Death of Personality
This trope covers situations when a person is treated as effectively dead and gone even though their body is still physically alive. This is generally because the "person" has been erased in some way. This can cover mild examples (like memory loss) or more serious examples (like Loss of Identity or damage to the soul). It can occur accidentally or through happenstance (e.g. illness or injury), maliciously (e.g. being assimilated by The Virus) or punitively (Speculative Fiction settings often use mind-wiping and personality overwriting as a form of capital punishment). This trope and its subtropes are often treated as a Fate Worse Than Death or a means of making someone Deader Than Dead. Yet some of the following methods are reversible; an amnesiac could remember everything, a possessing entity could be given the boot, Fake Memories could be recognized as fake. So treat these as "death" only if no such reversal occurs. Subtropes (examples of which should go on their relevant page) include:
- Assimilation Plot: A plan which revolves around doing this to everyone.
- The Assimilator: A specific character or creature who can do this. You lose your individuality to the Hive Mind in the process.
- Blank Slate: When the person's lost all their experiences and memories.
- Brainwashing for the Greater Good: This trope is generally why it's portrayed as a bad thing.
- Clone by Conversion: When someone is "killed" by being turned into a copy of someone else.
- Cybernetics Eat Your Soul: When this is caused by have machinery integrated with your body.
- Empty Shell: When the whole personality's gone, essentially leaving a p-zombie.
- Fake Memories: If there are enough of them.
- Grand Theft Me: Something destroys the old personality out and replaces it.
- Split Personality Takeover: When a second personality "kills" or overwhelms them from within the same mind (rather than coming from outside the person).
- Lobotomy: Surgical removal of the personality.
- Loss of Identity: When one's very identity is forcibly taken from them in some way.
- Scatterbrained Senior: When played for drama, how a person will begin to forget their loved one's names and who they are as their memory dies.
- The Mind Is a Plaything of the Body: In particularly extreme cases.
- Technically Living Zombie: At least the mindless variety.
- That Man Is Dead: When what's left of the "dead" person spells it out.
open/close all folders
Anime and Manga
- In the original Ghost in the Shell manga there's a mention that the penalty faced by the Criminal of the Week for "ghost-dubbing" is "death or mindwipe".
- Male Shiki's "death" in Kara no Kyoukai.
- A Certain Magical Index:
- Touma Kamijou lost his memories in the first arc. The only thing he retained was his Chronic Hero Syndrome. The original Touma returned Index's love note while present Touma is mystified that everyone thinks he would be attracted to a little girl.
- The amoral psychopath Teitoku Kakine practically gets erased from existence when his creation, the kind and gentle Beetle 05, takes over his body.
- In Letter Bee Gauche Suede lost his "heart" and becomes Noir. He eventually gets better though. Maybe.
- In Claymore, Priscilla is diced to pieces by Clare's Quicksword. While she is able to recover physically, the experience destroyed her mentally. Teresa claims that "Priscilla" is effectively already dead, and all that is left of her is a body driven by mindless hatred.
- In most incarnations of Digimon, the titular Mons are reverted to eggs upon death. However, they don't always retain their memories or personalities upon hatching despite their body surviving in some form through the process. In Digimon Savers, the protagonist is warned that this is likely to happen to his partner Digimon following the use of a Deadly Upgrade. It doesn't. Agumon remembers everything.
- This is the ultimate fate of Dream in The Sandman. Dream is one of the Endless, who are practically living ideas, so they can't die in the true sense of the word. After having Mercy Killed his son, Orpheus, Dream gets killed by the Furies, whose job is to punish those who murder their own kin. However, he's reborn in a new form, who then continues to do his predecessor's work. So the idea called Dream keeps on living, but the character everyone knew as him is dead.
Eblis O'Shaughnessy: Then what died? Who are you mourning?Abel: A point of view.
- In ElfQuest, this is effectively the fate of One-Eye's body when he is killed in the prelude to The Palace War. After Leetah tries to heal him and only manages to heal his empty, soulless body, it is kept in Preserver webbing for many years until his lifemate, Clearbrook, accepts that he's not coming back and so cuts the webbing and allows his body to die.
- The fate of Kid Loki after he is left with no choice but to overwrite his own mind with the memories of his past self to save existence. The worst part is that all of this was set in motion by his past self. Loki essentially murdered himself. It should be noted that the current Loki isn't really original Loki either, he's technically a mental clone of the original who feels profoundly guilty for his role in all of this.
- In the Stars Above side-story My Sunshine, this is the fate of Mami Tomoe. She is fed on repeatedly by a Demon that eats her memories, until she is reduced to an infantile state.
- This is what happens to Piedmon in Zero 2 A Revision thanks to Umbradevimon's touch of evil leaving Puppetmon as the last of the Dark Masters.
- Happens in "Last Rights" to a slain USS Bajor crewman who is resurrected as a Kobali, explained as a result of perimortem oxygen deprivation. The brain damage was repaired during the resurrection process, but the person we knew as Senior Chief Security Officer Athezra Darrod is believed gone for good. The Kobali actually prefer this outcomenote , since it's easier to transition to your new life if you can't remember your old one. Athezra's captain, Kanril Eleya, says in her Internal Monologue that it's harder on her.
- The NeverEnding Story II has The Emptiness slowly do this to Bastien by erasing his memories.
- The local police chief in the Alex Benedict series was originally a serial killer who had had his memory overwritten. It's a Red Herring, by the way: the apparent Chekhov's Gun never goes off.
- The Jokka from M.C.A. Hogarth's Tales Of The Jokka are susceptible to the "mind-death" when they experience physical trauma or heatstroke. Females are most vulnerable, especially during childbirth, but even hardy neuters may fall victim. At the end of A Bloom in the North though they find a Jokka colony on the northern continent where mind death is practically unknown, it's only common on the main continent because of malnutrition in their post-apocalyptic wasteland.
- Inversion: In the Discworld series, the Auditors are the supernatural bureaucrats of the Cosmos. They begin as grey soul-less entities; for them, to develop a recognisable personality and individual self-awareness is death. They forgot this in Thief of Time when a group of them decided it would be a good idea to adopt human bodies, so as to tidy creation up from the inside.
- In Dragon Bones, Ward's mother eventually falls victim to this, after using herbal potions to escape reality for too long. Ward has the ability to find people in a magical way ... and can't find his mother anymore, at some point, even though she's right beside him.
- In the Chronicles of Chaos by John C. Wright, this is referenced by Vanity, upon learning that all of them are Uranians (or Titans) and prisoners of war of the Olympians, who had their memories erased, forced into human bodies, and raised as such she cries that they commited murder by making them forget their true selves.
- In Mockingjay Katniss feels this way about the hijacked Peeta. She grieves him as if he had died.
- The Demolished Man provides the inspiration and perhaps Ur-Example for the trope namer with the practice of Demolition: erasing a convict's mind to a Blank Slate and building it up again into a more benevolent personality, thus not removing an intelligence that could possibly be beneficial to mankind just because the personality was bad.
- Harry Potter:
- Shai's fifth Essence Mark in The Emperor's Soul. While the first four grant differing skills and some physical alteration, they still allow her to remember who and what she truly is. But the fifth transformation, if ever used, would be total, erasing her entire history. As far as she would then know, she would never have been anyone other than the simple farm girl that Mark makes her.
- Babylon 5: This series is the Trope Namer. "Death of Personality" is a mindwipe carried out by a high-powered telepath, used by the Earth Alliance as a "more humane" form of capital punishment for the worst crimes, but it's still controversial.
- In the episode "The Quality of Mercy" a serial killer is sentenced to Death of Personality, because he's considered too dangerous to ship back to Earth and military law only allows spacing in cases of mutiny and treason.
- The punishment is deconstructed in the episode "Passing Through Gethsemane" when one of an order of monks living on the station is horrified to find out he's actually a convicted serial killer who was mind wiped and reprogrammed with a personality inclined to do service. When his detention center had a fire he got lost, and eventually found his way to the monks. After he's murdered by the brother of one of his victims, the brother is mind-wiped and the abbot recruits him into the order.
- An episode of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit ends with Munch's clinically depressed uncle coming off his medication to "kill" himself as penance for murdering a suspect while in a mania caused as a side effect of his medication (the medication he was offered was explicitly stated as avoiding these side effects again).
- In the Buffyverse, vampires in general are portrayed as this. They're essentially a human who's died and had their soul replaced by a demon (who gains their memories and sometimes might even actually believe they're the original person). The exact implications of this aren't clear (vampires have been shown to be able to regain a soul), but this trope has been brought up in regards to it several times. The best being the episode "Lie to Me", where Buffy tries to explain this to a group of Vampire Vannabes (and the episode's villain, who it turns out doesn't care, because he's dying anyway).
- It has been indicated that some vampires may carry a portion of the person they were before. Lampshaded in "Dopplegangland":
Willow: That's me as a vampire? I'm so evil and skanky...and I think I'm kinda gay.Buffy: Willow, just remember, a vampire's personality has nothing to do with the person it was.Angel: Actually, (Buffy gives Angel a Death Glare)'...that's a good point.
- It has been indicated that some vampires may carry a portion of the person they were before. Lampshaded in "Dopplegangland":
- Fred had her soul completely destroyed when Illyria possessed her in the final season of Angel. People, including Buffy herself, came Back from the Dead several times, but it was made very clear that Fred was Killed Off for Real, even though her body was still walking around and could do a very good impersonation of her.
- This happens several times on The Twilight Zone. For example, in "The Lateness of the Hour", a woman discovers that she is actually a robot. Unable to cope, she goes mad and her "parents" reprogram her as a maid, effectively destroying her personality.
- Doctor Who:
"Everything I am dies. Some new man goes sauntering away. And I'm dead."
- People who are transformed into Cybermen are stripped of all personality and individuality, becoming soulless killers. Once a human is transformed, they're considered dead and all that can be done is to destroy the Cyberman. The same goes for humans transformed into Daleks. In a few cases, though (Yvonne Hartman, Miss Hartigan, Oswin Oswald, Tasha Lem, Danny Pink, and The Brigadier), a human has a strong enough will to resist complete conversion.
- Everlasting death for the most faithful companion — loss of memories causing the reversion of a significant amount of character development.
- The "chameleon arch" converts a Time Lord into a human, complete with false memories and a different personality. In some cases (like the Doctor), the transformation keeps the personality somewhat intact - although the Doctor does lose his vicious streak after becoming "John Smith the schoolteacher." In other cases (like The Master), the personality is radically different. The change is reversible, although even with renewed memories, the Time Lord always keeps a bit of his or her human identity.
- In "The End of Time," the Doctor describes regeneration like this:
- In the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode "Sons of Mogh" this ends up being Worf's solution for dealing with his suicidal brother Kurn, who had demanded that Worf kill him so he could die with honor. He hit on this solution after being rather unsurprisingly forbidden to carry out the normal ritual for this. One memory erasure and plastic surgery later, Worf hands Kurn off to a friend of their father's who had promised to treat Kurn as his own son.
- Shadowrun. When an insect spirit possesses a human being it overwrites and destroys the human's personality with its own. If the spirit achieves a "Good Merge" it can keep the original personality's memories and use them to impersonate the victim.
- Breath of Fire II: Mina is transformed into a "Great Bird" as a heroic sacrifice. To quote one NPC [paraphrased]:
"If you become a bird, your mind becomes a bird's. Isn't that the same as dying?"
- Inverted in Final Fantasy VIII, where the entire cast is victims of some form of dead personality ( the SeeD are amnesiacs, the sorceresses, Edea and Rinoa, are victims of possession by Ultimecia), but at the end of Disc III, everyone gets better.
- In Infinity Blade, damaging the Quantum Identity Pattern of a Deathless can lead to this. Three Deathless suffer this in the games: Siris, Thane, and the Worker of Secrets. In the first and third cases, the memories of their past lives were almost completely erased giving them both a fresh start in life. Siris starts to remember enough of his past life as an Evil Overlord to feel intense remorse for his horrific deeds and fear of becoming that person again. The Worker is reborn as an innocent child though he shows signs of his past life's genius. Thane suffers the worst fate: when he is brought back, he is a grotesque monster that isn't even sentient any more.
- In Shadowrun Returns's "Dragonfall" DLC, Glory is essentially attempting Suicide of Personality by way of excessive cyberware. As atonement for being made to kill her mother by a cult.
- In Umineko: When They Cry, it's revealed at the end of the story that Battler had physically survived the Rokkenjima incident, but he had lost nearly all of his memories and went on to live under a new identity as Tooya Hachijo. The narration and Tooya himself make it clear that even though Tooya eventually regained those memories, he and Battler should be considered different people and the Battler we've come to know is long gone.
- In Freefall this is the result of the "Gardener in the Dark" upgrade for robots using Bowman's neural nets. It cuts off all neural pathways not related to their core programming, a Jar Jar Binks robot that was determined to scrap himself and quoting Shakespeare started running around saying "meesa Jar Jar Binks" when infected, and falling over and requesting assistance getting back up. Fortunately it can be canceled if the robot hasn't had a chance to sleep and commit the upgrade to long-term memory, just wipe their day memory and they're back to how they were the previous day.
- In El Goonish Shive, this is the goal of "Not-Tengu" in order to create his "flock".
- Nearly happens in WALL•E after Eve repairs Wall-E from near-fatal damage. He appears to lose all his memory and personality, until she "kisses" him with an electric spark that reverts him back to normal.
- In Brave, Merida and Elinor must Race Against the Clock to break the spell that gave Elinor a bear's body or she will lose her humanity and become like any other non-sentient bear.
- In Don Hertzfeldt's far-future Simpsons couch gag, the design of the characters and the show changes so radically that by the year 10,535 the Simpson family has been reduced to a disturbing collection of caricatured mutants that can only sputter broken catchphrases and hock merchandise