but the pain is very real.
Detective Del Spooner: Human beings have dreams. Even dogs have dreams. But not you. You are just a machine. An imitation of life. Can a robot write a symphony? Can a robot turn a canvas into a beautiful masterpiece?
Ever since Socrates, the power of the question to provoke insight has been well acknowledged. Sometimes a single question, well phrased and well timed, can collapse a person’s mental defenses and throw their entire worldview into doubt.
Whether it’s The Mentor trying to force their student to learn a vital lesson, or a villain trying to reduce a hero to a wreck, or a hero trying to show a villain how wrong they’ve been all this time, or somebody desperately trying to force the kid on the sidelines to realize they are meant to do something. more, a good Armor Piercing Question either cuts directly to the heart of a person’s worldview, obsession, or psyche, or else forces the listener to confront unpleasant truths that they either didn’t want to face or didn’t even consider.
This sometimes translates into people using a continued line of questioning to upset or enlighten other characters. Among the most powerful forms of this is finding a single question and formulating it so the answer forces your target to face something difficult to admit, and keep pounding it. In this variant, the key is to find a question with an answer that cuts close to the bone and not let up.
May involve, but is not necessarily related to, Armor-Piercing Slap.
The Constantly Curious often comes up with an Armor-Piercing Question in total innocence, being, like many children, Too Dumb to Fool.
This is a real technique used in psychotherapy, education, religious groups, and debates; the Socratic method taken to its extreme, it’s occasionally known as the “Synanon Game”. Note that it’s usually not as effective as it is in fiction, especially when pointing out doublethink; one common reaction is to verbally attack the person causing the cognitive dissonance. Or the person may simply leave the discussion, or rationalize away the point, etc.
Super Trope to And Then What?, which is about a specific subset of armor-piercing question to make the target think about life beyond their plan.
Compare and contrast Armor-Piercing Response, when it’s a response (instead of a question) that brings the other guy to a shock. It can be used to answer an Armor-Piercing Question, but it’s just as likely to be used against an entirely innocent remark.