Spoiler-heavy by its very nature. Examples include:
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Anime and Manga
- In Naruto, Ibiki has scars on his head that represent the mental torture he underwent years back.
- Kazundo Gouda in Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex: Second Gig was badly scarred in an accident. He could have elected for reconstructive surgery, but chose to retain his mutilated appearance, probably so he could see the looks on people's faces when they saw him for the first time. Mentally he changed from a bland bureaucrat to a manipulative bastard.
- In Mobile Suit Gundam SEED, Izak gets a scar while fighting against Kira. He could get it removed, but decides against it. He wants to keep it until he gets his revenge against Kira. In Mobile Suit Gundam SEED Destiny he doesn't have it anymore, after giving up on his grudge.
- YuYu Hakusho: Sensui is covered in scars to point out how utterly insane he is.
- Rurouni Kenshin is identified by his cross-scar, and the backstory behind it is what forms the kind of person he is today.
- In Berserk Guts is physically maimed during the Eclipse when he attempts to save his lover Casca from being raped by the demon lord Femto by first chiseling off part of his left arm but ultimately fails and is blinded in his right eye by a demon's claw when he tries to push himself up to try and get to her once more. These two scars serve as a painful reminder to Guts of what he failed to save on that fateful day. In fact, he uses the last sight of his right eye as a reminder of how much he wants revenge on Griffith: the person who all but destroyed his life and took what little that he truly loved.
- Kurei from Flame of Recca has these in spades. Along with having a self inflicted burn scar as a Mark of Shame due to his failure to protect someone, he's endured at least fifteen years of every kind of abuse by his monster of an adoptive father.
- Axis Powers Hetalia:
- China has a large one on his shoulder from when Japan stabbed him in the back with his katana, which symbolized the first Sino-Japanese war.
- Lithuania's back is covered in scars. It's implied that he got them from Russia during Soviet occupation.
- According to Chibitalia, Rome's body was eventually covered in them from all the battles he fought.
- Netherlands and Hesse also have scars, but we don't know their significance yet.
- Betrayal Knows My Name's Usui Shuusei has some nasty burn marks on his upper body. He got them from interrupting Hotsuma's suicide attempt. While they don't bother him all that much personally, Hotsuma hates himself for inflicting them. This puts a massive strain on their relationship sometimes, which goes so far that Shuusei starts to think if he can't get rid of the scars, he should just disappear himself. After all is said and done, these scars actually fuse them together even more, though.
- Edward Elric of Fullmetal Alchemist has this in spades, with a good amount of heavy scarring mostly concentrated at his shoulder - where he's missing his right arm, and his left leg too, both from a botched attempt to resurrect his dead mother after he and his younger brother were orphaned. Rule of Symbolism is in full swing here, with the wounds eventually becoming so extensively symbolic for his character they can't entirely be explained here. See the work's analysis page for details.
- In The Dark Knight Returns, an attempt to cure Harvey Dent by fixing his face backfires horribly. Removing the physical scars made his psychological scars grow in response. Harvey sees himself as fully deformed.
- Pretty much all Maleficent fanfics where she gets naked use the scars on her back as a symbol for the incident in which she lost her wings. The explanations for Diaval's scar-like skin structures vary, sometimes this trope is used.
Film - Animation
Film - Live Action
- In Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith, Anakin's relationship with Padme went downhill fast when he said they could rule together; when Obi-Wan Kenobi showed up, Anakin blamed him for her turning against him. They got into a fierce lightsaber battle with Obi-Wan, with Anakin falling into a river of lava in the process, and screaming at Obi-Wan while on fire. He survives long enough for Palpatine's medical team to show up and save his life, and in the process putting him in a full suit with Artificial Limbs. Basically, his new suit buried his physical scars, while his new role in the empire buried his mental scars.
- In The Dark Knight, The Joker subverts this since his different stories about how he got his physical "scars" (which are apparently supposed to be a metaphor for his mental scars) contradict each other, implying in turn that he's probably not being truthful about his mental scars either. Harvey Dent, however, plays this straight because his face was burned in the same incident that killed his girlfriend, Rachel Dawes.
- In The Princess Bride, Inigo Montoya, has a scar on each cheek given to him by the man who killed his father which serves to strengthen his drive for revenge.
- In the 2002 film version of The Count of Monte Cristo, the scars on Edmund's back that he received from being repeatedly lashed in the Chateau D'If represent how his time in prison embittered him.
- Raleigh Becket in Pacific Rim has scars from his battle with the Kaiju Knifehead over his chest and arms and psychologically he is scarred from that battle when he witnessed and experienced his brother's death.
- Cira in A Brother's Price lost all her older sisters in the incident which caused her scars, and then lost her lover due to the resulting lack of attractiveness. Both incidents scarred her psychologically.
- In The Jungle Book, Hathi the elephant has a large white scar from the time he fell into a spiked pit trap and felt humiliated enough, so that when he escaped he razed three villages.
- The Seablite gang from Dark Life have both physical and psychological scars from their time as Doc's unwilling experimental subjects.
- In Cagebird, Yuri's cutting scars represent his change from willing participant to unwilling victim of Falcone's pirates. The very act of cutting itself is used to symbolize times when Yuri's too stressed to even address his emotions in the narration.
- A Dance With Dragons: Theon is tortured physically, including everything from probable castration to flaying. The psychological effects include a complete loss of identity, possible insanity, and a rather twisted relationship with his torturer. Also of note is Sandor Clegane, known to most of Westeros as 'The Hound'. His massive and horrific burn scars across one entire side of his face are both the indicant and causation of his bitter, angry demeanour.
- Austin from Hollow Places has burns scars all over his body, a prosthetic right arm, and is missing the sight in one eye. All serve as reminders for the day he lost his sister to an attack drone, a loss he blames himself for. His half-blindness can be seen as symbolic for his overall view of himself.
- It's heavily implied that this is why Kaladin of The Stormlight Archive retains the scars of his Slave Brand, despite possessing a Healing Factor that has been shown to repair cuts, bruises, scrapes, bad eyes, missing arms, damaged souls, and death itself.
- Garik "Face" Loran in the X-Wing Series sometimes points out the parallels between his vicious facial scar and his guilt over his previous work as a child actor in pro-Imperial propaganda. He received the scar during a firefight when a bunch of ex-Rebels kidnapped him, intending to execute him for his complicity. Even though the advanced medical technology available means removing the scar would be a trivial operation, he's never had it done because he wants to keep the reminder. In their last conversation together, his friend Ton Phanan insists that Face needs to move past his guilt and define himself by something other than a child's mistakes. Face takes this to heart and has the scar removed as a sign of his moving on — though he wears a fake scar for a while.
- In Heart of Steel, Alistair Mechanus is a physical wreck from a car crash, mirroring the mental wreck he is from a subsequent psychotic break.
Live Action TV
- Babylon 5: The character Colonel Ari Ben-Zayn from "Eyes". He has a massive disfiguring scar down the side of his face, he has it in for Sinclair and anyone on his staff, and he was traumatized by war back in the day.
- Sweets has scars on his back from his childhood abuse, which has also obviously scarred him internally as pointed out to Booth and Brennan by Gordon Gordon Wyatt.
- Also Booth himself, who has scars on the bones of his feet from torture in Iraq, and it's a representation of the emotional trauma he suffered during the experience.
- In a season 4 episode of Community Jeff recounts all of the ways he was traumatized by Parental Abandonment and mentions an episode when he intentionally scarred himself to fake appendicitis in order to have people worry about him.
- Person of Interest: Mr. Finch's limp and fused neck vertebrae are the result of being caught in the same explosion that killed his partner Nathan (and several dozen other people). Injured and on the run from the government agents that planted the bomb, he finds out that he could have prevented the explosion if he hadn't been stubborn about the Machine.
- Fenris in Dragon Age II has scars all over his body from the lyrium used to give him his phasing powers. They also represent his mental scars from years of slavery and abuse at the hands of Danarius, the Tevinter magister that Fenris managed to escape.
- Starting with Mass Effect 2, Commander Shepard's face will become more and more scarred and inflamed the farther down the Renegade path you go with your decisions. This is explained in-universe as being due to cybernetic implants reacting badly to emotional stress, and can be fixed by acting benevolently, or by spending the cash to upgrade the Med Bay.
- In a way, the massively scarred body of The Nameless One from Planescape: Torment functions like this: He is so scarred that he has practically no intact skin left that could tell him how he used to look like, and also has amnesia. Furthermore, he loses his mind every time he dies; the scars indicate that his mind is probably just as 'scarred' from being repeatedly wiped as his body is.
- Hanako Ikezawa in Katawa Shoujo has severe burn scars from a childhood tragedy and crippling shyness as a result of them. Losing both of her parents in the house fire that gave her the scars probably didn't help either. Being isolated in the Orphanage of Love and later bullied in her old school also probably didn't help. It also made her into a Birthday Hater.
- Giftsof Wandering Ice: Rita was wounded by monster at the age of 12. The encounter left her with huge scars on her throat, and she tends to hide them since then. She says she feels helpless and vulnerable when they are not covered at least with a thin cloth. She is yet to master her old fears.
- The Fox Sister: Yun Hee's arms, hands and chest are covered in scars which she received when attempting to fend off the Kumiho during their traumatic first encounter.
- Avatar: The Last Airbender: Prince Zuko's father issues are represented physically through the scar over his eye, and Zuko suffered both as part of a confrontation with his father. The connection between the two is even discussed in-universe, when Katara laments that she didn't get the chance to heal the scar because it may have helped clear up his emotional issues as well.