"It is a peculiar sensation, this double-consciousness, this sense of always looking at one’s self through the eyes of others, of measuring one’s soul by the tape of a world that looks on in amused contempt and pity. One ever feels his two-ness,—an American, a Negro; two souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings; two warring ideals in one dark body, whose dogged strength alone keeps it from being torn asunder."
— W.E.B Du Bois, The Souls of Black Folk
"All the furniture that made up the way I'd thought and felt about things all my life started coming loose in my head. Nowadays it slides around and breaks into pieces and I have no idea what parts of it are real and what aren't. It hurts, and a lot of the time I don't know who I am anymore."
People sometimes have trouble defining who they truly are. Factors such as race, gender, culture, country origin, sexuality and occupation can all play a role in a person's identity. But when these things come into conflict with one another, a person may feel as if they are torn inside. They may feel as if they have two separate identities, or that their identity is divided into multiple facets.
Characters in fiction are no different. They too can sometimes suffer from a clash of identities. The superhero for example that must live double lives; one as a hero and the other as a normal citizen.
This might also result from usage of certain Applied Phlebotinum
. If you've got Brain Uploading
, Brain Washing
, Mind Control
, Alternate Universes or Time Travel
, it can cause a lot of different thoughts, people, and even lives
washing through your head. It can be difficult to sort out.
This term was coined by W.E.B DuBois in The Souls of Black Folk
. He used it in reference to African-Americans who struggle between the identities of being both American and Black.
Compare Secret Identity Identity
, Living a Double Life
, and The Whitest Black Guy
. In extreme cases this can lead to Split Personality
. See also Double Think
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- Code Geass:
- Kallen suffers from this, being half-Japanese half-Britannian, part of Japan's freedom fighters, and passing as a full-blooded Britannian in society.
- Lelouch's relationship with Nunnally means that he doesn't suffer from this as much as other characters with dual identities, since he had decided right from the start that his role as Zero was only a means to an end, (that end being Nunnally's happiness,) and so even though it was difficult to juggle both his lives, he did not suffer from too many emotional conflicts at first. This starts to change when he finds out that Zero killed his love interest's father, and he considers giving up but ultimately keeps going, and gets tested even more severely when Nunnally becomes viceroy of Japan, putting Zero in direct opposition to her, but by this point he can't bring himself to abandon everyone depending on Zero, and is seriously internally conflicted as a result.
- Rolo and Viletta have a few brief problems with this. Rolo spent most of his life as a dirty tactics assassin, but also spent one year with Lelouch as a normal person. The feedback during the Asian Embassy fiasco (disobeying Britannian orders to kill Lelouch) leaves him a wreck until Lelouch offers him a job. Viletta also has to deal with the fact that she still loves Oghi but she has finally been reinstated into the nobility, and yet said nobility and even some of the royal family have had their titles rescinded by Lelouch and are subsequently punished for mass corruption. It takes her a while to forget about her obsession with nobility (though for other reasons, that ironically ends up a moot point).
- Please Save My Earth has the scientists watching the earth being reincarnated into Japanese students. They all worry at some point about their previous actions or what will become of their now-selves. Issei is the reborn Enju who was in love with Jinpachi and falls in love with his best friend again, Alice is so afraid that she'll lose herself that she blocks her memories as Mokuren for most of the manga, Daisuke still feels responsible for his actions on the moon and Rin has to fight with the awakened Shion inside of him.
- Reiner Braun from Attack on Titan. The conflict between his cover as a human soldier, and his true mission as a Titan spy leave him so guilty that he begins to suffer dissociate episodes where he genuinely believes his cover is real.
- Is he Superman the superhero who disguises himself as mild-mannered reporter Clark Kent? Is he Clark Kent the farmboy who moved to the big city, who secretly dresses as a superhero and fights crime? Is he Kal-El the Last Son of Krypton, who had to make a home for himself on a world not his own? The answer depends on who you ask.
- Grant Morrison has stated that he believes Superman's three identities are The World's Greatest Hero, The Mild Mannered Reporter and the simple farm boy, with the latter being his real personality.
- A unique meta version occurs in the graphic novel American Born Chinese. The story begins with separate plot threads for Chinese Jin and American Danny. When Jin wishes to become Americanized, he turns into Danny, causing the reader to re-evaluate Danny's earlier exploits.
- Billionaire playboy Bruce Wayne is a completely different identity than crime fighting Badass Normal Batman. Which one is the real identity and which is the facade, however, depends from writer to writer. Then there's the suggestion that, like Superman, Batman has three identities: the Playboy, the Dark Knight, and the "real" Bruce.
- Shade, the Changing Man described this after the Angels returned him to Earth unpredictably deranged, claiming they had "stolen his ballast", and that he no longer knew who he was from moment to moment. The rebirth had integrated multiple facets of his personality, some previously repressed, and some that weren't even his. At least his Wangst episodes became briefer and more varied.
- Subverted to a great extent in Ultimate Spider-Woman: Change With The Light in that fighting crime as Spider-Woman actually helps Mary Jane Watson come to terms with a lot of her personal issues, and grow as a person. It's Lampshaded when Mary Jane gets a tarot reading that mentions that she keeps a lot of things hidden from the world, but they complement what she does show, and everything is part of a larger whole.
Live Action TV
- Characters of mixed species often feel this way. Spock, for example.
- Buffy has the superhero split. She says to her date when duty calls (paraphrased) "You know how I said I felt like two different people. Well one of them has to go, but the other is having a wonderful time and will be right back". Later, when a demon plots to split her into separate human and slayer versions, she asks boyfriend Riley if he wishes he could be rid of Slayer Buffy and just have Buffy Buffy. His reply is comforting but not convincing to her: "I have Buffy Buffy... There's no part of you I'm not in love with".
- Connor, after Wesley inadvertently restores his old memories.
- Fred's personality and memories (which, in a very real sense, is what humans are) are part of Illyria's "shell" as Illyria comments several times.
- Amy Pond from Doctor Who remembers two different versions of her life according to her actress. In series 6, she has a triple consciousness, where she remembers the collapsing timeline stuck on 5:02pm, where Amy was an agent that killed Kovarian.
- Her husband, Rory Williams, also has a Double Consciousness, having memories of being both the ordinary nurse Rory Williams, and the 2,000-year-old Last Centurion from the universe of the Total Event Collapse. He has worked out how to keep the latter set of memories locked away in his mind most of the time, however, and only lets them out when he needs them. To terrify Cybermen.
- African-Americans and other minorities, immigrants, transgender people and many others often feel a double consciousness.
- There's a movement among those with multiple personalities who identify not as one fractured person, but as several Sharing a Body (AKA a "multiple system").
- Diligent student. Loyal friend. Composed advisor. Tsubaki of BlazBlue was destined to develop a Double Consciousness the moment a certain character ordered her to execute her best friends for the crime of treason. While the series is ongoing, she seems to be slowly Becoming the Mask, burying all the sensitivity she exhibited in the first game under a frantic fighting style at odds with her personality.
- The entire Persona series has this as a game mechanic and a theme.
- In Tales of Vesperia, goofball slacker Guild member Raven is also the cold, competent Imperial Knight Captain Schwann. He is aware of what he says and does no matter the persona, and refers to them as different people. However, while it looks like a case of split personalities, it's heavily implied that the change is conscious and deliberate on his part, and after he fully makes the switch to "Raven", one of the party members calls him out on this.
- Niko Bellic, protagonist of Grand Theft Auto IV, is a veteran of The Yugoslav Wars who immigrated to America, and is thus possessed of conflicting worldviews. On the one hand, he cares about his family and friends from Serbia, but is too traumatized by war to live a normal life. On the other, he wants to build a new life in America, but is also hungry for wealth and believes he can only achieve it through crime. This can explain the Moral Dilemmas the game presents and even some instances of Gameplay and Story Segregation.
- Brelvis from Magellan - Brian Lonsdale, genetically blended in a transporter style experiment gone wrong with his pet dog Elvis, now refers to himself as Brelvis Lonsdog and has melded behaviours and combined human/dog words for certain people, objects and actions.
- A magic mirror in Yet Another Fantasy Gamer Comic showcases the true self of whoever looks at it. But it changes every time someone looks at it. That is because the true self can be defined in many different and distinct ways.
- Zuko from Avatar: The Last Airbender feels this way. It is amplified when he discovers he is the grandson of both Fire Lord Sozin and Roku, the Avatar's previous incarnation.
- Dinobot and Tigatron from Beast Wars. The former struggles with his Predacon ideals versus his alliance with the Maximals. The latter identifies a little too much with his tiger side, which is purely artificial.
- Shades of this trope appear in Geri's Game, one of the first Pixar Shorts. Playing chess with himself, the old man's personality seems to shift as he goes from playing white to playing black, and he reacts just as if he really were two people.
- In Batman Beyond, Bruce Wayne reveals that even decades after retiring from crimefighting, in his internal monologue he still thinks of himself as Batman, not his birth name.