Five Famous Fictional Scars

Damaged and scarred book

Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls;
the most massive characters are seared with scars.
― Kahlil Gibran

In the real world, populated by real people, a scar is typically considered by patients and dermatologists alike to be a clinical problem to be solved, an imperfection to be erased, or an unsightly blemish to be managed. In the world of fiction, by contrast, the appearance of a scar in a story often plays a highly functional role in helping to define a character’s personality and illuminate his or her motivations.

Illustration of Cain and Abel by William Blake

The Body of Abel Found by Adam and Eve (William Blake, 1826)

One of the earliest scars in the literary canon is mentioned in the Biblical Book of Genesis, where God is said to have “set a mark upon Cain” for the crime of killing his brother Abel before banishing him to dwell “in the land of Nod, on the east of Eden.”

This “mark,” popularly thought to be a scar placed on Cain’s forehead, is echoed in John Steinbeck’s 1952 novel, East of Eden, where the brooding, violent farmer Charles Trask is marked with a dark scar on his forehead, caused accidentally while moving a boulder from his fields.

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