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Face Death With Dignity / Literature

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  • Iason Mink from Ai no Kusabi barely winces when both his legs are cut off from above the knees as he was leaving a burning building, stoically waiting next to a door for either the pain and bleeding to take his life away or for the place to blow up.note  Comes to a circle when his lover Riki comes to his side to die with him, and they calmly share One Last Smoke (doubling as Last Indirect Kiss).
  • And Then There Were None: When it becomes clear that there's a Poetic Serial Killer who plans to kill everyone on the island for crimes they committed, General MacArthur confesses to Vera that he was indeed guilty of the death of his wife's lover and quietly waits outside to die.
  • The Arts of Dark and Light: The last two Witchkings, and especially the woman, display very impressive composure facing death, as well as Undying Loyalty. They are a couple, and she refuses to run away when he is about to die.
    You are mine and I am yours, from the beginning of time to the end of whatever lies waiting on the other side of the grave.
  • Bazil Broketail: When Gog Zagozt is about to die, he seems more annoyed by the fact than anything else.
  • The Black Arrow: When Nick Appleyard is dying, fellow soldier Bennet Hatch asks is he has a last wish. The old bowman replies to pull the dart out and let him die peacefully, adding he is tired of England anyway.
    Bennet Hatch: "Can ye hear, old Nick? Have ye a last wish before ye wend, old brother?"
    Nick Appleyard: (gasping) "Pluck out the shaft, and let me pass, a' Mary's name! I be done with Old England. Pluck it out!"
  • The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe: Aslan, in exchange for the Witch sparing Edmund's life. Although he knew that he would come back to life later, it still took an enormous amount of courage for him to do something so hard. But he made it through.
  • In one chapter of The Cold Moons, the badgers cross boggy marshlands and a few of them get stuck in the swamp. Two badgers are too far-gone to be saved. They slowly sink into swamp and drown. When it becomes clear that there's nothing that can be done, both stop panicking and simply wait calmly for death.
  • Played with in The Cruel Sea when HMS Compass Rose sinks. Some of the crew do this, others do not.
  • In Cry, the Beloved Country, Absalom Kumalo admits guilt for the murder of Arthur Jarvis, after his two accomplices provide alibis. A death sentence ensues, as expected.
  • Curtain: Happens to Hercules Poirot himself: by killing Stephen Norton in order to prevent him from committing any more murders-by-proxy, Poirot has become the murderer that he was always working to put behind bars, though it was for the benefit of others. In order to atone for the murder he had committed, rather than shoot himself, he has to take the slow, alternate way, as he is already dying of a terrible heart condition. He ceases taking the amyl nitrite pills as medication for his heart problems by putting them out of reach so that he can have a calm, dignified end with hours to spare. This is even lampshaded in the Poirot adaptation, in which he says in his final letter to Hastings that he (Poirot) will not try to save himself but will instead surrender his soul to God.
  • In The Discreet Princess, when Rich-Craft captures Finette and intends to kill her by putting her in a barrel filled with blades and rolling it off a mountain. She acts so calm, in fact, that he loses all caution in anger, allowing her to push him in instead. He survives... for a few months, at least.
  • In Doglands, despite being defiant when captured, Argal walks to his euthanasia unafraid and with his tail erect. His dignified demeanor and intelligence is why other dogs compare him to a king.
  • In Dragon Bones, Ward's father grudgingly accepts his impending death, and gets his will written without complaining. He pretty much remains his usual self. (He knows he is dying because his ring — which cannot be removed before death — has been removed and given to Ward already.) An ally of Ward, who dies later in the book, smiles as he lies dying, and apologizes for messing up. There is also Oreg, who faces his own Heroic Sacrifice death with dignity — the one who acts emotional about it is Ward, who has to kill him. Oreg has wanted to die for a long time, as he's a slave and can't be freed — for him, it is better to have his life ended by Ward, who loves him dearly, than to see Ward die and become slave to a less gentle master.)
  • In the official novelization of the 2019 Godzilla: King of the Monsters film, Barnes is serene when Ghidorah is flying toward the Argo above the Pacific Ocean, and he's at peace with the fact he's likely about to die and only regretful that the rescued Isla de Mara locals who never asked to be devastated by Titans had to die like this. Fortunately, Godzilla shows up before Ghidorah can start tearing into the ship.
  • Subverted in Good Omens with the prophet Agnes Nutter, who was stuck delivering The Prophecy to avert the Apocalypse when England was still in its Burn the Witch! phase. She met her executioners at the door, accompanied them to the stake without protest, and tossed off an oblique "Facing the Bullets" One-Liner — and then the improvised shrapnel bomb in her skirt went off, shredding everyone who'd Come to Gawk.
  • In Gor, this comes up again and again, and although not all Goreans go out this way, many of them do, including several of the alien Kurii:
    • Rog (true name unpronounceable by humans) in Marauders of Gor applauds Tarl Cabot for being even more treacherous than he was, and admiringly calls him "Foe" as he dies with a knife in his heart.
    • Half-Ear in Beasts of Gor shares a drink with Tarl, then presses the button to blow his secret Arctic base sky-high — but in deference to the remaining presence of some of his human servants, chooses a delayed detonation to spare their lives even though they are beneath Kur contempt, since "They were under my command". Already wounded, he warns Tarl that he will kill anyone who attempts to rescue him.
    • A nameless Kur in Players of Gor not only refuses to run from the armed men about to kill him, but shows Tarl how to escape so that he can have his final doomed fight to himself. He puts up one hell of a fight considering his own people exiled him for being weak and effete.
  • Harry in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, after being captured by the newly resurrected Voldemort, he decides he'd rather die fighting than at Voldemort's feet. He confronts him, and this allows him to survive. Also in Deathly Hallows, when he realizes he has to die to destroy the last Horcrux, which is inside him and prevents Voldemort from dying, he decides to go straight to Voldemort, and accept to be killed without putting up a fight. It turns out that the death of the Horcrux does not truly mean Harry's death.
    • At the end of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Dumbledore seems to be asking Severus Snape not to kill him, but Harry finds out later that, by saying "please, Severus" he was actually asking him to Mercy Kill him to fulfill a Thanatos Gambit. Dying quickly to the Killing Curse was preferable to suffering under the painful curse he was currently suffering as well as the plans Voldemort likely had for him. Dying in this way also saved Snape's life and allowed him to continue spying on Voldemort, and also saved Draco crossing the Moral Event Horizon in killing Dumbledore on Voldemort's orders.
    • The Deathly Hallows has a villainous example. Dumbledore's old "friend" Gellert Grindelwald, of all people, laughs at Voldemort and lies to his face rather than help him, telling him that he's Not Afraid to Die and that there are so many things that Voldemort doesn't understand. Of course, after being locked up alone in his personal prison Nurmengard for fifty years, death was, in many ways, a relief to Grindelwald.
    • In "The Tale of the Three Brothers", the youngest of the three Peverell brothers, Ignotus. His two older brothers died rather ignoble deaths thanks to the "gifts" Death bequeathed them: Antioch, the eldest and first wielder of the Elder Wand, had his throat slit in his sleep by another wizard to claim the wand, while Cadmus, the middle brother and the first owner of the Resurrection Stone, committed suicide to join his deceased fiancée in the afterlife, since the stone failed to resurrect her as anything more than a shade, as the dead do not belong in the world of the living. Ignotus used his gift, the Cloak of Invisibility, to hide from Death, living a full and happy life, before passing the cloak down to his son and greeting Death "like an old friend".
      • Adding to that, the "Master of Death", one who gathers all three of the Deathly Hallows, does not become invincible, but rather accepts that death is inevitable. Doing so, they "master" death because they do not fear it, thus it has no control over them — allowing them to face it with dignity.
  • Like Nero Wolfe, Agatha Christie's Hercule Poirot often leaves the option open for a criminal who's particularly likely to take it. It only backfired once, when a ruthless murderer's accomplice took the opportunity to off the two of them together.
  • Not entirely uncommon in The Hunger Games, which is noteworthy since everyone who dies in the Games is between the ages 12 and 18.
  • In I'm In Love With the Villainess, the François family chooses to be executed at the hands of the commoner revolution, once it hits its peak. This is particularly notable as they had publicly or secretly been supporting it in the first place, with full knowledge there would be no place for them in the new government.
  • In the Left Behind book series, this is common with Christian believers who become martyrs in the Tribulation, much to the irritation of Nicolae Carpathia and the GC forces.
  • In The Legendsong Saga, this is the motivation behind (terminally ill) Dark Ember and her acceptance/worship of death.
  • Les MisÚrables
    • Enjolras and Grantaire definitely do this, especially when the latter chooses to die alongside the former. Also, they were truly Defiant to the End-in a final act of defiance, Enjolras can be heard saying "Shoot me", followed by Grantaire declaring his allegiance to the Republic for the first time, right down to holding hands as they die.
    • Javert, who is exposed as a spy at the barricades, and accepts his impending execution at the hands of the Amis with calm stoicism. He is then saved from this fate by Valjean, who volunteers to be the one to do the deed but instead lets him free. He's Driven to Suicide by this, but he does so with eerie tranquility after leaving behind a memorandum to reform the Conciergerie. Subverted in the musical, where Javert's actual death is very, very emotional and more than a little bit hammy.
    • Gavroche died collecting ammunition and defiantly singing.
  • Lester Leith: The story "Hot Cash" involves a Briefcase Full of Money being stolen from a Corrupt Politician. His bodyguard is mortally wounded while trying to stop the theft. As everyone else present callously wails about how the robbery will expose the corruption, the bodyguard remains calm, dutiful, and dignified despite his Agonizing Stomach Wound. His last words are used to compliment one of his colleagues for managing to pull a successful cover-up (making it look like the robbery and shooting happened elsewhere) and saying that he's glad he managed to remain alive long enough to help make that scene more convincing.
    Charles Dumoe narrowed his eyes, estimated his chances as being less than ten to one, faced death with a smile.
  • The Lord of Bembibre: As she is dying from sickness, Beatriz remains calm and even glad, requesting her family to not get sad or upset. After all, she is marrying her lover at last; and as much as she is concerned, she is going to Heaven, where she will not have to put up with her awful first husband who got forced on her.
  • Macbeth:
    • While he goes out and kills a whole army just to vent his rage, at the end Macbeth may give in quietly to Macduff. He may choose to futilely struggle to kill Macduff. The original had it off stage, so anything goes.
    • The thane of Cawdor in the same.
      Malcolm: Nothing in his life / Became him like the leaving it.
  • The Mark of the Horse Lord by Rosemary Sutcliff involves a tribe of Picts whose kings all die for the good of their people. One is said to "go out to meet his boar" to end a famine, most of their kings die in a staged duel to the man who will be king after them. The book ends with a brutal example of Becoming the Mask: The main character had been impersonating a king for most of the story, and in the end commits suicide to end a hostage situation.
  • There are many examples in Michael Vey, but one of the biggest is in the second book when the titular hero lets himself get captured for his True Companions. He is then tortured for two days straight before he is told he will be eaten alive by rats. Even though he survives it is made clear from his narration that he expected to die and mentions that even though he had some regrets, he did everything he could and wouldn't give Hatch the satisfaction of seeing his fear. Was it mentioned that he was 15.
  • In Momo, the last survivor of the Grey Men faces extinction with dignity once he's run out of options, nodding to Momo and remarking calmly that he's glad it's all over. (This is, however, preceded by the Grey Men as a whole facing the end with undignified desperation, with many having their ends hastened by colleagues in the struggle for control of the dwindling supplies.)
  • In Murder Must Advertise, Lord Peter Wimsey convinces the murderer to do this; he's about to get caught if he doesn't, and it'll spare his family.
  • This is the choice Nero Wolfe offers quite a few times in the stories by Rex Stout. He tells the criminal that he knows they're guilty, tells them what evidence he has against them, and then tells them that he will be giving that evidence to the police tomorrow. Fairly often, they kill themselves that night.
  • Lirael of the Old Kingdom trilogy goes to fight Orannis the Destroyer knowing that a death is necessary to complete the magic that will defeat it, and the sacrifice must be hers. And then it isn't — the Disreputable Dog saves her and dies in her place.
  • In On the Beach, this is the preferred option. Some decide to use the painless suicide pills distributed by the government, others choose such exits as competing in lethal car racing or being aboard a sinking submarine.
  • In Peter Pan, when the pirates plan to leave Tiger Lily to drown:
    "She was to be left on the rock to perish, an end to one of her race more terrible than death by fire or torture, for is it not written in the book of the tribe that there is no path through water to the happy hunting-ground? Yet her face was impassive; she was the daughter of a chief, she must die as a chief's daughter, it is enough."
  • Surprisingly, the later servants of the Old Ones do this in The Power of Five. This is probably to show the difference between the rather quaint Lesser Malling folk and serious players like Nightrise Corp:
    • Father Gregory calmly walks out of a window when he is informed that he has failed the Old Ones by letting Scarlett escape.
    • The Chairman simply stands, sipping his fine cognac, watching his death coming all the while.
  • In Robert E. Howard's "Rogues in the House," Conan the Barbarian, assuming he sees his executioner, "surveyed him with interest."
  • In Romance of the Three Kingdoms, it seems to be a universal rule that the more dignity you show in the face of death, the more likely you are to survive, or at least be given an honorable burial. One example is Lu Bu and Zhang Liao. Lu Bu offered his services to Cao Cao upon capture, only for Liu Bei to remind Cao Cao how Lu Bu had betrayed and killed two people he had previously served, leading to Lu Bu's execution. Zhang Liao taunts Cao Cao, but ends up being spared and becoming a general in his service.
  • Second Apocalypse: Skauras ab Nalajan, the wily Sapatishah-Governor of Shigek and the first major opponent of the Holy War, is defeated in battle and awaits his death by savoring his best wine and casually reflecting on the virtues of his failed strategy. When besieging soldiers finally break down his door, he stands, draws his sword, and gets promptly cut down.
  • Sinister Six Trilogy: Mary Jane weaponizes this during the Day Of Terror. The Chameleon has a group of people (including Mary Jane) trapped, holding a gun at them in a football field rigged to explode. Others in her group want to rush The Chameleon down and hope he can't kill too many people before he can be taken down, but Mary Jane instead asks them each to invoke this trope and calmly walk down the field towards The Chameleon. Her reasoning is that this forces him to confront the reality of what he's doing rather than simply gun down a faceless mob. This ends up working, as when Mary Jane approaches, he hesitates long enough that she is able to disarm him when he gets distracted, and the group gets away with minimal casualties.
  • Subverted in Star Trek: Federation. John Burke demands of Colonel Adrik Thorsen to give him back his cane so he can walk to his summary execution under his own power, which Thorsen grants. The cane has a laser in it, which Burke uses to kill his executioners and perform a dramatic rescue of his daughter Monica and Zefram Cochrane.
  • Star Wars Expanded Universe:
    • In Orientation, Commandant Pell Baylo calmly accepts the fact he's going to be executed after his plot to kill Emperor Palpatine and Darth Vader is discovered and foiled.
  • Star Wars Legends
    • New Jedi Order:
      • Borsk Fey'lya, who decides to face up to his utter failure and imminent death with dignity, some fine liquor, and a gigantic deadman bomb.
      • Yuuzhan Vong Supreme Commander Czulkang Lah, the Warmaster's aged and mostly retired father. After being called back into active duty at the request of his son, the formidable old man leads a fleet against the New Republic forces heavily entrenched on a planet. The galactic commanders create a plan to use the heavily damaged Lusankya as a battering ram to destroy the enemy worldship before withdrawing from the planet. After realizing too late what was coming and knowing that there was no way to avoid it, Czulkang contacts Tsavong Lah to tell him that he has failed and will soon be dead. He tells his son that his last words are for him alone, and betrays neither this promise nor any emotion as the end swiftly approaches.
    • Also played straight at the end of Darksaber by Bevel Lemelisk, chief architect of the first Death Star. Having already been executed and resurrected countless times by Emperor Palpatine for various screw-ups, when told in no uncertain terms by Wedge Antilles that he faces execution for his crimes against galactic peace for his part in helping the Hutts build a deadly superweapon amongst other things, Bevel merely sighs and tells Wedge: "Ah, well. If you're going to kill me, at least make sure you get it right this time."
    • Maul: Lockdown:
      • Artagan is mortally wounded in a fight, and dies smiling and expressing pride that his son mastered a difficult martial arts move to use against their opponents.
      • At the end, when Warden Blirr starts triggering the explosive leashes of the prisoners, Maul observes the remaining members of the prison gangs grabbing all of the food they can from the kitchen and sitting down to eat it before it's their turn to die.
    • In Blade Squadron, Imperial Admiral Jhared Montferrat calmly accepts his death as his Star Destroyer explodes around him, not wanting to live after realizing that the Empire is losing the Battle of Endor.
    • Black Fleet Crisis: Say what you will about him, Nil Spaar does not budge an inch while being cast into hyperspace to slow death, showing only contempt and pride.
  • A Tale of Two Cities: Sydney Carton takes the place of a man he resembles on the Guillotine so that he can live out a happy life with his beloved. His dying words are possibly the most iconic dignified death in all of English literature.
    Sydney Carton: It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to, than I have ever known.
  • Till We Have Faces: As befitting his philosophy, the Fox attempts to keep completely calm when it looks like he's going to be sentenced to work to death in the silver mines. He encourages the same attitude in his students, and Istra cites his teaching when she's trying to stay calm about being sacrificed to a shadow god.
  • Discussed Trope in famous Jack London short story "To Build a Fire", when the man finally realizes that he is doomed to freeze to death, because his hands are too frozen to build a fire and the camp is too far away for him to walk to on his frozen legs.
    "When he had recovered his breath and control, he sat up and entertained in his mind the conception of meeting death with dignity."
  • Tortilla Sun: A variant occurs when Izzy tells her grandmother that her grandmother's old friend, who is on her deathbed, should die in her own home instead of in the sterile, "colorless" hospital room.
  • Treasure Island: When Jim Hawkins is captured by the pirates and is given the offer of joining them or else, he delivers a defiant Facing The Bullets Speech outlining how it was him the whole time that kept screwing up their plans, that the laugh's on his side and he no more fears them than he fears a fly, but he'll put in a word at court for them if they choose to spare him.
  • In Vitaliy Zykov's Way Home (Дорога домой, Виталий Зыков): Tradition demands elven executioner squads to reveal themselves and present the victim a box with three items: a vial, a cord and a dagger. Vial - poison for a clean death, cord — asphyxiation for a quick death, dagger — fighting said squad to violent death. A half-elf golem-maker charged for something outside his power ensures that his quarter-elf daughter will not be involved, takes the dagger, sics his golem gallery on the executioners and begins the hopeless fight.
  • Wet Desert: Tracking Down a Terrorist on the Colorado River: The bomber, upon seeing his plan of restoring the Colorado River delta completed, does let himself fall to death with a smile in his face.
  • Words of Radiance (book two of The Stormlight Archive): After Szeth realizes that he isn't Truthless and truly accepts responsibility for all the death he has inflicted, he lets Kaladin kill him. Too bad for him that Nalan has other plans for him.
  • In Worm, while completely at the nonexistent mercy of Jack Slash, Theo tells him to his face that if he were to acquire powers and become a hero he would kill Jack. His audacity impresses Jack enough that he spares Theo to give him a chance to make good on it.