The Woman Warrior

Breaking the Silence

"We feel safer with a madman who talks than with one who cannot open his mouth," stated the French philosopher E.M. Cioran. Though seemingly counterintuitive, this statement is undoubtedly true, begging us to question what it is about silence that is so powerful. Silence is, by definition, simply the absence of sound. How can an absence be so commanding? The answer lies in its ability to stifle, to overwhelm, and to control. Because it is undefined, silence invites the imagination to run its course, thereby making it profoundly intimidating and controlling. This fact has often been utilized as a means for control. This theory is clearly seen in both Toni Morrison's Beloved and Maxine Hong Kingston's The Woman Warrior, in which different cultures and individuals use silence as a means for power, control, and manipulation. However, though it is the less imposing of the two, language is by no means less powerful than silence. In response to the threat of silence, an urgent need for language and expression arises. As seen in both Beloved and The Woman Warrior, the power of language always prevails; whether through writing, telling stories, or simply allowing memories to present themselves, language always finds a...

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