Trope: Definition and Examples of Trope in Speech and Literature

Trope is something which can be used as a literary device and you may have heard about this technique when studying the English language. But what is trope and how can it be used? In this article, we are going to explore trope and how it is used as well as looking at a variety of examples to back this up.

What Is Trope?

A trope can be a variety of things such as a theme, symbol, literary device (irony, hyperbole, metaphor, simile etc) or character, amongst other things. It is essentially something which is easily recognisable for the purpose that is intended. It will be a repeated element. A good example of a trope is a child who is playing whilst wearing a cape, you would automatically recognise this as the child pretending to be a superhero-this is a trope.

The trope is something which is most commonly used to portray something within the creative arts. Depending on which branch of creativity you are looking at will depend on the tropes that you might see. When used as a literary device, a trope can show the writers experience and skill level and is sometimes a way for them to show off their knowledge of the genre. The writer might use an image or figurative language to add artistic effect.

A trope becomes so popular simply because it is a reference which works. It can give a reader or a listener a sense of security in knowing what to expect from simply recognising the trope.

Trope Examples

Examples of Trope In Speech

There are many examples of tropes being used in a spoken sense, this could be in film or in song for example. We are now going to take a look at some examples of how a trope might be used in spoken language.

  • The ‘get rich quick scheme’ is a common trope used in a variety of situations. Most notably, this trope is used in the cartoon ‘The Flintstones’ where one of the main catchphrases of the main character, Fred is ‘We are gonna be rich!”
  • Tropes might appear in speech in the form of figurative language, a prime example of this is the phrase ‘stop and smell the roses.’ You are not literally expected to stop and sniff some flowers, but you recognise that this phrase is telling you to pause and appreciate something. This is a trope because it is something that is easily recognised.

Examples of Trope In Literature

As we mentioned, a trope is often used in a literary sense. A trope is often a literary device, for example any of the following:

In order to further understand their use, we are now going to explore some examples of tropes used in written work.

  • There are many examples in literate of the trope of the two lovers from different social classes. This could be a princess and a pauper or the high flying lawyer and his homeless lover. One very prominent example of this in literature is in the novel Sense and sensibility written by Jane Austen in which features a series of romances that cross over the social class barriers of the 19th century-which was highly frowned upon and so makes for a n excellent story.
  • The use of overly endearing language or being too friendly can be a trope of a villain in disguise. This is something which appears regularly in literature and can be seen in No country for old men when the killer keeps calling everyone ‘friendo.’ This is false as his actions are far from being friendly and so is an easily recognisable trope.
  • In literature, a common trope is the feeling of being forever young, for example a teenager who remains with their sweetheart into adulthood. To make reference to this in modern literature, we only have to look at the character of Severus Snape in the series of Harry Potter books written by J K Rowling. Snape’s entire character and his actions are based around his childhood crush on Lily Potter.
  • A common trope that is used in a literary sense is that size refers to power. Authors will often dwell on the size of a character to portray strength and power. A fine example of this is the story of David and Goliath from the bible.

Other Examples Of Trope

You may remember from earlier on that a trope can be used in a variety of instances. Let’s now take a look at some examples of this.

  • In movies, the bad guys always seem to wear black or dark colours. This is a trope as we automatically recognise a ‘baddie’ by the colour of his/her outfit.
  • We briefly touched on the child playing superheroes, the cape is seen as a superhero garment and so has become a trope. Every time we see a character wearing a cape, we assume that they are a superhero.
  • In film, the ticking of a clock is used as a trope to show that time is running out or that the characters have to meet a deadline.
  • A long white beard is a trope of a mentor or a wise person. A good example of this is the character of Gandalf in the Lord Of The Rings series of books and movies.
  • Tropes can even feature in music, for example the 12 bar chord is very closely associated with blues music.
  • The idea of ‘increasing threat’ is a common trope, especially in video games. You might fight one boss which is quite easy and as you progress, they become more and more difficult until the end one is almost impossible.


In the most simple terms, a trope is something which is easy to recognise and such as a recognisable plot element, an image or a figure of speech. The trope can be used in a whole wealth of ways and in this article, we have been able to take a look at some examples of this to help us gain a greater understanding of what a trope is and what it is used for.

Trope Infographic


Latest posts by 7ESL (see all)

1 thought on “Trope: Definition and Examples of Trope in Speech and Literature”

Leave a Comment