Stories where people are punished for obedience (tests)

In episode 2 of “Being Erica”

she wants to join the “Literati”. The members are wearing masks and the new recruits are apparently taking turns to bury each other alive for 15 minutes. Some/all of the people in the coffins and pleading to be released and Erica and someone else stop listening to the Literati who are saying to trust them. When they open up the coffins the people inside just laugh because it was just an act. Then the Literati let the people who disobeyed them join and the others have to leave.

I’ve heard of people saying that they wished that in the afterlife people with blind faith in God would be punished. Are there any stories where something like that happens?

BTW I watched a Christian movie somewhat recently and there was an unemployed foreign guy and in the factory where he worked the boss asked him if he could do some shady things… the guy refused and the boss gave him a promotion.

I also asked if there are any cases of that happening in reality

But I mainly want to know if it has happened in fiction anywhere.

“The Exit Door Leads In” by Philip K. Dick

There was a novel I had to read in high school - The Chocolate War, I think - where a teacher ripped into a student for obviously bullshit reasons, then ripped into everyone else for just standing by and letting it happen.

“The Wave”, by Todd Strasser.

The moviewas a staple of my high school civic studies class.

The Parable of the Talents has always bugged me - so the master gives money into the care of three servants and rewards the two who invested it (risking it!) and punishes the one who buried it in the ground. WTF, dude? You told me to keep it safe, I kept it safe, those two could have lost it in the market!


Not to hijack, but the Talents represent actual gifts, though, music for example , or service, or speaking. The other two servants used their “talents” to the good, while the other one kept his hidden. The money was just used as a metaphor.

I’m drawing a blank on the title and author, but there’s a short story about a guy who is on trial for something warranting the death sentence. Because the society abhors any form of torture, including psychological, he’s locked in a hotel-like room until the verdict is decided, and something in the room will kill him if he’s found guilty. He promptly sits in the middle of the bed, figuring it is the safest spot. The verdict finally flashes: NOT GUILTY. He jumps up, goes to open the door… and is killed by a lethal dose of poison from the doorknob, because lying to him is preferable to even a few moments of fear. Sounds PKD, but I don’t think it is.

Mild spoilers for the book Xenocide by Orson Scott Card follow, so beware! (You should have stopped at Speaker for the Dead anyway; everything thereafter takes a turn for the metaphysically challenged.)

In Xenocide, certain members of a population on a planet whose name I can’t recall have been genetically modified to have OCD and be super geniuses. The super geniuses are regularly consulted by the galactic council (or whatever the governing body of the universe was, I forget). They are, in essence, punished with OCD for being obedient.

The Lady and the Tiger. :wink:

Alfred Bester’s The Demolished Man takes place in a future where people have begun to develop telepathy, but not everyone can do it. Some people are born with the knack for it, and can be trained up, but if you’re not born with it, you can never learn it.

Being telepathic is enormously high status, and everyone wants to be one, so the training academy is always swamped by applicants, most of whom don’t have any trace of the ability at all. So there’s an enormous, complicated screening process that involves filling out endless amounts of complicated paperwork. What the applicants don’t know is, the paperwork is meaningless. The clerks filing the paperwork are also sending out a constant telepathic message: “If you can hear this, ignore the forms and just go through the door to your left marked ‘Do Not Enter.’” Anyone who walks through the door is, therefore, a latent telepath, and automatically accepted for training.

In the children’s TV show Sofia the First, the students at her school are instructed to come to a special test after school, and not to be late. The school librarian asks all of the children on their way to the test to help carry books for her. Only Sofia does, making her late for the test. It turns out that the real test was to be helpful, and only Sofia passed. She wins a trophy, and the others receive a reprimand for not being caring enough.

It’s been years since I read Xenocide, but it’s my recollection that the super geniuses of the planet Path are obedient because they suffer from OCD and not the other way around. They were genetically engineered to be both highly intelligent and unlikely to rebel against the established order.

The short-lived reality show Who Wants to be a Superhero had a test along these lines: The prospective heroes were informed that they had to be at a certain place in the city by a certain time, in order to foil the villain. On the way there, there was a little girl crying that she couldn’t find her mother. In order to pass the test, you had to stop to help the kid, even though that would mean missing the deadline for the supervillain.

In the webcomic Girl Genius, one of the tests Agatha must pass to be recognized as the true heir of the Heterodynes involves being stabbed by the ceremonial knife of wisdom. Like every true Heterodyne before her, she refuses.

And not quite the same thing, but in Heinlein’s Space Cadet, one of the tests to be admitted to the Corps is to drop beans into a bottle, with your eyes closed. The protagonists reports that he did very poorly on the test, and then asks what would have stopped him from cheating by opening his eyes. “Nothing at all”.

That reminds me of the Piers Anthony short story, “Getting Through University”, which I read in an Isaac Asimov anthology called “Science Fictional Olympics”. The protagonist is a human who is applying to a galactic dental school, the first human to do so.While attempting to prepare for the entrance examination, he is pestered by an indigent alien to provide emergency dental surgery. He takes time away from preparing for the exam to provide assistance, but fails the exams as a result. The indigent alien turns out to be the administrator of the galactic dental school, who is seeking a replacement for his own position and thinks the protagonist is suitable for the position.

The “Lower Decks” episode from the seventh season of Star Trek: The Next Generation features something like what you’re looking for. Worf decides to put one of the junior officers through a very one-sided martial arts exercise. She gets knocked around quite a bit until she decides to stand up for herself and call him out on just how one-sided the whole thing is, whereupon he reveals that the point was to get her to do that.

Of course, there’s “Men in Black”, the scene where Will Smith passes a test designed to think outside the box.

Theodore Thomas’ short story, “The Test”, fits this category. A man is out for a drive with his mother, and speeds a few miles over the speed limit to pass another car. The car instead swerves into his lane and causes a terrible car crash in which his car is pushed into oncoming traffic; during the slow-motion perception of the crash, he sees the face of a sleeping girl in the other car right before they crash head-on.

Then he wakes up. It was an implanted dream as part of his driver’s test. The examiner explains that everyone gets that and that remembering what it’s like to be in a car crash makes people into better drivers; good news is he passed the driver’s test and can get his license if he signs the form. He’s still in shock, thinking of the face of that sleeping girl, of killing his mother in the accident, but reflexively signs. Then he’s told that he’s failed - that he’s sick and needs treatment, as anyone who’s normal shouldn’t want to drive after seeing something like that. He tries to protest, but they drag him off for hospitalization, telling him maybe he can try again after he’s better.

In Lois Bujold’s Cryoburn, Imperial Auditor Miles Vorkosigan of Barrayar brazenly accepts a bribe from a foreign business interest under the nose of the Barrayaran diplomatic counsel. Upon returning to their embassy, the diplomat immediately sends a report to Imperial Security, describing the bribe, then dramatically announces his actions to the Auditor. Miles responds by showing him his own report, sent directly to the Emperor, describing the bribe, and explains that he took the bribe for two reasons. Primarily, it was to work his way further into the conspiracy that he had been sent out to investigate. But a secondary objective was to see how the diplomat reacted to it. By immediately reporting him to his superiors, he demonstrated that he’s a loyal and honest officer of the Empire, and can therefore be trusted with additional information about the case.

Caligula (1980), in some truly disgusting scenes.