[[quoteright:255:[[WesternAnimation/TheLordOfTheRings http://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/gandalf_3354.jpg]]]]
[[caption-width-right:255:When the Grey has to die for the sake of the White.]]

Let's say that you are watching a movie, and that the world is plunging into chaos. Of course the world is going to hell, but throughout all of it the main character's friend is still as hopeful and optimistic as ever. Eventually the main character feels that there is no hope left, and that the world is essentially over. How do the creators of the movie decide to show this? Well, sorry good buddy, you are about to be killed.

Essentially, this boils down to when a creator wants to convey some symbolism, and in order to do so someone either dies, is severely injured, falls ill, etc. It can apply to any character who happens to symbolize something. Insane character sacrifices themselves, means sanity is restored. Optimistic character falls into a coma, means optimism is wearing very thin, and so on. Death is often a popular option, due to being a somewhat safe bet to make an impact while not requiring being totally original. The character may die in the CrucifiedHeroShot, often when their death represents something positive. It seems like whenever symbolism needs to be conveyed, someone simply has to be attacked or killed.

Examples often symbolize something of the work or an aspect of it, be it an event, change in character, or even the franchise itself, though it can reach outside these boundaries. They are deliberate as well, so don't look to far into works lest you find faux-examples as in WhatDoYouMeanItsNotDidactic? They are meant to be fully intentional, and occasionally WordOfGod can confirm so. RuleOfSymbolism may be employed in order to convey the symbol, especially in more abstract works.

See also ItsAllJunk, a very similar trope relating to the destruction of objects.
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!!Examples:

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[[folder: Anime & Manga ]]
* ''[[Anime/NeonGenesisEvangelion End of Evangelion]]'' Really, all of these are up to anybody's guess, but [[spoiler: Kaworu's death possibly represents the death of Shinji's sanity, Asuka's death could mean the death of Shinji's hope, Misato's death could represent the death of Shinji's love (Gendou might count), and the god-like Rei's death at the end is symbolic of who knows what.]] This movie is virtually the definition of Mind Screw, so you may have a different interpretation.
* Slightly more literal in ''Webcomic/AxisPowersHetalia'' - the characters ''are'' the nations, so the death of a character is the fall of a nation (e.g. Rome). If the nation gets into dire straits (economic crisis, social strife etc.), the nation gets sick.
* In ''Manga/{{Bleach}}'', Aizen tries to kill Head Captain Yamamoto (regarded as the history of Soul Society) to symbolise the defeat of the Gotei 13. He fails. [[spoiler: However, later on, Yhwach succeeds where Aizen failed and does indeed kill Yamamoto to symbolise the defeat and destruction of the Gotei 13.]]
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[[folder:Fanfiction]]
* An in-universe example: In the ''Fanfic/EmpathTheLuckiestSmurf'' mini-story "The Only Begotten Son", Tapper points out the similarities between Empath's "death" as an infant and Jesus' death on the cross in that both deaths have resulted in bringing forth many to become adopted children -- with Jesus' death, the humans becoming adopted children of God, and with Empath's "death", his fellow Smurfs becoming adopted children of Papa Smurf.
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[[folder: Film ]]
* Spock's death in ''Film/StarTrekIITheWrathOfKhan'' is supposed to symbolise that sometimes it's impossible to TakeAThirdOption, in the film's continuing deconstruction of TheKirk.
* In ''{{Film/Junebug}}'' [[spoiler: Ashley losing her baby]] marks the end of the underlying tensions in the family. The death prompts repressed emotions to come out - and [[spoiler: Johnny asks Ashley if they can try again]], symbolising how their old HighSchoolSweethearts romance is gone [[spoiler: but there is a chance for them to start over]].
* ''Film/NightOfTheLivingDead1968'' killing off [[spoiler: Tom and Judy]] marks the start of the zombies overpowering the protagonists. Other characters start dying soon after.
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[[folder:{{Literature}}]]
* ''Literature/TheLordOfTheRings''': Gandalf's sacrifice to save the party marks the nadir of the hero's morale, his death symbolises the progress of evil forces in Middle Earth, and his resurrection and color upgrade (from Gandalf the Grey to Gandalf the White) announces the necessity, at the end of the opus, for the hero to go meet death at the Grey Havens.
* ''Literature/LordOfTheFlies'' The makeshift society gradually goes into chaos, and when Simon dies, it represents the death of the innocence of the kids on the island.
** Even more powerful is Piggy's death. Simon's death was sort of an accident. Piggy's death shatters any remnant of civilized order among the boys and represents the death of reason.
* In ''[[Literature/{{Deryni}} Camber of Culdi]]'', Cathan [=MacRorie=], Master of Culdi and Camber's heir, begs his king to release the human hostages taken after a tyrannical Deryni lord is murdered. Cathan is Deryni, but he argues for the common humanity and innocence of the hostages. Later, Cathan is literally [[spoiler: stabbed in the back]].
* Hedwig's death in the ''Literature/HarryPotter'' series is supposed to represent the death of what remains of Harry's childhood.
** [[spoiler: Harry's sacrifice]] itself is a symbol of Jesus' death, if the series is compared to Irish Catholicism, which J.K. Rowling is part of.
* There's a pretty direct example in ''Literature/ClocksThatDontTick''. Guess what happens when Hope (The girl) dies? Hope (the concept) dies as well.
* Don Quixote's death signifies the death of Chivalry.
* ''Literature/GoneWithTheWind'': Scarlett arrives home after fleeing the burning Atlanta to find that her mother has died and father has [[TheLostLenore lost his mind because of it]]. This marks the true end of Scarlett's pampered, privileged life and how she'll have to take charge to provide for Tara.
* ''Literature/ALittlePrincess'' has Sara being given news that her father has died of BrainFever. This results in her losing all her wealth and being reduced to working as a servant. It symbolises the end of her childhood too, as she begins to grow up throughout the story.
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[[folder:Theatre]]
* In Shakespeare's ''Theatre/{{Macbeth}}'', Banquo is more conscientious than Macbeth and tends to point out what Macbeth ought to be doing. After Macbeth [[JumpingOffTheSlipperySlope Jumps Off The Slippery Slope]], he has Banquo killed; this represents the loss of Macbeth's moral conscience.
* ''Theatre/KingLear'' features a major character death in Cornwall at the end of Act 3. It symbolises the kingdom slowly unravelling through the madness that has ensued, as it coincides with Edmund taking charge, [[spoiler: the two sisters turning on each other and Albany finally standing up for himself]]. Cordelia also returns to the play after this scene.
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[[folder:{{Videogames}}]]
* In ''VideoGame/{{Metal Gear Solid 4|Guns of the Patriots}}'', Solid Snake's advanced aging and [[spoiler:terminal illness (ending the game knowing he will die in a few months)]] is used to hammer home the creator's message that the series is a FranchiseZombie.
* ''VideoGame/FinalFantasyXII'' - having to fight and kill [[spoiler: Vossler]] in battle symbolises that Ashe really will have to lead LaResistance on her own if she wants to become queen.
* In ''VideoGame/RedDeadRedemption'' [[spoiler:Marston's death is there to reflect the end of the Wild West and the inevitable turn towards civilization.]]
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