What fictional character deaths have affected you emotionally?
May 26, 2007 11:58 PM   Subscribe

What fictional character deaths have affected you emotionally?

...but only in books or movies that you think people will still be talking about 100 years from now. (No television.) What character deaths have made you feel blindsided, hurt, and/or mad at the author?
posted by Tuffy to Media & Arts (67 answers total)

This post was deleted for the following reason: chatfilter

How spoiler-y are we getting, here? The last two books that made me cry were The Time Traveller's Wife (Henry) and Norwegian Wood (Naoko). I was reading the latter on an airplane, weeping, and the stewardess looked very concerned.
posted by lhall at 12:13 AM on May 27, 2007

The endings of Robert Cormier's After the First Death and The Bumblebee Flies Anyway, as well as Philip K. Dick's VALIS and The Transmigration of Timothy Archer took me awhile to get over.

I cannot speak for their cultural longevity, but while they saddened me, they did not make me angry with the author.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:13 AM on May 27, 2007

Chewbacca in Vector Prime
posted by null terminated at 12:19 AM on May 27, 2007

Roy Fokker, of course.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 12:20 AM on May 27, 2007 [1 favorite]

(some people will still be talking about it, I presume)
posted by null terminated at 12:20 AM on May 27, 2007

Ol'Dan and Li'l Ann in Where the Red Fern Grows.
posted by carsonb at 12:26 AM on May 27, 2007 [7 favorites]

Owen Meany. So I'm a pop lit philistine.
posted by maryh at 12:28 AM on May 27, 2007 [1 favorite]

Garp's death, at the end of the book and movie The World According to Garp. Gets me every time.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 12:30 AM on May 27, 2007 [1 favorite]


Also, Enkidu. (they've been talking about it for five thousand years already, maybe it'll make it for another hundred.)
posted by nasreddin at 12:33 AM on May 27, 2007 [3 favorites]

Dr. Malcolm Crowe in the Sixth Sense...

...only because someone saw me watching the movie and asked, "Oh is that the one where Bruce Willis is dead through the whole movie?"

People will be referring to "I see dead people" for centuries to come.
posted by samsara at 12:38 AM on May 27, 2007

Serenity, for sure (don't want to spoil it, but silly as it sounds, it really affected me, especially because of the way it happened, so abrupt and no-nonsense and relatively unsentimental (at least initially), I spent so much time with Firefly that I developed a real affection for most of the characters, and it's affected the whole series for me now when I rewatch it).
posted by biscotti at 12:39 AM on May 27, 2007 [6 favorites]

Well, they probably won't be talking about it in 100 years, but I still want to mention Andy Lippincott in Doonesbury.
posted by jeri at 12:45 AM on May 27, 2007 [2 favorites]

And Madame Bovary- {{SPOILERZ)) I didn't give a rats ass about the principal characters buying the farm, but the kid getting hauled off to an orphanage.... I'd like to dig up Flaubert's dusty remains just to headbutt him for that.
posted by maryh at 12:53 AM on May 27, 2007

Nate Fisher in Six Feet Under.

(i know its TV, but still...)
posted by dendrite at 12:54 AM on May 27, 2007 [1 favorite]

Bambi's mom.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 1:01 AM on May 27, 2007 [2 favorites]

Beth in Little Women.

Also, the, ah, one in Bridge to Terebithia (the book--I didn't see the movie). That one made me bawl for hours when I was a kid, and still gets me to this day. It was the first time I remember reading a story and realizing the author could just... kill someone! Ah, the power of fiction.
posted by lovecrafty at 1:10 AM on May 27, 2007 [1 favorite]

Kevin Spacey's character at the end of American Beauty.
posted by Jon Mitchell at 1:11 AM on May 27, 2007

Walt in Garp. Okay, I'll shuddup now.
posted by maryh at 1:14 AM on May 27, 2007

The death of Wade, the medic from Saving Private Ryan; and the execution of Matthew Poncelet in Dead Man Walking. The portrayals led to 180-degree changes in how I felt about war and violence.

I don't feel mad at the authors/director, though. I'm often disappointed by what I think are bad choices within a story, that create knocking and pinging in the story's engine. And when that happens, I'm less attached to the story, emotionally, not more.

This happens in great works and lesser works alike. Does Ophelia really have to kill herself in Hamlet? Does that serve the story in the best possible way? Or is Shakespeare just piling on at that point?
posted by frogan at 1:15 AM on May 27, 2007

Oh, and the death of Boxer, the horse, in Animal Farm.
posted by frogan at 1:17 AM on May 27, 2007 [2 favorites]

Blazecock: I was similarly affected by the ending of Cormier's "Bumblebee". It still haunts me.

Not so much a death:

I got really angry when the protagonist in "The Rachel Papers" by Martin Amis didn't get his comeuppance. That made me very angry with the author, but I know he was baiting me. Bastard.

I got mad when they killed off Nate in Six Feet Under, only because they had a chance to off him at the end of season two. In the last episode Nate goes under anaesthetic and he dreams he's running along a highway when the bus that killed his father pulls up beside him and the door opens. Then everything fades to white.

They should have ended it there. The following seasons were bullshit.

But that's my theory about all TV shows. They're only ever good for the first two seasons before they grow fetid and start to smell.
posted by BAKERSFIELD! at 1:19 AM on May 27, 2007

To avoid spoilers, I'm writing this blind; I may be repeating someone else. My apologies if I am.

I'll avoid spoilering this as much as I can, but a death in Dan Simmon's "Carrion Comfort" still bothers me, even now. It is, in my opinion, one of the better horror novels ever penned. Even if you don't like horror, read that book. I wish I could say more, but I just can't without messing it up, and that's one book that it would be a crime to spoil.
posted by Malor at 1:20 AM on May 27, 2007

Athos, my favourite musketeer.

The deaths of Porthos and D'Artagnan are nothing like as affecting.
posted by Phanx at 1:23 AM on May 27, 2007

When I was lead to believe that Frodo was dead (from Sam's POV) I cried. For a really long time. Until my parents were like, "um, keep reading, doofus."
posted by np312 at 1:36 AM on May 27, 2007 [1 favorite]

Hazel dying in "Watership Down" really got me as a teen. (Re-reading as an adult, I was horribly distracted by the endless descriptions of the English countryside, but I still choked up there at the end.)
posted by thebrokedown at 1:41 AM on May 27, 2007

Adrain from Sonya Harnett's Of a Boy. The only time in my memory that I have ever been reduced to tears by a book. She doesn't so much rip your heart out as gently cut your arteries and let you pump out your own blood. Brilliant book.
posted by Jilder at 1:50 AM on May 27, 2007

The end of Brokeback Mountain gets me every time.
posted by wemayfreeze at 1:51 AM on May 27, 2007

of mice and men
posted by garethspor at 2:08 AM on May 27, 2007

The Bridges at Toko-Ri chokes me up, every time I watch it on late night TV, or classic movie channels. And while I understand James Michener was making some points about the morality of war, and the vagary of fate, as a reader of the novel and a many time viewer of the subsequent movie, I feel angry and manipulated because, in the real life situation Michener fictionalized, the crews actually survived their crash landings, and were captured, which is another kind of fate with which he could have made similar points, less manipulatively. I do understand that Michener initally understood the real crews were killed in after crash ground action, and wrote his story initially as a news dispatch claiming such, while he was covering the Korean war as a news correspondent. But by the time he fictionalized it for his novel, he knew the facts, and was making artistic choices, carried through into the movie. Highly manipulative, and worth some anger on that account, but still dramatically affecting, every time I see the old movie on late night TV.
posted by paulsc at 2:08 AM on May 27, 2007

The horse in Dances with Wolves. I was only 10 at the time, but Christ it was sad.
posted by kisch mokusch at 2:08 AM on May 27, 2007

Jesus. (I kid!)

Dumbledore (I kid! Sort of.)

Gandalf (No kidding. I was all, "Dude!" But then he came back.)

Wash (They'll still be talking about Serenity in 100 years. You wait and see.)

Catherine from A Farewell to Arms.
posted by thinman at 2:20 AM on May 27, 2007

Athos, my favourite musketeer.

OH GOD NO. Oh I hate myself. Why why why did I click. Why. Crap.
posted by Skyanth at 2:36 AM on May 27, 2007

Lin at the end of Perdido Street Station. Goddamn you, China Mieville, for making me care.
posted by jtron at 2:58 AM on May 27, 2007

Seconding The Time Traveller's Wife.
posted by girlgeeknz at 3:10 AM on May 27, 2007 [1 favorite]

Snowden in Catch-22, or, at least, when it's revealed how gruesome his death is, and why it affected Yossarian so much.
posted by good in a vacuum at 3:16 AM on May 27, 2007 [1 favorite]

HAL 9000
posted by hgws at 3:20 AM on May 27, 2007 [3 favorites]

Tess in Thomas Hardy's Tess of the d'Urbervilles.

Also, there is a dog in Jack London's book (Call of the Wild?) that gets injured and they leave him in a clearing and he yowls and paws and tries to follow them... that was pretty traumatic when I was ten.
posted by bluenausea at 3:21 AM on May 27, 2007 [1 favorite]

God, there are so many. I'm a weepy sort of person, but the ones that really stand out are:

-I cried when Luke burned Vader's body. First time I ever cried in a movie.
-Matthew at the end of Anne of Green Gables. First time a book made me cry.
-Clea from the Alexandria Quartet
-Dumbledore and Gandalf (basically they are the same dude)
-the end of Dancer in the Dark really pissed me off - still does. I won't ever watch that movie again. Talk about brutal...I disliked it enough that I hope it doesn't have staying power, but it sure made an impression.
-I knew Sherlock Holmes was both dying and coming back and his death still bit me pretty hard
-The only reason I didn't cry at the end of the final book of A Series of Unfortunate Events was that I was in a number theory lecture at the time. I think kids will be reading those books for a while...I know mine will, should I have kids.

It's not surprising that so many people are breaking the rules and saying TV shows. Serials will do that.

I know there are half a dozen more that I'll think of in a few minutes.
posted by crinklebat at 3:21 AM on May 27, 2007

The death of someone I held very dear, in Little, Big. And now I will have to go try to cheer myself up and get through this day somehow.
posted by cocoagirl at 3:22 AM on May 27, 2007

Gatsby in The Great Gatsby.

I just think it was incredibly sad, how someone who built himself up from nothing and spent years pining for his lover would ultimately be betrayed and abandoned by her in his death.

And all those nights he spent standing outside and looking at the green light on her pier...
posted by Mrs PuGZ at 3:32 AM on May 27, 2007

Miles Pruitt in Staggorford. A really lovely book. The Time Traveller's Wife as well.
posted by triggerfinger at 3:37 AM on May 27, 2007

Sorry, Staggerford
posted by triggerfinger at 3:38 AM on May 27, 2007

The girl who suicided in Once were warriors had me crying so hard I had to leave the cinema. In Jodi Picoult "Sister's keeper", the unexpected death in that book left me sobbing myself to sleep.
posted by b33j at 4:12 AM on May 27, 2007

"Done because we are too menny "

Little boy kills himself and two sisters in "Jude the Obscure"
posted by Duck_Lips at 4:18 AM on May 27, 2007 [1 favorite]

Cedric Diggory in the HP books. It was so sudden, and no-nonsense, it really just threw me up against the wall. And then when his father started in with "My boy! That's my boy!"....yeah, I totally lost it.
posted by spinturtle at 4:44 AM on May 27, 2007

What carsonb said: Old Dan and Little Ann.
posted by Alt F4 at 4:52 AM on May 27, 2007

Any time a dog dies, since I had my dog put to sleep.
posted by IndigoRain at 4:55 AM on May 27, 2007 [1 favorite]

-Ned Stark in A Game of Thrones and the Red Wedding scene in A Storm of Swords (which is the defining moment of the whole series so far) both by GRRM
-Hazel in Watership Down
-anytime a dog dies
posted by i_am_a_Jedi at 5:15 AM on May 27, 2007

The main character in Dancer in the Dark (played by Bjork), though I think less because of the annoying character and more because of the injustice of it all.
posted by wackybrit at 5:33 AM on May 27, 2007

Not a death, but I felt unbearable grief when I finished the game Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening and discovered all the characters I had fallen in love with were all a dream :(
posted by saturnine at 5:35 AM on May 27, 2007

The boy and girl in Grave of the Fireflies (don't remember the characters' names). The most heart-wrenching movie I've ever seen. And I've seen a lot. Cried my eyes out. And movies never make me cry.
posted by zardoz at 5:56 AM on May 27, 2007

A major character dies toward the end of the book Shogun. I cried the whole afternoon. After reading most of the way through that damn three-inch thick book, I was so upset with the author that I was unable to finish. That was three weeks ago and it still gets me. Perhaps I need to finish the book for closure. It really is a lovely book and the grief I still feel is a testament to the writing, I suppose.
posted by bristolcat at 6:06 AM on May 27, 2007

Floyd the Robot, Planetfall.
posted by waxbanks at 6:13 AM on May 27, 2007 [1 favorite]

Spock in Star Trek II. Pa Kent in Superman: The Movie.
posted by beaucoupkevin at 6:21 AM on May 27, 2007

Sandman. Hurt, yes. Mad, no; I could see that's what the story was building towards and some of the clues had been laid out long before the conclusion.

And Garp, as mentioned above, plus that whole painful ending Irving wrote telling how everyone lived their lives and died. Hurt and mad the first time I read it; just hurt after that ("yes, it happens, let's not dwell on it").

Quentin's suicide in The Sound and the Fury, once I realized that's what that scene even was--it's the way Quentin is most interested in not having to do mundane things again.
posted by Tuwa at 6:21 AM on May 27, 2007

I cried like a baby at the end of The Adventures of Robin Hood. Granted I was all of 9 years old at the time.
posted by Durin's Bane at 6:28 AM on May 27, 2007

1. Gandalf. The first time I ever mourned.
2. Jake in Stephen King's The Gunslinger. Yes, the Dark Tower series will live forever...
3. Billy Costigan (DiCaprio) in The Departed. I'm still angry.
posted by RussHy at 6:34 AM on May 27, 2007

Nate Fisher in Six Feet Under.

I was so relieved when that happened. The Nate character was such an incredibly contemptible asshole who drained the life out of every scene he was in. When he went, I was almost happy about it.
posted by psmealey at 6:34 AM on May 27, 2007

Benny in City of God.

Requiem for a Dream affected me more deeply than any other work of fiction. But none of the main characters die (it might be more bearable if they did).
posted by gauchodaspampas at 6:36 AM on May 27, 2007

Lily Bart in The House of Mirth. The entire book was focused on the destruction of everything she'd built her life upon, but the second to last chapter showed a slight glimmer of hope that she would rebound. Worse, was that the reader knew her death was accidental, but also knew that the other characters would see it as suicide, making her the destruction of her reputation complete. Sob.
posted by saffry at 6:42 AM on May 27, 2007

Seconding Tess, in Tess of the d'Urbervilles. Read it my senior year in high school, during an already depressed period in my life (depressed, in high school, go figure). It affected me so strongly that I have yet to re-read the book ever since, though consider it one of my favorite novels. (ten years ago)
posted by Atreides at 6:53 AM on May 27, 2007

"The boy and girl in Grave of the Fireflies..."

I was going to say that as well. I was sobbing outright at that one.

On a related note, there's a character death in Threads that particularly gets me, but partially because of the character's resemblance to my husband when he was a kid -- the little boy, Michael. Of course, there are a lot of other deaths in that film as well.
posted by litlnemo at 6:53 AM on May 27, 2007

George R.R. Martin loves killing off main characters in The Song of Ice and Fire. It's incredibly depressing. So much so that I've refused to continue reading whatever else he's written so far (just one book, I think) after the third volume.
posted by cyrusdogstar at 7:02 AM on May 27, 2007

Can't beat the Where the Red Fern Grows novel, as mentioned at least twice. First the one by the mountain lion, then the second by wounds and heartbreak at the grave of the other, oh, here I go again =P I read it a second time decades later, and ripped me right in two just the same.

I cry somewhat easily at movies. There was some moisture at the end of the Bourne Supremacy film, truthfully.
posted by Quarter Pincher at 7:06 AM on May 27, 2007

Robin Hood for me too.
posted by idb at 7:12 AM on May 27, 2007

The death of the city of Dresden in two books. Slaughterhouse-Five and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close both messed me up in their telling of the fire bombing. I know that Dresden isn't a fictional character, and that the bombing was an historic event, but in those two novels the event is seen as a mass extermination and it will leave you changed. In both of Foer's books the main character loses family to the destruction of their city/village.

I think Charlotte's Web was the first time I ever encountered death in a book. Even though she was just a spider, I was stunned. Sounder and Old Yeller and The Yearling, also made a significant impact, but those were also animals.

I think I'd have to add a vote for Garp. Frankly many of Irving's characters come to mind. Your start his books knowing that someone is a red shirt. Sometimes it's obvious, the one everyone loves, other times a bit more shocking. Thinking on it, in Garp, the driveway scene left a pretty deep impression, NPI, and a little part of that character died.
posted by Toekneesan at 7:12 AM on May 27, 2007

Also, David Niven's character in Paper Tiger, but I was young at the time.
posted by idb at 7:13 AM on May 27, 2007

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