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Silence of Sadness

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"I'm hearing considerably fewer syllables out of you than normal."
Christopher Pike (to Tilly, who's normally a Motor Mouth who uses big words), Star Trek: Discovery, "Point of Light"

Somebody is sad. They could be dealing with something serious like the death of a loved one, but it happens just as often that it's simply a bad day. And how do we know that person is sad if they're not crying or outright saying so? Simple — have them talk less, if at all.

This character is not Dumb Struck — they can speak perfectly fine. They just don't feel like it as much as they would if they were happy. This can range from absolute silence to simply fewer or shorter sentences. Somebody who speaks in Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness might also use shorter words than usual.

Expect everyone to notice (especially if the person is usually talkative since O.O.C. Is Serious Business) and ask what's wrong. The person being quiet may open up, or they might just nod and walk away. There'll probably be a pep talk eventually, whatever the circumstances.

Compare Too Unhappy to Be Hungry and Too Upset to Create for other tropes about characters not doing things because they're sad. Also compare It's Quiet… Too Quiet, for when you can tell things are serious because the surroundings are quiet, Stunned Silence for when someone doesn't speak because they're shocked instead of sad, Moment of Silence for the death-specific, cinematic equivalent, Emotionally Tongue-Tied for more positive emotions like love, and Silent Treatment for when someone is angry at another person and so refuses to talk to them.

May be a dark reason behind The Quiet One, The Voiceless, The Speechless, the Elective Mute, or the Silent Bob. See Lost Voice Plot for when someone is outright unable to speak (generally not due to sadness) and it makes up an entire plot.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Digimon Tamers: Following the death of Leomon, Juri sinks into a deep depression that leaves her in a borderline catatonic state. Seeing his friend go from talkative and enthusiastic to mute and distant is enough to make Takato cry tears of despair.
  • Downplayed with Switch in Sket Dance, who communicates via a speech synthesiser (which uses the same voice as him) on his laptop but is otherwise an Elective Mute. His refusal to speak came about in his Dark and Troubled Past; he feels responsible for his younger brother's death and was left so traumatised by the incident that he eventually stopped going outside altogether, let alone speak to anyone. He eventually gained the courage to come back to school and socialise with everyone but didn't feel ready to start speaking yet, and that's where his iconic speech synthesiser (created by his late brother) came in. In the present everyone takes his speech synthesiser communication in stride, but a few occasionally worry about him since they're aware of the negative implications behind his muteness. Switch speaking again in the last chapters indicates that he's finally moved on from the tragedy and feels at more ease with himself.

    Fan Works 
  • Godzilla fanfiction Abraxas:
    • Mariko notes that Vivienne Graham, severely traumatized by what's happened to her and her current situation, is usually very quiet and doesn't speak while she and San are held captive by Jonah's mercenaries.
    • Drs. Ilene and Ling sit in companionable silence for a while after Ilene brings up how she misses the still-presumed-dead Vivienne, in Chapter 7.
    • After San reluctantly resorts to pressing Vivienne's Trauma Button to snap her out of a psychotic fit, he's silent out of shame and self-loathing.
    • When Thor is talking with Viv and San about the ancient peoples who worshipped him, Vivienne admits that their languages and the ways of the Bone Singers have mostly been forgotten. This causes Thor to go mournfully silent for a while; to a point where Vivienne considers departing to give him some space.

  • Junior Officers: In "The Kelp Fish", Kwazii is noted to be unusually quiet after having heard Shellington's emotional breakdown in the previous chapter.
    • In that same chapter, Shellington himself is very quiet, having hit his Darkest Hour. He doesn't respond to Kitsune trying to talk to him at all. It's not until near the end of the chapter that Peso gets him to speak again.
  • The Loud House fanfics:
    • In Requiem for a Loud, upon hearing that Lincoln is dying, Luan becomes a mime.
    • In The Devices and Machinations of Lisa Loud, one story arc involves Lisa developing a tighter schedule due to her Teleportation device. She eventually has to miss sleep and starts speaking quieter and with fewer big words. While this is partly due to the Sleep Deprivation, it's also because she's sad and misses having more free time.
    • In Cleansing, Luan is very sad and doesn't know why. She only responds with "maybe" to invitations, doesn't crack jokes like usual, and doesn't feel like asking for advice either.
    • In It's Not a Date, the Loud sisters go quiet when they're feeling sad after Lincoln yells at them.
    • In Luan's Problem, when Luan doesn't speak in the car on the way home, it's a sign she's got troubles.
  • Resident Evil fanfiction The Progenitor Chronicles: During Volume I's finale, the MC is with a group of his friends on vacation in Terragrigia. One of them, Jay, is quiet and sullen due to his crush recently rejecting him (she and her new boyfriend are there with them, no less). When Il Veltro broadcasts their message before they launch the terror attack on Terragrigia, the group wonders what language they're speaking. Jay answers they're speaking Italian, and Nick jumps in surprise, as those are the first words Jay has said the entire trip up to then.

    Films — Animation 
  • Big Hero 6: After the death of Tadashi, Hiro sits alone at the funeral, doesn't respond to his aunt, and when his friends try to talk to him, he shuts off the call without saying a word back. It's not until Baymax wakes up that he begins speaking again.
  • Despicable Me: When Dr. Nefario calls Miss Hattie so that she can take Margo, Edith, and Agnes back to the orphanage, Gru doesn't say anything during his Villainous BSoD. Edith doesn't say a word when she's being taken away either, devastated and furious with Gru.
  • Hoodwinked!: Red is disappointed in Granny for having never told her about her life as an athlete and not allowing her to do anything other than deliver pastries. She leaves Granny's house, not even responding to the news reporters outside. Red then silently walks through the woods alone as the song "Red is Blue" is heard in the background, highlighting how down she feels.
  • Ice Age: When Manny has a flashback of the time he lost his family to hunters, he, Sid, Diego, and Roshan are all silent during this scene. Once he gets over his wistfulness, this reaffirms Manny's determination to take Roshan back to his family, and Sid also appears to brighten after that. However, Diego looks back at the cave paintings that triggered this flashback with a dismal expression, having a Heel Realization.
  • Planes: Fire & Rescue: Following Dusty's Heroic Sacrifice to save Harvey and Winnie despite his faulty gearbox, not a word nor sentence is exchanged during the time when Dusty is found and Maru is repairing him while Dipper watches, and the sounds resume once he wakes up after being fixed.
  • Shrek: During the Sad-Times Montage set to "Hallelujah" by John Cale, Shrek, Fiona, and Donkey don't say a word, devastated about the misunderstandings that have happened between each other. Donkey, however, finds some solace upon finding Dragon and goes to console her.
  • Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs: During Snow White's Disney Death, none of the dwarfs say a single word. They all just have tears streaming down their faces. (Dopey doesn't normally talk anyway, but it's significant for the rest of them.)

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Jess Aarons is noticeably more quiet in the final scenes of the Disney adaptation of Bridge to Terabithia, returning to school after his friend Leslie's funeral. He doesn't say a word when Kenny the bus driver offers him a few words of condolences, doesn't even flinch when giving the class bully Scott a well-deserved punch for making a tasteless joke over the death, keeps completely silent when his class teacher Miss Myers tries consoling him, and is completely voiceless, preferring to bury his head in his hands during Miss Edmunds' music class.
  • Corrina, Corrina: Molly Singer goes through this following the unexpected death of her mother until Corrina coaxes her out of her shell by taking her out for breakfast.
  • Godzilla (2014): When Joe Brody sees his wife Sandra through the viewing port, trapped inside the nuclear power plant's reactor area after she's been lethally poisoned, he can't bring himself to utter a single word for the rest of the scene, simply nodding his head and whimpering quietly as she says her last goodbye to him.
  • Referenced in Home Alone. The Polka singer who gives Kate a ride back to Chicago tells her about how he once left his son alone at a funeral parlor all night. The kid was okay... after about six weeks, at which point he finally started speaking again.
  • Near the end of Independence Day, after Russell Casse had pulled a Heroic Sacrifice to destroy the Harvester's superweapon, blowing up himself with the rest of the Harvester ship in the process, the entirety of Area 51 is seen celebrating the victory over the alien invaders... except for Russell's oldest son, Miguel Casse, the only person remaining silent among the cheering crowd. The commanding officer of Area 51, Major Steven Mitchell, then comes over, pats Miguel on his shoulder, and said what Miguel's father did was very brave and he should be proud of his old man.
  • The Witches: After the protagonist's parents are killed in a car accident, he is relatively quiet and doesn't say a lot besides turning down his grandmother's meals. He snaps out of it once Grandma cheers him up.

  • Adrian Mole: When Adrian's parents are separating, Adrian writes "The house is very quiet. My mother sits in the bedroom smoking, and my father sits in the spare room smoking."
  • Danny, the Champion of the World: After Danny's father has returned from hospital, Danny notices that his father is generally very silent. He is sure that he would tell him why if he asked, but he waits until his father does speak up a few days later, revealing his pent-up anger at Mr Hazell, and what he would really like to do to get his revenge.
  • In the kids' story David's Sand Pit, David is disappointed at his dad not getting the sand for his sand pit. He's silent on the way home, until he finally says, "I thought we were going to get some sand." His dad reassures him that they will get the sand eventually.
  • In the Dilly the Dinosaur story centred around his first day at nursery school, Dilly goes home from school and his family is concerned when he doesn't say anything at dinner. As it turns out, he's scared and sad because his teacher made a joke about chopping him up for firewood.
  • In the Shirley Hughes book Dogger, Dave is said to be rather quiet at teatime and bath time. He talks a bit during bedtime when he reveals that he's sad because he wants his stuffed dog Dogger, who is lost.
  • In The Famous Five book Five Have a Wonderful Time, the Five have a very subdued supper after the unfriendly Fair-Folk have moved the Five's caravans into another field; this is repeated at breakfast the following morning after an angry farmer has shouted at them for being in his field.
  • In Harriet Spies Again, Harriet is sad because she thinks she'll be having to live in Paris for three months. At dinner, the chef says that Harriet is unusually quiet for "someone whose mouth usually goes yammer, yammer, yammer."
  • In The Lord of the Rings Frodo becomes less talkative the more he feels the Ring tormenting him.
  • In the Mo Willems book Knuffle Bunny Free, Trixie realizes that she accidentally left Knuffle Bunny behind in the airplane. It's noted that she doesn't even have to tell her father about it, as her somber expression and silence pretty much say it all.
  • Olivia: In "Olivia the Spy", Olivia hears that her mother is taking her to an "institution" (actually a ballet) and thinks she's going to be sent to prison. When they're in the car, Olivia's mother notes that Olivia is very quiet as she's looking out the window, since she's "saying good-bye to the city she loved so well".
  • In Return From the Flight! by Natalya Kravtsova, a fictionalised biography of flying ace Lydia Litvyak, Lilya grows silent and withdrawn after her beloved Lyosha is killed. After her best friend Katya is shot down as well, Lilya barely speaks or interacts with anyone, hardly spending any time on the ground at all and just going on flight after flight.
  • Stuart Little: When the Littles are sad because Stuart is missing, it's stated by the narration that nobody talks during lunch.
  • The Wind in the Willows: When Mole is homesick, Ratty notices how quiet his friend is, and how he is dragging his feet.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Inverted in The Addams Family episode "Lurch and His Harpsichord". Lurch usually only says sentences of one to three words, but when he feels sad due to the eponymous instrument being taken away, he says a full sentence:
    Lurch: Nobody cares about me.
  • Monty Python's Flying Circus: In the "Dead Parrot Sketch", the store owner lies that the parrot's silence (in addition to its lack of movement) is due to "pining for the fjords". In actuality, it's dead.
  • Roseanne: At the beginning of Season 5, Dan has to deal with a Trauma Conga Line of his motorcycle shop closing, Roseanne losing her job as well, and his daughter Becky suddenly eloping with her boyfriend. He spends most of his time in the garage, and when he comes in he never speaks to anyone more than he has to. When Becky returns to try to explain, the only thing he says to her is, "Don't do me any favors."
  • Star Trek:

  • In Dino Attack RPG, the backstory of Amanda Claw reveals that she witnessed her parents being murdered when she was only a child. She was so depressed by this tragedy that she stopped speaking altogether and became an Elective Mute.

  • The titular character of Hamilton is typically a Motor Mouth who never shuts up, but after his son's death he changes completely, his grief song a very slow work entitled "It's Quiet Uptown".
    I spend hours in the garden
    I walk alone to the store
    And it's quiet uptown
    I never liked the quiet before

    Video Games 
  • Brothers in Arms: While McConnell is normally The Quiet One in Red's squad, he's still pretty chatty whenever he's with his friend Paige. When Paige is killed during the assault on St. Sauveur, he stops speaking entirely. This continues on into the next game, where he never talks to anyone else in his squad, and only Baker acknowledges his presence.
  • Grandia: During Sue's departure, Justin, who is usually quite talkative, has nothing to say when Sue finally breaks down sobbing after Trying Not to Cry. He just stands there and watches sadly as Feena lets Sue cry into her chest. He does start to talk again soon afterwards, however.
  • Subverted in Moshi Monsters. The "Bungle in the Jungle" mission involves a woolly green hoodoo who isn't speaking. The player character asks if he's okay, and his kids say, "Our old man? Yeah, he's fine; he's just the strong silent type."
  • In Pokémon Black and White, N is usually a Motor Mouth, but he becomes silent from utter remorse when Ghetsis reveals that he was only an Unwitting Pawn for his conquest of Unova, calling him out as a disgrace to their family the whole time. N starts to talk again after the player battles Ghetsis, though.
  • Sonic Unleashed: When Amy doesn't recognize Sonic while he's in his Werehog form, Sonic feels rather down. Aside from a few groans, he doesn't talk for the rest of the cutscene and doesn't respond to Chip's unsuccessful attempts to reassure him that he's not scary.

    Visual Novels 
  • In Daughter for Dessert, Amanda, having been sexually rejected by the protagonist during their stay in Whiskeyville, barely talks during the return trip. Neither does the protagonist.

    Web Original 
  • 17776: In chapter 15, after their talk with Ten about humanity's purpose, Nine is feeling down and is notably terse in their responses as well as omitting end punctuation.
    Juice: ten give you the talk?
    Nine: Yeah
    Juice: how you doin with it
    Nine: I don't know
    Juice: you uh
    Juice: you wanna watch some football
    Nine: Yes
    Juice: what kinda game you wanna watch
    Nine: I don't know
    Juice: you ok?
    Nine: I don't care

    Western Animation 
  • Arthur: In "The Case of the Girl with the Long Face", George notices that Fern feels sad, as she does not share her poetry in class (she doesn't want to write stories either, but that's a different thing altogether). He hires Buster to figure out why, but in the end, Fern reveals that she just feels sad sometimes for no apparent reason. When this period ends, it has given her a good idea for a new story.
  • Bluey: In "Butterflies", after Bluey abandons Bingo so she can play with Judo, Bingo mopes in a fabric swing. She doesn't say a word when a remorseful Bluey tries to apologize to her until Bluey starts singing the ladybug song that Bingo was singing early on in the episode.
  • Courage the Cowardly Dog:
    • In "Muted Muriel", Muriel gets tired of being ignored by her husband and stops talking altogether. She spends the brunt of the episode staring at the ground with a sad expression on her face while playing a repetitive tune on her sitar.
    • In "Remembrance of Courage Past", Courage becomes completely silent and unresponsive after he remembers that a veterinarian sent his parents to space, orphaning him. He doesn't even scream when Eustace tries to startle him with his mask. He snaps out of that silence, however, when a worried Muriel decides to take him to that same vet.
  • In the Jelly Jamm episode "White Dodo", when Ongo is sad about the eponymous White Dodo flying off into space, he doesn't babble once. He just sits under a tree looking despondent.
  • Little Princess: In "I Want to Go to the Fair", the Princess is sulking about not being able to go to the fair due to her injured foot. Until she cheers up, she doesn't say much beyond "[activity the Queen suggested] is boring" and one-word sentences.
  • Littlest Pet Shop (2012):
    • In "Guilt Tripping", Vinnie is very upset when Pepper accidentally breaks one of his lucky rocks in half. He doesn't say a word when she tries to make small talk with him.
    • In "Penny for Your Laughs", Pepper accidentally makes Penny Ling cry with her insult comedy. Aside from tearfully saying she didn't find Pepper's jokes funny, Penny doesn't speak much. When Pepper tries to make her feel better, she does nothing but lie down on a cushion, moping. She talks again once Pepper apologizes.
  • In The Loud House: In "The Crying Dame", when Lily is sad over missing her toy fox Fenton, she's too sad to even cry.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic: In "The Return of Harmony, Part 2", Twilight Sparkle finally gets hit with a huge Heroic BSoD (to the point of nearly crossing the Despair Event Horizon) after the Elements of Harmony fail to activate against Discord. She silently and sullenly trudges back to her home at the library, barely responding when Discord shows up to taunt her.
  • "Bubbles the Blue," an episode ofThe Powerpuff Girls (2016), had Blossom and Buttercup puzzled at Bubbles having a spell of being sad. It turned out that it wasn't from any evil plot, it was just Bubbles suddenly sad and withdrawn which she says she'll work out herself.
  • The Ren & Stimpy Show:
    • In the episode "I Love Chicken", Stimpy gets too depressed to talk to Ren after the latter has eaten his beloved chicken wife until Ren angrily tells him to stop with his "bereaved chicken widow crap".
    • In "Son of Stimpy", Stimpy goes into a Heroic BSoD when he can't find his son (read: sentient fart). When Ren tries to cheer him up, Stimpy doesn't say much else besides "I don't care".
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2012): In "Owari", among the people who attend Splinter's funeral (the turtles, Shinigami, April, Casey, Dr. Cluckingsworth, Ice Cream Kitty, the Mighty Mutanimals, Chompy, and Kirby O' Neil), nobody talks once. They just stand there as April puts some flowers on Splinter's grave, watching somberly.
  • Timothy Goes to School: In "The Taketombo", Yoko doesn't say a single word after the Frank twins accidentally break her taketombo while playing football. She only nods once when Miss Jenkins asks her if she would like to help her pick out a book. She doesn't start talking again until the Franks tell her they want to help fix her taketombo.

    Real Life 
  • When a normally noisy young child goes quiet, more cynical parents may think that the child is planning to cause trouble. Other parents, however, might assume that the kid is in a bad mood or, worse, sick.
  • This may arise if someone feels they can't explain why they are sad or are thinking through what is making them sad.
  • Canaries may stop singing if they're sad or stressed.
  • The practice of holding a moment of silence is done to observe a solemn occasion, like the death of a beloved person, or victims of a disaster.



How well does it match the trope?

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Example of:

Main / TearsOfRemorse

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