troperville

tools

toys


main index

Narrative

Genre

Media

Topical Tropes

Other Categories

TV Tropes Org
random
Talking to the Dead
"Hey John
I could use your advice
Put my troubled mind at ease
But your dust don't speak
To me anymore"
Starflyer 59, "Majic"

The mundane equivalent to Dead Person Conversation, a Sub-Trope of Surrogate Soliloquy. A character addresses a dead person, not expecting a response, not getting one — at least, not an unequivocal one. Can be spoken to the corpse, the coffin, the grave — or to thin air. (If the body is present, often Peaceful in Death is in play.)

Ubiquitous in Japanese media; it is believed in Japan that unless the living keep the memories of their near and dear ones alive by talking to them, their spirits will disappear into oblivion. Thus a manga or anime character chatting about everyday things with a picture of their dead parents or sibling is not a sign of losing it.

Libation for the Dead may involve this. For some reason, I Gave My Word is actually particularly binding in this situation (generally for Best Served Cold).

Does not, of course, preclude the dead person's not actually being dead, but does require that the character believe the person to be dead. (Please Wake Up does not fall under this.)

Symbolic or ambiguous apparent messages from the dead start to edge this into Dead Person Conversation.

Compare Converse with the Unconscious. Motives may be similar.


Examples:

    open/close all folders 

     Anime and Manga 
  • Tsume to Toboe's body in Wolf's Rain. A total Tear Jerker moment.
  • Tohru of Fruits Basket does this with her mother.
  • Code Geass: "...right, Lelouch?"
    • C.C. also talked to Marianne, who was alive (in a sense).
  • Being the Necromantic that she is, Precia naturally does this with Alicia's floating corpse in Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha. "We won't be separated this time..."
  • Takamichi of Mahou Sensei Negima! during his date with Asuna: "Master... even though I can't tell her everything, I would at least like to tell Asuna-kun about you..."
  • Light from Death Note does this to L, in the deleted anime scenes of his funeral, complete with loads of Trash Talk and Evil Gloating.
  • In the final episode of Baccano!!, a character asks his long-dead brother, in the "thin air" variety, whether it's alright that the executives of the Martillo crime family are now immortal.
  • Ranma : Ranma Saotome has one of these moments with Akane Tendo, when he thinks she has died. However, after his declaration of love, it turns out she was only severely stunned, and able to hear everything even if she couldn't move.
  • In the original Yu-Gi-Oh! manga, Ryou Bakura is shown writing a letter to his sister Amane. Word of God says she died in a car crash before hand, showing that her death either had a rather traumatizing effect or very little effect on his actions. And in a series full of significant sibling relationships and characters motivated by protecting/rescuing/avenging their loved ones, it's a little jarring.
  • In Cowboy Bebop, Spike is ambushed in a convenience store shortly after its owner bleeds to death. Before the action starts, he says to the dead owner "Sorry, gonna make a bit of a scene."
  • In Kyou Kara Maou, after Wolfram dies, Yuuri has a conversation with his preserved body, promising to save him. The imaginary ghost of the deceased does most of the talking.
    • It's more halfway between Talking to the Dead and Converse with the Unconscious. While Wolfram is technically dead, the preservative apparatus and Yuuri's determination that Wolfram will get better make it feel more like Wolfram's comatose or unconscious.
  • After discovering and accepting the truth of his father's Heroic Sacrifice and defiance of his indelible curse, Neji from Naruto smiles at the sky, having put his rage at same indelible curse behind him:
    Neji: Father... There are so many birds in the sky today... Flying free.
    • Sasuke also starts talking to Itachi after he killed him. It's just another reminder of his Sanity Slippage.
    • Kakashi often stands at the memorial stone and talks to his old friend Obito about everything in his life. Which is how Obito, who is still secretly alive, finds out about Naruto's secret birthplace. He then goes and sets off the events of the night when the Nine Tails attacked Konoha. All because he overheard Kakashi confiding vital information to his gravestone.
  • Bright talks to a photo of Amuro in Gundam Unicorn. Judging by what happens at the end of episode 5, it looks like Amuro was listening.

    Comic Books 

    Fan Fiction 
  • In Left, Frodo tells Sam that he is "so sorry" after he kills him in a fit of Ring-jealousy. Luckily, it's All Just a Dream.
  • Tangled Up In Blues: Throughout the two final chapters, the protagonist/narrator is addressing his dead mentor directly to tell him about how life is going and how thankful he is for everything the mentor's done for him.
  • XCOM Second Contact: Shepard and Jenny.
  • Mass Effect Human Revolution: Hein and Shepard at the end of chapter 28.
  • Under The Northern Lights: The does of Hrimfaxi's temple are able to do this, as long as they have part of the deceased; fortunately, reindeer leave their antlers with them before death. They try this on a figure from ancient deer lore, Wiglek the Wicked. It fails. Wiglek isn't dead ...

    Film 
  • When Tuco catches up with Blondie in The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, he finds Blondie running the same bounty racket with another bandit. Blondie is forced to watch his new partner die, to which he mutters "Sorry, Shorty."
  • The main character of Balls of Fury went to talk to his dead father - and got splashed by the water ride that the cemetery sold the airspace to.
  • Maverick in Top Gun says "Talk to me, Goose" (referencing his deceased former backseater) during the final air battle
  • Hinted at in the first Leave It to Beaver Made-for-TV Movie, when Barbara Billingsly is seen in front of a gravestone uttering her famous line, "Ward, I'm worried about the Beaver."
  • In the first Tim Burton Batman movie, The Joker has a conversation with a mob boss named Antoine Rotellei who he just killed with an electrified joy buzzer. It is during this conversation that The Joker decides to kill the whole lot of the mob summit immediately, allegedly under Rotellei's "suggestion."
  • In a particularly heartwrenching version, the movie Grace is Gone features John Cusack repeatedly calling his (dead) wife's answering machine to ask her advice on how to relate to their two daughters.
  • Carl in the movie Up does this occasionally.
    • To his house, but meaning his wife, Ellie. Russell thinks his house is named Ellie.
  • Mikey in The Goonies has a heart-to-ribcage chat with the skeletal remains of One-Eyed Willie.
  • Lampooned in the disaster movie parody The Big Bus with so many people talking in the graveyard the protagonist has to shout in order to be heard above the din.
  • Johnny in Red Roses and Petrol has an emotional goodbye by speaking to his dead father's video diary.
  • Dolly Levi, as played both by Shirley Booth in The Matchmaker and Barbra Streisand in Hello, Dolly!!, sometimes talks to her dead husband Ephraim Levi.
  • In the Sixth Sense, Anna talks to Malcolm, not knowing he can hear her.
  • John Preston (Christian Bale) tearfully apologises to Sean Bean's Corpse in Equilibrium. Preston was the one who executed him for feeling emotions, a crime punishable by death. Preston was now committing that same crime.
  • In Nell, the titular character talks to (and plays with) the memory of her dead sister. It's a lot less creepy than it sounds.
  • In Sleepless In Seattle, Sam (Tom Hanks) talks to his wife about stuff that is happening in his life.
  • In the closing scene of Tommy Boy the titular character has a heart to heart with his dearly departed dad, whilst stuck on a lake in a sailboat.
  • In Shenandoah, Charlie Anderson talks to the grave of his late wife Martha.

    Literature 
  • In Dan Abnett's Gaunt's Ghosts novel Only in Death, Rawne addresses Gaunt's sword, which was recovered, telling him he's angry about being stuck with this.
  • In James Swallow's Warhammer 40,000 Horus Heresy novel The Flight of the Eisenstein, Garro finds his armor, carefully readied for him by his now-dead housecarl Kaleb. Garro addresses the air, telling Kaleb that he was an honor to the Legion.
  • In the sci-fi story Enemy Mine, humans and aliens are at war. After becoming stranded, the human William Davidge becomes friends with the alien Jeriba Shigan. After Jeriba dies while giving birth, Davidge talks to Jeriba's memory about his concerns. At one point he does bluntly say "You can't answer, Drac, you're dead," quoting the Drac's holy book (which he learned to read), then goes back to talking to Jeriba's memory.
  • In James Swallow's Warhammer 40,000 Deus Encarmine, Rafen, deeply troubled by Koris's dying words, goes to see the corpse and implores him to show him the path, one last time. Koris's not-yet-deactivated vox, which has command codes, falls to his hand, and he uses it to get out word.
    • Later, when Sachiel hears that Rafen was caught in an exploding factory (No One Could Survive That), he gloats, actually saying, "Rafen, you are dead."
  • In Brian Jacques's Redwall, Matthias addresses a tapestry showing Martin the Warrior about his weakness. When Cornflower appears to reassure him and say that his tears are not Water Works, he interprets this as message from Martin.
    • Heck, just about every Redwall book has one of the characters talking to the tapestry of Martin the Warrior. Given that many of them actually receive a response of some sort (especially if they're the main character of the book), this usually falls within the realm of Dead Person Conversation, but not always.
  • Lois McMaster Bujold's Miles Vorkosigan has a tendency to talk to dead people during crises of motivation, most particularly his Grandfather and a baby girl named Raina who was killed for having a birth defect. In Memory he tells his driver that he wants to go talk to the latter of these two, causing the driver to doubt his sanity.
  • In Robert E. Howard's Conan the Barbarian story "A Witch Shall Be Born" Valerius tells Krallides's head that his death was not in vain — now Valerius knows that the true queen is alive and a prisoner.
  • In Scaramouche, Andre-Louis Moreau prays to the spirit of his dead friend, Phillipe, before going to a duel.
  • Shaun from the Newsflesh trilogy ends up talking to Georgia after she dies. He's fully aware that the fact he hears her answer back means that he's insane, but doesn't care.
  • In Poul Anderson's "The Sharing of Flesh", Evalyth talks to both Donli and their yet-to-be-born baby, bewildering herself.
  • In the Horus Heresy short story "Warmaster," Horus talks to the skull of Ferrus Manus about what that title means to him.

    Live Action TV 
  • Ducky does this all the time on NCIS.
  • Alexx on CSI: Crime Scene Investigation: Miami not only talks to corpses, but also calls them "baby".
  • Star Trek: Voyager: Used when Future Janeway had a talk with Dead Chakotay about her plans to illegally time travel to save him and Voyager.
  • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: Sisko talks to Jadzia's coffin at the end of Season 6.
    • O'Brien talks to deceased Mauve Shirt Muniz at the end of "The Ship."
  • Providence - the main character talks to her dead mother at least Once an Episode.
  • Early Smallville, where Lana would go to the cemetery to talk with her dead parents.
  • In Supernatural, Dean does this twice: over his father's grave in What Is And What Should Never Be and over Sam's corpse in All Hell Breaks Loose II.
    • The entirety of Castiel's monologue on his park bench in "The Man Who Would Be King" could be taken as this, though he's attempting to talk to God, who isn't exactly dead. No-one knows this, however.
    • Crowley has a one sided conversation with a dead Dean in the 9th season finale, "Do You Believe in Miracles".
  • Monk also frequently visits his late wife's grave, often to ponder whether or not she would approve of his actions (usually, such actions involve giving up something of hers in order to help someone else, or anything he thinks might cause him to drift away from her memory).
  • In Heroes Ted Sprague visits his wife's grave before he goes to Nuke Mr. Muggles. And the rest of the Bennetts.
  • Several instances on LOST, the most tearjerking of which may have been Hurley talking to Libby's grave. (This was before the dead people started answering him.)
  • Booth encourages Bones to talk to her mother's grave, though Bones is skeptical of its value.
  • A character on Jericho does this to his dead, deaf sister. Interestingly, he signs the conversation over her body instead of speaking out loud to her, even after she is dead, because that was the way he communicated with her his entire life.
  • This scene from Guiding Light. (Warning: the Tear Jerker dial is turned all the way up).
  • Damon of The Vampire Diaries sadly talks to Alaric's grave marker in a somewhat non-supernatural example. Sure, the ghost of Alaric is there listening, but Damon doesn't actually know that, so it fits the trope.
  • Xena of Xena: Warrior Princess does this at her brother's grave in the pilot episode.
  • One episode of Scrubs had Carla (uncomfortably) speaking to her mother's grave while she and Turk were having marital problems.
    • Turk also had to ask Carla's dead mother for forgiveness: 'I asked her if she was still mad at me and the sprinklers came on'.
  • Jack frequently talks to his dead wife, Mary, in New Tricks.
  • Adama does this to Laura Roslin at the end of the finale.
  • This happens a fair bit in The Tudors - Charles Brandon talking to his dead wife in the first season is a notable example.
  • In the episode of Misfits, when Nathan finds Ruth dead he tearfully apologizes for the way he treated her. And calls her a "tart".
  • The Doctor Who series finale The Big Bang has Rory doing this to Amy, who he just killed.
    Rory: So the Universe ended. You missed that. In 102 AD. Suppose this means you and I never get born at all. Twice, in my case. You would've laughed at that. [pause] Please laugh.
  • David from Six Feet Under does this a lot as a way of resolving his real-world frustrations, particularly in the first series . Most notably, he argues with his dead father, a dead gang member teaches him to act tough and resolves a good portion of his Gayngst due to his discussions with a young man who was beaten to death for his homosexuality.
  • In the last episode of season 2 of Sherlock, John does this over Sherlock's grave. Of course, Sherlock isn't really dead.

    Music 
  • In The Protomen's Act II, Dr. Light talks to Emily after she's dead. In the last song he talks to Joe this way, too.
  • The entirety of "Majic" by Starflyer 59 is addressed to Jason Martin's then-recently-deceased father.
  • "Lucy" by Skillet.
  • This is a recurring Trope in Country Music, to the point that a Genre Savvy listener can see most attempts at such a Twist Ending coming well in advance. Prominent modern examples include Leann Rimes' "Probably Wouldn't Be this Way" and Miranda Lambert's "Over You"—both of which at least attempt to invoke a One-Woman Wail.

    Newspaper Comics 
  • Played for bleak laughs in Candorville. Lemont's lawyer spends several strips shackled to a wall next to a skeleton, which turns out to be one of his process servers who'd gone missing. He blames himself for the process server's death, and asks him "Can you forgive me? Then, since he's a lawyer, he takes the skeleton's silence to mean "yes."

    Theatre 
  • In Greater Tuna, several characters, including Aunt Pearl and Stanley Beaumiller, address the town's recently-deceased Hanging Judge, who was found dead of a stroke dressed in a bra and panties. Stanley complains to his corpse how hard it was to dress him in his wife's lingerie after killing him by injecting air into his veins.
  • In The Most Happy Fella, Tony turns his eyes to a certain part of the sky and talks (and sings) to his "Mamma up in Heaven."
  • In Oscar Wilde's play Salome (and its operatic adaptation by Richard Strauss), Salome talks erotically to the severed head of John the Baptist.

    Video Games 
  • In Fire Emblem, after Leila is killed, Matthew occasionally talks to her. He even goes so far as to imagine that Leila told him to give up on trying to enact revenge on Jaffar, who was responsible, because he wasn't really in control of himself at the time, and Matthew obediently lets him go and backs down.
  • Towards the end of Iji, when (barring an Easter Egg) Dan gets killed by Assassin Asha, Iji has a Heroic BSOD and continues to act like he's her Mission Control, even tucking him into bed so he can 'rest'.
  • In the beginning of Tales of Symphonia, Lloyd talks to Anna's grave at Dirk's house. He does it again at the end, asking her if it's OK that he let his dad go.
  • Played for Laughs in Sonic Colors, with Sonic's Badass Boast towards the giant boss robot he just destroyed. Tails even lampshades it.

     Visual Novel 
  • During Hatoful Boyfriend's BBL route a badly shaken Sakuya asks his seemingly-dead brother "What should I do?"

    Webcomics 

    Web Original 
  • Chapter 21.2 of Worm has Taylor, the protagonist, visit her mother's grave to talk to her about what she's done in costume as Skitter.

    Western Animation 
  • Static Shock: Virgil often went to talk to his mom during the first bit of the series.
  • Batman: Mask of the Phantasm, Bruce meets Andrea Beaumont when he visits his parents' graves and overhears her casually talking to her dead mother. This prompts him to do the same thing - including in costume years later, which is how she figures out who he is.
    Andrea: So, tell me - with all that money and power, how come you always look like you want to jump off a cliff?
    Bruce: Why should you care?
    Andrea: I don't. Mother was asking.
    Mr. Freeze: This is how I'll always remember you: surrounded by winter, forever young, forever beautiful... Rest well, my love! The monster who took you from me will soon learn that revenge is a dish best served cold.
    • He talks to her again at the end of the episode, begging for her forgiveness. It's heartwrenching.
  • Subverted in The Venture Bros.. Henchman 21 talks to the skull of Henchman 24 several times during the first half of Season 4, but we only hear him talk. It isn't until the mid-season finale that we learn 24 responds to him...
  • In the Director's Cut of Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker, Mr. J kills one of his henchmen (Bonk), then demands the others re-pledge their loyalty:
    Joker: Boys?
    Chucko and Ghoul: We're with you!
    Joker: Dee Dee?
    Dee Dee: We're with you!
    Joker: Bonk?
    cut to Bonk's grinning, twitching corpse
  • In The Lion King both the movie and the musical have Simba talking to Mufasa. And trust me,he knows.

    Real Life 
  • Serial Killer Dennis Neilsen used to do this; in fact it was his main motivation (well, that and sex). He didn't like being lonely, so he killed his boyfriends after sleeping with them so they wouldn't leave him.
  • Anytime somebody writes a letter to the dead and leaves it on the grave could be considered this. The practice goes all the way back to Ancient Egypt.
    • And the ancestor shrines of Asian religions.
  • Richard Nixon has been laughed at for talking to the picture of Lincoln in the White House, but it's reasonable to assume most presidents might seek insight this way. Like, "Vietnam's a mess. What would you do, Abe?"

Speaking In PanelsExternalizing Internal MonologueThinking Out Loud
Talking AnimalOlder Than DirtA Taste of the Lash
Talking to PlantsDialogueTalking with Signs
Supernaturally Marked GraveFuneral TropesTaps
Talking the Monster to DeathDeath TropesTears of Blood

random
TV Tropes by TV Tropes Foundation, LLC is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available from thestaff@tvtropes.org.
Privacy Policy
64267
3