Created By: Xzenu on August 15, 2010 Last Edited By: Xzenu on August 20, 2010
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Life Will Kill You

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Rolling Updates * Do We Have This * Needs More Examples
  • Laconic: Your life is fragile, even in fiction
  • Indexes: Death Tropes

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.

Community Feedback Replies: 47
  • July 14, 2010
    Xzenu
    This is a spin-off from Jaywalking Will Ruin Your Life.
  • July 14, 2010
    Xzenu
    (Note: The urban legend has been told to me as a true story. Can someone confirm if it's true or legend?)
  • July 14, 2010
    Gringodingo
    Slipping on a banana-peel is an automatic "bullshit."
  • July 14, 2010
    Idler2.0
    Bobby Leach, who survived going over Niagra Falls in a barrel, supposedly died because he slipped on an orange peel.
  • July 14, 2010
    BlackDragon
    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.
  • July 14, 2010
    Cidolfas
    Any examples that aren't Real Life?
  • July 14, 2010
    Doug S. Machina
    It sounds a lot like Mundangerous.
  • July 14, 2010
    Koveras
    • 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.
  • July 14, 2010
    LeeM
    IIRC 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".
  • July 14, 2010
    callsignecho
  • July 15, 2010
    Tannhaeuser
    To be fair, Call Sign Echo, it's a little more than that -- it's "people survive the zombie invasion, then die choking on a ham sandwich." As I take it, the irony is the key element.

  • July 15, 2010
    MatthewTheRaven
    Laurence of Arabia also died in a road accident, on his motorcycle.
  • July 15, 2010
    BlackDragon
    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.
  • July 15, 2010
    Fanra
    Dead Like Me liked to do this trope.
  • July 15, 2010
    Reflextion
    • One episode of CSI (I forget the title of it, but it was the one where several cadavers at the morgue were "comparing notes" on their deaths... yeah) featured a Victim Of The Week who had survived an entire tour of duty in Iraq and just returned home to his wife and child, only to get stabbed at a gas station for no apparent reason the next day.
  • July 15, 2010
    Koveras
    For simplicity's sake, this trope should be defined as "A character dies in a minor accident after surviving in much more dangerous situations."
  • July 15, 2010
    Bisected8
    Another 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.
  • July 16, 2010
    Xzenu
    @callsignecho, Yes, the whole point of this trope is that in Real Life this is people sit on chairs - In fiction, it is NOT.

    Updated the description to highlight this, and wrote another example. Gotta go now, will categorize the other examples tonight or tomorrow.

  • July 16, 2010
    BlackMageJ
    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
  • July 16, 2010
    Koveras
    Just remembered: this seems to be the opposite of Death Is Dramatic.
  • July 16, 2010
    JonnyB
    Bugs Bunny reportedly once said, "Don't take life too seriously... you'll never get out alive anyway."
  • July 16, 2010
    randomsurfer
    A popular Jim Morrison biography is titled No One Here Gets Out Alive.
  • July 16, 2010
    callsignecho
    Ah so. In that case: In Snatch, Tony survives being shot six times in events before the movie takes place. He spends most of the movie establishing what a big, bad man he is, taking down gangsters and hitmen left and right. Then Avi (who barely knows one end of a gun from the other) takes him out with one shot. On accident.
  • July 23, 2010
    Xzenu
    What does IIRC mean? I assume it's not the name of the character.
  • July 23, 2010
    Bisected8
    If I Recall Correctly.
  • July 23, 2010
    Doug S. Machina
    From the OP: 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. [I'm talking about the 100% mortality rate article, anyone got a link?]

    Here you go: http://www.theonion.com/articles/world-death-rate-holding-steady-at-100-percent,1670/

    This still sounds a lot like Mundangerous. I think the examples her could just be added to that. But am I right?
  • August 12, 2010
    Koveras
    So, what's the status on this one?
  • August 12, 2010
    LeighSabio
  • August 12, 2010
    johnnye
    The Lawrence Of Arabia example doesn't really count, as it was a Deadly Distant Finale, long after he'd retired. Everyone has to die of something.

    How about Mundeadly as a specific subtrope of Mundangerous?
  • August 12, 2010
    Koveras
    ^^Dropped A Bridge On Him is about abrupt deaths without any build-up that happens out of blue. This is about a mundane death that hits a character after he braved improbable odds and survived.
  • August 12, 2010
    Vree
    • 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.
    • 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.

    Mundeath or something along those lines sounds good.
  • August 12, 2010
    Ghilz
    @callsignecho, Yes, the whole point of this trope is that in Real Life this is people sit on chairs - In fiction, it is NOT.

    Then why have a Real Life section at all?
  • August 12, 2010
    LeeM
    ^ Beats me. If we had real lives what would we be doing here?
  • August 13, 2010
    Specialist290
    In certain cases, this trope may sometimes overlap with Shoot The Shaggy Dog.
  • August 14, 2010
    Pickly
    It seem a Real Life section might be useful for people who regularly do something quite dangerous, than die by something quite boring or unexpected (So, for extreme examples of this trope). Unless the idea is covered by another trope already.
  • August 15, 2010
    Xzenu
    @johnnye: Yes, in real life everyone dies. In fiction, they normally do not. I can consider excluding cases that overlaps with Deadly Distant Finale, but only for the sake of reducing overlap. However, skimming through that page I didn't see one single overlap, it was all people dieing from old age, dramatic deaths and unspecified deaths. Our good Lawrence seem to be a very case, a DDF with a sudden and totally unexpected but yet undramatic death.

    @Ghilz: It's a Urban Legends section. Maybe I should remove the "(or maybe Real Life)" disclaimer, but I don't want to get any "but this isn't a legend, it really happened" natter. And I don't wnat good stories to get excluded for that same reason, either.

    @Pickly: Yes, that too. :-)

    @Koveras: Yes, either that or when there was no such danger in the first place. The character just dies unexpectedly.
  • August 15, 2010
    Koveras
    But unexpected character death is Dropped A Bridge On Him.
  • August 15, 2010
    Xzenu
    While both tropes are about unexpected death and can certainly overlap, there's a lot of difference.

    • Dropped A Bridge On Him is about anticlimax deaths, usually dramatic but un-heroic deaths of action-oriented characters. Getting shot in the back, getting a brigdge literally dropped on you.

    • Life Will Kill You is about how life is fragile and death is eventually unavoidable. It doesn't include action deaths at all (the example with someone getting shot in a firefight by someone who wasn't cool enough was NOT added). While DABOH goes hand in hand with Death Is Cheap, this trope is more about life being fragile and precious.

  • August 15, 2010
    randomsurfer
    • In the Buffy episode "Help" Cassie (a precog) states that she'll die the next day. Buffy & Co. save her from being sacrificed to a demon, thus preventing the death - but then she dies of heart failure.
    • In The Unusuals episode "42" Detective Banks has to keep saving a woman who forsees several bus robberies and tries to die during one (and tries again, and again, because Banks keeps saving her) because she believes she's fated to do so. He finally convinces her that you make your own fate, only for her to die in a bus crash at like 11:50pm.
  • August 15, 2010
    AlexRandom
    Would The Godfather count? Vito Corleone dies peacefully of old age while playing in the garden with his grandchild, after surviving two assassination attempts and a gang war (not to mention other risky situations shown in the prequel scenes of the second film). And of course, his son Michael who led an equally dangerous life also dies of old age at the end of the third part.
  • August 15, 2010
    amazinglyenough
    "On a long enough timeline, the survival rate for everyone drops to zero."
  • August 16, 2010
    Unknown Troper
    @Jonny B: I'm almost certain Bugs is quoting Mark Twain. Can anyone confirm?
  • August 16, 2010
    Ghilz
    Except it's not an Urban Legend section. Patton's cause of death is public knowledge and very easily verified. The same for Bobby Leach. It's not a urban legend when it's historical fact. Cut that section out, as it's simply bait for people to add whatever Real Life example they want. Then your good to launch.
  • August 16, 2010
    JackMackerel
    A man who had climbed Mount Everest fell off his ladder and cracked his head on the kitchen sink. Forgot who, but he was famous for it.
  • August 16, 2010
    randomsurfer
    @UT 70.45.51.113: According to this page it was an Elbert Hubbard quote. "Don't take life too seriously. You'll never get out alive."
  • August 16, 2010
    Ghilz
    But again, those aren't urban legends, they are historical facts. Either ALL Real Life examples are allowed, or none.
  • August 20, 2010
    Xzenu
    Okay. Launching, but ditching having any section(s) for Real Life. Urban Legends and/or History since it might be too much of a headache keeping them apart.

    Random Surfer: Added your The Unusuals example to You Cant Fight Fate instead. The Buffy example was already there.
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