Dermatologists and patients often view scars as imperfections. In literature, however, scars can help define a nuanced character, often revealing more than other aspects of a character’s appearance. Does the scar connote bravery, some triumph in battle? Or, could it mean something more sinister, a memento of treachery perhaps?
Forehead scars, in particular, are a frequently used literary device. The earliest example of forehead scars may be the biblical tale of Cain and Abel. God banished Cain for murdering his brother, Abel, but God “set a mark upon Cain, lest any finding him should kill him. And Cain went out … and dwelt in the land of Nod, on the east of Eden” (Genesis 4:15, King James Version). The Bible does not describe the mark, but some Talmudic interpretations suggest it was a forehead scar shaped like sacred Hebrew letters.
Cresce N, Muszynski MA, Norton SA. The Forehead Scar as a Literary Device. JAMA Dermatol. 2014;150(4):379. doi:10.1001/jamadermatol.2013.10583
Coronavirus Resource Center
Customize your JAMA Network experience by selecting one or more topics from the list below.