"Mute" is an episode of the American television anthology series The Twilight Zone. It was written by Richard Matheson, based on his own short story of the same name.
Ilse, a twelve-year-old girl, is orphaned when her parents die in a fire. She is left in the care of others unaware of her true condition. It seems that her parents raised her in ignorance, and did not even teach her to talk. In actuality, Ilse was raised (along with other children in far-away Europe) by parents who subjected her to a language deprivation experiment in which no one spoke (verbally) with her. The intent was to draw out inherent telepathic abilities that the parents believed all people once possessed, but which had been repressed after the development of spoken language.
The experiment with Ilse was particularly successful: Ilse communicated well telepathically. But after the death of her parents, Ilse lives in a world of people who speak with voices instead of their minds, and her life is turned upside down. Her teacher also possesses telepathic abilities but believes they are a corruption to be overcome and works vehemently to destroy them.
By the time she is found by a couple from Austria who also raised their child as part of the experiment, Ilse's telepathic capability has been ruined by her public school experience and the genuine love of her normal, adoptive parents. Ilse also wants to stay.
It is stated at the end that Ilse's parents, while being kind to her, had not truly loved her but viewed her primarily as a living experiment.
- DeVoe, Bill. (2008). Trivia from The Twilight Zone. Albany, GA: Bear Manor Media. ISBN 978-1-59393-136-0
- Grams, Martin. (2008). The Twilight Zone: Unlocking the Door to a Television Classic. Churchville, MD: OTR Publishing. ISBN 978-0-9703310-9-0