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During an important part of the story, our hero, or just the character in focus, kills someone or something. This death could be popping his murder cherry
, or it could just be one of the first kills he thinks is wrong
. Even if it was self-defense and completely justified, he still feels guilt-ridden. He looks down in a My God, What Have I Done?
moment, shocked at his hands because they just became accomplices in taking a life.
"These hands have killed! I've got blood on my hands
, and I'll never be the same again..."
Could be followed by Out Damned Spot
, but it doesn't have to be. This has nothing to do with washing one's hands of blood, metaphorically or literally — only with acknowledging the shedding.
This is a Sub Trope
to My God, What Have I Done?
— the character in question experiences that guilt while staring horrified at his hands — and Blood on These Hands
. If this trope is in a character's backstory, it's Sympathetic Murder Backstory.
If a character is contemplating his or hands for an entirely different reason, usually drug-related, then see Contemplating Your Hands
As a Death Trope
, expect the possibility of unmarked spoilers.
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Anime and Manga
- Leetah in this scene◊ from ElfQuest. She's struck by the enormity of her hands, which have hitherto only brought healing, being able to kill, even in self-defense. Also, she does this so much that the warrior Elves she and the Wolfriders are bunking with tell her to stop admiring her hands and get to practical matters.
- Julia Ecklar turned this moment into a song entitled Healer's Hands. Mp3s of it can be found in various collections.
- Cassandra Cain (Batgirl) has had at least one flashback to doing this after ripping a man's throat out with her bare hands. It did not help that she was around eight at the time. What makes it worse is her super ability to read body language. Turns out the body language of a dying person is pretty unpleasant.
- Josh's reaction to killing a mugger in No Hero.
- The 1980's revamp of Superman made this one of its earliest key plot points in order to justify his Thou Shalt Not Kill policy rather than have one self-appointed right from the start (if you ignore the earliest point in his history where he was willing to go through with it). John Byrne's very last story in his run on the books had Superman forced to take lives of three rogue Kryptonians from another timeline who had slaughtered the entire population of their Earth, and subsequent writers right after such as Roger Stern and Jerry Ordway explored its aftermath and just how traumatizing the effects of performing such an act were for the Man of Steel.
- Ace Combat: The Equestrian War has chapter 10, where Fluttershy reacts this way when she thinks she was (unintentionally) responsible for Razor's death.
- There's a fic somewhere on the X-Universe boards that has the main character go through this after (out-of-universe) taking a station defense mission and having the pirate who spawned for it refuse to surrender even as her ship was being shot to pieces. (The AI in the games is known for Suicidal Overconfidence, among other things.)
- "This is the skin of a KILLER!" in the Twilight movie.
- In Equilibrium after John Preston stops taking his medicine he pulls this trope when he catches a dying resistance fighter in his arms that his partner shot, almost transfixed by the blood on his gloves and gun.
- Total Recall 1990 (1990). Quaid does this right after he slaughters the five agents trying to kill him on Earth, before he goes back to his "wife" Lori. He actually has their blood on his hands at the time.
- Inverted in The NeverEnding Story, where the Rock Biter is unable to keep his friends from being pulled away into the Nothing. He sits, staring down at his massive stone limbs, and says slowly, "They look like big, strong hands, don't they?"
- Subverted in John Woo's Broken Arrow. After Deakins crushes Mr. Pritchett's windpipe with a tire iron, he contemplates the fact that although as an Air Force pilot he's dropped bombs on people before, this is the first time he's killed someone up close. He then scoffs, "I don't see what the big deal is."
- Lenina Huxley in Demolition Man, though she deals with it okay after Spartan points out it was self-defense.
- In Return Of The Jedi, Luke has an instant of this, though it's because he cut through Darth Vader's prosthetic arm in anger, has his own Artificial Arm, and grasps what he's doing.
- In The Dark Knight Rises, Detective John Blake tosses his Police issue sidearm aside in disgust after he realized he just killed two perps with it (albeit in self-defense).
- In Man of Steel, Superman lets out a frustrated yell after snapping Zod's neck.
- In Grey Lensman, hero Kimball Kinnison indulges in this when trying to make Clarissa MacDougal understand what marrying him could entail. She basically tells him to can the dramatics; she knows perfectly well what his job entails.
- Darren cries after killing his first vampaneze in The Saga Of Darrenshan.
- This is the immediate thought process of Jonah Wizard from The 39 Clues after he shoots a Vesper at point-blank range. He's especially traumatized because up until this point, barring the Clue hunt a few years earlier, he's lived the sheltered, luxurious life of a teenaged pop star and hasn't yet come to terms with all the violence that the conflict entails.
- The Star Wars Expanded Universe novel Death Star has one of the gunners manning the superlaser go through a full-on nervous breakdown after the destruction of Alderaan. He's the same guy who in the movie repeatedly says, "Stand by ... stand by" right before the Death Star goes up, because he couldn't bring himself to pull the trigger again.
Live Action TV
- Not quite the first time, but Faith has one of these when she kills for the first time (in self-defence) after deciding to attempt her Heel Face Turn in the "Sanctuary" episode of Angel.
- And in the Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode "Enemies" after Faith stabs a demon to death in a frenzy she later shows Angel her bloody hands.
- Kamen Rider Ryuki's Ren agonizes over this after he kills Kamen Rider Odin in self-defense.
- In Xena: Warrior Princess, Gabrielle has this reaction after she kills the priestess of a dark god while trying to save someone. It's made even worse by the fact that the man she saves is also a follower of the dark god, and that Gabrielle was being duped.
- In an episode of Doctors, BRIAN BLESSED played a character who exclaimed "I killed a man... with THESE!".
- In the 4th season of Babylon 5, instead of Londo, it is innocent and unlikely hero Vir who kills the insane Emperor Cartagia. He is shocked and later tormented by the memory of what he's done, and tries drinking to forget it.
- Midway through the third season of Chuck, Chuck himself briefly has a moment like this after he shoots Shaw. Even though it's revealed in the finale Shaw survived, Chuck very briefly looks down almost in shock at the gun in his hands before he has to rush to prevent Shaw from killing Sarah with his dying breathes.
- In The Megas album Get Equipped, the song "Lamentations of a War Machine/End Song", taking place after Mega Man defeats Wily in his fortress, has these lyrics:
If I've a heart made of steel
Then does that mean I cannot feel?
Remorse for everything I've done
My hand's a smoking gun!
- Tosca: Cavaradossi and Tosca sing a whole duet about it.
- During his psychotic heel run in the 90s, Bob Backlund would do this after procuring the dreaded Crossface Chickenwing on someone.
- Booker T also used to stare at his hand obsessively - but it was a subversion, as he did it for pretty much no reason.
- "These hands have killed men" is said twice in the Promethean's speech on the back cover of the Promethean: The Created core book. However, the speech is written such that it could be read in a resigned tone - she's long since inured herself to that fact.
- Tomb Raider: Anniversary (pictured): Lara has exactly this reaction after killing Larsen.
- The 2013 reboot Tomb Raider shows Lara's first human kill in the new continuity, in the immediate aftermath of which she is incredibly upset and traumatized to the point of crying. Though she goes on to rack up a huge bodycount through the rest of the game, she never gets over just how disturbingly easy it is to kill]].
- In Mega Man 2 The Powers Fighters this happens to Mega Man after Dr. Wily convincing him that he's as bad as him for destroying his evil robots. It takes all of about 10 seconds for Dr. Light to snap him out of it.
- This is used to explain why Regal keeps himself handcuffed in Tales Of Symphonia. He switched to killing things with his legs.
- Kiryu's "victory" animation in Godzilla Unleashed has him look at his hands, then pull them down his face screaming.
- In Silent Hill 2, James' reaction to killing Eddie in self defense is like this, but it's ironic because he's already killed his wife, although he's blocked it out of his mind.
- In Final Fantasy VII, Barret tries to make peace with his old friend, Dyne, by mentioning the man's daughter (whom Barret had rescued and adopted after their town was destroyed). Dyne refuses, noting that not only would she not remember him, but that his hands are too stained to carry her any more. Then he jumps off a cliff, leaving Barret to admit that his hands aren't any cleaner.
- Noel Kreiss does it in Final Fantasy XIII-2 as he asks "I killed the goddess?"
- Inverted in EVE Online chronicle Hands of a Killer, where the owner of said hands gleefully admits that while he has never committed physical violence, he is nevertheless responsible of deaths of countless people, including his own crew. It's all a part of his recruiting speech.
- In the ending of PlayStation 3 Updated Rerelease of Eternal Sonata, Frederic Chopin does this when he wakes up following his defeat in battle and sees that Polka is gone and that the world around him hasn't changed. He blames himself for not being able to do anything to stop her sacrifice. "Why? The dream was at an end. Oh no. It can't be. Not Polka."
- Happens to Jackie Ma in Sleeping Dogs. Wei is outfought by his opponent, who knocks him down and puts a gun to his face... then blood sprays, and the scene cuts to Jackie, who is now holding a gun. He drops it and spends a good ten seconds or so staring at his hands until Wei (and the sound of approaching police sirens) manage to snap him out of it. During the drive with Wei to the Initiation, it's made clear that it's the first time he's ever killed; he'd thought about what it would look like, but not how he'd feel about it.
- Luke in Tales Of The Abyss is utterly horrified the first time he ends up killing another human. Later on in the game, Jade notes that Luke has nightmares each time he kills another human, even if it was a bandit or Oracle Knight.
- Jason, the protagonist of Far Cry 3, does this briefly after his first kill, a pirate who was attempting to stab him while he was trying to get away. He quickly gets over it. A bit too quickly, actually.
- Semi Subversion ins Asuras Wrath: Even though he doesn't do any killing, after finding the emperor's dead corpse, he gets blood on his hands and does this pose for it.
- In Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney: Justice for All, Maya Fey despairs over killing Dr. Turner Grey "with these two hands". She didn't actually kill Grey, but was a victim of a set-up orchestrated by Morgan Fey and Mimi Miney.
- Hal Jordan has this in the Justice League: The New Frontier movie, in his segment of the setup for the actual plot. He got through what seems to have been the Korean War doing the closest thing to a pacifist run a fighter pilot has ever pulled off, and then he goes down some ten minutes after the war is officially over and can't make the Korean he lands near understand that he doesn't want to fight now, it's over, they're not at war...so he winds up shooting him in the face at incredibly close range. Blood everywhere. Seriously screws him up.
- This is not a cartoon movie for kids, by the way. Wonder Woman also freed and armed a bunch of kidnapped comfort women and let them go wild on their rapists, and told Superman to go screw himself when he got shocked at the aftermath.