Created By: Prfnoff on March 17, 2013 Last Edited By: Prfnoff on November 8, 2015

Personal Letter Reader

Character needs letter addressed to him read out loud by someone else

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Trope
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.
Film
  • 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.

Literature
  • 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).

Theatre
  • 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 Love's Labour's 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.

Community Feedback Replies: 20
  • September 23, 2014
    eroock
    Wouldn't that be covered by the subversion paragraph in Sounding It Out?
  • September 23, 2014
    Prfnoff
    @eroock: It's not quite the same; that paragraph isn't clearly written.
  • September 23, 2014
    justanotherrandomlurker
    Real Life
    • Jay Ward was partly illiterate, and as such, his partner and co-producer Bill Scott would often have to read the scripts for their cartoons (such as Rocky And Bullwinkle) aloud to him. In fact, this is how Scott ended up voicing Bullwinkle in the first place, as Scott would often use different voices when reading scripts to Ward, and Ward really liked the dopey voice Scott used when reading for Bullwinkle.
  • September 23, 2014
    Dalillama
    • In The Truth William De Worde reads and writes letters for the illiterate on a professional basis.
  • September 24, 2014
    bitemytail
  • September 25, 2014
    Arivne
    Film
    • The Four Musketeers (1974). 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.
  • September 25, 2014
    randomsurfer
    • 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.
    • 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."
  • September 25, 2014
    justanotherrandomlurker
    I guess this is a No Real Life Examples trope then.
  • September 26, 2014
    SvartiKotturinn
    There was some Western 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.
  • September 26, 2014
    PaulA
    ^ Oscar's Orchestra?
  • September 26, 2014
    SvartiKotturinn
    YES! That's the one, thanks!
  • September 26, 2014
    triassicranger
    Live Action Television
    • 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).
  • September 26, 2014
    RedneckRocker
    • 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.
  • September 27, 2014
    Daefaroth
    The letter reader is frequently Mr Exposition and this is likely a subtrope/justification of that.
  • September 28, 2014
    DaibhidC
    • Literary example: 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.
  • November 7, 2015
    Prfnoff
    I just found out we have this as Keep Reading. That's not a good trope name, and the description there needs work too.
  • November 7, 2015
    NateTheGreat
    In White Christmas General Waverly asks Bob Wallace to read aloud a letter that has just arrived, since his reading glasses are back in the house and he's too excited to wait.
  • November 8, 2015
    eroock
    ^^ So we have three similar tropes:

    Perhaps we are missing a supertrope.

  • November 8, 2015
    henke37
    • Avatar The Last Air Bender: Toph is blind. I think there was some late season moment involving letters to her family? Help me out here.
  • November 8, 2015
    PaulA
    ^^ Now that you point it out, Keep Reading seems to already be basically the trope that this ykttw is trying to create.
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