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Personal Effects Reveal

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Sometimes, the character is really dead. Corpse and Meaningful Funeral and everything.

Someone has to go through their belongings, packing them off to their family or what have you. There are surprises, usually — of every stripe, from the good to the horrifically bad — though sometimes it just grieves the character doing it. Perhaps because so little is left of the dead person, which may make him reflect that he will never know him now, perhaps merely because of the reminder.

Often contains a photograph, similar to the Fatal Family Photo, but in this case, the character will obviously be unable to ask who is in it. Adds a bittersweet note to the discovery.

Another version of this trope is when someone is searching a dead enemy soldier and discovers his family photo, reminding him (and the audience) that these people were something other than Faceless Mooks.

Contrast If You Die, I Call Your Stuff — this trope demonstrates the respect Due to the Dead. Removing stuff from the body includes only what is culturally acceptable to remove; otherwise, see Robbing the Dead.

Spoilers ahead.


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  • A promo in Hong Kong for safety harnesses had a group of building workers about to work on the outside of an in-progress building via a higher floor. One worker deems the safety harnesses as "stupid" while his co-workers prep their harnesses. While on the scaffolding, said worker accidentally falls to his apparent death or serious injury. One of the final shots of the promo has the worker's wallet on the floor, opened to reveal a photo of him happily smiling with his wife and daughter and has blood splotches on it.

    Comic Books 
  • The "Archer's Quest" storyline has Green Arrow going through his own personal effects after coming Back from the Dead.
  • In one issue of the The Avengers, Jarvis remembers going through the dead Swordsman's effects and finding a picture of a couple. He presumed it was his parents, but he could not even tell if they were alive or dead.
  • In the "Sin-Eater" story of Spider-Man, Spidey is checking out the home of his murdered friend, police captain Jean DeWolff, for clues and finds her collection of Spider-Man photos. He's quite cut up to realise that she apparently had something of a crush on him and this fuels his anger when he finds her murderer and comes this close to beating him to death.
  • In The Sandman (1989) arc Brief Lives, Bernie Capax's son realizes he didn't know his father at all when he discovers his stash of expensive art, drugs, weapons, and fake passports after his death. The reason for this is his father was 15,000 years old at his death, a fact he had kept hidden from his family.
  • In Ultimate Spider-Man, Gwen Stacy meets an untimely death at the hands of Carnage, and Peter and MJ clear out her high school locker shortly after the situation is resolved.
  • Variation in Watchmen: Rorschach's rooting around in Edward Blake's apartment after his murder turns up the fact that he was the Comedian. The plot kicks off from there.

    Tabletop Games 

    Visual Novels 
  • Pretty much every case in Ace Attorney features the protagonist lawyer learning about his/her victim through evidence left behind after their death. It turns to Tearjerker during case I-4 when looking through Byrne's promise book to Kay reveals his powerful love for his daughter. Kay later finds his diary, which reveals he was the Yatagarasu as well.


    Western Animation 
  • Subverted on King of the Hill. Cotton is seen looking at an old photo of a Japanese woman, and explains that it was from the wallet of a soldier he killed in World War II; he's always felt guilty about making her a widow and decides to go to Japan to track her down and apologize. However, it turns out that the story is actually made up; in reality, the woman was a Japanese nurse with whom he fell in love, but he never had a chance to say goodbye. Upon tracking her down, he also finds out they had a son together.