Symbolically Broken Object
Something has been broken. It may be a spell, a relationship, a life. Whatever it is, it was important, and now it's been destroyed.
And so has something else.
An excellent way for a writer to demonstrate the destruction of something intangible is to break something tangible. The broken object could be anything, but the symbolism is usually obvious. When Bob and Alice break up, a picture of the two of them is destroyed. When Charlie dies, his prized possession is smashed to bits. When the Big Bad
is defeated, his stronghold falls apart
The extent of the damage to the Symbolically Broken Object frequently indicates the extent of the damage to the thing it symbolizes. If the object has been destroyed beyond repair, there's a good chance that the same is true of whatever else was broken. If the object can be repaired, so can the thing it smbolizes.
Frequently overlaps with Load-Bearing Boss
, Insignia Rip-Off Ritual
, and Wrecked Weapon
. Supertrope to Break-Up Bonfire
and Let the Past Burn
. Sister Trope
to Dying Candle
Compare Reality Changing Miniature
when one can make the change intentionally with an object that's meant as a representative of a bigger thing, Dying for Symbolism
where a living person represents an ideal, and Smash the Symbol
where a character intentionally destroys something that symbolizes an ideal for another character.
Contrast It's All Junk
where nothing means anything.
See also Tattered Flag
, Crush the Keepsake
, Empathy Doll Shot
, and Dead Hat Shot
Anime and Manga
- In a picture drama of Code Geass after Nuannally reminisce about a plate that she, Lelouch and Euphemia looked at, Euphemia is heard on the radio, suddenly the radio is cut off and after that, the plate drops and breaks on the floor.
- Macross: the protagonist is sitting in hospital amusing himself with a miniature biplane, when told his friend/squadron leader is dead. Cue dramatic slow-mo shot of the biplane falling to the floor and breaking.
- Fate's Heroic B.S.O.D. in Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha is marked by her weapon shattering after she drops it. In turn, it's repaired when she recovers.
- In Nana, the breaking of the strawberry glasses represents the breaking of contact between Nana K and Nana O
- When Asuma dies in Naruto, his girlfriend Kurenai's teacup breaks.
- One Piece invokes this with the Vivre Card, a piece of paper linked to the condition of its owner/creator. It burns and dwindles if that person is weak or in danger, and returns to normal when he's healthy. When a character with a Vivre Card is Killed Off for Real, it's symbolized by the Vivre Card burning into nothing.
- Pokémon: Part of the way a Stoutland's death in S M 021 is shown is its furniture breaking apart.
- In Puella Magi Madoka Magica, both Mami's teacup and saucer shatter and are further shown covered in blood, symbolizing her gruesome death by the witch Charlotte
- In Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, the flashback to Martha Wayne's death shows her necklace breaking and the pearls scattering as she falls to the ground.
- Happens twice in Brave: the tapestry Merida slices in anger explicitly represents the broken bond between her and her mother, the cut going between depictions of the two. Later, we see a carving of the four princes that has been similarly broken, after one of them, seeking greater power, got turned into the demon bear Mor'du.
- Pocahontas: As Kokoum is shot, he grasps at Pocahontas' necklace (which belonged to her mother) and it breaks off and falls to the floor in pieces, signifying how the shooting breaks relationships between the two sides and brings them to the brink of war.
- Disney's adaptation of Edgar Rice Burroughs' Tarzan has Kala the ape lead Tarzan to the treehouse where Tarzan was found as an infant. On the floor, Tarzan finds a photograph in a broken frame with cracked glass of three humans: himself as an infant, his father and his mother. The vicious leopard Sabor had killed Tarzan's parents, leaving only himself for Kala to rescue and adopt.
- At the beginning of Gulliver's Travels, The kings of Lilliput and Blefuscu are celebrating the upcoming wedding between their respective children, which would unite the two kingdoms. An argument over which nation's anthem should play at the ceremony results in King Bombo of Blefuscu declaring war, and to drive the point home, he smashes the wedding cake, knocking down the cake toppers representing the prince and princess.
Live Action TV
- In The Parent Trap, both girls have half of a ripped picture of their divorced parents.
- Doctor Who:
- When Adric dies in Earthshock, the Doctor has to use his star badge to kill a Cyberman, destroying it in the process. Then they run the Silent Credits over the image of the broken star.
- In the episode "Father's Day", when Rose's father is hit by a car we don't see him hit but rather see the vase he's carrying fall to the ground and break. When Rose saves him, the vase falls but does not break.
- In the Series Finale of Friends, the replacement chick and duck Chandler bought for Joey get trapped inside Joey's foosball table. Joey and Chandler can't bring themselves to destroy the table, so Monica does. Given that Chandler is Joey's best friend and is moving to the suburbs with Monica, breaking up the close circuit of the six characters' lives, it's pretty symbolic.
- An episode of Sex and the City had an episode where Samantha gets her boyfriend a framed painting of a heart. His reluctance to hang it on his wall symbolises his inability to give her the commitment she wants, and later he smashes it... having broken her heart.
- A really bad car wreck leaves Dean comatose and not expected to live. After seeing the Winchesters' badly damaged Impala, Bobby suggests scrapping the car. Sam goes on an emotional, not-at-all subtle rant that if there is even one salvageable piece of the car, he won't give up on it.
- After John's death, Dean is working to repair the Impala but can't quite get the car to work like it should. After insisting that he was fine all episode, Dean wails on the car with a crowbar. Anyone who watches the show knows how out of character this is for Dean, but it perfectly represents how helpless and destroyed he feels following his father's death.
- In the blink-182 video for "Always", this happens to a vase of gladioli at the beginning of the video, symbolising the broken relationship between the guy(s) and the girl.
- In The Glass Menagerie, one of Laura's glass animal figurines is broken by her "Gentleman Caller". The figure is a unicorn. Its horn breaks off, making it "just like all the other horses". It's symbolic of Laura herself, who is fragile and special and no one understands her.
- In The Platform, Kyle destroys the dream catcher that Agatha has been playing with. Not only does it call her, it symbolizes that the guilt she has carried, thinking she killed her son, has also been destroyed.
- In Summer of the Seventeenth Doll, the doll that Roo gives Olive at the beginning gets broken near the end, in the same scene that sees the irretrievable breakdown of Roo and Olive's relationship.
- BIONICLE: The Bohrok Online Animations begins with a storm over the Mata Nui rock, after which the rock shatters, representing the Bohrok coming to "cleanse" the island of Mata Nui.
- In Halo 4, Master Chief and his rapidly-deteriorating AI Cortana work together to destroy the Big Bad's starship. They succeed in the end, but it takes the last of Cortana's strength to save Chief, even though he was adamant she'd be cured soon. As she vanishes, the starship is seen falling to pieces behind him, representative of his shattered worldview.
- In The King of Fighters, after Rugal (his nemesis) is confirmed dead, Col. Heidern feels that he can finally move on with his life and he chooses to rip his family photo (Rugal murdered his family back then).
- In Mortal Kombat 9, the cracked amulet represents Armageddon: the further it's cracked, the closer it is.
- The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess: After Midna uses the Fused Shadows to fight Ganon one-on-one, the scene cuts to Hyrule Field where she'd teleported Link and Zelda. After a massive explosion shakes the castle, Ganon appears on horseback, holding the Fused Shadow Midna had been wearing as a hat... and crushes it. Cue the last two phases of the final boss fight.
- Gravity Falls: Mabel rips up a photo with her, Candy and Grenda in the episode "Boyz Crazy" after temporary breaking up with them. In the next episodes where the photo is shown, it is fixed.
- In Wander over Yonder, Dominator destroying a heart-shaped planet represents breaking Hater's heart.
- According to The Other Wiki, stage magicians break a wand when a magician dies.
- Also according to The Other Wiki, state funerals in the U.K. include a household official (such as the Lord Chamberlain), breaking a staff of office at the graveside to symbolize the end of service to the dead person.
- When the Pope dies, his signet ring, the Ring of the Fisherman, is broken (in recent decades, it has been given deep scratches, but not totally destroyed). Originally this was a practical step to stop the ring being used to seal official documents, but it has persisted as a symbolic act even though the ring is no longer used this way.