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Spencer: "I toldja, its like an turning an old lamp into a chandelier"
—Half & Half

A commoner (or poor person) is thrust into rich culture for whatever reasons, but without becoming rich themselves. Most commonly, it will be a poor student who receives a scholarship to a prestigious school, or a commoner hired to work as a butler/maid for someone rich. Usually the story is portrayed from the view of the commoner. Contrast Rags to Riches, where the commoner becomes rich but may still face taunts and derision from those with OldMoney.

This is a Super-Trope of Princess for a Day and Scholarship Student. Sub-trope of Fish Out of Water. Also see Mock Millionaire.

Examples of Penny Among Diamonds include:


Anime & Manga

Fanfic

  • A Sailor Moon fic has Minako attend a fancy Christmas party with her rich boyfriend, try to fit in, and fail miserably due to her clumsy social skills and the other party attendants' judgmental behavior. She ends up leaving the party in tears, thinking a common girl like her isn't worthy of someone as rich, handsome, and popular as her boyfriend. Luckily, the boy reassures her that he fell in love with her beautiful heart and sunshiny demeanor, and that he'd rather marry for love than do what his rich peers say he should.
  • Many a Fire Emblem fanfic loves this trope, especially when it comes to royalty and nobility marrying below their station. The lower-station character will often angst about being too common and dull for rich, fancy society.
    • Lyndis's canon anxieties about fitting in among noble society in FE7 are amplified, used as a vehicle for hurt/comfort or drama.

Film

Literature

  • Jo's Boys (the second sequel to Little Women) musician Nat goes to Europe for school. Due to having wealthy and influential friends everyone thinks that he's wealthy and influential as well. Too bad he's an orphan who spent a number of years as a street musician, and thus has little idea of how to handle money. Cue the nineteenth century version of a Credit Card Plot.
  • The Great Gatsby is the Trope Codifier, especially since F. Scott Fitzgerald was an example of a Real Life version of this Trope.
    • The author himself may count as an example, but none of the characters in this book actually fit. Gatsby himself is Nouveau Riche amongst a bunch of people from Old Money families, while the narrator is personally a bit poor (by upper class standards), but he has only just set out on his own and still has support from his wealthy family.
  • The Kiki Strike series has Ananka, who subverts this as well as Scholarship Student. At her elite private school, where there are a lot of actual scholarship girls, Ananka is the outsider because one of her relatives left the family money that can only be spent on education and nothing else. So she is neither a scholarship student or rich enough to fit in.
  • In the Private series, Reed is a Scholarship Student at the elite Easton Academy. Many of the girls hate her for becoming a Billings Girl despite being at the school on scholarship.

Live Action TV

  • Gilmore Girls: Rori goes to a private high school and Yale thanks to some funding from her grandparents, but her family remains rather poor.
  • The Nanny: The entire show revolves around Fran Fine leaving Flushing to become the nanny for a rich Broadway producer's children.
  • The Fresh Prince of Bel Air revolves entirely around a West-Philadelphia-born-and-raised hoodrat named Will catapulted into his rich Aunt and Uncle's Bel Air community, resulting in many humorous moments as he finds himself at odds with the townspeople and characters, socially and financially.

Tabletop Games

  • The core book for Hunter: The Vigil mentions that Ashewood Abbey will, once a year, take in a vagrant and give them the good life. If they prove decadent enough, the Abbey extends membership - and, presumably, keeps them buoyed.

Theatre

Video Games

  • Final Fantasy XII: Vaan and Penelo are poor orphans who go on an adventure with Ashe (The queen of Rabanastre, who's on the run) and Balthier (formerly a Judge of the Arcadian Empire)
  • Delita starts as this in Final Fantasy Tactics. Arguably Rags to Riches (to tragedy) by the end.
  • The Officers' Academy in Fire Emblem: Three Houses has mostly young nobles as their students, but there are some commoner ones as well. The biggest example is Dorothea Arnault, the only commoner in the Black Eagles house; the Blue Lions have Ashe Hubert, Dedue Molinaro and Mercedes von Martritz (though she's a Fallen Princess), whereas the Golden Deer have Raphael Kirsten, Ignatz Victor and Leonie Pinelli.

Western Animation

  • Family Guy: one episode has Chris sent to a prestigious school with some influence from his grandfather, but he is teased as he still doesn't actually have any money. The rest of the family all take on part-time jobs to pay for his tuition.
  • The Simpsons: When Marge buys a designer dress at a discount and gets invited to a country club.
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