"What have I done? Sweet Jesus, what have I done?
Become a thief in the night, become a dog on the run?
Have I fallen so far, and is the hour so late,
That nothing remains but the cry of my hate?"
— Jean Valjean
after robbing a priest who had just given him shelter, Les MisÚrables
Well-intentioned but misguided character — very likely a Tragic Hero
, a Tragic Villain
— comes to realize that his actions have caused incredible damage
, physical pain, emotional pain, or even loss of life
. The usual line that comes after this is the title of the article (sometimes, without the "My God"). Tears of Remorse
may accompany it.
Often the realization only comes when someone/something close to the person is hurt or destroyed. In quite a few cases, that "someone/something close" is the very entity he was trying to get rid of to begin with.
Usually delivered dramatically, sometimes, well, over-the-top
. A villain might utter this line if they're about to take the Last-Second Chance
. Or a hero after being freed from The Virus
, being Brainwashed and Crazy
, or a Superpowered Evil Side
, or after making an unintentional but catastrophic mistake
Sometimes followed by Must Make Amends
, other times by an Ignored Epiphany
Compare These Hands Have Killed
, which can occur even the first time the character has killed
, even justifiably.
See also Screaming At Squick
Often the result if the protagonist becomes an Unwitting Pawn
. Sometimes combined with Heroic BSOD
; common with Villainous BSOD
. Can be a self-inflicted What the Hell, Hero?
. Contrast I Did What I Had to Do
, Be All My Sins Remembered
, and I Regret Nothing
. Compare It's All My Fault
, Heel Realization
and Kick the Morality Pet
. See also Out, Damned Spot!
, Being Evil Sucks
, Nice Job Breaking It, Hero
, and Sympathetic Murder Backstory
. May be the result of an all too successful Pygmalion Plot
to Teach Him Anger
. When a work tries to deliberately invoke this as an audience reaction, that's You Bastard
(whether it's successful or not).
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- Magic: The Gathering: In Judgment, Kamahl pulls a "Dear Fiers, what have I done?" (with a nice, hearty Big "NO!") after mortally wounding his sister Jeska in a fit of Mirari-induced temper.
- Warhammer40000: A lot of people who are being mind-controlled by the Chaos gods are only able to break free immediately after they've done something they really shouldn't have, such as betraying their adopted father and dooming the galaxy to an eternity of war or betraying their entire legion and mortally wounding their adopted son.
- Corax, the Raven Guard Primarch, went through a catastrophic moment like this. After the Isstvan drop site massacre, most of his legion was decimated, so he ordered some questionable methods to rebuild the legion. His orders left a lot of the recruits as mutated monstrosities. He personally Mercy Killed them, locked himself away for an entire year praying for their souls and his, and in the end, he took his ship and flew it straight into the Eye of Terror, his last words being simply "never more".
- Part of the meltdown of Acro in Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney. You don't actually see the moment onscreen but the aftereffects are obvious during his breakdown. In attempting to murder Regina he accidentally killed her father, to whom Acro and his brother owed everything. As Sympathetic Murderers go he's high on the list.
- In Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney - Dual Destinies , in the DLC case, Marlon Rimes is quite similar to Acro. His girlfriend died during a performance a year ago, and he believed Orla the orca whale was responsible, not knowing that 1) His girlfriend had a heart condition and 2) it was an entirely different orca. He tried to kill Orla by draining the water, but Jack Shipley, the owner of the aquarium and his boss, rushed out to save her, slipping and falling in the empty pool in the process despite Marlon's attempt to save him. Marlon tried to frame Orla for Jack's murder, but ultimately realized the truth of things and had this reaction. Thankfully, after it's pointed out that he tried to save her, he decides to make amends, however long it takes.
- Archer from Fate/stay night as revealed in UBW route. He is trying to kill Shirou, himself from past, because he wants to prevent him making a pact with world to protect people, because it'll only make him one who kills some to save many.
- One of the extended bad endings in the PS2 version of School Days has Kotonoha murder Sekai in cold blood and then offer herself to Makoto, who was watching. Makoto's horrified reaction causes Kotonoha to realize what she has done, and she breaks down in tears.