Personal Letter Reader YKTTW Discussion

Personal Letter Reader
Character needs letter addressed to him read out loud by someone else
(permanent link) added: 2013-03-17 14:19:59 sponsor: Prfnoff (last reply: 2014-09-29 06:01:18)

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A character has just received a letter informing him of some important plot point. But the audience needs to be informed too, and they can't just read over his shoulder. So the letter gets read out loud by the messenger who brought it or someone else already on the scene. There may be a Hand Wave as to why the addressee can't just read the letter himself.

This is mostly a theatrical trope. Visual media usually avert it by showing a close-up of the letter, unless they trust the audience to hear lines better than read text.

See Sounding It Out for when a character reads his own letter out loud. Compare Repeating so the Audience Can Hear, Voiceover Letter.
  • In The Four Musketeers, D'Artagnan receives a case of wine along with a note. He asks a man to read the note to him because he's illiterate, thus allowing the audience to know what's in the note.
  • In the first Problem Child movie, the Bow Tie Killer gets a letter from "JR", and asks a prisoner to read it to him. They don't give a reason for it, though.

  • Because the Sherlock Holmes stories are written in First-Person Perspective, Holmes always hands the letter to Watson saying "What do you make of this?" This has led some Sherlockians to theorise that Holmes was secretly illiterate.
  • In The Truth, William De Worde reads and writes letters for the illiterate on a professional basis.

Live-Action TV
  • In an episode of The Dumping Ground, Bailey receives a letter in the post, but does not immediately open it in front of everyone. Mo susses out that Bailey is dyslexic and offers to read him his letter. Bailey refuses, but then lets Mo read the letter (though Bailey claims it is because the letter had untidy handwriting and not because he is dyslexic).

  • In Annie Get Your Gun, Annie needs Sitting Bull to read Frank's letter saying goodbye to her, because she Never Learned to Read. Annie, offended at the remark that she's "too smart" for him, starts to tear the letter up, but then decides to keep it, saying, "Some day I'll be able to read it."
  • There's a story that Peter O'Toole was in a production of Julius Caesar, and his character receives & reads aloud a letter. O'Toole didn't bother to memorize the words of the letter since it's written on the sheet of paper. For one performance the actor playing the messenger, as a gag/revenge, substituted the standard letter with a blank sheet. O'Toole took one look at it, handed it back to the messenger, and said "My eyes are tired. Read it to me."
  • Lampshaded in Leave It to Me!, where a messenger reads Thomas a telegram sent by Dolly without asking him:
    Thomas: Do you make a practice of reading telegrams you deliver?
    Graustein: Of course. (Exits.)
  • In Loves Labours Lost, Boyet reads several letters sent from the King to the Princess aloud for the Princess, and also at least one letter sent to the wrong person.
  • In Der Rosenkavalier, the Baron has Annina read Mariandel's letter to him because he can't find his glasses.
  • In Sherlock Holmes, Holmes has Watson read a letter from James Larrabee because cocaine is affecting his eyesight.

Western Animation
  • In Oscar's Orchestra, an animated show about some villain trying to eradicate music from the world and some animate instruments and a little girl who tried to save it, the villain was illiterate and one of his servants had to read letters to him.

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