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Silences

October 25, 2009

There’s the conventional silence feminists talk about: women’s voices silenced or not listened to. The famous example is the classroom where men talk and women don’t. But there is also the simple silence of what is Not said in a story or piece of literature. When I am reading, I check the margins and gaps. I try to remember to look at what is not there. Kind of an impossible task. But still, it’s as important to notice who is not speaking as who is, or who is Not in the scene or what scene is not even included. Often, the silent one is a woman or a marginalized person. Sometimes the missing scene tells us more than all the scenes that are included. For example, the reconciliation scene between Sarah and Abraham after Egypt (after he’s told her to lie to save his own skin) does not exist. Without this scene, the couple is in a curious kind of limbo. Is Abraham sorry? Is Sarah angry? Does she forgive him? Is he guilty? This technique helped me many times when I was working with the Hebrew Bible. Mary Wollstonecraft is a different kettle of fish, though. She is extremely voluble. And bossy, too. It seems like she talks about everything. But soon I will start to see what she is Not saying. At least I hope I will. Where are the gaps? Where are the secrets hiding?

One Comment leave one →
  1. Kate Meo permalink
    November 2, 2009 8:40 pm

    Look at what she’s avoiding talking about. Sometimes the more voluble a writer is on one subject, the more the verbiage smothers over something festering elsewhere. The festering stuff tends to pop up in small bursts or in almost outlandish understatement. At least with journals, but MW had been raised somewhat unconventionally herself if I recall aright, that she didn’t have a lot of the same restraint most women of her time would have had in their self-expression.

    Like in OPP, Bradford’s one line “Mrs. Bradford died.” And I can’t recall what specifically, but in one of Gertrude Stein’s later letters to Hemingway when Alice was ill (?), there’s a lot left unsaid, and she was never one to be less than voluble.
    Just a thought. Hope it helps.🙂 I’m enjoying catching up on your latest literary immersion.

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