Karmic Nod
Accepting that you have received karmic retribution for a previous misdeed


(permanent link) added: 2013-07-17 07:16:48 sponsor: yisfidri (last reply: 2013-10-26 13:35:24)

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Laser-Guided Karma can be hard to accept if you are on the receiving end of it. Sometimes, however, a character who has committed anything from a minor misdeed to outright villainy shows a surprising stroke of humility and wisdom in the face of misfortune, and openly (verbally or non-verbally) accepts that it is a fair retribution.

The experience of this karmic retribution may also be sufficiently harrowing to the character to bring about an upheaval and of their self-image and priorities, eventually leading to acceptance and a change of heart. In this case, the trope may coincide with Redemption Equals Affliction and/or The Atoner.

Simply being made aware of receiving karmic retribution is not sufficient for this trope; the character must be shown to resign himself or herself to it.

A character exhibiting this trope could be seen as the equivalent of Graceful Loser where the victor is not another person but Karma or fate. May be related to Being Good Sucks, and can overlap with Redemption Equals Death and Face Death with Dignity.


Examples

Film
  • In Drive Angry Milton acknowledges that he has done some very bad things in his life and deserved going to Hell after death.
  • In The Green Mile, Paul Edgcomb accepts that even though he doesn't want to, he will live long enough to experience a lot more sorrow and loss, as a punishment for unwillingly executing John Coffey.
    Paul: Elaine you'll die, too. And my curse is knowing that I'll be there to see it. It's my atonement, you see it's my punishment for lettin' John Coffey ride the lightning. For killing a miracle of God. You'll be gone like all the others, and I'll have to stay. Oh, I'll die eventually; of that, I'm sure. I have no illusions of immortality. But I will have wished for death long before Death finds me. In truth, I wish for it already.
  • In Machete, Machete disposes of one of the main bad guys. When the dying villain asks where his wife and daughter are, Machete replies "with God" (they're actually in a church). He laments that he won't be seeing them again, clearly accepting where he'll be going instead after all his crimes.
  • In Nine Dead, nine people are locked up in a room by a mysterious captor and told to figure out what brought them there or he'll kill one of them every ten minutes.
    • Coogan admits that he's a child molester, and the others say that he deserves to die for his crimes. He's self aware enough to admit that's probably true, but asks the others what they did to deserve a death sentence, leaving them wondering.
    • When the captor kills one of the prisoners, the prisoner taunts him with a See You in Hell boast. The captor simply replies "I know".
  • At the end of The Departed, Colin Sullivan's reaction to his imminent death is a resigned "Okay."

Literature
  • In Brilliance of the Moon from Tales of the Otori, Kenji submits that losing his daughter was his punishment for betraying Takeo and Shigeru, the latter to his death.
  • In The Red Lion, Cornelius calmly accepts that Ernst is about to come and kill him, in the same way that his previous incarnation killed Rochard.
  • In The Two Towers, a dying Boromir confesses his failure to Aragorn, and how he "has paid" for it with his life.
    Boromir: I tried to take the Ring from Frodo. I am sorry. I have paid.
  • Chapter 37 of Tess of the d'Urbervilles, just before Tess and Angel part ways:
    Tess: I agree to the conditions, Angel; because you know best what my punishment ought to be; only - only - don't make it more than I can bear!"

Live-Action TV
  • This is the impetus for The List on My Name Is Earl, when Earl learned about the concept of Karma as he is in the hospital recuperating from being hit by a car.
  • Denna has a moment in the 2009 episode "Bloodline" from Legend of the Seeker:
    Denna: I deserve my punishment and more. Release me and I'll show you such pleasure that all will be forgiven.
  • In Kaijudo Rise Of The Duel Masters, Alakshmi, after she was Made a Slave by the Fire Civilisation, mentions that she suspects this is a punishment for her evil deeds.
  • In Doctor Who "The Impossible Astronaut" after River Song sees the Doctor do something terrible, she runs into his 200-year younger self (time travel and all) and slaps him hard.
    Doctor: OK. I'm assuming that's for something I haven't done yet.
    River: Yes, it is.
    Doctor: Good, looking forward to it.
  • Angel, "Damage:" Spike runs into a psychotic Slayer who cuts his hands off, believeing him to be the man who had killed her family and kidnapped her when she was a little girl. He takes it philosophically.
    The lass thought I killed her family. And I'm supposed to what, complain 'cause hers wasn't one of the hundreds of families I did kill?
  • Discussed by the wise guys in The Sopranos. Cristopher is conflicted because when he nearly died he had a dream where he found himself in Hell, but Paulie corrects him and claims that he was in Purgatory. He further states that they'll probably have to spend several hundred years in torment for their crimes before going to Heaven, highlighting how the mobsters still fundamentally see themselves as good guys.
  • In the Babylon 5 TV movie In the Beginning Londo comments that he knows his sins, and the price he will eventually pay for them.
    • Contrast his attitude there with himself years earlier. Keep in mind this is after he's pretty much started a couple of wars.
    Londo: The Universe hates me for some reason. I do not know why, I have not done anything to the Universe. (Nearby, G'Kar rolls his eyes) Alright, maybe a few things, but after a while you would think it would be enough!

Religion

Theatre
  • From Oscar Wilde's Lady Windermere's Fan, Mrs Erlynne considers herself punished once again for her behavior when she was younger, by having to observe her daughter do the same.
    Mrs Erlynne: (reading a letter) Oh, how terrible! The same words that twenty years ago I wrote to her father! and how bitterly I have been punished for it! No; my punishment, my real punishment is to-night, is now!

Video Games
  • Planescape: Torment ends with the Nameless One accepting death, willing to pay the price for the countless deaths that have fueled his immortality. The last we see of him is in Hell, witnessing an ongoing conflict of the Blood War.

Visual Novels
  • Dangan Ronpa: After the class correctly accuses Owada of murdering Fujisaki, his Villainous Breakdown is most sympathetic, to the point that it was cut from the anime entirely. He puts up very little defense, fully accepting his punishment because he believes he should atone for his actions.

Web Comics

Western Animation
  • In the Futurama episode "300 Big Boys", Bender steals a very expensive cigar. As the other stories resolve themselves at the end, Bender has the nagging feeling that something is missing. When the police arrest him for the theft, he triumphantly shouts, "All right! Closure!"

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