Redemption Equals Affliction

Sometimes, a character who has committed wicked deeds or screwed up enormously manages to redeem themselves, but at a cost. A toned-down cousin of Redemption Equals Death, this trope describes a situation where the redeemer does not die, but is crippled or afflicted somehow or suffers a huge and meaningful loss.

This trope exists, like Redemption Equals Death, for the benefit of the audience, in order to stop the redeemed character from becoming a Karma Houdini who might never pay for the horrible things they did before.

Compare Redemption Demotion and Karma Houdini Warranty, and compare Restrained Revenge and My Fist Forgives You if it's a character invoking this to the reformed character. Compare also Break the Haughty, which can overlap with this if the person took great pride in whatever they had to lose to earn redemption. See also Being Good Sucks. Contrast Redemption Earns Life.


Anime & Manga
  • While on an assassination mission Kenshin Himura received a cut to his face from his target's bodyguard (whom he immediately dispatched as well). Because the cut refused to heal it was theorized by Kenshin's peers that he had been struck by an innocent man and his wound was penance. The wound only finally stopped bleeding some months later when the famous cross-shaped-scar was completed by his dying wife, who he had accidentally struck during a battle (and who turned had been the fiancee of the man he murdered before). Kenshin holds the belief that the cross-shaped-scar will vanish when he has fully atoned for his sins. He also doesn't believe that is possible though by the end of the manga it has indeed begun to heal.
  • In Fullmetal Alchemist Doctor Marchoh has his face disfigured by Scar after regretting everything he did in the Ishbalan war. This has a practical purpose on top of the symbolism as he's on the run and changing his face will help stop him from being caught.
  • In Snow White and Seven Dwarfs, while Fujimaru pulls off his Heel-Face Turn early on, him pushing himself to his limits in the finale is at least partly to atone for everything he's done, and is what leads to him suffering from the permanent consequences to his body in the epilogue (i.e. severe headaches and possibly being a cripple).
  • Fairy Tail: Laxus' fate at the beginning of the Tartarus arc (being brought to a pass where a Heroic Sacrifice was necessary and possibly permanently debilitated as a result) reeks of this trope, as some fans believed Mashima to have inflicted such a fate upon him for no reason other than a Deus Exit Machina.

  • In The Shattering Of Oz, its revealed that after he left Oz, the Wizard has spent the last year being tortured by the Nome King for the theft of the Emeralds and gradually coming to regret the crimes he committed while still in power - in particular, ordering his daughter's assassination. When Elphaba finds him, he's crippled, barely able to walk, horribly scarred and badly traumatized from all the torture... but he's also willing to help her.

  • Downplayed in the 1997 version of Rebecca; Maxim de Winter saves the life of Mrs. Danvers at the cost of slight scarring and a limp.

  • Mr Rochester in Jane Eyre treated Jane quite badly, pulling an Operation Jealousy on her, and then trying to induce her to unknowingly enter into a bigamous marriage with him. When his mad wife burns down his house, not only does he lose it, but he also loses one hand and most of his eyesight trying to save her life. Jane returns to him.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire:
    • In A Storm of Swords, Jaime's Heel-Face Turn comes at the price of his sword hand.
    • As of A Dance with Dragons, Theon seems to be heading in a similar direction after his prolonged Cold-Blooded Torture at the hands of Ramsay Bolton.

Live Action TV
  • The TV series of Rebecca featuring Charles Dance as Maxim de Winter, unlike the Hitchcock film, had Maxim kill his wife as in the original book. Reminiscent of Jane Eyre, Maxim suffers disfigurement in the fire trying to save Mrs Danvers in this version.
  • Londo taking the Drakh Keeper toward the end of Babylon 5. One interpretation of Morella's prophecies regarding Londo ("Point of No Return") would have this be the consequence of "killing the one who is already dead" (which could be read, after a fashion, as Sheridan, Morden, or Refa—but Morden, or possibly rival-to-the-throne Refa, in this case)—although he has much else to redeem himself for—and the total loss of control represented by the Keeper could be read as the "greatest fear" which is then his final chance at redemption. At any rate, he bears the Keeper to avoid the Drakh detonating fusion bombs all over Centauri Prime, potentially killing millions. The Keeper is a living symbiote that can neurally exert control over his actions, as directed by a Drakh controller.
  • In an attempt to atone for his actions in Season 6, Castiel in Supernatural absorbs Sam's mental trauma, and suffers a mental breakdown as a result.

  • In The Bible, King David had slept with Uriah's wife, Bathsheba, while sending him out to battle, which would led him to be killed. This angers God who had sent the Prophet Nathan to rebuke David for pulling the Uriah Gambit. David sincerely repents, but while God forgave him, He allowed David and Bathsheba's child to die in infancy.

  • Mrs Erlynne from Lady Windermere's Fan is initially Lord Windermere's blackmailer. After having a My God, What Have I Done? moment, she saves Lady Windermere's reputation and her marriage from scandal by allowing herself to be seen in a compromising and scandalous position, even though this means being shut out of society.

Video Games
  • At the end of Dragon Age: Origins, one of the possible outcomes of the plot is Big Bad Teyrn Loghain being forced into joining the Grey Wardens and helping the party battle the Bigger Bad Archdemon in the Final Battle. Should he survive, he's redeemed himself from almost plunging Ferelden into a civil war but now has to spend the rest of his life with all of the nasty side effects of surviving the Warden joining process. Could also count as Redemption Equals Death, although said death would be decades down the road.

Western Animation