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Surrogate Soliloquy

Your character is alone, but (if literature) you're not using a first-person POV. If a dramatic medium, no one else is in view. On stage, you can get away with a soliloquy (if you're William Shakespeare) because the audience is, you know, right there. If you don't mind Breaking the Fourth Wall you can even do it on screen. You could use Inner Monologue...but for whatever reason, you don't want to go there. So how does one get a lone character to talk without making it look as if they are Talking to Themself?

They talk to something, making it The Confidant. An Empathy Pet. A Companion Cube. The mirror (but that's a special case). They ask rhetorical questions of things that are conveniently incapable of answering. They do dialog-based exposition that no one capable of repeating it can hear...but you, the reader/viewer, DO. Unlike Trick Dialogue, it's generally played straight up, but the two can shade into each other. Note that if you are in fact the aforementioned William Shakespeare, you can pull this off with others on stage, if you just ignore them and concentrate on the object at hand (see picture adjacent).

Convenient for when you don't want to bring on another character for whatever reason but still want to make them spill their guts.

A common variation of the trope involves the speaker using the object as a substitute for a particular person, whether a love interest around whom they Cannot Spit It Out or a deceased relative (here a picture or the grave/tombstone itself is often the patient listener).

Another variant: the "object" happens to be both invisible and godlike, i.e., the soliloquy is actually a prayer.

Compare Thinking Out Loud, where a character is in fact voicing their thoughts to the open air, or Companion Cube, where the object is treated as an actual character, sometimes for a good chunk of the story (think Wilson in Cast Away); also Captain's Log, where the object is a recording device of some sort (electronic or journal), and they're expected to relate to it. Super Trope of Talking to the Dead.

Examples

    open/close all folders 

    Anime 
  • Fruits Basket has Tohru talking to a picture of her dead mother to think things through.
  • Subverted in Ranma ˝; Akane frequently talks to her pet pig P-Chan without knowing that P-Chan is really Ryoga.
  • Graveside version also used extensively in Maison Ikkoku. Although half the time there would be another character hidden in the bushes, eavesdropping.
  • Yuna from Mahou Sensei Negima! addresses a photo of her mother as though it were her deceased mother.
  • Both the anime and manga finales of Chrono Crusade have a character speaking to Rosette's grave.
  • Kanako and Father Kanae from Maria†Holic both give monologues to their deceased mothers.
  • The various Duel Spirits for their duelists in Yu-Gi-Oh! GX, particularly Jaden's Winged Kuriboh.

    Comic Books 
  • The first half of The Confession is done this way, but an affecting variation: the reader doesn't immediately know who or what Tony Stark is talking to; the realisation dawns as the monologue progresses and Tony breaks down, ending with a splash page revealing that he has, indeed, been addressing the bullet-ridden corpse of Steve Rogers.
  • Similarly, in "Marvel: The End", Thanos has destroyed the whole universe, killed everyone else, and, alone in the emptiness, recites how it happened for the benefit of the reader. In the last issue, we discover he was talking with the other survivor, his nemesis Adam Warlock
  • At one point in Preacher, Jesse was separated from Tulip and Cassidy for a long stretch. Fortunately, he adopted a dog to talk to.

    Films — Animated 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Charlton Heston has a strange mannequin in The Omega Man.
  • In I Am Legend, the protagonist often talks to his dog, and sometimes to mannequins.
  • In another last-man-on-earth movie, The World, the Flesh and the Devil, Harry Belafonte has a mannequin which he names "Snodgrass".
  • The prayer-as-soliloquy version: Conan's prayer to Crom before the big battle in the first Conan flick.
  • Graveside version is used in She Wore a Yellow Ribbon.
  • Peter Parker calls Mary-Jane on a pay phone in Spider-Man 2, but she doesn't answer. His quarter runs out, but he doesn't hang up, and spills the beans about his Secret Identity and how It's Not You, It's My Enemies to her the dead phone.
  • Cast Away: Tom Hanks spends four years talking to his Wilson-brand volleyball, which he names Wilson. The screenwriter took the idea from of his own experience, when he stranded himself for a week as research and began chatting with a volleyball that washed ashore.
  • Oh, God! You Devil opens with the protagonist's father praying.
  • Parodied in the movie The Big Bus where the hero's graveside monologue keeps getting drowned out by all of the other people in the cemetery delivering graveside monologues. Eventually he has to shout.
  • About Schmidt: Warren Schmidt, played by Jack Nicholson, has a hard time dealing with his mandatory retirement from his mundane job as an insurance actuary. Feeling useless, he responds to a TV ad by "adopting," for a few dollars a month, an African foster child named Ndugu Umbo to whom he writes a series of frank letters describing his many problems, humiliations and misadventures. Schmidt's voice-over narration of these letters, which must make little sense to Ndugu in far-away Tanzania, reveals his troubled inner life with tragic-comic directness to the film's audience.
  • Done in Joe Dirt. Clem practices giving a threatening line to a fire-extinguisher, and later repeats the line to a bully trying to mock the main character.
  • Happy Gilmore: Happy talks to his girlfriend through the apartment intercom. Hilarity Ensues when she leaves.
  • Anti Christ Damien's "Reason You Suck" Speech to statue of crucified Jesus in The Final Conflict.

    Literature 
  • Haunted 2005 by Chuck Palahniuk. After her daughter is killed, Mrs. Clark goes to the place her body was found to talk to "her" and that's how the police know that she was the murderer.
  • Tycho Celchu performs the graveside variant. Apparently it is an Alderaanian ritual called "The Return". Something of a Tearjerker.
    "I am Tycho Celchu, son of Alderaan, now orphan of the galaxy. I have come to this place of my birth to pay homage to who I was and those I knew. And those I loved and love still. It is my wish that when life abandons me, I am returned here to be among you, so that for eternity we may be together as we should have been in life. These gifts are but insufficient tokens of the love for you all that still burns within me. This fighter is another. It bears the colors of the Alderaanian Guard and transmits their code. It is my pledge to you—not of vengeance but of vigilance. I hope you rest well knowing you will rest alone, because it is my life's work to see to it that no one else suffers as you have. I won't rest until this quest is complete. Rest easy. I miss you all."
    • It also has Holocaust overtones, making it that more depressing.
  • Glenda in Unseen Academicals talks to the crab she rescued from becoming someone's dinner. She also talks to her teddy bear.
  • Sophie in Howl's Moving Castle likes to converse with hats, mannequins, sticks, scarecrows, and pretty much anything else. But, little does she know that her conversing with inanimate objects actually brings them to life.

    Live Action TV 
  • Very commonly used in Deadwood. Jane and Charlie frequently talk to Wild Bill's gravestone, and Ellesworth speaks to his dog. Most notably, Swearengen speaks to an Indian's head in a box, which he refers to as "Chief," and this becomes a minor plot point when Dan Dority begins doubting his sanity and confronts him on the issue. Sometimes characters will deliberately address people who have no hope of responding or even understanding what they're talking about. Farnum frequently addresses his thoughts to the borderline-retarded Richardson, and Swearengen often talks to the prostitute giving him a blow-job, snapping at her if she ever tries to respond.
  • Sometimes it involves an inanimate object being used as a stand-in for someone real—there's an episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer where Giles asks a chair out on a date.
    • That scene could be interpreted as Trick Dialogue as well.
      • There's also the episode where Spike uses a mannequin to practice confessing his feelings to Buffy, eventually getting mad and beating the crap out of it. And then there was the Buffybot...
  • Farscape—In the episode "Prayer," the former Peacekeeper Aeyrn Sun (whose people dispensed with religion centuries ago), imprisoned on an enemy ship, recounts a story to herself about a vengeful goddess who punished her ancestors for no reason, and arbitrarily chooses this goddess to pray to for the rest of the episode.
  • Connor from Angel talked to Cordelia - who was in a coma.
    • Does Lorne telling an entire episode to an empty theatre count?
  • Due South: Fraser tells a sleeping Ray V about a woman he once loved. ("You Must Remember This")
  • Mash has a variation of this in Season 4's "Hawkeye": Hawkeye gets in a jeep accident and walks to the home of a Korean farm family. Finding that he has a concussion, he conducts an episode-long running commentary to keep from falling asleep, addressing the various family members (none of whom speak English), the family dog, even some oxen in the farmyard. Not objects, true, but none of them can talk back.
  • In the infamous Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode "In the Pale Moonlight," Sisko narrates the story by composing a Captain's Log entry alone in his quarters, shot in a way that makes it look like he's Breaking the Fourth Wall.
  • Captain Archer of Star Trek: Enterprise does this with his dog, Porthos.
  • Dexter sometimes confesses his secrets to his son, Harrison, who isn't even a year old. At one point he remarks that he has to stop doing this before the baby is able to understand him. He also confessed to Rita as she lay in her casket at her funeral.
  • In Sherlock, Sherlock has a skull (a real skull) lying around on his mantlepiece. He later reveals that he talks to it when he's trying to figure out a case by thinking out loud. When John Watson begins to fill the role of the listener, he no longer needs it.

    Music 
  • The Dropkick Murphys' Tear Jerker "The Green Fields of France" is sung to a dead World War One soldier, whilst sitting by his gravestone.
  • In "Bitchin' in the Kitchen" from Shock Treatment, Brad and Janet, in separate rooms, address a variety of household appliances.
  • Neil Diamond's "I Am...I Said":
    "I am", I said
    To no one there
    And no one heard at all
    Not even the chair

    Newspaper Comics 
  • In the raccoon story from Calvin and Hobbes, Calvin's mom uses Hobbes (in his normal stuffed animal form) to express her doubts about the little raccoon Calvin found making it. She then lampshades it by saying "...you can tell I'm upset when I start talking to you..."
  • In a Garfield strip, camping with Jon and Odie gets on Garfield's nerves, and he tries to start a conversation with a rock.

    Radio 
  • In The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy - The Tertiary Phase (based on the book Life, the Universe and Everything), the story opens with Arthur living alone on a prehistoric Earth. Most of the story for this section is expressed through him talking about what's happening in a one-sided conversation with some trees, which he talks to in a desperate attempt to prevent himself from going mad. Ironically, his attempt to explain to Ford who he's been talking to all this time ends up with him forgetting the word 'trees' and explaining it as "those things people think you're mad if you talk to, like George III". Also, from the one-sided conversation, it's implied that he's rather racist towards elms.

    Theatre 
  • Older Than Steam:
    Where be your gibes now? your gambols? your songs? your flashes of merriment, that were wont to set the table on a roar? Not one now, to mock your own grinning? quite chap-fallen? Now get you to my lady's chamber, and tell her, let her paint an inch thick, to this favour she must come; make her laugh at that.
  • Also from William Shakespeare, Macbeth's "is this a dagger I see before me" soliloquy is in some productions addressed to the dagger itself.
  • In Mascagni's opera Iris, the eponymous protagonist sings to her doll about her fantasies of the great big world outside her rural home.
  • In Pokémon Live!, Giovanni often tells MechaMew2 about his plans and how unstoppable it will be.

    Video Games 
  • Beyond Good & Evil, Jade addresses her Heroic BSOD to her dog:
    Jade: Poor Woof... I know how you are: you tried to help them. You told yourself that you wouldn't let them come to any harm. That you'd be there to protect them. I know, boy... But that isn't what actually happened. The kids are gone...and you? You couldn't do anything! Yet — you're here, alive and well! Who do you think you are? Did you think that you'd actually be able to make a difference? Well, Woof, you were wrong, boy. Completely and utterly wrong. There's nothing anyone can do. There's nothing anyone can do...

    Web Comics / Web Originals 

    Western Animation 


Stumbling Upon the Lost WizardOlder Than SteamSwitched at Birth
Surprisingly Similar StoriesAdded Alliterative AppealSurveillance Station Slacker
Rebus BubbleExternalizing Internal MonologueSpeaking in Panels
The SummationDialogueSurvival Mantra
Standing Between The EnemiesSpeeches and MonologuesThe Summation
TheatreImageSource/OtherHarry Houdini

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