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Physical Scars, Psychological Scars

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Don't you ever wonder why he's always, like.. wearing gloves? note 
"The stitches healed quickly. The pain went away. But Brokk's awl was a magical tool. It left a permanent mark on me. Nine neat little cross-stitch scars that faded silvery with time, but never vanished. After that, my smile was never quite as true, and there was something in my heart, a barbed thing, like a roll of wire, that never ceased to trouble me."

When something causes both physical wounds and mental wounds, the former can double as an extended metaphor for the latter.

Not to be confused with Good Scars, Evil Scars, which is about the contrast between how scars are portrayed on good characters and on evil characters. See also Symbolic Mutilation.

Spoiler-heavy by its very nature. Examples include:

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    Anime & Manga 
  • In Berserk Guts is physically maimed during the Eclipse when he attempts to save his lover Casca from being raped by the demon lord Femto by first chiseling off part of his left arm but ultimately fails and is blinded in his right eye by a demon's claw when he tries to push himself up to try and get to her once more. These two scars serve as a painful reminder to Guts of what he failed to save on that fateful day. In fact, he uses the last sight of his right eye as a reminder of how much he wants revenge on Griffith: the person who all but destroyed his life and took what little that he truly loved.
  • Betrayal Knows My Name's Usui Shuusei has some nasty burn marks on his upper body. He got them from interrupting Hotsuma's suicide attempt. While they don't bother him all that much personally, Hotsuma hates himself for inflicting them. This puts a massive strain on their relationship sometimes, which goes so far that Shuusei starts to think if he can't get rid of the scars, he should just disappear himself. After all is said and done, these scars actually fuse them together even more, though.
  • In Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba, at the climax of the final fight in the series, after being weakened to a dangerous degree Muzan reveals numerous scars all over his body, as if they magically appeared on him; that's the physical and psychological trauma Muzan was actually never able to truly rid himself off after surviving against his mortal enemy Yoriichi, it is quite telling since Muzan has the absolute best demonic regenerative abilities in the series by far, yet he was never able to truly heal a 400 years old wound, he could only conceal it, he has been terrified of anything remotely resembling that encounter ever since.
  • Kurei from Flame of Recca has these in spades. Along with having a self-inflicted burn scar as a Mark of Shame due to his failure to protect someone, he's endured at least fifteen years of every kind of abuse by his monster of an adoptive father.
  • Edward Elric of Fullmetal Alchemist has this in spades, with a good amount of heavy scarring mostly concentrated at his shoulder - where he's missing his right arm, and his left leg too, both from a botched attempt to resurrect his dead mother after he and his younger brother were orphaned. Rule of Symbolism is in full swing here, with the wounds eventually becoming so extensively symbolic for his character they can't entirely be explained here. See the work's analysis page for details.
  • Kazundo Gouda in Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex: Second Gig was badly scarred in an accident. He could have elected for reconstructive surgery but chose to retain his mutilated appearance, probably so he could see the looks on people's faces when they saw him for the first time. Mentally he changed from a bland bureaucrat to a manipulative bastard.
  • Hetalia: Axis Powers: The nations seem to have a Healing Factor which renders them capable of surviving pretty much any direct damage to their human forms up to and including falls from airplanes, but significant battles and events in their history manifest as wounds.
    • China has a large one on his shoulder from when Japan stabbed him in the back with his katana, which symbolized the first Sino-Japanese war.
    • Lithuania's back is covered in scars. It's implied that he got them from Russia during the Soviet occupation.
    • According to Chibitalia, Rome's body was eventually covered in them from all the battles he fought.
    • Netherlands and Hesse also have scars, but we don't know their significance yet.
  • In Mobile Suit Gundam SEED, Izak gets a scar while fighting against Kira. He could get it removed but decides against it. He wants to keep it until he gets his revenge against Kira. In Mobile Suit Gundam SEED Destiny he doesn't have it anymore, after giving up on his grudge.
  • Dabi from My Hero Academia is almost entirely covered in burn scars caused by his own Quirk. These are physical representations of all the damage his childhood trauma from Endeavor's horrible parenting, the corrupting influence All For One had on him, and his own self-destructive obsession with revenge against the world have had on his formerly innocent mind.
  • In Naruto, Ibiki has scars on his head that represent the mental torture he underwent years back.
    • To a lesser extent, Kakashi's scar over his left eye. He received that scar shortly before his teammate and friend Obito died which was the beginning of a lot of bad things and trauma for him.
  • Rurouni Kenshin is identified by his cross-scar, and the backstory behind it is what forms the kind of person he is today.
    • This trope is even mentioned (although not quite lampshaded or discussed) in later chapters when the idea that scars from a grudge never heal until the grudge is gone.
  • YuYu Hakusho: Sensui is covered in self-inflicted scars from training to show that his fanaticism has damaged him in body and mind.

    Comic Books 
  • In The Dark Knight Returns, an attempt to cure Harvey Dent by fixing his face backfires horribly. Removing the physical scars made his psychological scars grow in response. Harvey sees himself as fully deformed.

    Fan Works 
  • Bird features this prominently, mostly in Mimi (Burnscar)'s case. Mimi has tear tracks of cigarette burns down her cheeks, and ladders of cuts on her wrists. It is all but outright stated that these are cases of self harm due to actions she performed before she became a patient at Alchemilla- and she is the only character besides Svetta who is outright stated to have a kill count. Doubly tragic, as she is actually a sweet girl who hates it- it was all her power's doing.
  • One fanfic for The Simpsons, Don't Tell Your Mother, depicts Seymour Skinner as having multiple battle scars from his time in the Vietnam War. Since several episodes of The Simpsons portray him as a Shell-Shocked Veteran (which is Played for Laughs on the show itself but Played for Drama in Don't Tell Your Mother), his scars serve as a physical representation of how deeply his time in Vietnam affected him psychologically.
  • The major antagonist of the Batman fic "Grudge Match," Nyssa Al-ghul, has two gnarly scars that take two-quarters of her face; one cutting across her left eye and the other on the bridge of her nose. They're a Mark of Shame inflicted by her older sister Talia. When Ra's was Slut-Shaming Nyssa for getting raped, Talia spoke out against it, and to test Talia's loyalty, Ra's forced his daughters to duel each other. Talia was too afraid of disappointing their father, so she won the fight, mutilating Nyssa for good measure, and allowed her to be exiled. In the present, the scars are symbolic to Nyssa's burning hatred and feelings of betrayal directed at Talia.
  • Pretty much all Maleficent fanfics where she gets naked use the scars on her back as a symbol for the incident in which she lost her wings. The explanations for Diaval's scar-like skin structures vary, sometimes this trope is used.
  • Pokemon: Johto Quest: Protagonist Emily Hawthorne picks up a few of these along her journey, especially in episode two. In episode three, it's revealed that Eddy had also picked up some of these prior to the events of Johto Quest.
  • Pok√©mon Mystery Dungeon: Lost Tracks of Time: Sneasels have gems on their chest and forehead, and during the story, Ingo and Emmet both have their gems crack under different circumstances. For Ingo, the gem on his forehead cracked after days of being stressed when a Chained Sneasler calls him a warden (referencing his past that he can't remember) and then knocks him unconscious. In this case, the scar is both physical and psychological. For Emmet, the gem on his chest cracked after he regains his memories, meaning the gem cracked solely from mental trauma.
  • The Sanctuary Telepath - after they successfully exorcise the elemental both siblings' arms are covered in burn marks which serve as a symbol of the psychological scars the elemental's torture and the isolation inflicted on them. In the universe where John dies in the process, the scars become a symbol of Janine's grief as well.

    Film — Animation 

    Film — Live Action 
  • In The Count of Monte Cristo, the scars on Edmund's back that he received from being repeatedly lashed in the Chateau D'If represent how his time in prison embittered him.
  • In The Dark Knight, The Joker subverts this since his different stories about how he got his physical "scars" (which are apparently supposed to be a metaphor for his mental scars) contradict each other, implying in turn that he's probably not being truthful about his mental scars either. Harvey Dent, however, plays this straight because his face was burned in the same incident that killed his girlfriend, Rachel Dawes.
  • In Deadpool (2016), the torturous process that physically scarred Wade Wilson also psychologically warped him. He wasn't the most upstanding citizen before the Weapon X treatment but seems to have lost his moral and psychological moorings after being tortured to the brink of death for days.
  • In Drive a Crooked Road, Eddie has a very prominent scar that runs across his forehead and round his eye: the result of a car crash. It is implied that it is the scar that makes him withdrawn and socially awkward, and causes his issues with expressing or receiving affection.
  • Raleigh Becket in Pacific Rim has scars from his battle with the Kaiju Knifehead over his chest and arms and psychologically he is scarred from that battle when he witnessed and experienced his brother's death.
  • In The Princess Bride, Inigo Montoya, has a scar on each cheek given to him by the man who killed his father which serves to strengthen his drive for revenge.
  • In Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith, Anakin's relationship with Padme went downhill fast when he said they could rule together; when Obi-Wan Kenobi showed up, Anakin blamed him for her turning against him. They got into a fierce lightsaber battle with Obi-Wan, with Anakin falling into a river of lava in the process, and screaming at Obi-Wan while on fire. He survives long enough for Palpatine's medical team to show up and save his life, and in the process putting him in a full suit with Artificial Limbs. Basically, his new suit buried his physical scars, while his new role in the empire buried his mental scars.

  • In Avalon: Web of Magic, the resident Magical Native American advises Emily that an injury both physical and psychological can be harder to heal than purely singular ones. This is relevant to the book's plot in that the severing of Lorelei's horn was painful in addition to being emotionally humiliating and indirectly caused by (what she perceives as) a failure on her part. It almost doesn't matter to Lorelei that her horn will grow back because the psychological scars seem overwhelming to her.
  • Cira in A Brother's Price lost all her older sisters in the incident which caused her scars, and then lost her lover due to the resulting lack of attractiveness. Both incidents scarred her psychologically.
  • In Cagebird, Yuri's cutting scars represent his change from willing participant to unwilling victim of Falcone's pirates. The very act of cutting itself is used to symbolize times when Yuri's too stressed to even address his emotions in the narration.
  • A Dance with Dragons: Theon is tortured physically, including everything from probable castration to flaying. The psychological effects include a complete loss of identity, possible insanity, and a rather twisted relationship with his torturer. Also of note is Sandor Clegane, known to most of Westeros as 'The Hound'. His massive and horrific burn scars across one entire side of his face are both a symbol and the cause of his bitter, angry demeanour.
  • The Seablite gang from Dark Life have both physical and psychological scars from their time as Doc's unwilling experimental subjects.
  • The Gideon Trilogy has Gideon mention this trope when showing Peter the scars down his legs from when a farmer set dogs on him.
    Gideon: Physical pain is over as soon as it stops. Other things take longer to heal.
  • In Heart of Steel, Alistair Mechanus is a physical wreck from a car crash, mirroring the mental wreck he is from a subsequent psychotic break.
  • Austin from Hollow Places has burns scars all over his body, a prosthetic right arm, and is missing the sight in one eye. All serve as reminders for the day he lost his sister to an attack drone, a loss he blames himself for. His half-blindness can be seen as symbolic of his overall view of himself.
  • In The Jungle Book, Hathi the elephant has a large white scar from the time he fell into a spiked pit trap; he felt humiliated enough by the event that when he escaped he razed three villages.
  • The Stormlight Archive: Justified because the Stormlight Healing Factor is guided by the person's self-image. Kaladin can't heal his Slave Brand until Rhythm of War because its history is closely linked to his Survivor Guilt, which is remarked on in the story. Similarly, Navani's Light 'em Up attack on Moash simultaneously overwhelms him with his suppressed emotional pain and permanently blinds him.
  • In Whyborne and Griffin, Griffin has a tentacle-like scar on his thigh as a result of his traumatizing first encounter with the supernatural, which also led to him being forcibly confined to an asylum and enduring further psychological damage. The scar serves as a reminder for both.
  • Garik "Face" Loran in the X-Wing Series sometimes points out the parallels between his vicious facial scar and his guilt over his previous work as a child actor in pro-Imperial propaganda. He received the scar during a firefight when a bunch of ex-Rebels kidnapped him, intending to execute him for his complicity. Even though the advanced medical technology available means removing the scar would be a trivial operation, he's never had it done because he wants to keep the reminder. In their last conversation together, his friend Ton Phanan insists that Face needs to move past his guilt and define himself by something other than a child's mistakes. Face takes this to heart and has the scar removed as a sign of his moving on — though he wears a fake scar for a while.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Babylon 5: The character Colonel Ari Ben-Zayn from "Eyes". He has a massive disfiguring scar down the side of his face, he has it in for Sinclair and anyone on his staff, and he was traumatized by war back in the day.
  • Bones:
    • Sweets has scars on his back from his childhood abuse, which has also obviously scarred him internally as pointed out to Booth and Brennan by Gordon Gordon Wyatt.
    • Also Booth himself, who has scars on the bones of his feet from torture in Iraq, and it's a representation of the emotional trauma he suffered during the experience.
  • In a season 4 episode of Community Jeff recounts all of the ways he was traumatized by Parental Abandonment and mentions an episode when he intentionally scarred himself to fake appendicitis in order to have people worry about him.
  • Person of Interest: Mr. Finch's limp and fused neck vertebrae are the result of being caught in the same explosion that killed his partner Nathan (and several dozen other people). Injured and on the run from the government agents that planted the bomb, he finds out that he could have prevented the explosion if he hadn't been stubborn about the Machine.
  • Pretty Little Liars: Original Sin: Faran has a long back scar due to her corrective scoliosis surgery, which left her with chronic pain, as a child. Learning the surgery was unnecessary and her mom went through with it anyways makes Faran depict it as a sign of her mom's unrelenting quest for perfection in her bio for Swan Lake.
  • The Witcher (2019): Yennefer is given the chance to change anything about her appearance, however she insists that the scars of her attempted suicide stay on her wrists.

    Pro Wrestling 

    Tabletop Games 
  • Warhammer 40,000: Lucius was once the best-looking of the Emperor's Children Legion and entire army of gene-tailored narcissists. Then his nose was broken in a fight with another Space Marine so badly it couldn't be restored, and after he fell to Chaos his face was scarred in successive fights with Loyalists. Now his face is a single massive network of scar tissue because he adds one with every victory as the Champion of Slaanesh.

    Video Games 
  • Fenris in Dragon Age II has scars all over his body from the lyrium used to give him his phasing powers. They also represent his mental scars from years of slavery and abuse at the hands of Danarius, the Tevinter magister that Fenris managed to escape.
  • Starting with Mass Effect 2, Commander Shepard's face will become more and more scarred and inflamed the farther down the Renegade path you go with your decisions. This is explained in-universe as being due to cybernetic implants reacting badly to emotional stress and can be fixed by acting benevolently, or by spending the cash to upgrade the Med Bay.
    • The scars Garrus gets via a rocket to the face serve as a reminder of Sidonis' betrayal and his squadmates' resulting deaths. By Mass Effect 3 however, they've begun to fade slightly.
  • In a way, the massively scarred body of The Nameless One from Planescape: Torment functions like this: He is so scarred that he has practically no intact skin left that could tell him how he used to look like, and also has amnesia. Furthermore, he loses his mind every time he dies; the scars indicate that his mind is probably just as 'scarred' from being repeatedly wiped as his body is.
  • Resident Evil 3: Nemesis: Ada's epilogue slide shows that she escaped Raccoon City with a large scar on her right side. Although it notes that she would drop the "Ada" identity, she starts crying and ultimately keeps the identity. She's unable to shed "Ada", just like she's unable to get rid of the scar or forget the events that she went through.
  • Gozen, leader of the Jingu Clan in The Secret World, sports a very long scar running from the tip of her chin to her left cheekbone; it's not clearly established how she got it, but it's heavily implied that it involved the death of her lover and still serves is a major reason why she despises demons so biliously. In the present, Gozen is the harshest and most puritanical of all the faction heads, not to mention the most reluctant to abandon her old vendettas against the Oni. As the Bees put it, "Old scars will block her view of the true danger."

    Visual Novels 
  • Hanako Ikezawa in Katawa Shoujo has severe burn scars from a childhood tragedy and crippling shyness as a result of them. Losing both of her parents in the house fire that gave her the scars probably didn't help either. Being isolated in the Orphanage of Love and later bullied in her old school also probably didn't help. It also made her into a Birthday Hater.

  • The Fox Sister: Yun Hee's arms, hands, and chest are covered in scars which she received when attempting to fend off the Kumiho during their traumatic first encounter.
  • Gifts of Wandering Ice: Rita was wounded by monster at the age of 12. The encounter left her with huge scars on her throat, and she tends to hide them since then. She says she feels helpless and vulnerable when they are not covered at least with a thin cloth. She is yet to master her old fears.
  • MK's The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde: Lucy Harris has scars which are signs of how hard her life was.

    Western Animation