Life Will Kill You


(permanent link) added: 2010-08-15 10:10:37 sponsor: Xzenu (last reply: 2010-08-20 14:34:19)

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  • Laconic: Your life is fragile, even in fiction
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Life will kill you, in the end we're all gonna die
Life will kill you, it doesn't matter how hard you try
Life will kill you, even if you don't give a damn
What part of your own death is it you don't understand?
Clawfinger, Life Will Kill You

Lets face it, Anyone Can Die. We are all One Hit Point Wonders in a game with All Deaths Final. But we don't want to believe that, do we?

In stories, characters are usually protected from this. They tend to live Happily Ever After. If they do die, it's in a murder or disaster or big disease or something. Whatever, as long as it's something spectacular or dramatic or at least surreal, something that we don't have to worry so much that it could happen to ourselves.

There are exceptions, however. Sometimes death is sudden and mundane and comes for no good reason. A sudden brain aneurysm, quietly drown or suffocate while unconscious, any simple accident. While a Life Will Kill You death is very undramatic in itself, it's always very dramatic on a emotional level.

Sometimes this is contrasted to the character having lived trough much worse before something mundane got dangerous to a fatal level, and sometimes not. The character does NOT have to be heroic or powerful in any way, it's enough that the character lived in a setting that wasn't clearly marked Anyone Can Die. Since the trope is about how death is portrayed, it can in special cases (see the The Onion example) also cover deaths caused by aging or whatever.

Sometimes played as An Aesop about appreciating your loved ones while you still have them.

Contrast Death Is Dramatic and Death Is Cheap. Contrast Dropped a Bridge on Him, which usually is violent and/or takes death lightly. Compare Deadly Distant Finale and Shoot the Shaggy Dog.

In the interest of avoiding debates on what really happened, Real Life examples for this trope are lumped together with Urban Legends examples.

Warning: This is a death trope, so expect spoilers.

Examples

Film
  • In Sliding Doors, one of the main character is just standing there, having what would have perhaps been the most important conversation in a long and happy life. Suddenly a car runs over her. Downer Ending in one timeline, but it is indicated that the trauma of her own death helps her to get a happy ending in the other timeline.
  • Laurence of Arabia portrayed the protagonist as a great brave hero. After all his dangerous adventures however, he died in a road accident on his motorcycle.

Literature
  • In the first Erast Fandorin novel, Count Zurov tells the protagonist about a friend he had once, an army officer who participated in the most brutal fights but died in the peacetime of an accidental alcohol poisoning.
  • In Mikhail Lermontov's A Hero of Our Time, the final chapter concerns an army officer who shot himself in the head on a bet to prove there is no destiny (the pistol jammed), and then was killed by a drunk Cossack a few hours later.
  • A character in one of Katherine Kurtz's Deryni novels survives numerous conflicts and then dies after slipping on a stone staircase. One of his disbelieving friends cries "death should be more difficult".
  • Discworld: One of the seven barbarian heroes chronicled in Interesting Times dies from...Choking on a cucumber. This is what urges the rest of the group to seek a more glorious death for themselves (even though they have effectively settled down at the end of the previous book) in The Last Hero.

Live-Action TV
  • Common in Dead Like Me.
  • One episode of CSI ("Ending Happy" was the title) consists of a guy who suffered a Rasputinian Death. After surviving being poisoned (by seafood to which he was alergic), shot in the throat by a crossbow, beaten with a crowbar and poisoned again (this time by snake venom) he sits down by a pool, then falls in and drowns when the chair (which he refused to repair earlier in the flashback) collapses.
  • Referenced in the Firefly episode The Message, where the titular message from one of Mal's old war buddies includes him saying "We went to war never looking to come back, but it's the real world I couldn't survive". Subverted somewhat in that he's not actually dead, and while he does get himself killed by the end of the episode, it's not a mundane death
  • In Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Buffy's mother is simply dead one day. While the audience shouldn't be surprised by a death, it was totally unexpected that she died like that. [[Spolier: One episode ends with Buffy coming home, and her mother is unconscious on the floor. The next episode is called "The Body", and quickly reveals that it was a simple aneurysm - just like the brain problem she was recently cured of.]]

Urban Legends (or maybe Real Life)
  • A British world war flying ace survived all the air battles. But after the war he died on a peaceful afternoon walk: He slipped on a banana peel, hit the back of his head in the pavement, and died instantly from the brain damage.
  • Bobby Leach, who survived going over Niagra Falls in a barrel, supposedly died because he slipped on an orange peel.
  • General George S. Patton survived World War II, defeating the worst that Nazi Germany could throw at him. In 1945 the war won, he's heading out on a pheasant-hunting trip with a few friends, when his Cadillac collides with a truck at extremely low speeds. The car's barely dented, the other passnegers didn't get a scratch... Patton is thrown forwards by the impact, hits his head on a metallic bit of partition, and snaps his spinal-cord. Paralyzed from the neck down, he dies a few weeks later.

Video Games
  • In Disgaea, it's mentioned that the previous Overlord, Laharl's father, an incredibly powerful demon who'd taken on the worst that Heaven and Hell could throw at him and won died... from choking on a pretzel. Or maybe not.
  • Fallout: The "bad ending" for Junktown has town villain Gizmo taking charge and becoming an untouchable crime boss, until suffocating because of an iguana-on-a-stick finally he had eaten finally kills him.

Web Original
  • In this article in The Onion, all death is treated as totally unexpected, with people being surprised and horrified that peoplee actually can die from aging.

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