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Hesitant Sacrifice
aka: I Dont Want To Die
"I want to see you all again. Just one more time. I'm...scared. I don't want...to die."
Emil, NieR

When a hero is forced to make the ultimate sacrifice for the greater good, they suddenly realize "Wait, I Don't Want To Die". It might be a Chosen One wondering why they specifically have to be the one to die and nobody else (though of course, if everyone has to die, that doesn't necessarily make the deal any sweeter, and might even make an individual death seem even more pointless).

If the hero takes the "blustering" route, expect wild rationalizations, such as "I've already done enough!" or "I'm too young to die!" (even if the hero is, in fact, very old). "I have a wife and kids!" or "This can't happen to me! I'm a [self-important description of oneself]!" may be heard in more comedic works.

This scenario is often used to show a somewhat flawed, human side to the hero, and also to make the scene more dramatic. It is characterized by very unheroic responses and actions wherein they lose bravery, resolve, consideration of the greater good and, sometimes, dignity. It is likely that the hero will need someone to help them calm down if they don't end up doing so themselves and Face Death with Dignity. There's also the possibility that this will be their Despair Event Horizon and might lead them to try and Screw Destiny by running away. Attempts to Take a Third Option don't usually work out. Although there is the possibility of a Deus ex Machina to save the day, this may or may not affect the impact of the scene.

There is also the chance that, if not done right, it could make the hero look like a Dirty Coward in an unsympathetic way.

Unlike a Heroic BSOD or Heroic Safe Mode, this realization is very emotional and often met with the Five Stages of Grief.

Since this is a Death Trope, there will be spoilers. Read at your own risk.


Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Anime and Manga 
  • One Piece pulls off a Crowning Moment of Awesome, Heartwarming, and Tearjerker: In the Enies Lobby Arc, Nico Robin tried to give herself up to keep her crewmates from being arrested (and later executed) alongside her. But later, when they risk their lives just to get within shouting distance of her and ask if she really wants to go through with her Heroic Sacrifice, she breaks down and begs them to save her.
    • This is an interesting example in that Robin didn't admit this immediately. While she didn't want to die, she said she'd prefer death over being abandoned again, as despite her fondness for them she believes that the Straw Hats will eventually abandon her like everyone else, because she's been a wanted woman her whole life. She finally admitted the truth while in tears after the Straw Hats proceeded to declare war on the entire world by shooting and burning the World Government flag, just to prove to Robin how far they would go for her.
  • InuYasha: Naraku (temporarily) tempted Saint Hakushin, a holy man, to the dark side by exploiting this trope. Hakushin was voluntarily buried alive in an attempt to become a sokushinbutsu for the sake of the local villagers, who were suffering from famine. However, being entombed made him realize that he did not want to die, and realizing that the villagers were all awaiting his death caused him to resent them and made him vulnerable to Naraku's manipulation.
  • Busou Renkin: Faced with the decision between stopping the villain, Victor, and saving himself from BECOMING a "Victor" (which is something like Walking Wasteland status), Kazuki panics a bit. It's a very human moment from a Wide-Eyed Idealist and Hot-Blooded hero.
    "If I protect everyone else, who will protect me?"
  • Villain Protagonist Light Yagami of Death Note doesn't do this, since he had no intention of hastening his own death by one moment, but after all his drama and posturing these are his final words. Completely without dignity.
    • This is done much more tastefully in the live-action adaptation. While the manga Crosses the Line Twice with its morbid and grossly ironic depiction of Light's death, the live-action version has him instead say, "I can't die here!" Furthermore, his final words are not of his fear and unwillingness to die but rather an appeal to his father to understand his motivation for acting as Kira. Considering that the live-action films made him out to be a much more three-dimensional and sympathetic character with more reasons to back up his actions and given the fact that the artist reportedly admitted to feeling sick while drawing Light's death scene, this is hardly surprising.
  • Inverted in Berserk with the villain Wyald, whose motto is "Enjoyment and excitement!" and who claims that life is a waste, but ironically enough, he is terrified of dying. After he was killed off for good, it was revealed that his true form was a frail old man.
  • Wolfwood in the Trigun anime is on the verge of Go Out with a Smile when it suddenly occurs to him he wants to stay with his friends. For a brief moment he reacts as he always had in life, screaming about how unfair it was and finally breaks down as he accepts that his entire life he had followed the wrong path.
  • Bleach. Played with (literally). Rukia calmly accepts her execution and as such believes she does not wish to be (nor is worthy of) rescue, due to carrying a heavy burden from the past that she feels ashamed about. But when Ichimaru Gin briefly offers to call off the whole thing, telling her that he has the power to save her, Rukia realizes how very much she wants to live. Then Gin tells her he was just joking and walks off, leaving her to physically and emotionally collapse behind him.
  • In Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water, some of the Nautilus crewmen are trapped in an area with a radiation leak during a battle. They can be saved, but only by exposing the Nautilus to the enemy. Captain Nemo makes the decision to let them die. Nadia is horrified, but one of the crewmen supports the Captain's decision... until the radiation starts killing him. At that point he begins screaming that he doesn't want to die. But by then it's too late.
  • A vocaloids example, in Daughter of Yellow: Closure of Yellow, Allen reveals that he actually didn't want to die, and confesses the fact that escaping with Riliane & Germaine might not have been a bad idea. Of course, he knew deep inside that in order for his sister's safety for the remainder of her life, Someone Has to Die
  • In End of Evangelion, Asuka whispers this line repeatedly to herself/her robot for a full minute before screaming it and hulking out on the Mass Produced Evas.
  • In Attack on Titan, everyone who gets eaten by Titans acts this way right before the teeth come down. Or worse, while they are slowly dissolving in the Titans' stomach acid, and in general being eaten alive by a giant is a truly horrific way to die; the Titans seem to take some macabre enjoyment out of tormenting their victims while eating them. The ones who get their heads bitten off first, like Mina, they're the lucky ones. As such, most people once in the clutches of a Titan do not Face Death with Dignity.
  • In Hellsing, the section chief of the Wild Geese expressed this kind of sentiment during Millennium's raid on the Hellsing manor. Captain Bernadotte belittled him for his cowardice for it but told him that he didn't want to die there either before continuing to fight.

    Comicbooks 
  • Comes up repeatedly in World of Fire. Outnumbered and performing a Delaying Action, Leia realizes it's unlikely that she'll make it halfway to safety and thinks "So who said I wanted to live forever? - I did." Later, Mici is injured and has to be left behind in the ship while the others continue the mission. She knows how badly she's hurt. "I'm afraid that while you're gone I'll die here, in the dark - alone. Oh, Luke, I don't want to die!"
  • In Runaways, Karolina spends a good chunk of the first volume struggling with suicidal thoughts because of the double whammy of finding out her parents are evil and aliens (making her one as well). Then during the final confrontation with the Pride, Alex reveals himself as The Mole and threatens to kill her for her parents' planned treachery against his parents (averting it was the entire reason he formed the team). Karolina begs him not to kill her, saying she doesn't want to die anymore.

    Fanfictions 

    Film - Animated 
  • Played with midway through Disney's version of Peter Pan, when Princess Tiger Lily is threatened with drowning by Captain Hook if she will not tell him where Peter's hideout is (which is even worse than it as first sounds, because, as Hook notes, in Tiger Lily's tribe's religion, Indians who drown stay under water forever and never make it to "The Happy Hunting Grounds"). Tiger Lily is completely silent and doesn't even look at Hook, and seems totally indifferent even as Mr. Smee is setting her down in the middle of the Skull Rock lagoon so that the tide will eventually wash over her. But right after Peter Pan has defeated Captain Hook (at least for a time), the princess seems to reconsider her decision and begins crying out for help - but by that point she's already drowning, and the seawater is muffling her screams. Peter pulls her from the water just in time and flies her back to the Indian camp.

    Film - Live Action 
  • The End, a 1978 comedy about a terminally ill man named Sonny (Burt Reynolds) who intends to take his own life rather than die of the rare toxic blood disease he has been diagnosed with. After a number of (comically?) failed attempts, and encounters with people — an inexperienced priest, his self-absorbed parents, his estranged daughter and ex-wife, and his girlfriend — who don't seem to care (at least in his view), Sonny drives to a secluded beach and swims out to the middle of the ocean, planning to drown himself. While under water, his life flashes before his eyes and he finally realizes his purpose in life. He suddenly resurfaces and swims to shore, bargaining with God that, if he makes it to shore, he'll be a better man. Indeed, Sonny does make it to shore ... but only to discover that his "friend" Marlon (Dom De Luise), a psychopath whom had helped him with his previous attempts to take his life, is waiting for him and intends to follow through with his promise to help him die. Sonny tries to reason with Marlon that he wants to live ... and seems to have succeeded when, as the two are walking to the road to go home, Marlon pulls out a large butcher knife. "AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!" screams Sonny as he flees (the knife-wielding Marlon in pursuit) down the beach under the final credits ("Another Fine Mess" by Paul Williams).
  • Jimmy behaves this way when he thinks he's going to die in Two Hands. The scene is not intended to make Jimmy look like a coward, bur rather an ordinary guy who's in way over his head.
  • Discussed and averted in The Magician: After Ray shoots his friend in the back after leading he and Max to believe he was helping him escape a hit, he explains to Max that he took the contract himself because if someone else had taken it, "he would have known it was coming and he would have been pissing his pants and crying his eyes out."
  • A possible subversion occurs at the end of Angels with Dirty Faces. When Rocky is sentenced to death, Jerry visits him just before his execution and asks him to do him one last favor - to die pretending to be a screaming, sniveling coward, which would end the boys' idolization of him. Rocky at first refuses, and insists he will be "tough" to the end, and not give up the one thing he has left, his pride. But at the very last moment, he seems to change his mind and has to be dragged to the electric chair screaming; the boys read newspaper headlines that Rocky died a coward, although not believing it at first, Father Jerry verifies that the paper account was accurate. However, with no confirmation from Rocky himself, it is up to the viewers to decide whether he actually changed his mind and did it for Jerry and the kids' sake, or whether he really was a coward when the time finally came. (Jerry, however, has no doubts that it was the former.)
  • Uttered verbatim by a plague victim in Ingmar Bergman's The Seventh Seal. It's not really a sacrifice in that the plague is not targeting him personally: almost everybody in the town is slowly succumbing to the epidemic, and he just happens to be one of the first. His outburst forces all the characters to have to reflect upon their collective mortality, and even to wonder if there's anything to look forward to after they go through with their deaths. The fact that for much of the movie both the characters and the audience can't even see the plague (which does appear in a personified form occasionally) makes it infinitely worse. One of the heroes finally snaps and shouts up to God, demanding to know why this has to happen and whether God is listening or even really cares. In the end, all of these characters do die, except for one family who take a darkly casual attitude toward their narrow escape.

    Literature 
  • In Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, when Harry learns that he is a Horcrux and must die if Voldemort is to be made vulnerable, he does not speak to Ron, Hermione, or Ginny as he heads to his death, because he knows that doing so might cause him to cave in and not go through with it.
  • A variant in Cirque de Freak. Darren doesn't have to die, but he really doesn't want to fake his own death to abandon his family. Unfortunately, he has to do so or else, as a half-vampire, he runs the risk of accidentally killing his family or friends. At one point he asks Mr. Crepsley if there's any way he can just run away in the middle of the night. He's told he cannot, because his family would never stop looking for him.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In the TV miniseries Henry VIII, Catherine Howard is sentenced to death for infidelity. Although pale and terrified, she was silent on her way to the scaffold. After making her speech and being blindfolded, she breaks down crying that she doesn't want to die. One of the men overseeing the execution forcibly puts Catherine's head on the block while she is screaming and begging for life.
  • Doctor Who:
    • "The Family of Blood" has a character named John Smith, who learns that he is actually an amnesiac human version of the Doctor. The problem is that if he turns into the Doctor, his own memories and desires would essentially be overwritten, killing the human identity. If he doesn't sacrifice himself, the aliens will kill everyone in the town, trying to find him. The pure raw anguish and fear make this scene a particularly strong Tear Jerker.
    • "The End of Time" comes from a season-long set of Arc Words, "He will knock four times". The words are meant to tell the Doctor when he will die, and the Doctor keeps getting the source wrong. When poor old Wilfred knocks on the door of the radiation chamber, the Doctor realizes what will happen. Wilfred will die if the Doctor doesn't go into the chamber next to him, and doing so would force him to regenerate. Regeneration would mean a new persona, with a new body and identity, and the Tenth Doctor views it as "killing" the previous doctor. He throws a (excellently done) childish fit as he tries to avoid "dying". Word Of God states that this is because he experienced "death" once before as John Smith.
    • The Eleventh Doctor spends the whole of the 6th Series running from his own Final Death, in a "fixed point" at Lake Silencio. In this series, certain times are "fixed", and trying to stop them from happening can destroy the universe as time collapses. Which is exactly what happens when River Song tries it. He succeeded in postponing it by 200 years (in his own personal timeline), before finally being confronted by Dorium's head telling him that he can not run anymore. But he still manages to cheat his own death, which is why he was now willing to sacrifice himself.
  • Buffy in the first season's finale of Buffy the Vampire Slayer has to face The Master (different one, of course. The name's popular.) and is prophesied to sacrifice herself to defeat him. She tells Giles, her Watcher, that she's only sixteen and that she doesn't want to die.
  • Ryan Chappelle in the third season of 24.
  • Black Adder Goes Forth has a heartbreaking one at the end of its run when basically the entire cast admits to this, even the idiotically optimistic George.
    George: But this is brave, splendid and noble... sir?
    Blackadder: Yes, lieutenant?
    George: I'm scared, sir.
    Baldrick: I'm scared too, sir.
    George: I mean, I'm the last of the tiddly-winking leapfroggers from the Golden Summer of 1914. I don't want to die, I'm not overly keen on dying at all, sir.
    Blackadder: How are you feeling, Darling?
    Darling: Er- not all that good, Blackadder. Rather hoped I'd get through the whole show...go back to work at Pratt and Sons, keep wicket for the Croydon Gentlemen, marry Doris. Made a note in my diary on the way here. Simply says: "Bugger".
    Blackadder: Well, quite.
  • A deeply disturbing scene in The Monocled Mutineer (starring Paul McGann as the eponymous character) shows the execution of a soldier who panicked and ran away from the field of battle. The young captain spent the night before his execution locked in a shed, stalking up and down and ranting variations on "I want to live". At dawn he was taken out, blindfolded and tied to a chair. He screamed all the way. He screamed while they were shooting him, too, and went on screaming until someone walked up and put a bullet in his head. The noises he made didn't even sound human.
  • The Haunting Hour: At the end of "My Imaginary Friend" Shawn listens to his older brother David's advice and lets go of his imaginary friends. Including David. As David fades away, his last words are "I don't wanna go..."

    Music 
  • In "Bohemian Rhapsody" by Queen, one of the lines is "I don't wanna die; I sometimes wish I'd never been born at all."
  • HollywoodUndead's single "I Don't Wanna Die".

    Religion 

    Videogames 
  • Fate/stay night: In the Normal Ending of the Heaven's Feel route, Shirou's mind is already dead when he goes to destroy the Holy Grail. His last thoughts were about how he doesn't want to do this and how he wants to live, even if only for one more day. The True Ending has him dwell on these feelings before destroying the Grail long enough for Ilya to arrive and perform the Heroic Sacrifice instead.
  • Played with in Tales of the Abyss. At one part of the game, it's determined that either Luke or Asch needs to be sacrificed to destroy the miasma that's enveloping the world. Luke decides to go himself, as Asch has stronger abilities and will therefore have a better chance of succeeding at releasing Lorelei later on, which is crucial to saving the world from the Big Bad's plans. As they reach the point of no return in the sacrifice and Luke starts to feel his body disintegrating, though, he realizes that he wants to live after all. Fortunately for him, Asch jumps to help him, and they both survive. Unfortunately for them both, Asch was slowly dying anyway due to fonon interference related to their being perfect isofons, and the incident has greatly shortened both of their lifespans.
  • Super Street Fighter IV has an occurrence of this during the Rival Battle between Guy and Rose. Rose (despite a) being the good half of Bison's soul, b) having failed on several previous occasions to kill Bison because their power is equal but opposite, and c) acknowledging herself that she is merely The Obi-Wan to Ryu, the true character destined to finally vanquish Bison) is dead-set on stopping her mortal enemy, even if it requires her going down with him. Guy, in a re-visitation of Street Fighter Alpha 3, is wholly devoted to stopping Rose from proceeding with what is essentially a suicide mission. He questions Rose's methodology with the words "Being prepared to die in battle is not the same as offering yourself to death willingly." Cue a very somber battle with much reluctance from both sides. One of Rose's remarks during the battle is this trope nearly word for word, and when the two aren't beating the tar out of one another, Guy is constantly urging Rose to reconsider her plans.
  • In Nier, Emil's final thoughts after staying behind to save his friends are that he's scared of death and just wants to see them again.
  • Class Zero, the young heroes of Final Fantasy Type-0, have been preparing to sacrifice their lives for the war effort since childhood. But when the time comes and they're slowly succumbing to their wounds, they realise that not only is dying painful and scary, but being child soldiers they've also never had a chance to truly live. Most of them break down in tears and confess they never wanted to die at this point... but they do, all twelve of them together.
  • Max Payne 2: "If Mona didn't find a window soon, I was going to die. For the first time in a long time, I realised I didn't want to die."
  • In Valkyrie Profile, when recruiting Nanami, Valkyrie gets side tracked to dispose of a ghost attacking her. The ghost is actually a close friend of Nanami, and Nanami stops the Valkyrie from destroying it.
    Valkyrie: "Human. Surely you do not intend to take her place?"
    Nanami: "I really don't want to...I don't want to die. But...I thought my anger and sadness were greater than anyone else's..."
  • Even being told he will turn into a living bioweapon in half of his expected life expectancy of six months and after an entire game of coming just short of actually putting a pistol in his mouth in Metal Gear Solid 4 to getting himself killed, Snake can't do it. His clone father Big Boss is actually impressed and gives him a reason to live and tells him that he will not turn viral.
  • Little Busters!: While the others face their death with acceptance and dignity, when Riki starts yelling in earnest how much he cares about him, Kyousuke breaks down sobbing and admits that he's saddest of all because he dearly loved Riki and Rin as well and can't stand that he'll never be able to see them again. In this case, the declaration actually humanises him by showing how much he truly cares for his friends.

    Webcomics 
  • In Doc Rat, they suggest getting rid of the computer that the now-fired practice manager brought. It begs and pleads.
    Computer: I BEG OF YOU! I DON'T WANT TO DIE! OH GOD PLEASE I DON'T WANT TO DIE!!!

    Web Original 
  • Noah of Tribe Twelve admits this during the November 11th Livestream Incident video when, after weeks of asserting that he doesn't care anymore if he lives or dies, he breaks down in tears and asserts his desire to live shortly before the deadline that the Observer had set for killing him.

Going Down with the ShipHeroic SacrificesLast Stand
Heroic SacrificeDeath TropesHe's Dead, Jim

alternative title(s): I Dont Want To Die; Sacrifice Hesitation
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