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Indexes: Death Tropes
, Speculative Fiction Tropes
, Tropes of the Soul
This trope covers situations when a person is treated as effectively dead and gone
even though their body is still physically alive. This is generally because the "person" has been erased in some way. This can cover mild examples (like memory loss
) or more serious examples (like Loss of Identity
or damage to the soul
). It can occur accidentally or through happenstance (e.g. illness or injury), maliciously (e.g. being assimilated by The Virus
) or punitively (A number of Speculative Fiction
settings use mind-wiping and personality overwriting as a form of capital punishment). This trope and its subtropes are often treated as a Fate Worse Than Death
or a means of making someone Deader Than Dead
Subtropes (examples of which should go on their relevant page) include;
, who is merely treated as if they no longer (or never did) exist. Compare Mind Control
, which usually just force a person to act differently without damaging their personality.
As a Death Trope, all spoilers will be unmarked ahead. Beware.
Anime and Manga
- This is the ultimate fate of Dream in The Sandman. Dream is one of the Endless, who are practically living ideas, so they can't die in the true sense of the word. After having Mercy Killed his son, Orpheus, Dream gets killed by the Furies, whose job is to punish those who murder their own kin. However, he's reborn in a new form, who then continues to do his precessors work. So the idea called Dream keeps on living, but the character everyone knew as him is dead.
- In ElfQuest, this is effectively the fate of One-Eye's body when he is killed in the prelude to The Palace War. After Leetah tries to heal him and only manages to heal his empty, soulless body, it is kept in Preserver webbing for many years until his lifemate, Clearbrook, accepts that he's not coming back and so cuts the webbing and allows his body to die.
- In Man of Steel, this occurs when all Kryptonians other than Zod and Superman are defeated. In the film, Kryptonians are genetically-engineered for one purpose, and when that purpose ends, so does any meaning in their lives. In this case, Zod immediately loses all sanity he had left and declares that his only purpose now is to make Superman and the humans he loves suffer as much as he possibly can before killing every last one and reducing the planet to dust.
- The sequel to The Never Ending Story has The Emptiness slowly do this to Bastien by erasing his memories.
- Happens in WALL•E after Eve repairs him from near-fatal damage. He appears to lose all his memory and personality, until she "kisses" him with an electric spark.
- In Brave, Merida and Elinor must Race Against the Clock to break the spell that gave Elinor a bear's body or she will lose her humanity and become like any other non-sentient bear.
Live Action Television
- The local police chief in the Alex Benedict series was originally a serial killer who had had his memory overwritten. It's a Red Herring, by the way: the apparent Chekhov's Gun never goes off.
- M.C.A. Hogarth's Jokka are susceptible to the "minddeath" when they experience physical trauma or heatstroke. Females are most vulnerable but even hardy neuters may fall victim.
- Inversion: In the Discworld series, the Auditors are the supernatural bureaucrats of the Cosmos. They begin as grey soul-less entities; for them, to develop a recognisable personality and individual self-awareness is death. They forgot this when a group of them decided it would be a good idea to adopt human bodies, so as to tidy creation up from the inside...
- In the Chronicles of Chaos by John C. Wright, this is referenced by Vanity, upon learning that all of them are Uranians (or Titans) and prisoners of war of the Olympians, who had their memories erased, forced into human bodies, and raised as such she cries that they commited murder by making them forget their true selves.
- Babylon 5:
- In the episode "The Quality of Mercy" a serial killer is sentenced to Death of Personality, because he's considered too dangerous to ship back to Earth and military law only allows spacing in cases of mutiny and treason.
- The punishment is deconstructed in the episode "Passing Through Gethsemane" when one of an order of monks living on the station is horrified to find out he's actually a convicted serial killer who was mind wiped and reprogrammed with a personality inclined to do service. When his detention center had a fire he got lost, and eventually found his way to the monks.
- An episode of Law & Order: SVU ends with Munch's clinically depressed uncle comes off his medication to "kill" himself as penance for murdering a suspect while in a mania caused as a side effect of his medication.
- Vampires in Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel are humans who have died and had their soul replaced by a demon. This means that the person themselves is dead, even though the demon in question has all their memories and often believes they are the original.
- This happens several times on The Twilight Zone:
- In Nervous Man in a Four Dollar Room, a cowardly criminal is confronted by his better self, on the other side of a mirror. Eventually the other personality takes over. This is a rare example of this trope being a Happy Ending.
- In The Lateness of the Hour, a woman discovers that she is actually a robot. Unable to cope, she goes mad and her "parents" reprogram her as a maid, effectively destroying her personality.
- The Cybermen from Doctor Who. People who are transformed into Cybermen are stripped of all personality and individuality, becoming soulless killers. Once a human is transformed, they're considered dead and all that can be done is to destroy the Cyberman.
- Shadowrun. When an insect spirit possesses a human being it overwrites and destroys the human's personality with its own. If the spirit achieves a "Good Merge" it can keep the original personality's memories and use them to impersonate the victim.