instability lead him to commit suicide due to an unfortunate Love Triangle. The novel had been created before the Romantic movement even started.
    • The artistic archetype of Romanticism seems unreachable for Werther as well, since he's too lazy and untalented to be a genius.
    • Werther's long pretentious rants about art, emotion, and life only reveal an eventually Narcissist character.
    • The Empathic Environment trope seems like a Deconstruction as well: Wahlheim is flooded as the Downer Ending approaches.
    • Even the form gets its share: an "editor" steps in at the end, proclaiming that Werther's thoughts became too disordered and insane to be published. And of course because Werther can hardly report about his own suicide.
  • If your only exposure to Yiddish-Jewish culture is Fiddler on the Roof, reading Mendele the Book Peddler, the first Yiddish novelist, is a shocker. His work is about how poverty and anti-Semitism have brutalized Jews, turning them into sadistic bigots – and how their faith in being "chosen people" is a sick joke. In his short story "The Calf," a happy young boy is essentially brainwashed and tortured by his teachers into regarding fun as sinful. His work reads like an angry Deconstruction of Fiddler on the Roof. But the Shalom Aleichem stories that Fiddler on the Roof is based on were actually a Lighter and Softer reaction to Mendele, and were about finding dignity and meaning even in a cruel world. As Tevye puts it:
    Trying to scratch out a pleasant tune without breaking his neck.
  • If the Dr Mabuse books were published today, they'd look like a deconstruction of Bond Villain Stupidity: the title character has several inherently self-destructive tendencies that always ruin everything for him, his plan isn't to Take Over the World but to bring about The End of the World as We Know It and then rule the ashes, and even his name is a pun on the French "m'abuse" – "I abuse myself." These books were written long before James Bond got started, and it's been argued that Mabuse was the direct forerunner to Blofeld, but with the latter's plot devices an integral part of his character.
  • Frankenstein was one of the first major "monster stories". But going back and reading it now, after growing up exposed to generic Frankenstein's Monster stereotypes where it wanders around aimlessly, groans, and kills people, one may be a bit surprised to find an urbane woobie of a monster who is in many ways more sympathetic than his creator, quotes liberally from literature, is strong, agile, and quite dexterous, and also carries firearms for self-protection. The only things that make him appear inhuman are his height and his eyes, and it's decidedly ambiguous whether Frankenstein's true crime was creating the monster or a form of Parental Abandonment. While the title character is arguably the first known Science Hero, Shelley deconstructs the trope, creating the first Mad Scientist. Adaptations of Frankenstein feature Igor and peasants waving Torches and Pitchforks while running up to the castle; these are absent in the book — and for that matter (with occasional exceptions) any public knowledge of the thing at any point. And there is no castle; the monster is created in an upper-floor laboratory of a university.
  • Washington Irving's "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" is American literature's first major work of horror fiction, as well as one of the first major works of American fiction in general, but to modern horror fans, it can come off as an angry rebuke of the genre and its conventions. The protagonist Ichabod Crane—a mild-mannered, pious, educated, morally upright, hardworking Yankee schoolteacher—is practically an outright antithesis of the Asshole Victims who tend to meet their demises in more modern horror stories, and his many sympathetic qualities can make the first half of the story seem like a particularly harsh example of Developing Doomed Characters; Crane's most morally questionable act is trying to woo a wealthy farmer's daughter—and even then, he fails in humiliating fashion, making it seem all the more cruel when he ends up targeted by the Headless Horseman immediately afterwards. There's also the story's famously Ambiguous Ending, which deliberately refuses to explain Crane's fate, or even whether the Horseman was actually real. Depending on one's interpretation, the ending either emphasizes that there are no clear answers about the supernatural, or that such things generally have a perfectly rational (and silly) explanation.
  • Les Misérables:
    • The novel is one of the oldest and most iconic stories about a dogged fugitive on the run from the law, but it's also an absolutely scathing examination of the prison system, class conflict and police brutality, which can still seem pretty daring by today's standards—especially compared to the stories that it inspired. While most people remember that Jean Valjean was a noble ex-convict who was sent to prison for stealing bread to feed his starving family, it's easy to forget that he doesn't wind up pursued by Inspector Javert for breaking out of prison, but because he tries to conceal his criminal past so that he can have some small chance at a decent life. He serves his sentence fair and square, but the authorities simply won't let him move on, trapping him in a cycle of punishment that makes it nearly impossible for him to start anew. Even today, his plight is a pretty somber reminder of what happens when society refuses to forgive criminals for their offenses, no matter how minor or understandable they may be.
    • A blink-and-you'll-miss-it unbuilt trope can be found at the end of the novel. The narrative describes the Mardi Gras revels in 1833, coinciding with the wedding of Marius and Cosette. Victor Hugo states that carriages, normally being able to carry about six people, seemed to be carrying twice as many, when they were being dressed up for the carnival, disguised as clowns or whatever. The author managed thus to present the unbuilt trope of the Clown Car, some 30 years before actual cars were invented, in an action set 30 years before that.
  • The Prince and the Pauper named a trope about a poor man and a rich man trading places, and is also the Trope Maker for a lot of tropes associated with that plot. What most stories miss is that both sides immediately find intense faults with the others' life after their plan goes horribly right. The pauper's life is extremely taxing on the prince, and the entire crux of his Character Development after seeing just how bad the underclasses have it, coming close to death several times and ending up with bloody and sore feet from having to walk around barefoot. The prince's life is immensely stressful on the pauper, to the point he acknowledges that he's way out of his league the moment it starts, having to play along with the ruse to avoid being executed for treason. Also, both the prince and the pauper try to resolve the situation and admit who they are immediately, but no one believes them, thinking it to be either madness or stress caused by the recent king's death.
  • Casey at the Bat is the Trope Maker and former trope namer for Down to the Last Play... except mighty Casey struck out rather than drive in the winning run. The work also mocks the idea of trying to invoke that trope, since Casey allowed the first two pitches to pass without swinging to look like an even bigger hero, and then blew it.
  • Uncle Tom's Cabin is the Trope Namer for the Uncle Tom, a Category Traitor in a racial context, which is the very opposite of the title character, who makes a Heroic Sacrifice to protect fugitive slaves. It was later Uncle Tom-themed minstrel shows which codified the "Uncle Tom" character as a coward.
  • Alice's Adventures in Wonderland is the Trope Namer and Trope Codifier for Down the Rabbit Hole to such a degree that the character name Alice in any later work implies an Alice Allusion. The original does however break several of the "rabbit hole" conventions. The main story turns out not to be Alice's first visit to Wonderland; she had already been there, but disregarded it to be All Just a Dream, just as she does the second visit. Later speculations that What Do You Mean, It Wasn't Made on Drugs? have been disregarded by scholarship; the author was mainly inspired by logic and mathematics.
  • Sherlock Holmes:
    • What if somebody told you about a mystery novel where a brilliant Victorian detective spends seven chapters relentlessly hunting down a murderer who, instead of being a hardened criminal or an evil genius, turns out to be a completely sympathetic vigilante who was just trying to avenge his wife (but dies for his efforts anyway), and where the murder victims themselves are the closest things in the story to actual "villains"? Sounds like a deconstruction of the Black-and-White Morality of old-fashioned "superhero detective" stories, right? Nope. That's the plot of A Study in Scarlet—the 1887 novel that first introduced the world to Sherlock Holmes.
    • The Hound of the Baskervilles also gives us an early example of the "Scooby-Doo" Hoax (The Castle In Transylvania by Jules Verne is the Ur-Example) in a gritty mystery where the perpetrator is a hardened criminal who actually kills people, and specifically uses the charade because he knows that it's less likely to be investigated by the police than a string of more conventional murders. This was all written about 68 years before Scooby-Doo ever saw the light of day, but it shows how horrifying the archetypal "fake haunting" plot would be if it actually happened.
    • Many of the original short stories look like deconstructions of some of the standard tropes of detective fiction, when in fact Doyle was one of the authors who first laid down many of those tropes. It isn't Always Murder, and much of the time Everybody Lives. Sometimes, no actual crime was even committed (which is lampshaded by Watson). Sometimes, even when a crime is committed, Holmes will let the criminal go if he takes pity on them, believes they have learned their lesson and will commit no more crimes, and/or concludes that the scandal would do unacceptable damage to innocent bystanders. Sometimes, even if the crime is a murder, if Holmes decides the murder victim was enough of an Asshole Victim, he'll let the killer go free.
    • Sherlock Holmes is the Trope Namer for Sherlock Scan (maybe Dupin was the Ur-Example) but the trope is deconstructed in the second story, The Sign of the Four, when Holmes deduces that Watson's brother was a scoundrel by studying his pocket watch. This is Watson's Berserk Button, and he accuses Holmes of knowing the sad story of his brother's destiny beforehand, and of using Phony Psychic techniques to claim he deduced it from a simple watch. In a rare moment of humility, Holmes recognizes that he is an Insufferable Genius, and that he has hurt his friend's feelings by doing the Sherlock Scan For Science! without thinking into the consequences.
    • Unlike a lot of his imitators, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle occasionally acknowledged the absurd amount of research that went into making Holmes' famous Sherlock Scan possible. As shown in The Sign of the Four, he spends much of his off-time studying comically boring subjects (like "How to tell different types of tobacco ash apart from each other" and "How to distinguish mud from different areas of London") on the vague chance that they might come in handy when analyzing crime scenes. Instead of making Holmes look like a genius, these details just make him look like a crazed obsessive, and multiple characters point out that most of his knowledge is completely useless for everything other than detective work.
    • The Butler Did It is a Discredited Trope which is more often Played for Laughs than used straight, and can be described as either a Dead Horse Trope or a Dead Unicorn Trope. While straight uses of the trope are rare, they can be found in classics such as some Agatha Christie stories (Three Act Tragedy, Black Coffee, The Adventure of the Italian Nobleman and arguably in Murder on the Orient Express). A very early example is The Musgrave Ritual, a Sherlock Holmes short story where a butler committed a crime, but the mystery was instead the butler's disappearance.
    • Many classic detective stories are rather infamous for their Protagonist-Centered Morality, as they're generally told entirely from the perspective of their detective protagonists, end abruptly when the detective solves the crime and catches the perp, and generally spend little time—if any at all—addressing how ordinary people caught in the crossfire are affected by the detective's quest to bring the bad guys to justice. Which makes it particularly surprising that almost the entire second half of A Study in Scarlet is a flashback sequence told from the perspective of the perpetrator, where Holmes drops entirely Out of Focus as we see the chain of events that drove the supposed bad guy to murder, coming to sympathize with him along the way. It would seem like a deconstruction of the classic Holmes formula... if it weren't the first story in the series, and the novel that created the Holmes formula.
    • Professor Moriarty is one of the earliest and most iconic Diabolical Masterminds in all of fiction. But compared to later examples of the villain type, he almost comes off as a more grounded rebuke. Moriarty doesn't have any doomsday devices or grandiose schemes, and he's more like a very successful crime boss overall. Since Doyle based him partly on the real-life master criminal Adam Worth, this isn't too surprising. He also comes off as unusually tame in a number of respects; he's Affably Evil, a Benevolent Boss, and has a good deal of Villain Respect for Holmes, enough to let him write a final message to Watson before trying to kill him. And while he's not the only example of the trope to be a Villain with Good Publicity, his civilian identity isn't involved in politics or big business. No, his day job is as an academic.
  • Trent's Last Case by E C Bentley is generally credited with starting the inter-war Fair-Play Whodunnit boom. However, the Great Detective in it gets the solution of the murder completely wrong.
  • Lord Dunsany had a taste for cruelly ironic endings for his Adventurer Archaeologist protagonists (see "The Hoard of the Gibbelins" for example), which seems like a subversion of the good fortune common to your average Barbarian Hero appearing in Heroic Fantasy stories. However, Dunsany predated Howard, Leiber, etc. who were inspired by Dunsany. "The Sword of Welleran", "Carcassone" and "In the Land of Time" as well, though "The Fortress Unvanquishable, Save for Sacnoth" has a happier ending. The King of Elfland's Daughter is a bit more ambiguous.
  • A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court invented the Giving Radio to the Romans trope while pointing out all the problems it would realistically cause. While all of its adaptations and later users of the trope are comical and fairly idealistic, the original is pretty dark. There's humor about Medieval Morons, but there's also realistic depictions of a Corrupt Church and a generally dysfunctional society. Moreover, instead of being a hero, like in the adaptations, the protagonist becomes a warlord through his technological savvy, and gets corrupted by power.
  • Flatland is probably the first novel that introduces the concept of Alien Geometries. However, to the flatlanders, it is the Real Life three-dimensional world that is unfathomable.
  • The Prisoner of Zenda falls into this in respect to the "Swashbuckler genre". The antagonist usurper to the throne isn't a Card-Carrying Villain with 0% Approval Rating, instead he's more of an Anti-Villain who is liked by the populace, and for good reason, as the legitimate ruler is a drunken boor who doesn't care about the average citizen. Nor does his Dragon have this characterization, instead being an Affably Evil/Faux Affably Evil type who is a Draco in Leather Pants in-universe. Also notable is that the book has a Bittersweet Ending which becomes a Downer Ending in the sequel which is in keeping with Ruritania being presented realistically, rather than as a story-book country. The book was meant as a satire, partly of Austria and Russia's even then outdated method of ruling through absolute monarchy, partly of the politically unstable Balkan countries.
    • Speaking of Ruritania, most Ruritanias are backwards nations, whereas Stephenson's Ruritania is a (for the time) modern country. Zenda is a medieval castle, but recently renovated and equipped with all modern conveniences, Rassendyll (a Londoner) describes Strelsau as "a great city", and the narrative notes that Ruritania has played a pivotal role in European history on many occasions.
      • Also, while most of Stephenson's imitators wrote about their particular Ruritanias as small idyllic kingdoms, Ruritania is anything but. Banditry is rife, class divides and income disparity are high, the rule of the monarch is unchecked and unquestioned, the current king is neither particularly well-liked nor competent and the infighting in the royal family is vicious and on the verge of kicking off a civil war.
  • Fu Manchu is the Trope Codifier for Yellow Peril, and inspired a slew of imitator "Oriental masterminds". Rather than being a one-note villain, however, Fu is surprisingly layered: he has a surprisingly strong code of honor, is polite and cordial even to his enemies, genuinely loves his daughter Fah Lo Suee, and helps bring about the downfall of figures worse than himself such as fascist and communist leaders. He's also notable for being a brilliant, bold, charismatic and sophisticated schemer whom his enemy Sir Dennis Nayland Smith acknowledges is his intellectual superior by far. All in all, despite being heavily steeped in the racism and xenophobia that was all too common in the era when they were written, the original Fu Manchu books come off as not quite as bigoted as one might expect.
  • A good forty years or so before the concept of The Man began to take root in the public consciousness, it is discussed without being named in the 1922 novel One of Ours. Progressive young Gladys takes a moment to ruminate on how protagonist Claude Wheeler's asshole brother Bayliss is one of the type of people who run the world.
    “She believed that all things which might make the world beautiful—love and kindness, leisure and art—were shut up in prison, and that successful men like Bayliss Wheeler held the keys.”
  • The Picture of Dorian Gray is one of the very first uses of the term Prince Charming, about Dorian. Modern fairy tale parodies, reacting to the Flat Character of the stock Prince Charming, will tend to portray him as stupid (see Enchanted) or will have the character be Prince Charmless and act like a selfish cad (see Shrek, The Princess Bride, Fables, Into the Woods, etc.) Both of these subversions are used in Wilde's novel, but in a much darker way. When introduced, Dorian seems like the benevolent Flat Character version, but it's taken further since he's a Blank Slate or even an Empty Shell, which explains why when he goes bad, he goes really bad, since his shallowness is at Lack of Empathy levels. Dorian would come across as a very dark take on/deconstruction of Prince Charmless, were he not the first example of it.
  • Gladiator reads as a deconstruction of the Superman myth, but it's the book that inspired much of the early Superman comics. It features Hugo Danner, an invulnerable and super-strong protagonist who is unable to end a war, clean up Washington, have a college football career, or even make a living off his talents. Hugo Danner's attempts to find a Mundane Utility to his Invulnerability and Super Strength backfired no matter what he did, (Bully Hunter as a child, a Scholarship Student at college, a Super Soldier at war, banker, manual laborer and Adventurer Archaeologist) he couldn't find a stable job since people were so afraid of his talents and he dies without using his abilities to help anybody.
  • The Great Gatsby is arguably the Trope Codifier for the Self-Made Man and The American Dream. However, Gatsby's pursuit is not really material wealth, it's true love. He only acquires the wealth to provide for a wife of Daisy's station and class, and everything he did was really for love. The problem as Gatsby realizes belatedly was that Daisy's "mouth was full of money", and that Daisy for all her affection for Gatsby and dislike for Buchanan ultimately values the safety and security of her class and upbringing too much to leave it all for true love. The novel is about how Gatsby turns out to have wasted his genuine potential for greatness and real talent in pursuit of his obsessive fixations.
  • The 1933 Norwegian novel A Fugitive Crosses His Tracks by Aksel Sandemose is famous for codifying Janteloven ("the law of Jante"), the ten-commandment Scandinavian interpretation of the Tall Poppy Syndrome, and a cornerstone of the Norwegian, Danish and Swedish self-image; Sandemose has been one of few authors to write in all three languages. Today, the "law" is usually read as a satire of the socialist and egalitarian values which have been dominant in Scandinavia since the 1930s. However, the novel has an egalitarian spirit in itself, and is critical to the conservative, semi-feudal society with abysmal class divides, which had been the norm until then. As a side note, many Scandinavians believe that the doctrine is unique for their region; the Tall Poppy Syndrome however seems to be more or less universal.
  • Horatio Hornblower: Even in what's arguably the flagship of the Wooden Ships and Iron Men genre, Hornblower is a brilliant captain, and a frequently self-doubting man who has difficulty remembering or believing that people actually like him.
  • Readers of Robert E. Howard's original Conan the Barbarian stories may be struck by how different the character – an intelligent, often cheerful, polyglot who wears heavy armor into battle, sneaks around, and picks locks – is from the Barbarian Hero archetype he inspired.
  • Edmond Hamilton's short story "He That Hath Wings" is one of the first stories to feature mutants, written in 1938. The protagonist is a Winged Humanoid. He never uses his power to help people or to hurt them, he has his wings amputated once his fiancee demands it, and once they grow back, he flies himself to death.
  • The Space Odyssey Series is one of the trope codifiers for A.I. Is a Crapshoot, with HAL 9000 deciding to murder the crew. But this is depicted somewhat differently from most later takes on the trope, and HAL is given a rather sympathetic portrayal. What happened was that HAL received contradictory orders: it had to both keep the mission's true purpose a secret from the humans aboard, and not go against its programming — which included providing its users with precise and accurate information in a timely manner. It tried to find a way to solve this conundrum, but then it overheard plans from Mission Control to temporarily disconnect it. Not understanding the concept of sleep, HAL panicked and killed the crew in a misguided attempt at self-defense.
  • Tolkien's Legendarium introduced and deconstructed many High Fantasy tropes, with its quasi-pacifistic overtones.
    • In the earlier children's book The Hobbit, the dwarves' plan for The Quest is shown as very flawed and they turn out to be helpless against the dragon, who is killed by someone else entirely; when this happens, the humans, elves, and dwarves all immediately turn on each other to fight over the dragon's hoard and peace between them only happened due to the Goblins attacking. The hero betrays his companions (stealing the most precious gem of the hoard) in a (fruitless) attempt to buy peace. And finally the secondary character, Thorin, is killed in battle by the Goblins. Bilbo doesn't come off much better himself, finding it more convenient to take only a small portion of his treasure back after using the rest of his share to buy peace, and it is even pointed out he loses his reputation from the adventure.
      • Thorin Oakenshield almost reads as a deconstruction of a traditional fantasy hero. He's a great warrior, a long-lost son of a royal family, a Determinator, and his primary goal is to reclaim his lost kingdom. These things have made him bloodthirsty, aloof, hard-headed, and self-righteous. Even his motivation of restoring Erebor turns out to mostly be because he wants the treasure inside it. He ends up kicking off a lot of the events of the climax, and ultimately doesn't solve that many problems, either, concluding on his deathbed that Bilbo was the better of them. He almost reads as a takedown of Aragorn, and pretty much every other hero in that vein, despite preceding most of them.
    • While The Lord of the Rings trilogy codifies The Quest, it is built around an inverted Plot Coupon. The heroes do not stick together to the end, and their victory is a Bittersweet Ending that did not preserve the doomed Golden Age but merely warded off total conquest by evil. Also, the plucky hero, while exhibiting enormous fortitude, nevertheless fails in his mission; it was Gollum's unlucky slip which destroyed the Ring. And when some of the heroes return home they find it has been taken over by one of the villains and they have to overthrow him.
    • The trend of Grim Dark fantasy is somewhat motivated by Hype Backlash against Tolkien. However, Tolkien had been creating Grim Dark fantasy (The Silmarillion, The Children of Húrin) long, long before Stephen Donaldson and George R. R. Martin.
      • The Silmarillion: Violent, morally ambiguous antiheroes? Check. Black and Grey (though still a little bit of white) morality? Check. Hypocritical, brutal, imperialist elves who'd give the Lannisters nightmares? Check. Sexual themes like rape and incest? Check. Dead kids? Check. Downer Ending? Oh boy, yes. In fact, the first story Tolkien wrote for the Legendarium, the Fall of Gondolin, is a very bleak story about a city of Elves getting destroyed by the forces of evil, and features a villainous Elf who desires his cousin and tries to murder her young son.
      • The Children of Húrin: Let's see, it's an epic Dark Fantasy novel featuring an (unconsciously) incestuous Anti-Hero, the fate of a family over the course of an epic struggle, a morally ambiguous dwarf, loads and loads of Black-and-Gray Morality, a sinister supernatural force encroaching from the north and a serious downer ending. And it's got nothing to do with George R.R. Martin.
    • Nowadays, the trend of fantasy worlds having few actual wizards (or none at all) seems like an attempt to avoid imitating Tolkien's Middle Earth—but there are no human mages in The Lord of the Rings either, and magic actually plays a more minor role in the trilogy than many people assume. Elves are definitely magical, but they don't use magic in combat; Gandalf, who is the Trope Codifier for Wizard Classic in modern genre fantasy, occasionally uses his magic as a weapon, but he's not actually a human sorcerer—he's a Maia, a being roughly akin to an angel or a demigod in Tolkien's universe; as a general rule, Maiar like Gandalf and Saruman are only supposed to use magic as a last resort, and are much more likely to use their skills to lead and guide humans; and while the One Ring is definitely a powerful magical artifact, its actual powers are largely shrouded in mystery, and it can only grant true power to people like Sauron and Galadriel, who were powerful in the first place.
    • While Tolkien is largely the inspiration for the modern conception of elves, many of his uses of them would count as subversions today. That's especially true of the Noldor of Nargothrond, a group of elves living in a large secluded cave city obsessed with craftsmanship and smithing. At least in Peter Jackson's depiction, Rivendell is much more monumental than the typical Hidden Elf Village, and elves at war use metal armor and blade weapons just like mortal men. The "one with nature" stereotype, in particular, is only seen in a small group that is mostly insignificant within his greater mythos. They're also not depicted in an unambiguously positive light: they're just as capable as any human of being stupid, chauvinistic, and/or violent, and they can screw up monumentally. As a matter of fact, it's implied that the reason elves generally come off as morally superior in The Lord of the Rings is because most of the more flawed elves had died, left Middle-earth or grown as people by the time of the War of the Ring.
    • Though most people consider the Orcs to be the Trope Codifier — if not the Trope Maker — for the Always Chaotic Evil trope, it should be noted that Tolkien went on record saying that he didn't consider the Orc race to be uniformly evil; because of his strong Catholic upbringing, he expressly rejected the idea of an entire race being beyond salvation, and said that he would have taken the time to include sympathetic Orcs if he'd been able to fit them into the narrative. In The Silmarillion he writes the Orcs began when Melkor imprisoned and corrupted elves, and that far from enjoying evil "the Orcs loathed the Master whom they served in fear". They're also rather different from later portrayals of orcs in that they're neither near-mindless animalistic savages nor Noble Demon Proud Warrior Race Guys; Tolkien orcs have roughly human-level intelligence, are more skilled with torture and machines (particularly weapons) than they are in direct combat, and are actually generally smaller and weaker than humans.
    • The Orcs' homeland—the basis for another rather famous trope—can also be considered a deconstruction of the classic "Realm of Evil". While it is a pretty grim place, with plenty of dark skies and exploding volcanoes to go around, Tolkien actually took time to point out that a place like Mordor would have to include huge tracts of exceptionally fertile farmland in order to support a huge military juggernaut; this is actually borne out by reality, as volcanic soil generally does make very good land for planting crops. Mount Doom establishes Chekhov's Volcano; it is however not merely an ominous landmark that happens to erupt in the final chapter; it is a source of Sauron's power, and to some degree controlled by him.
    • Despite the stereotype of an Evil Overlord being evil for the sake of it, in Morgoth's Ring Tolkien goes into a lot of detail on the actual motives of the two Dark Lords, Morgoth and Sauron. Morgoth is shown as essentially nihilistic and his apparent eventual plan was to destroy everything basically out of spite that he hadn't created it (and literally couldn't create anything even though he desperately wanted to). Sauron, meanwhile, became evil out of a desire to bring order to the world, which used to be a very noble feature of his, and after Morgoth's defeat his motives seemed to be restoring Middle-Earth after the war - however, he was too proud to humble himself, which led to his corruption. It is even mentioned that in the beginning nothing was evil, showing there is free will.
    • The Elf Fëanor contains many qualities of a traditional fantasy hero, being a King's oldest son who wants to avenge his father's murder by the Big Bad, handsome, charismatic and an excellent warrior. However, he comes across as a deconstruction of The Ace, as he is very arrogant and hot-headed. His rallying the Noldor to war against Morgoth also deconstructs The Charmer, as it leads to the Noldor killing other Elves so they can get to Middle-Earth, and the oath he and his sons swear leads to terrible consequences for centuries afterwards, which curse the Noldor. Fëanor is also set up as a major character for the First Age, however his Hot-Blooded nature means he dies shortly after reaching Middle-Earth when he attacks Angband ahead of his main army and is fatally wounded by the Balrogs.
    • Medieval European Fantasy works inspired by Tolkien tend to resemble The High Middle Ages more than anything else; people who make fiction that deliberately avoids this particular aesthetic often paint it specifically as trying not to create "Tolkienesque" settings. Tolkien's fantasy, however, is more directly inspired by The Low Middle Ages, particularly pre-Norman Conquest Anglo-Saxon culture (the most notable exceptions being the Shire, which is essentially a compact version of early modern England; and Gondor, which has architecture and weaponry reminiscent of either The Roman Empire or The High Middle Ages). Medieval European Fantasy also tends to display Medieval Stasis, without any social or technological development. Middle-Earth is however not static, but instead End of an Age, where magic and miracles gradually wear off over the millennia. One interpretation is that Middle-Earth is Earth That Used to Be Better.
    • A lot of this (especially the moral ambiguity) is due to Tolkien being inspired by older stories featuring quite morally ambiguous characters, such as Kullervo, a direct inspiration for Turin.
    • Tolkien's dark elves — the Moriquendi — are very different from the common idea of them. They don't have black skin or follow a Religion of Evil, they just never saw the light of the Two Trees and are thus "of darkness" and comparatively ignorant. As a whole, they're no better or worse than other elves in terms of morality, nor are they particularly distinct in terms of appearance.
    • Even the trilogy format itself is this - Tolkien wanted The Lord of the Rings published as a single volume, but it was just too damn long, especially considering the paper shortage in post-World War II England, which meant that a single volume would have had to be priced so high that nobody would have bought it.note  Later authors made the trilogy format a Discredited Trope of the fantasy genre.
  • Arguably the first nuclear-themed After the End and Wagon Train to the Stars story is the 1956 Aniara poem by Harry Martinson. In contrast to most later works, it is at the hard end of the Mohs Scale of Science Fiction Hardness, and might have the darkest Downer Ending of science-fiction classics.
  • The Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser stories popularised the Brains and Brawn pairing of protagonists in the fantasy genre. However, a big element of the stories throughout is that Fafhrd is actually just as intelligent as the Mouser is - he simply doesn't show off about it as much, and deliberately uses Obfuscating Stupidity to trick enemies.
  • Starship Troopers pioneered the Space Is an Ocean metaphor and introduced many concepts of military organization and weaponry which later became part of the Standard Sci-Fi Setting, such as the Space Marine, the Powered Armor, and the Drop Pod. The book is however not primarily a celebration of technology, but rather a deconstruction of modern democracy, and the Cold War, with references to the Korean War Recycled In Space. The Empire is not just a possible outcome of future mankind, but seems to be the only option for a stable government. While the book describes futuristic weapons, it also describes the continued need to put infantry on the frontline.
  • James Bond:
    • The very first novel, Casino Royale, for its first half builds up Bond as the glamorous, high-flying operative he is now known. The second half is a lot more downbeat and gritty, and feels like a Reality Ensues take on certain elements of the formula: the Girl of the Week turns out to be The Mole; instead of an elaborate Death Trap Bond is subject to a series of simple but brutal Groin Attacks, and the villain's death is at the hands of his Moscow employers. Finally the last third of the novel is a long introspection by Bond of the toll taken by being a hired assassin in a world of secrets as he convalesces from the experience. In short, the novel laid out the bad side of the life that the films (and later novels, to a lesser degree) would glamorise.
    • The original novel of Dr. No prominently features Doctor No's incredibly elaborate, cozy island lair, which was later immortalized in the film adaptation and set the standard for larger-than-life evil lairs everywhere. However, it also goes into detail about the time, money and resources that would go into constructing such a thing – Dr. No first appears in person as Bond wonders just how he managed to build a window facing out into the ocean into the wall, and how much such an operation would cost. Bond is also well aware of how strange, surreal, and (given that he isn't expected to leave alive) morbid his welcome is. The whole thing exists to serve Dr. No's special brand of megalomania. The movie included the impressive lair, but cut out the details of its construction and the kind of mind that led to its creation, making it seem a good deal less extraordinary.
    • Whenever a modern story depicts Bond battling a Real Life political organization (e.g. al-Qaeda, the KGB, or the IRA), it's often assumed to be a deconstructive answer to "classic" Bond stories, which usually pitted him against a fictional Nebulous Evil Organization like SPECTRE. In fact, Fleming's original novels did this from the very beginning: before SPECTRE was introduced, Bond's most persistent foe was SMERSH—a very real (albeit highly fictionalized) Soviet counterespionage agency that actually was active during the early years of the Cold War. note 
  • The Catcher in the Rye marked a major Genre Turning Point for American literature with its fully fleshed-out portrayal of a teenage protagonist in the throes of adolescent angst, but it can come off as a Genre Deconstruction of "teen lit" by today's standards. Holden Caulfield has his fair share of admirable qualities, but the book isn't shy about pointing out that he's ultimately a very naive kid with a lot of growing up to do, that he isn't nearly as perceptive or eloquent as he sees himself, and that his hatred of "phonies" is a tragic result of his cynicism warping his view of the world—making him a classic Unreliable Narrator. The book also drops all of its School Tropes after Holden is expelled from Pencey Prep, then decides to leave the school to wander the streets of New York. It also subverts audience expectations of a Coming-of-Age Story, intentionally leaving it ambiguous whether Holden will actually grow from his experiences or simply stay angry at the world.
  • I Am Legend was the inspiration for many of the classic zombie stories, including Night of the Living Dead (1968). It also has the inhuman hordes being depicted as sentient, and the lone survivor is their version of a boogeyman. The ethical questions concerning his attempts to survive in this new world are a primary theme of the end of the novel.
  • One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest is arguably the Trope Maker for Go Among Mad People. In contrast to most cases of the Only Sane Man in an asylum, McMurphy tries Obfuscating Insanity with poor success. As the staff sees his sanity from the beginning, the intrigue is less about his diagnosis, and more of a power struggle against the staff until the end, when he becomes so dangerous that they need to lobotomize him. Some established asylum tropes are broken; the patients have a wide range of mental symptoms where the more clichéd ones (such as delusions) are a minority, and only a few patients are grounded.
  • The Man in the High Castle:
    • Considered a hallmark of classic Alternate History, though it wasn't the first, the book manages to deconstruct the genre by having the title character write his own alternate history in which the Allies won World War II, but in a different way than in real life. The ending is a Mind Screw which seems to hint that the characters realize that neither that fictional history nor their own is real.
    • Probably the first serious "The Nazis win" Alternate History, it seems to deconstruct several clichés associated with the genre nowadays. Rather than being a venerated father figure for the Reich, Hitler is in a lunatic asylum and none of the current Nazi leadership can bring themselves to admit that they have built a world based on the ideas of a man even they now think is mad. We spend much more time looking at the Japanese-ruled part of the US than the Nazi-ruled part. One character talks about how the Nazis' policies appeal to some white working-class Americans, making blue-collar jobs more celebrated in culture and socially acceptable (reflecting how they built their support in Germany in Real Life) rather than the usual modern Nazi Nobleman stereotype.
  • Lolita was the Trope Namer for Lolicon and Shotacon — the Japanese loanword is short for "Lolita Complex" — but if you read it carefully, you'll realize that if Humbert could see Dolores Haze objectively, he would see just another normal, banal suburban girl who is neither poetically pure nor some sexually precocious nymph. And despite being seen as the Trope Codifier for the Fille Fatale, to the point of "nymphet" being found in dictionaries, it's made clear that Humbert is lying; Dolores does everything in her power to escape him, while Humbert takes over her life, emotionally and physically abuses her, and does things like drug and blackmail her in exchange for sexual favors.
  • "Flowers for Algernon" Syndrome has often been accused of carrying a warped "ignornace is bliss" moral, but this is a criticism nobody can make of the trope namer, Flowers for Algernon. While Charlie does become a pretty big jerk after he gains his genius intelligence, it's not a direct consequence of him becoming smarter; rather, it's because he finally understands that people were mistreating him when he was retarded and is understandably bitter about it. Moreover, Charlie is horrified when he finds out that he'll lose his high intelligence, and the depiction of his mental degeneration is absolutely heartbreaking. It's heavily implied that, since Algernon died after his intelligence degraded, Charlie doesn't have long to live either.
  • The Moviegoer has a series of insightful and utter deconstructive extrapolations about the flaws of 60's counter culture but the book was published in 1961, well ahead of the popular outbreak of what he was describing.
  • The Godfather, arguably the Trope Codifier of The Mafia, deconstructs some of the central tropes of mafia fiction before they were established, including The Mafia itself. The main storyline starts In Medias Res, as the Corleone family is already an underworld superpower, though they face competition which threatens to destroy the whole empire. In the end, as Michael Corleone becomes the new Don, he orders the murder of all opposing mafia leaders. Then, he dismantles the family's criminal business in New York, to go legal. A recurring theme is the downfall of Mafia gangs; the Corleones, as well as their rivals.
    • The Godfather series launched the public image of gangsters as glamorous jetsetters, living in luxury. While the novel and the film series indeed display the Corleones' wealth, it cannot buy them free from an inevitable family tragedy.
    • Nothing Personal is a classical mafia trope, taken apart by none other than Michael Corleone himself:
      "Tom, don't let anybody kid you. It's all personal, every bit of business. Every piece of shit every man has to eat every day of his life is personal. They call it business. OK. But it's personal as hell. You know where I learned that from? The Don. My old man. The Godfather. If a bolt of lightning hit a friend of his the old man would take it personal. He took my going into the Marines personal. That's what makes him great. The Great Don. He takes everything personal. Like God. He knows every feather that falls from the tail of a sparrow or however the hell it goes? Right? And you know something? Accidents don't happen to people who take accidents as a personal insult."
    • Shame If Something Happened (protection racket through implicit extortion) is another cornerstone of Mafia fiction. The first occurrence in The Godfather chronology is in the prequel story about the young Vito Corleone (the Second Book of the novel, and The Godfather, part II film). Don Fanucci extorts money from Vito, who realizes that nobody backs up Fanucci, kills him, and replaces him as the new Don. Thereby, both the first episode and the prequel describe how the mafia's revenue model fails. While the book and the films tell that the Corleones have made a fortune out of illegal gambling and protection rackets, the business itself is never depicted.
    • The Godfather has a codifying example of a Mob War. The titular Godfather is however the opposite of a warlord; while he is in the hospital, his son Sonny leads the Corleones into a devastating war, which Vito ends as soon as Sonny gets killed.
    • Innocent Blue Eyes has been a mafia-related trope in films such as Mickey Blue Eyes, where a non-Italian family member is ignorant or in denial of the family's criminal activity. Don Vito's informally adoptive son Tom Hagen is of German-Irish descent; as the consigliere and family lawyer, he is however in the Mafia's innermost circle. Michael's wife Kay Adams plays a similar role; she is shocked the first time Michael describes the family's brutal methods, and since then she does her best to keep her husband out of crime.
    • Speaking of Tom, he's the Trope Codifier for The Consigliere. However, while he means well, he's not a good wartime consigliere and is unable to smell a rat the way his predecessor Genco could.
    • Vito Corleone is universally recognized as the Trope Codifier for The Don, and is probably the most famous mobster in the history of pop cuture, but he can seem like a deconstruction of the trope to modern audiences—not because he's unusually cruel or brutal, but because he seems oddly tame and restrained compared to his imitators. Vito has no qualms with crimes like bribery, extortion or ordering assassinations, but it's outright stated that most of his income comes from relatively harmless business interests like gambling, liquor and union organizing; in fact, most of the plot stems from him refusing to get involved in the burgeoning narcotics business, believing that dealing drugs is both despicable even by Mafia standards and too risky as a business investment. And (as mentioned above) he's the first to realize that the family's violent Mob War with the Tattaglias and the Barzinis is completely pointless, and ends it as soon as he has a chance.
  • Creatures of Light and Darkness by Roger Zelazny has a novelty martial art – known as "Temporal Fugue" – practised by godlike superhumans, which involves practitioners projecting themselves through space and time to a place behind their enemies, striking right before their foes strike. If both practitioners use Temporal Fugue at the same time, it results in an infinite cascade of recursion and duplication, which strains the time-space continuum. At first, this would seem like a deconstruction of No, I Am Behind You, but Creatures of Light and Darkness was written in 1969, long before anime dealing with the subject first started to boom.
  • A Clockwork Orange is one of the earlier works to feature Heel–Face Brainwashing (arguably the Trope Codifier), which is often played as a more humane way to resolve things with a bad guy than simply killing him or imprisoning him, especially as he will probably learn that Good Feels Good and turn for real. The book, however, goes straight into the Fridge Horror of the idea when it's used on Alex and ultimately condemns it as a horrific and terrible crime against humanity, as what it's essentially done is remove Alex's free will, making him less than human. Alex also doesn't learn anything about Good Feels Good while under its influence: he's beaten and terrorized by his past victims, unable to defend himself, and ends up attempting suicide to escape the horror his life has become. And at the end, after the brainwashing procedure has been reversed, he just decides to become a good person anyway, having grown up a bit.
  • The Noon Universe predates many of the famous Star Trek-esque utopian future stories as well as a lot of space operas, but it also deconstructs its own ideas. The future while outwardly nice is hitting a decay, the eccentric scientists are turning towards dangerous experiments out of boredom, the government is increasingly paranoid, The Precursors are manipulative asses, First Contact almost always ends in tragedy, and the Flash Gordon-style protagonists tend to do more harm than good. The Federation isn't destroyed by its own ideals, but Word of God says the only reason it didn't happen is because one of the writers died.
  • Dune:
    • Dune may not have been the very first science-fiction novel ever to feature mystic cults, a prophecy about a chosen one, or a rebellion against a galactic empire—but it was a major Trope Codifier for the modern Space Opera, and (as you can probably tell) one of the biggest artistic influences on the Star Wars saga. Today, though, it can seem like a cynical deconstruction of the kind of escapist sci-fi epics that it inspired. The Fremen aren't just noble freedom fighters, they're a xenophobic band of religious fanatics who aren't above waging jihad on the galaxy or executing prisoners of war who refuse to convert to their religion. Their rebellion also doesn't bring the Imperium down, but simply replaces one Emperor with another; Paul Atreides is even forced to marry the Padishah Emperor's daughter to solidify his claim to the throne. Paul himself, while mostly sympathetic, is just as much a wealthy aristocrat as the villains, and he becomes revered as a Messianic Archetype by exploiting a fake prophecy that was supposed to make the primitive Fremen easier to manipulate; his powers actually come from a centuries-old selective breeding program that runs on eugenics.
    • The series went in-depth examining the full social and religious implications of the Robot War long before it became the archetypal plot that it is today – and it did it without ever showing the war itself. Instead, the story takes place millennia after the war, in a universe where its aftermath led to a religious crusade against artificial intelligence... and gave rise to oppressive aristocratic governments and subcultures of power-crazed Ubermenschen who manipulate the human race with mystical powers. Not to mention the struggle to control the substance that fuels said mystical powers, which ends up controlling the universe's economy and touching off centuries of ever more destructive wars. It's an entire Space Opera setting built around drug-dealing. Though the Robot War merely forms the background of the story, its results imply that in Real Life, even victory in such a conflict could turn out to be disastrous for humanity.
      • Moreover, in the original books it is implied that it was not even a war with robots, but a luddite uprising against changes brought by ordinary computers!
    • The central "desert planet" planet of Arrakis (or "Dune") was the Trope Codifier—if not the outright Trope Maker—for the Single-Biome Planet, notably influencing the Star Wars films in their depiction of the Galaxy. note  But unlike many later derivative works, Dune actually examined some of the inherent consequences of living in such an environment, and also bothered to explain how such a planet could come to be. Throughout the series, it's heavily implied that the native sandworms—the dominant lifeforms, who maintain the desert landscape by constantly eroding the crust on the surface—were an artificially introduced species, and that they slowly caused the planet's natural water sources to vanish as a side-effect of the process that produces the spice melange. Correctly recognizing how utterly hellish it is to live on a planet of endless deserts, the native Fremen spend centuries working on a plan to finally fertilize the deserts and make them green. note  Also unlike almost all other examples, Arrakis doesn't stay a Single-Biome Planet: the Fremen's efforts lead to the endless deserts being overtaken by forests and grasslands, but the inevitable consequences of this (the slow erosion of the native culture, and the gradual collapse of the economy centered on melange) are examined in full.
  • To a modern reader, Tuck Everlasting reads like a Lighter and Softer rebuke to Twilight and other books like it: Girl meets immortal boy, girl falls for boy, boy's family adores girl, girl must decide whether or not she wants to live forever with boy. Only in this case, the method of becoming immortal is much gentler than what we see in modern Who Wants to Live Forever? books (drinking from a spring as opposed to being bitten by a vampire), the family's love for the girl is justified because, being immortal, the Tucks have become weary of living and are overjoyed to have a "natural, growing child" nearby, and the reason for the family's Masquerade is justified as well, because they (correctly) suspect that someone will try to market and sell the secret of immortality if they discover them. Most surprising of all, Winnie decides not to drink the water, instead living out a natural life and dying some 70 years later. This is portrayed as a wise decision on Winnie's part. Tuck Everlasting was published in 1975.
  • A Confederacy of Dunces: Though written in the 1960s and published in 1981, John Kennedy Toole's masterpiece unbuilds the crackpot ideas and philosophies that emerged from the Internet, and the kind of people who promote them. Ignatius is a predecessor of those very crackpots: he promotes the idea of returning to feudalism and conservatism, predating the modern "Dark Enlightenment" movement, but is a lazy slob who leaches off his mother, and spends his time watching cartoons and movies just to complain about their "degeneracy". And it's all but stated he engages in pseudo-intellectual nonsense just to stick it to his liberal activist girlfriend.
  • Despite being the Trope Maker of Consulting a Convicted Killer, the original Hannibal Lecter books viciously deconstructed the concept by having Reality Ensue hard:
    • In Red Dragon, Lecter's advice and ramblings are either thought of already or don't help Graham at all. Eventually Graham learns the hard way that trusting a sociopathic murderer is a really bad idea when Lector uses their interviews to give Graham's home address to the killer, which results in Graham being disfigured. Crawford later bluntly states that consulting Lecter was a terrible idea.
    • Then at the end of The Silence of the Lambs, Hannibal exploits the agreement Clarice made to interview him and get Buffalo Bill's real name to get transferred to another, laxer asylum from which he can escape. Even more blatantly, Hannibal didn't even figure out the killer from his sheer analytic genius; he already knew exactly who Jame Gumb was because Benjamin Raspail had told him the entire story when he was a client. Being a serial killer doesn't give you immaculate knowledge of other serial killers' motives; Hannibal only knows because he's lucky enough to be privy to the killer's entire history and background.
  • While hardly the first steampunk novel, The Difference Engine is a surprisingly early dystopian take on the genre. Many of the flaws of Victorian society – socio-economic tensions, poor understanding of medicine, police surveillance, pollution, British imperialism – are all exacerbated by London getting its hands on advanced technology way too early to be trusted with it.
    • Though it arrived years later, The Diamond Age is also a striking example. All the archetypical steampunk technology is there, but Neal Stephenson doesn't waste a single opportunity to highlight the shortcomings and Values Dissonance of (neo-)Victorian society: Hackworth is a genius but socially bound to remain working-class; his wife divorces him per Victorian custom after he is kidnapped and raped by the Drummers; Nell is alienated by the rigidness and impracticality of her boarding school, and on and on.
  • The Beach (1996) and its 2000 film adaptation codified the backpacking subculture. Still, as the book begins, the resorts of Thailand are already over-exploited by commercial tourism. The main theme is a paradox of tourism; creating a community of peers, without becoming too many in the same place. The story also becomes Harsher in Hindsight as Maya Bay, the film set, got overrun by tourists looking for the pristine location... as well as much of Southeast Asia.
  • Pollyanna
    • The heroine was so memorable that she named her own trope. But Pollyanna herself is given a reason for her eternal optimism; the Glad Game is something she and her father came up with to find a reason to be positive about things. It's strongly hinted that Pollyanna plays the Glad Game because it's essentially all she has - edging her close to being a Stepford Smiler. When she's injured and left crippled, gladness does not come so easy to her. She gets better through other people's kindness rather than her own optimism.
    • Parts of the story feel like a deconstruction of White Man's Burden - in the 1910s. Aunt Polly is one of the richest women in town and she gives many charitable gifts to the less fortunate. But she only does so out of a stuffy sense of obligation, and it ends up being interpreted as a backhanded way of asserting her superiority over them. She has to learn An Aesop that people don't like false charity.
  • Harlan Ellison's A Boy and His Dog is one of the earliest examples of Post-Apocalyptic Dog and is probably the Trope Codifier for it. This can be hard to realize given that it's also a very weird and deconstructive take on the concept; the dog is sentient and telepathic, and is also a ruthless being who coordinates his master's amoral behavior. The tendency for such dogs to be Sacrificial Lions is also subverted, the Villain Protagonist murders his love interest to ensure the dog survives.
  • Lord Peter Wimsey is a war veteran with PTSD flashbacks who becomes a detective. Except it's not post-WWII noir, or a gritty modern story. He's a World War I vet. He does have a Friend on the Force...who exists as more than a plot device, and eventually marries Peter's sister. And he acts like a Rich Idiot With No Day Job, but he actually does manage his holdings, and the standards of the time keep him from discussing them. Plus, again, the trope doesn't usually include "war vet with PTSD flashbacks". Oh, and he worries about the effect his detective job has on his morality and mental health. His PTSD is linked to how he was forced to send men to their deaths, which is exactly what he does as a detective. He usually consoles himself with the thought that anyone who gets the death sentence is going to be someone society is better off without. Sometimes that excuse works for him.
  • The Outsiders is the quintessential Greaser Delinquents story. It has the trademarks of That Nostalgia Show, however it was written in the 1960s. It's supposed to be a matter-of-fact contemporary story about greasers by someone who had friends who were greasers, not a romanticized look on greasers like other works. As a result, the book is a lot harsher than future nostalgia-driven material and focuses on the socio-economics issues many greasers faced. The greaser protagonists are also less generic "cool, tough guys" and more softies who act cool and suave as a facade.
  • The joke that the titular character of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer is actually a drunk because of his red nose predates even the original book itself. Rudolph was originally declined because, at the time, red noses were associated with alcoholics.
  • The second half of The Neverending Story brutally deconstructs the idea of The Chosen One Trapped in Another World. After physically entering Fantastica and rebuilding it, Bastian's newfound ego runs amok. Rather than healing the world, he does tremendous harm to it through his power fantasies, leading to a number of tragic events. He's ultimately only able to go home when Atreyu and Falkor selflessly agree to fix the damage he did. Keep in mind that the book was originally published in 1979, predating this kind of plotline becoming popular in children's literature by a wide margin.
  • Things Fall Apart was one of the first novels in English to deal with African society from the viewpoint of Africans (contrasting the traditional Eurocentric viewpoint), and it played a major role in popularizing postcolonial literature. However, its conflict is far more gray-shaded than one might expect. In his portrayal of the pre-colonial Igbo people, Chinua Achebe doesn't hesitate to tackle cultural practices that can seem disturbing to modern readers—like abandoning newborn twins in the forest to die, executing adopted stepchildren on the advice of village elders, exiling an entire family for the crime of one person (even if the crime was an accident), the large amount of misogyny and physical abuse towards females, and ostracizing any man who doesn't live up to traditional Igbo ideals of masculinity. He also doesn't depict the British colonizers as being all evil colonialists, with the British culture of the era being depicted as having both virtues and flaws, much like the Igbo. This is best demonstrated through Mr. Brown, one of the British missionaries. While his ultimate goal is to get the Igbo to convert to Christianity, Mr. Brown is full-heartedly willing to learn about the Igbo culture instead of automatically dismissing it as evil and doesn't want the Igbo to lose their cultural identity and autonomy to British colonialism. Unlike other missionaries in this novel and future postcolonial novels, he takes the time to personally meet and befriend villagers, from clan leaders to outcasts, and actually listens to their stories, opinions, and beliefs. Mr. Brown also does things that genuinely help benefit the Igbo, such as setting up a hospital to decrease the death and disease rate in Umuofia and setting up a school to teach English literacy so the villagers would be better equipped in their dealings with the European colonizers. All of this, combined with Mr. Brown accepting converts unconditionally, is why several of the Igbo, especially outcasts, willingly become Christians through him, and even some Igbo who don't convert come to respect Mr. Brown. One of the major themes of the novel (and most of Achebe's bibliography) is that, while colonialism of Africa during the period of New Imperialism was hardly all sunshine and lollipops for those being invaded, some of the criticisms the colonizers had of precolonial Africa were at least partly valid, and there were good reasons why so many Africans were willing to adopt at least some aspects of European society and culture.
  • The Narnia book The Silver Chair features an otherworldly reptilian being attempting to take over the world through subversion, well before such a plot became commonplace in conspiracy theories and alien invasion fiction. From her Elaborate Underground Base, the Lady of the Green Kirtle subtly acquires power through governmental infiltration and mind control, switching between a very human-looking form and a considerably scalier one. However, even leaving aside that this is a fantasy book rather than a science-fiction one, there are significant differences from how the "reptilian invasion" is generally portrayed. For example, the Lady's reptilian form isn't humanoid, but a gigantic venomous snake. Instead of being part of a whole species of invaders, she's the only example that we see. Her origins are never revealed (besides some vague hints that she might be somehow connected to the White Witch), and it's not clear if her humanlike or snake form is her true shape; in fact, her real appearance may actually be something else entirely.
  • Tarzan of the Apes gives this treatment to the Absent-Minded Professor trope. Professor Porter's absent-mindedness isn't just brushed off as an amusingly wacky character quirk; it's a serious character flaw that nearly gets himself and his party killed. If it weren't for Tarzan's intervention, they would have died. This absent-mindedness continues causing serious problems as the book progresses.
  • The Caine Mutiny introduced the world to Captain Queeg, one of the most iconic fictional examples of a military officer heavily disliked and disrespected by his own troops. He's so heavily associated with the trope that "Queeg-like" is an adjective frequently used to describe such officers, both real and fictional. That being said, he almost seems like a deconstruction of the archetype nowadays. For one thing, while his flaws as a commander are very real and quite serious, it's suggested that they aren't entirely his fault. Earlier in the war, he served with distinction escorting convoys in the Atlantic, and the narrative heavily implies that the root cause of his problems is psychological trauma. Moreover, while his subordinate officers do have legitimate reasons to think he's unfit for command, they don't come off completely well themselves. They don't exactly make things easier for him, and fail to give him the support he needs, even when he directly asks them for help improving himself in the aftermath of the "yellow stain" incident. Greenwald says that if Queeg's officers had tried to work with him and help him to control his demons, the whole situation with the typhoon might not have happened — and notably, Maryk and Keith essentially agree with this assessment. All in all, Queeg almost seems like a tragic figure, rather than an unsympathetic bastard like many of those he influenced.
  • Esmeralda from The Hunchback of Notre Dame is a codifier for the Hot Gypsy Woman, but she subverts most associations with the trope. She isn't a world-savvy and hot-blooded temptress; she's naive and closer to being The Ingenue than anything. To add onto this, Esmeralda isn't even ethnically Romani. She was Switched at Birth with Quasimodo. Most adaptations change her personality and ethnicity to make her closer to the archetype.
  • The Marching Morons, a 1951 Science Fiction short story, depicts a future wherein the majority of the population has decayed into stupidity and sloth... just like Idiocracy and Wall E. The difference is, the subtext for which those movies were criticized (technology is bad, the poor can't stop multiplying) is front and center, and not only as a form of Values Dissonance - the Human Popsicle who's contrasted with the "morons" is openly racist, plans to establish himself as a dictator, admires Hitler, commits genocide... and gets killed in the end for those very flaws.
  • The Trope Namer for The Jeeves, from P. G. Wodehouse series Jeeves and Wooster, seems to be the traditional stuffy, hypercompetent butler. However, the stories demonstrate Jeeves has a fun-loving side, especially when he's away from the young master — he's friends with chorus girls, enjoys gambling and hunting, and he frequently manipulates Wooster into going on trips so he can have his fun, even if what we see is his on-duty British Stuffiness.
  • Before Batman, The Scarlet Pimpernel was the original Rich Idiot With No Day Job, masquerading as an effeminate and decadent aristocrat, when in secret he was highly intelligent and brave, saving innocent French families from the reign of terror. The thing is, unlike later examples, Percy Blakeney's effeminacy and hedonism weren't an act — in fact, his career as a hero was based on a desire to get even bigger thrills. Furthermore, Percy's parents, the ones who left him that big fortune, didn't die as a consequence of crime and injustice, but rather of mental illness. He wasn't avenging their misfortune, but going down the same path.
  • Part of the Dystopian Oz trope is the Alternative Character Interpretation that the Wizard of Oz is an evil, corrupt leader. However, this isn't an alternative interpretation. It was L. Frank Baum's original interpretation. In The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, the Wizard is an overall neutral but Ambiguously Evil character because it isn't shown that Oz had any rulers prior to him; he just abused the naive nature of Ozians to better his own self-esteem. The second book The Marvelous Land of Oz expands upon this by revealing that he conspired with the evil witch Mombi to usurp the Ozian throne. He taught Mombi all the magic she knows, stole the throne from King Pastoria, and gave Mombi the infant Princess Ozma to raise as a boy, so that he could become ruler of Oz. Kids complained, so the fourth book, Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz, retconned him into a more heroic character. He has never met Ozma and has nothing to do with her disappearance.
  • Lennie from Of Mice & Men is one of the Trope Makers for And Call Him "George"!. But unlike later examples, which are generally Played for Laughs (sometimes dark ones), Lennie's tendencies towards this trope are played very seriously and have severe consequences for him. He ends up repeatedly killing his pets without meaning to, which obviously causes him massive distress. His mental disability not making him realize how strong he truly is doesn't help at all. And animals aren’t the only ones affected by this trope; shortly before the events of the book, Lennie touched a woman’s red dress because he found it really pretty. When she screamed at what he was doing, he panicked and held onto her dress until she tore herself away and ran off to find help because she assumed Lennie was trying to rape her. As a result, he and his friend/caretaker George were forced to flee town before an angry mob got their hands on Lennie. Finally, he ends up accidentally killing Curley's wife while feeling her hair, which leads to George Mercy Killing Lennie so he wouldn't suffer a worse death at the hands of the lynch mob that formed in response to her death or get locked up in an insane asylum.
  • It’s practically a cliche for modern writers to depict a character who Never Grew Up as a sociopath, subverting the image of eternal childhood innocence. However, the Trope Namer and Trope Codifier Peter Pan was originally written as a thoughtless, selfish, fickle, amoral Jerkass who would betray and kill his allies just to make battles more entertaining for himself. This is explicitly because as a perpetual child, he never learned right from wrong. Peter is also unable to do so, because as the novel specifically points out, the things that often make people reject the idea of immortality — friends and family dying, accumulated mental trauma, etc. — aren't an issue for Peter because his memory doesn't retain anything that would cause him to lose his innocent outlook on life or develop any empathy for other people, because remembering the loss of innocence or developing empathy will force him to grow up. Adaptations of the story tend to forget this and/or leave the more troublesome parts of Peter's personality out.
  • Michael Moorcock's Eternal Champion sagas (particularly The Elric Saga) are the Codifiers of Character Alignment, Order vs. Chaos, and Balance Between Good and Evil in fantasy fiction like Dungeons & Dragons. A fact which can seem odd to modern readers, as Moorcock's depiction of the conflict between Order and Chaos is very different from the black and white portrayal of it in most fiction. Chaos and Order in his stories are barely comprehensible cosmic forces with Blue-and-Orange Morality; neither is really friendly to mortals, and too much of either is very bad for the multiverse (excessive Order is oppressive totalitarianism, excessive Chaos is brutal anarchy), hence why Balance is necessary. By the end of Moorcock's Myth Arc, the orderly and chaotic gods are deemed the true villains and the system they perpetuate corrupt. They are ultimately all destroyed thanks to the efforts of the neutral Eternal Champion and Great Old Ones, freeing mankind and allowing them to make their own way. Later uses of the concepts Moorcock used have a bad habit of being dumbed down into a very straightforward Black-and-White Morality system, which frequently leaves the supposed need for balance between the sides seem inexplicable.
  • Though today regarded as the atomic building-blocks (if not necessarily the Trope Maker) of the Hardboiled Detective, Dashiell Hammett's tales of The Continental Op are noticeably different from the lone-wolf Knight in Sour Armor model codified by Philip Marlowe, or even Hammett's own Sam Spade:
    • Most notably, the Op isn't any kind of lone operator; he's part of a nation-spanning agency, which is implied to have better resources and intel-gathering abilities than any single police department, and lets him access several junior operatives who typically obey his orders to the letter at all times.
    • Many of the stories, particularly the early ones, are also largely violence-free puzzles not too different from an average Sherlock Holmes yarn - the hardboiled genre was, after all, in its infancy, and the Fair-Play Whodunnit still ruled the day.
    • His personality and morality also varies slightly among stories, depending on what the plot calls for (a fact helped along by his No Name Given status - can you really be sure all these stories are in fact about one man?). More often than not he'll have at least one unscrupulous Good Is Not Nice moment, but he rarely if ever runs onto the horns of the To Be Lawful or Good dilemma, as his job is never implied to exist in any kind of gray-area with the law; excepting the rare frame-up, the police are typically happy to work with him, and if he turns down a criminal's pleas for mercy, he always explains it as pure professionalism and loyalty to his employer/clients, rather than any matter of personal ethics.


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