Elective Mute

Whereas The Speechless doesn't talk because they are physically incapable of speech, this character can speak, but for some reason chooses not to, instead using sign language or other methods of communication. The reasons for this may vary: in most cases, it is either due to some sort of personal beliefs (like a religious vow of silence or a philosophical concept that "words are useless") or a psychological trauma. In some cases, they may only speak to a few selected individuals.

Compare The Quiet One; some examples may overlap between these two. Also compare Silent Bob, Cannot Talk to Women, Elective Unintelligible and Elective Broken Language. Contrast The Voiceless, who presumably does speak, but we never hear his/her voice onscreen (i. e. it's more of a narrative device than a character type), and Mute, but Not Silent, who is incapable of coherent speech, but nonetheless attempts to communicate verbally.


Examples:

Anime and Manga
  • In the early parts of Bunny Drop, Rin falls into this. At first, the only one who she opens up to is Daikichi, in part because he resembles his grandfather (who is also Rin's father), and in part because he's at first the only adult who seems at all concerned for her well-being. It's most strongly demonstrated when, after slowly but surely opening up to others, Daikichi takes Rin to see his mother and father over the new year's holiday - and Rin immediately clams up again, remembering the harsh treatment she had previously received.
  • One of the traditions binding the shrine maiden Touka in Shindere Shoujo To Kodoku Na Shinigami is that she is absolutely forbidden from speaking with any man regardless of the circumstances, up to and including her own brother. The sole exception is her husband, when she chooses to take one.
  • Eucliwood from Is This a Zombie?. Her words are powerful enough to kill so she doesn't speak (except writing on paper and Ayumu's imagination).
  • Megumi on Special A writes on a notepad to communicate in order to protect her singing voice, which as a result is devastatingly powerful. She does speak a few times, though.
  • Switch from Sket Dance never speaks with his real voice. Instead, he uses a (very realistic) speech synthesizer, which he controls from the computer keyboard. Later his Back Story explains the tragic cause of this unwillingness to speak. In the last few chapters, he starts speaking again.
  • Isabelle from Innocents Shounen Juujigun is implied to be this, as she's said to be mute but speech easily returns to her after meeting Etienne. She tells Guy and Nicolas that, after she and Etienne made love, the desire and will to speak were pretty much overflowed into her.
  • Hakko from Canaan turns out to be this. Her Borner power resides in her voice, which releases lethal and very powerful waves; it can cause brain damage on those who hear it, and destroy any buildings/materials/etc. in her surroundings. For worse, the audience finds out after she's tricked by Liang Qi into killing her boss and love interest Santana.]

Comics
  • While this trope isn't The Silent Bob, Silent Bob from The View Askewniverse would be an example.
  • Black Bolt of The Inhumans. He can talk, but chooses not to since his voice is as powerful as a nuke, and usually uses his wife, Medusa, as his translator
  • Kevin from Sin City never says a word on panel, his father Cardinal Roark informs Marv that he only talks to him. He also adds that Kevin's voice is immensely beautiful.
  • The angel Duma from The Sandman and its spinoff Lucifer. Initially justified by his function as the Guardian of Silence; however, he continues to be silent after the Creator gives him a new function as co-ruler of Hell. (This is based on Jewish folklore which casts Duma as ruler of Gehenna, as his name is one of the biblical synonyms for the underworld, and in fact means "silence" in Hebrew.) He is nonetheless able to communicate through facial expressions and gestures and, in Lucifer, even in discrete words through telepathy. In the latter comic, he finally breaks his silence in order to stop co-ruler Remiel from tearing apart Rudd's soul and to appoint Rudd as the new ruler of Hell.
    • In the Phil Foglio version of Stanley and His Monster, Duma "speaks" by showing little notes to his colleagues.
    • Also in The Sandman, in The Doll's House Chantal always speaks for her partner Zelda who has a really bad stutter. In The Kindly Ones, Zelda is forced to speak for herself, Chantal having died in the intervening years.
  • Also, in Endless Nights, Delirium's story "Going Inside" features a girl who does not speak after being raped. Towards the end of the comic she is shown as recovering and speaking after helping to find Delirium.

Fairy Tales
  • In the story "The Six/Wild Swans", collected by both the Grimm Brothers and Hans Christian Andersen, Princess/Queen Elise must make six shirts out of nettles and can't make a sound for seven years or the spell that transformed her six brothers into swans will never be broken.

Fanfic
  • In Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Defenders of Warmth, Vulpix is this because of her social awkwardness and amnesia, choosing to only talk to Bulbasaur and, later, Isola. Anyone else she only speaks to when spoken to. This changes after she remembers her human life.
  • Rajotel in The Keys Stand Alone: The Soft World. He took a vow of public silence several years ago and communicates via sign language in public, or will whisper in his partner Quill's ear if he absolutely must.
  • Mirror, the mini-con, from Cardcaptor Rad. He can presumably speak, since it's shown he's able to talk to Sideways somehow, but it's stated that Mirror doesn't talk to anyone else, even when the situation calls for it

Film
  • Peter in Jumanji, who talks to no one but his sister ever since their parents death by car accident. Once Alan gets out of the game and finds his parents are also dead, Peter starts talking to him as well.
  • In The Piano, the protagonist Ada has been mute by choice since her childhood.
  • Dwayne of Little Miss Sunshine begins the film as this because he's taken a vow of silence until he can join the Air Force Academy. However, he begins speaking regularly after finding out he's color-blind and thus can't become a pilot. His first word is a very loud "FUCK!"
  • The Korean Hi, Dharma! comedy movies, about Buddhist monks in a modern society, has one monk under a vow of silence, Played for Laughs.
  • Snake Eyes from G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra; in the film it's mentioned he took a vow of silence after Storm Shadow apparently killed their master. Originally, the end of the movie was going to have him speak to tell a joke, but it was cut, probably for the best.
  • The titular character of Andrei Rublev atones for killing a man by taking a vow of silence. It takes 15 years until he breaks his silence.

Literature
  • In The House of the Spirits, Clara becomes mute by choice after predicting the death of her sister Rosa, and doesn't speak for nine years until her engagement to Esteban. Later on, after he hits her in the face, she promises to never speak to him again, and communicates to him only through signs till the end of her life.
  • In The Grass Dancer, Lydia becomes this after an accident that claimed her husband and son.
  • The young seeress Raven from The Mists of Avalon has taken a vow of silence and dedicated her voice to the Goddess.
  • Nastya Kashnikov or Emily Ward, of The Sea Of Tranquility, stopped talking except only in the presence of Josh after undergoing a violent assault, and regains her voice, along with true name, after she understands and accepts that her musical career is forever ruined after her hand has been destroyed by the attack.
  • Charles Wallace was this as a child in A Wrinkle in Time. By the time of the later books, he has grown out of it.
  • The young adult novel Robin's Country centers around Dummy/Richard's learning to speak. He is this for most of the book after Marion discovers he is not actually The Voiceless (he sometimes talks in his sleep).
  • Lewis from the book Lightland is highly selective about who he talks around. He won't speak to his mother, teachers, classmates, neighbors- only to his friend Lottie. When he finally speaks to someone besides her, It's a pretty dramatic scene.
  • Ben from the book The White Giraffe is less selective, but still only speaks o his parents, and his new friend Martine. the other students don't believe he can talk at all. In the second book, he opens up a bit more, and everyone is shocked that he talks.
  • In The Diamond Throne, the foundling Flute doesn't speak at all, except possibly off-page to Sephrenia, the only other member of her race in the party. Partway through the following book, she apparently decides this is tiresome and reverts to her true personality, which is decisive and bossy.
  • The aptly named wizard Silent from The Black Company novels certainly qualifies. The circumstances leading to his vow of silence are speculated on by the narrator and other members of the company but are ultimately never revealed (everyone leaves their past and their real name behind when they sign up.) Refusing to utter a word doesn't make him any less badass a soldier or competent a wizard. Indeed, his speaking in sign language is eventually adopted by other members of company as for use as military hand signals.
  • In Tobacco Road, Pearl is willing to talk only with her mother Ada, and even then uses few words. Jeeter reflects that Ada herself used to not speak to him.
  • In Peter Pays Tribute, Matt has gone more than a year without talking. When he finally does, he starts out only talking to his close friend.
  • In Ro.Te.O, Satoshi (aka Uriel) is one. So far, he's only chosen to talk when voicing Daichi - a protagonist in the Show Within A Web Serial Novel.
  • A half-German boy living in Norway in WWI is violently beaten by schoolmates whose fathers were killed by a U-boat, in Jan Guillou's The Bridge Builders. When he recovers from the beating he refuses to speak Norwegian so he will no longer have to attend Norwegian school. He still speaks German, though, so this might also be a case of Elective Unintelligible.
  • In The False Prince, Imogen the maid is believed by everyone to be mute. She eventually reveals to Sage that it's a ploy to keep unwanted attention at bay. From then on, she speaks to him whenever they are alone, although she keeps up the act to others until near the end of the book.
  • In Josh Greenfeld and Paul Mazursky's Harry and Tonto Harry's grandson, a practicing Buddhist has taken a vow of silence and communicates only by gestures or scribbling on a notepad.
  • In The Witchlands, Owl doesn't speak, likely because of the trauma of whatever happened to her before Aeduen and Iseult met her.
  • The Saga of the People of Laxardal: Melkorka, an Irish princess, pretends to be mute after she is taken captive and enslaved at the age of fifteen. Hoskuld buys her and brings her to Iceland, where she gives birth to Hoskuld's child. When the boy is two years old, Hoskuld overhears her talking Irish with her son, and finally gets her whole story out of her.

Live-Action TV
  • In All in the Family episode "Mike's Hippie Friends Come to Visit", the beautiful hippie girl Robin believes that words are "a waste of time" and therefore only speaks with her eyes.
  • Jessie's brother John in Jessie upheld a vow of silence and was completely mute until That One Critical Moment when he decided to speak and save Jessie's relationship. For the rest of the season he became the good-natured wisecracker of the cast.
  • In one episode of Firefly, the woman from the village of kidnappers assumes that Ruby must be this after River explains why Ruby stopped talking. Subverted when River corrects the woman, saying, "Ruby doesn't talk. Her voice got scared away." (In other words, River read Ruby's mind.)
  • The mostly silent Conundrum, from The X-Files episode "Humbug," spoke only one line, to Mulder and Scully and in the presence of Dr. Blockhead, at the end of the episode. It was implied he was very selective about those he spoke to.
  • Supernatural: After witnessing his dad's death, the son refuses to even talk with his mom. Dean gets him to open up little by little and by the end of the episode, he's back to the little kid he was before the incident.

Pro Wrestling
  • Sting took a vow of silence in WCW in October of 1996 (right after the New World Order hired an impostor Sting to frame the real Sting for a heinous act) and would not speak again until January of 1998 - and that was only out of anger at being stripped of the WCW World Heavyweight Championship.

Theatre
  • In the play (and movie) Reckless, Pooty is this. Due to a Snowball Lie, her husband thinks she's a deaf-mute. When she's alone or with someone who will keep her secret, she talks.

Video Games
  • The Bug in Hover Car Racer only talks to people he feels very comfortable with and close to.
  • Chell from the Portal series is a Heroic Mute, which is Lampshaded several times by other characters. Word of God says that she can talk, but since everyone she meets is a jerk she doesn't want to give them the satisfaction of a response.
  • The New Kid of South Park: The Stick of Truth is a parody of Heroic Mimes and thus responds to everything with stone-cold silence, to the frustration of others. However at the end of the game he tells the kids "Screw you guys, I'm going home" when they talk about playing a new game.
  • "The Ancient" from the Space marine campaign of Dawn Of War II: Retribution never speaks, not even to confirm the player's orders, as he's taken a vow of silence to atone for past sins. That is until the latter portion of the campaign when he breaks his silence to verbally slap Diomedes out of a Heroic B.S.O.D., revealing himself to be Sargent Tarkus from the Original Campaign and Chaos Rising expansion.
  • Quiet in Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain deliberately doesn't speak because she's infected with the English strain of the vocal chord parasite. Said parasite will kill her if she speaks English.
  • In Shop Heroes, Odette never speaks when visiting your shop. If you do her personal quests, however, it turns out that she can speak if she wants to.
  • An Au Ra tribe in Final Fantasy XIV refuses to speak to anyone and even towards each other because they believe that all spoken words are lies and the truth comes from your facial and body language. Naturally, some NPCs find this confusing and frustrating to deal with.

Web Animation

Webcomics
  • Blackwing, Vaarsuvius' Familiar in The Order of the Stick, is fluent in Common, but initially refuses to communicate with the elf except through the empathic link that they share, out of disrespect for his master. He only begins speaking out loud after an Enemy Mine incident which causes them to set aside their differences and ends with the pair seeing each other as Fire-Forged Friends.

Web Original
  • On the Behind The Veil site there's Jennifer O'Connell, who stopped talking completely after the car crash that killed her parents and left her stranded in there for hours (due to her own paralysis). She only very recently started to talk again, and only to her step-mother or when the situation is important enough.

Western Animation
  • Transformers Prime: Played with by Soundwave; while he doesn't use his own voice to speak, he uses recordings of others to communicate. He's apparently taken some kind of vow of silence, which Starscream considers a "cop out". He speaks exactly one line in his own voice (which sounds like an updated version of G1 Soundwave's, or Dr. Claw's from Inspector Gadget). He is way more talkative in the sequel Transformers: Robots in Disguise, though he sounds a lot like his G1 incarnation.
Real Life
  • Actually subverted with a real-life condition which was initially called Elective Mutism; people with this condition don't speak to anyone except a few selected individuals, and it was initially assumed that they do so by choice. In reality, they cannot help it; therefore the condition was eventually renamed to Selective Mutism.
  • Monks and other religious figures who gave a vow of silence.
  • Indian mystic and spiritual leader Meher Baba stopped speaking in 1925, at the age of 31, and until his death in 1969, he only communicated by an alphabet board and hand gestures.

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/ElectiveMute