Created By: ladyofprocrastination on June 25, 2012 Last Edited By: arbiter099 on August 13, 2016

Symbolically Broken Object

The destruction of an object represents the destruction of something more important

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Trope
Do We Have This One?, Needs More Examples

Something has been broken. It may be a spell, a relationship, a life. Whatever it is, it was important, and now it's been destroyed.

And so has something else.

An excellent way for a writer to demonstrate the destruction of something intangible is to break something tangible. The broken object could be anything, but the symbolism is usually obvious. When Bob and Alice break up, a picture of the two of them is destroyed. When Charlie dies, his prized possession is smashed to bits. When the Big Bad is defeated, his stronghold falls apart.

The extent of the damage to the Symbolically Broken Object frequently indicates the extent of the damage to the thing it symbolizes. If the object has been destroyed beyond repair, there's a good chance that the same is true of whatever else was broken. If the object can be repaired, so can the thing it smbolizes.

Frequently overlaps with Load-Bearing Boss, Insignia Rip-Off Ritual, and Wrecked Weapon.

Examples

Anime and Manga
  • When Asuma dies in Naruto, his girlfriend Kurenai's teacup breaks.
  • In Nana, the breaking of the strawberry glasses represents the breaking of contact between Nana K and Nana O

Film

Literature

Live Action TV

Music
  • In the blink-182 video for "Always", this happens to a vase of gladioli at the beginning of the video, symbolising the broken relationship between the guy(s) and the girl.

Theater
  • In The Glass Menagerie, one of Laura's glass animal figurines is broken by her "Gentleman Caller". The figure is a unicorn. Its horn breaks off, making it "just like all the other horses". It's symbolic of Laura herself, who is fragile and special and no one understands her.

Toys
  • BIONICLE: The Bohrok Online Animations begins with a storm over the Mata Nui rock, after which the rock shatters, representing the Bohrok coming to "cleanse" the island of Mata Nui.

Video Games
  • In Mortal Kombat 9 the cracked amulet represents Armageddon: the further it's cracked, the closer it is.

Western Animation
  • Happens twice in Brave: the tapestry Merida slices in anger explicitly represents the broken bond between her and her mother. Later, we see a carving of the four princes that has been similarly broken.
Community Feedback Replies: 43
  • June 25, 2012
    randomsurfer
    The Ten Commandments in The Ten Commandments. Oh, and in The Bible too.
  • June 25, 2012
    Duncan
    In The Glass Menagerie, one of Laura's glass animal figurines is broken by her "Gentleman Caller". The figure is a unicorn. Its horn breaks off, making it "just like all the other horses". It's symbolic of Laura herself, who is fragile and special and no one understands her. Currently listed under What Do You Mean Its Not Symbolic on the works page.
  • June 25, 2012
    DmM
    You could keep this thread going forever and not get all the examples... Of the top of my head:
    • Harry Potter And The Order Of The Phoenix: Sirius gives Harry a magic mirror that will allow them to communicate. Harry tries using it after Sirius' death but it doesn't work, so he throws it in his trunk and it smashes. It later becomes a Chekhovs Boomerang.
    • In the Blink182 video for "Always", this happens to a vase of gladioli at the beginning of the video, symbolising the broken relationship between the guy(s) and the girl.
  • June 25, 2012
    animeg3282
    In Nana , the breaking of the strawberry glasses represents the breaking of contact between Nana K and Nana O
  • June 25, 2012
    HeartOfAnAstronaut
    An episode of Sex And The City had an episode where Samantha gets her boyfriend a framed painting of a heart. His reluctance to hang it on his wall symbolises his inability to give her the commitment she wants, and later he smashes it... having broken her heart.
  • June 25, 2012
    KZN02
    BIONICLE: the Bohrok Online Animations begins with a storm over the Mata Nui rock, after which the rock shatters, representing the Bohrok coming to "cleanse" the island of Mata Nui.
  • June 25, 2012
    LordGro
    I think Wrecked Weapon is a subtrope.
  • June 25, 2012
    julyjack73
    In mortal kombat 9 the cracked amulet represents Armageddon, the further it's cracked, the closer it is.
  • June 25, 2012
    Polarbear2217
    Twilight Zone In "Time Enough At Last", Bemis' pocket-watch breaks right before the world explodes.

  • June 25, 2012
    Snowfly
    In [1], both Mami's teacup and saucer shatter and are further shown covered in blood, symbolizing her gruesome death by the witch Charlotte.
  • June 25, 2012
    JonnyB
    Related to Scale Model Destruction.

  • June 25, 2012
    Snowfly
    Sorry, I meant Puella Magi Madoka Magica.
  • June 25, 2012
    TonyG
    Pocahontas: As Kokoum is shot, he grasps at Pocahontas' necklace (which belonged to her mother) and it breaks off and falls to the floor in pieces, signifying how the shooting breaks relationships between the two sides and brings them to the brink of war.
  • June 27, 2012
    DmM
    In the The Magic School Bus Fan Fic The Life And Times Of The Fantasmic Four, just before she leaves Texas for university in North Carolina, Phoebe breaks the head off a toy dinosaur that her ex-boyfriend Arnold had given her in a Noodle Incident years before (later depicted in The Best Chrismukkah Ever) because she's upset that their relationship is over and that she ended it despite the fact that they both still loved each other.
  • June 27, 2012
    WhySoSerious
    Kind of sounds like a version of the Butterfly Effect (explanation provided on Wikipedia, of course). Maybe this should be included in the description somehow? Just a suggestion.
  • June 27, 2012
    WhySoSerious
    ^Whoops, forgot a link. [1]
  • June 27, 2012
    Frank75
    See also: Its All Junk
  • June 27, 2012
    JoeG
    In Lord Of The Flies, the destruction of the conch shell symbolizes the breakdown of civilization.
  • June 30, 2012
    Koveras
  • June 30, 2012
    MrInitialMan
    In Voyager, when Janeway has compromised her principles, the plaque ends up falling off the wall of the titular ship.
  • June 30, 2012
    DmM
    In the Series Finale of Friends, the replacement chick and duck Chandler bought for Joey get trapped inside Joey's foosball table. Joey and Chandler can't bring themselves to destroy the table, so Monica does. Given that Chandler is Joey's best friend and is moving to the suburbs with Monica, breaking up the close circuit of the six characters' lives, it's pretty symbolic.
  • June 30, 2012
    sgamer82
    • One Piece invokes this with the Vivre Card, a piece of paper linked to the condition of its owner/creator. It burns and dwindles if that person is weak or in danger, and returns to normal when he's healthy. When a character with a Vivre Card is Killed Off For Real, it's symbolized by the Vivre Card burning into nothing.
    • In the Doctor Who episode, "Father's Day", when Rose's father is hit by a car we don't see him hit but rather see the vase he's carrying fall to the ground and break. When Rose saves him, the vase falls but does not break.
  • July 2, 2012
    surgoshan
    • In Tad Williams's The War Of The Flowers, Mud Bug Button shows up on television and breaks a small stick. The goblin underclass of The City immediately begin rioting and revolting against their Faerie overlords because that stick was the physical manifestation of the treaty that kept them in subjugation.
  • July 2, 2012
    AgProv
    literature: in Terry Pratchett's Carpe Jugulum, Granny Weatherwax vacates her cottage, leaving everything neatly arranged by threes. Where she has a surplus fourth plate, it is broken and in the bin. Nanny Ogg works out that this is her way of telling the other witches the original three is no more - Granny is represented by the broken plate, whose time is past. The remaining witches have to form a new symbolic triad - Nanny Ogg as the Crone, Magrat Garlick as the Mother, Agnes Nitt as the Maiden.
  • July 2, 2012
    Hedgi
    Theater: In The Platform Kyle destroys the dream catcher that Agatha has been playing with. Not only does it call her, it symbolizes that the guilt she has carried, thinking she killed her son, has also been destroyed.
  • July 2, 2012
    Ghilz
    • In The Lord Of The Rings, the health of the White Tree of Gondor is generally representative of the health of the kingdom. The tree has died multiple times, to be replaced by a sapling when the kingdom flourished anew. The first tree died when Minas Ithil was taken by Sauron. The second tree died during the great plague. The third tree died as Gondor was kingless, and no sapling could be found, the dead tree was left in the courtyard as Gondor weakened with the passing Age. When Aragorn becomes king at the end of the trilogy, he plants a new White Tree, a Sapling he found, and the dead tree was placed in the Tombs of the Kings with the honors of a dead monarch.
      • The White Tree's forefather, Nimloth in Numenor, was destroyed by loyalist to Sauron as a sacrifice to Melkor, which was a sign of how far the Numenoreans had been corrupted.
  • April 23, 2016
    DAN004
    Compare Reality Changing Miniature when one can make the change intentionally with an object that's meant as a representative of a bigger thing.
  • April 26, 2016
    69BookWorM69
    I seem to recall part of the funeral rituals for kings and princes in England in the Middle Ages (into the early Tudor period, I think) included household officers breaking their staves of office and dropping the pieces in the grave to symbolize the end of their service to that particular prince. Not sure offhand when that started and when it ended (assuming it has).
  • April 26, 2016
    tropesinreadiness
    Three of The Four Gospels say that when Jesus died on the cross, the sanctuary curtain in the Holy Temple in Jerusalem was torn in half. (Unsurprisingly, given the vast array of different denominations and traditions, readers often disagree on exactly what the destruction is meant to symbolize.)
  • April 26, 2016
    Pichu-kun
    This covers eye-glasses, right? I don't think we have a trope for breaking glasses.
  • April 26, 2016
    Pichu-kun
    Double post
  • April 26, 2016
    iNfiniTeSe7eNz
    Puella Magi Madoka Magica: When Mami is killed by Charlotte, a shattered teacup is shown afterwards. The Compilation Movie takes this further by showing her Soul Gem shatter. Soul Gems shattering is also indicative of the death of a magical girl, or transformation into a witch.
  • April 26, 2016
    KTera
    Also see Tattered Flag.
  • April 26, 2016
    Tuckerscreator
    In Halo 4, Master Chief and his rapidly-deteriorating AI Cortana work together to destroy the Big Bad's starship. They succeed in the end, but it takes the last of Cortana's strength to save Chief, even though he was adamant she'd be cured soon. As she vanishes, the starship is seen falling to pieces behind him, representative of his shattered worldview.
  • April 27, 2016
    FerrousFaucet
    In the example for The Lion The Witch And The Wardrobe, what does the broken table symbolize?

    Also I think The Ten Commandments example should be reworded. Is it meant to say that the stone tablets literally broke to represent the commandments that were broken (which were inscribed on the tablets)?
  • April 27, 2016
    Pichu-kun
    • In Bokura No Hentai, when Tamura broke off ties with his abusive ex-crush he smashed his glasses after calling him out.
  • April 28, 2016
    Aubren
    • In Western Animation/Wander Over Yonder, Dominator destroying a heart-shaped planet represents breaking Hater's heart.
  • April 29, 2016
    DAN004
    Compare Dead Hat Shot
  • April 29, 2016
    shadowbeast
    Robotech/Macross: the protagonist is sitting in hospital amusing himself with a miniature biplane, when told his friend/squadron leader is dead. Cue dramatic slow-mo shot of the biplane falling to the floor and breaking.
  • August 9, 2016
    DAN004
    Compare Dying For Symbolism, this trope applied to living people.
  • August 13, 2016
    69BookWorM69
  • August 13, 2016
    69BookWorM69
    Also according to The Other Wiki, state funerals in the U.K. include a household official (such as the Lord Chamberlain), breaking a staff of office at the graveside to symbolize the end of service to the dead person.
  • August 13, 2016
    oneuglybunny
    Western Animation
    • Disney's adaptation of Edgar Rice Burroughs' Tarzan has Kala the ape lead Tarzan to the treehouse where Tarzan was found as an infant. On the floor, Tarzan finds a photograph in a broken frame with cracked glass of three humans: himself as an infant, his father and his mother. The vicious leopard Sabor had killed Tarzan's parents, leaving only himself for Kala to rescue and adopt.
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