A protagonist ends locked up in some kind of peril (typical fire or imminent explosion), he is told that he has X minutes until he burns alive or is blown up, or whatever. He has access to a saw, and the chains restraining him cannot be cut through in that time, he is told, but the limb he is chained up to can be. So he is given a “Sophie’s Choice” between horrible death or self-mutilation.
Various variants of this have turned up in popular culture over the years (Mad Max, Watchmen, and Saw). But the situation is basically the same (though in Saw, it is innocent victims that must make the choice, in the other examples it is someone who has committed a terrible crime and the choice is part of a vicious revenge). Who came up with it first? (It was not “Sophie’s Choice” the dilemma in that novel was nothing like the one described). The earliest example of those above was Mad Max (1979), is that the first occurrence of this in any medium?