Shhhushing Girls: Oppressive Government Systems and the Constructions of Girlhood in Lauren Oliver’s Delirium (Danielle G. and Agata S.)

Lauren Oliver’s Delirium depicts a dystopian United States of America that bases its governing system on The Safety, Health, and Happiness Handbook (The Book of Shhh). The Book of Shhh informs citizens about the chaos and dangers of amor deliria nervosa (love), “the deadliest of all deadly things,” hailing the need for a cure and justifying the mandatory surgical procedure for citizens 18 and older in order to eliminate the ability to love in all senses of the word (53). The Book of Shhh also indicates the roles that citizens must take within the society: men and women are to enter arranged marriages after personal evaluations, surgical procedures, and schooling are completed. Upon completion, men enter the workforce and women into motherhood; a history of gender oppression is perpetuated as girls must silently accept the fate of having to get married and become mothers without any other prospects.

With deliria being the basis of the governing system, emotions are depicted as the root of all evil in this society. Throughout the novel, readers observe deliria/love expressed chiefly by women, particularly seventeen-year-old female protagonist Lena. Girls and women are depicted as irrational, unstable, and needing to have the cure earlier than age 18 in order to control or silence their emotions so as not to become a danger to society. As such, The Book of Shhh, the government, and the cure become synonymous to silencing entities that not only hold women accountable for jeopardizing social order, but also reinforce gender stereotypes in regards to the construction of girlhood by insisting on a lack of agency and voice in their life.

      The Book of Shhh combines the power of divinity through theological/biblical explanations with ‘scientific evidence’ to create a fully formed and sound compendium for the citizens of Delirium to follow. It states: “Humans, unregulated, are cruel and capricious; violent and selfish; miserable and quarrelsome. It is only after their instincts and basic emotions have been controlled that they can be happy, generous, and good,” further stating that the society’s role is to “shelter these systems from infection and decay” (354, 87). In stating so, the government of this dystopian society convinces its citizens they are essentially disabled by emotions and incomplete without a cure. In chapter seven, Lena explains that she was named after Mary Magdelene, a figure from The Book of Shhh’s biblical section, who was “nearly killed from love.” Mary was “so infected with deliria and in violation of the pacts of society” that when Joseph abandoned her, she begged God who heard her prayers and “removed the curse of deliria,” making Mary “the very first cured” (87, 88). Attesting to Mary’s cure, the government likens themselves to a god-like figure, able to cure humans of this innate disease. Furthermore, The Book of Shhh also creates a stigma towards women as unable to control their emotions and needing to be ‘saved’ by the cure.

     Delirium perpetuates this stereotype further. In the novel, there are no reports of early cures or hysterical displays of emotion by male characters. However, Lena, Delirium’s narrator, relays stories of perceived excess female emotion: a girl who escaped her restraints and “dropped [off a roof] quickly, without screaming” from deliria (3); her sister Rachel needing to be cured before age 18 due to deliria and a boy breaking her heart (174); Lena’s classmate Willow Marks who apparently was found with a boy and had her cure date moved up six months (92); and Lena’s mother, who went through three ‘cures’ to no avail, committed suicide because of deliria (31). When Lena falls in love with Alex, her cure date is also moved forward in order to protect the society from being ‘infected.’ Despite the possibility for detrimental side effects of an early cure, the society is willing to risk further disability to its young women for a utilitarian cause.

In silencing these women by curing them, the society more quickly initiates the women’s ascent into adulthood and their arranged marriage. In The Second Sex, Simone de Beauvoir argues that “marriage is not only an honorable and less strenuous career than many others; it alone enables woman to attain her complete social dignity and realize herself [as a mother]” (396). The Book of Shhh echoes Beauvoir’s ironic statement: “Marriage is Order and Stability, the mark of a Healthy society” (11). Beauvoir furthers this by stating “Everyone unanimously agrees that catching a husband…is for her the most important of undertakings” and she “passively and docilely deliver[s] herself into the hands of a new master” (396). The society facilitates evaluations, in which the interviewee must speak prepared words that fall in accordance with the society’s values in order to give them a better chance at being considered for “a variety of positions,” of which none but marriage are ever stated. This effectively silences the citizen’s right to choose a partner in the interest of maintaining order.

      Delirium takes the old adage that “children should be seen and not heard” to another level. The governing body in this novel infantilizes the entire society by curing them, with particular emphasis on ‘unruly’ females. In her essay on silence and power, Helen Jaqueline McLaren states that Those who are silenced send a variety of discursive messages, including that they are weak, passive, powerless or voiceless,” continuing on to say that “Silence may then be interpreted by those with more power as assent to continue the domination” (3). The governing body in Delirium adheres to McLaren’s claims. Silencing their citizens with the cure, taking away their ability to love, make choices for themselves, and rendering them docile and effectively brainwashed is what keeps them in power. The government furthers their silencing as power through claiming hierarchical status, as told when Lena exclaims that “defacing or destroying The Book of Shhh is sacrilege,” and that “criticizing the system is the worse offence there is” (229, 22).

Along with claiming power, The Book of Shhh affects the upbringing of young women by making them believe their voices are not worthy of being heard. Lena, while she believes the cure is the best thing for her, consistently finds herself unable to speak the words she wants to say and struggles with an internal dialogue that refuses to become external. She is “shy, and afraid that [she’ll] say or do the wrong thing” (20), constantly telling Hana to “keep [her] voice down” (47), learned to “say one thing when [she’s] thinking about something else” (49), and “always tried to be as patient and obedient and good as possible… always tried to be as invisible as possible” (76). Lena’s cousin Gracie also remains silent until the end of the novel, only speaking in a rebellious act that aids Lena’s escape.

     The Book of Shhh and the government of Delirium are undeniably rooted in traditional ideas of girlhood. Young girls, traditionally, were raised to believe that reserve, docility and marriage were their ultimate goals. Through the implementation of oppressive strictures, the society is separated into traditional gender roles and silenced by having a lack of agency taken away. Beauvoir states “This self-control imposed on the woman becomes second nature for ‘the well-bred girl’ and kills spontaneity” (401). However, the governing system fails on occasion, and Lena is no exception. She rebels against these limitations, proving that self-control and lack of spontaneity can be cured: love is all you need.

 

Works Cited

de Beauvoir, Simone. The Second Sex. 1949. Vintage eBooks, 2011.

McLaren, Helen Jaqueline. “Silence as a Power.” Social Alternatives, vol. 35, no. 2, 2016, pp. 3-5, https://www.lib.uwo.ca/cgi-bin/ezpauthn.cgi?url=http://search.proquest.com/docview/1806212310?accountid=15115. Accessed 19 October 2016.

Oliver, Lauren. Delirium. HarperCollins, 2011.

Discussion Questions:

How does the intrinsic silence placed upon citizens, particularly females, play out in other characters? How do Hana, Gracie, or Lena’s mother show this silence? How does it affect their rebellious behaviour, if at all?

Some people may argue that silence can be seen as a form of power. Is there an argument for this in Delirium? Is silence as a power effective? How?

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16 thoughts on “Shhhushing Girls: Oppressive Government Systems and the Constructions of Girlhood in Lauren Oliver’s Delirium (Danielle G. and Agata S.)

  1. This is a really thorough analysis of how girls are oppressed and silenced through the government in the novel! I think it’s especially important how you discuss that every case of an early cure procedure mentioned was a girl (even Brian who admits to having romantic feelings before his cure is not caught and does not describe himself as having the all-consuming love that Rachel experienced), invoking the stereotype of women as irrational and overemotional.

    However, I think it is also important to consider the traditional feminine gender roles Lena uptakes even when she rebels against this system as well. Lena only ever feels beautiful when she is told that she is by Alex. When her pair Brian claims that she is not, the self image given to her by Alex immediately crumbles. Although Lena is able to express her independent thought and agency by rebelling to be with Alex, which does eventually lead to her greater understanding of the manipulative government that surrounds her and to greater motivation outside out Alex to rebel, Lena still derives a large portion of her self-confidence from Alex. This dynamic between Lena and Alex suggests that Lena requires Alex in order to become confident and therefore that she needs a man.

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  2. I think this analysis of the role the Book of Shhh plays in this text is really well thought out. Like the previous comment, I like that you highlighted the instances in which the hysteria induced by love is really only visible in female characters – there are no really examples of male citizens receiving an early cure.

    With that said, however, I think it is still important to note that both sexes are constrained by the society in fear of the cure. Boys and girls are kept separated until after the cure, both sexes follow curfew, both sexes are evaluated and so on. Even further, boys are also forced to adhere to gender roles – they are the breadwinners of the family and there is no discussion of fatherhood to the extent of motherhood (implying that the role of the father is not as rooted in love as the mother’s).

    I also think it is important to remember that Alex – a member of the counterculture existing outside of society that reads poetry and looks at the stars and loves freely – is a male. Alex is the epitome of the romantic: he memorizes Shakespeare’s sonnets, removes the roof off his trailer to see the stars, etc. Thus, although Oliver IS drawing strong connections between girls, love and hysteria – she is not altogether suggesting that boys and men do not have the ability to love, especially in her depiction of Alex as a sensitive romantic.

    I am wondering if there is such a focus on girls and girlhood in this text because the protagonist is a girl. Perhaps if Lena were male, the reader would see the same oppressions as we do now?

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    1. I think it is interesting how Oliver makes Alex’s characterization and representation of gender stereotypes fairly complex in comparison to most of the other characters. The women are repressed into their traditional gender roles sometimes to the extent of being labeled hysterical (like back in the 19th century). Lena’s uncle is one of the only other men we meet and he too seems to fit into his traditional role (the breadwinner, the business man, the one who needs to be cooked for). Alex on the other hand seems to possess a more complex characterization which includes both the emotional “feminine” traits you discuss and the tougher and more physical “masculine” traits.
      Yes, Alex is a classic romantic with his Shakespeare, starry sky and love notes to a stranger he fancies but he also plays the part of the classic (male) hero on more than one occasion. He saves Lena from the violent regulators at the illegal party she goes to to warn Hana. In this case, Lena has attempted a rescue (of Hana) but failed, while Alex successfully takes on the “masculine” hero role and saves Lena. He then switches to a more “feminine” nurturing role when he cleans and bandages Lena’s leg and shows his “sensitive side” by telling her about the first time he noticed her. Then when Lena describes his body, it is clear he fits the traditional ideal male body type as she describes his muscles and collarbone.
      There are several times throughout the novel that Alex switches between traditional male and female traits and behaviours, thus complicating the binaries that seem to be so well enforced in the society.
      I am wondering if Lauren Oliver wrote Alex in this way to show the freedom that can be experienced outside the oppressive society of Portland that forces people into their designated gender roles. Alex is not as easily defined and constrained by his gender because he has not grown up exclusively in the city.
      I do realize that Alex is nowhere near gender fluid or really breaking down huge stereotypes, but within the context of the novel, he possesses a combination of masculine and feminine characteristics more than other characters do.

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  3. You make a lot of interesting points, and while it is true that we almost exclusively hear about girls with the disease, it must be noted that Lena and her female peers are segregated from the opposite sex. It is very likely that Lena only witnesses and hears about cases of deliria in girls because she only has exposure to girls. For example, she hears about Willow Marks because she is a classmate of hers, but we do not really know what happened to the boy Willow was in love with because Lena does not know him, nor does she know anyone who would know him. It is important to keep in mind the narrator’s knowledge and remember that we can only understand the society from her point of view, which is obviously limited in terms of her exposure to one sex.

    I agree that women are silenced in this society, but I do not think Gracie fits perfectly into this argument. Although she is silent throughout the novel, she chooses to be silent. This can be seen as an act of passive rebellion. She is very aware of what she is doing, and seems interested in helping Lena throughout the novel. For example, she does not stop Lena from sneaking out of the house, suggesting that she approves of what she is doing, or at least that she does not disapprove. When Gracie does speak, it is an extremely effective action that allows Lena to escape to freedom. Thus, Gracie is empowered by her silence because it is her choice and because it allows her to have a more impactful, disruptive voice when she does speak out.

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  4. REPLY to Danielle and Agata

    I really enjoy this idea of silence that you propose. Both, literally through the ways of being perpetuated from the Book of Shhh and the other from the lived experiences of Lena; how she submits to these ways of being silent as well as overcoming the silence. The quote that you had used by Helen Jaqueline McLaren reminded me of a theoretical ideology I had learnt this year in my Advanced Topics in Feminist Theory and Practice. We read an article called Of Things Said and Unsaid: Power, Archival Silences, and Power in Silence written by Rodney G.S. Carter. It discusses exactly what you have proposed about silence as a power being effective. It makes me wonder because the quote by McLaren you used explained how those who are silent will send messages to those with more power about their weakness and inferiority and those who inhabit the more power will use this as a way to continue the domination. This may be true, and it works for Delirium because the government needs its citizens to stay silent without having an opinion of the dystopia they live within in order to continue using their current system. In this sense, those who would rebel and chose to no longer be silent, send messages to the government that they are in fact not weak and inferior but rather question the system they are underneath. In Carter’s article is looks at the opposite. In that staying silent does not necessarily have to represent the chooser as weak and inferior but rather obtaining a form of power. Specifically, the article deals with archives. The action of the powerful that deny the marginal access to archives (keeping them silent) impacts the ability of the marginal groups to form social memory and history. But the idea of silence as an effective power comes from silence not being equated with absence but instead a forceful strategy of resistance. It is not precisely a ‘power over’ but ‘power with’, ‘power to’, ‘power as capacity’. It deals with a personal empowerment and control over the individuals’ thoughts, feelings, and behaviours. It is therefore the power to “speak or to be silent, to have control over one’s own person and possessions, to co-operate or to resist” (Carter 215, 227, 228). In this context, I do think choosing to be silent can be a form of power as capacity or empowerment. But then I also think, the key word is ‘choice’. I don’t believe that all marginalised have the privilege to choose whether or not they will be silent. In Delirium the citizens are forced by the government and the Book of Shh telling them how to be silent, as well as all the possible outcomes that will happen to them if they do not stay silent. Therefore, I am not sure if there is an empowerment within this, as choosing to be silent will only result in the individual having the surgery anyway and living the life the powerful wants them to live. I suppose you could argue that Lena is choosing to be silent in the beginning in that she is hoping for the security and empowerment of her own, so she can feel safe from the symptoms of Deliria. And she also chooses to be silent to her aunt when she begins to rebel with Hana and Alex. Her aunt has authority over her in some ways, but because Lena is not telling her aunt what she is up to, she is granted better opportunity to gain information of the false life she has been living and educate herself of all the lies she has been told. This form of being silent is giving her power as capacity and more empowerment within herself. She is taking control over her own person and possessions. But I am also positive that there must be those who are unable to choose this kind of silence over the powerful in a form of resistance. Lena’s mother was only able to choose silence to a certain extent by closing the curtains, and making pancakes, laughing and dancing with her children. But the amount of silence had caught up to her, and she was forcefully told in other ways more than one that she was no longer allowed to be silent. Therefore, she had lost the individual thoughts, feelings, and behaviors she was keeping to herself because she was unable to continue her choice in staying silent. I am not sure if this answers your question, but it was just many of my jumbled thoughts I was creating the past couple days.

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  5. I really liked your point about how there are no specific mentions of careers for women in Delirium, other than being a housewife and stay-at-home mother. Lena mentions that if she and the other girls can test well enough on their exams, their marriage to their pair can be postponed while they go to college. This makes me wonder why the young women would even be given the option to go to college if they are not able to do anything with their education. Why would they bother furthering their education if they are going to be housewives in the end anyway? Lena says that she will “begin Regional College of Portland in the fall”, but does not specify what she will be studying (Oliver 182). However, we are told that Brian Scharff “plans to work ‘in the electricians’ guild'” (182). Lena never imagines herself doing anything different than what her Aunt Carol or her mother did and is so focused on the cure and the weeks leading up to the cure, that anything she might do afterwards seems unimportant. She never imagines her future career, only her future husband.

    In the novel the only other brief mention of a woman having a job is when Alex and Lena go to the Crypts. The person who works at the front desk of the prison/asylum is a woman. This is another example of a woman in a traditionally female role – a secretary. Even when a woman does work outside of the home, it is still in a stereotyped position.

    I also wanted to respond to your question regarding silence as power. It becomes clear that the power of the Invalids and the sympathizers comes from their staying hidden. Silence, subtlety, and codes are relied on in order for these people to remain undercover in Portland. As soon as their actions are too loud, or when they become too careless with their secrecy, they will get caught by the government and forced into receiving the cure, into the Crypts, or executed. For the rebels, their power comes from their secrets and if those secrets are not kept extremely quiet, they become powerless in the face of the government.

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  6. I really enjoyed your arguments–I thought that they were well-supported. For your argument about silence, I believe you could have borrowed from “We Other Victorians” by Michel Foucault as he discusses the power of silence as it brings topics into discourse rather than rendering them invisible in addition to the arguments you made.
    I would also like to hear your thoughts on how your argument interacts with Judith Butler’s theory of performativity. If the government is regulating and punishing femininity and girlhood, how does the idea of gender as performance play into this? If we believe Butler in saying that gender is constructed and repeated in order for it to exist within our bodies, what sort of gender are the girls in Delirium impersonating? Why would girls try to embody femininity in Oliver’s universe when it is essentially being punished? Or do we see girls like Lena trying to mask her femininity and copy the uncaring, cold women around her? We may be able to argue that Oliver’s ideal femininity is different from the femininity that is idealized in our society. Whereas we desire women and girls who are caring and maternal, this kind of femininity is punished in Oliver’s America. The only “idealized” femininity Oliver really gives us is seen through Aunt Carol–the unemotional, cold “caretaker” of the home. We see many “deviant” femininities within Lena, Hena, Rachel (pre-cure), and Lena’s mother. Butler may ask what are these women looking to in order to recreate this femininity if it is undesirable? Why would they impersonate these deviant femininities in a world that punishes them for it?
    I would love to hear somebody’s opinion!

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    1. Hi Sam. Great points. I love Butler’s theory of performativity.
      I think that femininity needs to be thought about differently from the femininity in our world. Though there are clear gender binaries, there is no real evidence that femininity is pink, ‘girly,’ weak, docile stuff in their world like it is in ours. I think Lena is attempting to perform the ideal female in her society, however, which is cold and submissive to the female gender role that is constructed in this society (paired, cured, married, and a mother). She sees this in her Aunt Carol, and she knows what NOT to do from what happened to her mother. I think the deviant feminine personalities are all un-cured, right? They’re the ones who fall in love and let love rule them, but there is still no real evidence, other than Lena, that it changes their femininity. But we see Lena become submissive to Alex — she constantly needs his reassurance, she feels like she’s going to drown herself in her tears when she thinks he’s left her, etc. It’s not until she watches Alex ‘die’ that she makes a comment about no one being able to stop her. Up until that point, she’s basically just walking in Alex’s footsteps, and doing so quite hesitantly.
      Lena and her “two selves” that she speaks of are the cured and the un-cured versions of herself, which complicates the idea of performativity. She wants to be cold and emotionless and fit into the society that she’s being pushed into, having been made to believe it is the safe option and the only option. I think in our society, this would be called being ‘unfeminine’ — I’m not condoning this, merely stating it. However, this cold and unfeminine-ness is also being associated with being a mother and a wife. But when she starts to break away from this, she becomes more emotional, more needy, more — forgive me — feminine. (I’m basing this on society’s ideas of femininity, not my own.) However, the uncured Lena states that she doesn’t really want or like children, but she knows she has to have them. In this way, she doesn’t want to perform femininity as it’s been constructed in her society. But the uncured Lena who falls in love with Alex seems to show that being emotional and weak and unable to think for oneself is innate in a young girl.
      I don’t think that femininity is being punished in this society, unless you consider being docile, submissive, and emotional to be the characteristics of femininity. I think it all depends on what you believe feminine to mean, and how you believe someone performs that femininity and what is ‘innate.’

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  7. Your argument is very effective in acknowledging the topic of silencing in Delirium. I argue that silence can be a form of power when it is a choice. For example, Gracie’s silence throughout the novel is an act of defiance and power. She chooses not to speak until it is necessary and the power of this is shown in the reaction of those who did not think that she could speak. The other type of silencing presented in the novel is that which is created by the government and the Book of Shh. The silence generated amongst the population in the novel, I argue, is not a form of power. There is not an element of choice in this silence. The fear which is generated surrounding deliria creates an active silence among the population. The Book of Shh dictates the way in which individuals should think, what they should fear, and how to behave in society. The issue of societal control is perpetuated by active silencing where the silencers have the power. The people loose their power when they are silent regarding the cure and societal concerns. Gracie’s silence is a form of power exercised through choice. She has the choice to speak or remain silent; by choosing to be silent Gracie is exercising personal power and control over her body in a society which dictates and exercises control over its population’s bodies.

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    1. To play devil’s advocate ——
      While I like the idea that Gracie’s silence may be rebellion, the only evidence that we have of this is that Gracie helps Lena to escape. However, on multiple occasions, we see that Gracie is being silenced by those around her. Lena even says that people would like her more if she talked. That’s not exactly an empowering statement, is it? Lena also explains that Gracie’s dreams are why she doesn’t talk, and her dreams are a result of her parent’s, and her own, suffering — all due to the society’s rules. Is Gracie helping Lena to escape really enough to consider her a rebellious character, or to say that she is effectively CHOOSING to remain silent? Is Gracie old enough to understand how the society is trying to silence her and actively rebel against it? Is she aware that she is being rebellious when she helps Lena, or is it just a child seeing someone in pain and wanting to help her? Do we think that Gracie understands that letting Lena loose will mean that Lena is going to escape to the Wilds? I think it’s a lovely idea to believe that Gracie is aware of her rebellion. We know she’s intuitive and emotional, but Lena states that she doesn’t focus or seem to pay attention. Perhaps we are being hopeful in believing that Gracie knows exactly what’s going on.

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      1. While you bring up several points that effectively question how rebellious Gracie truly can be through her silence, I argue that Gracie’s silence ultimately is an act of rebellion. You point out how Lena comments that people would like Gracie more if she talked, but talking is considered the normal behaviour within this society and the preferred conformative action. Gracie’s choice to deviate from social norms and remain silent act as a form of rebellion. You also point out that Lena says that Gracie’s dreams are why she doesn’t talk, but that also cannot be used fully as evidence since this is merely Lena’s speculation and inference on Gracie’s silence as an outside observer—as a first person narrator without omniscient abilities, we cannot fully trust that Lena’s statement is entirely true. At the end of the text, Lena admits to having misread Gracie’s actions as weak and understands Gracie’s refusal to speak as resistance (427). Gracie’s dreams being a result of her parent’s and her own suffering as a result of societal rules makes her decision to not participate in society following all of her family’s trauma a rebellion against the injustices perpetuated by her society. I agree that it is presumptuous to think that Gracie understands that setting Lena free will mean that she will escape into the Wilds, but she knows that releases Lena breaks the rules since Lena has been isolated as being diseased. Gracie, from growing up within Portland, arguably understands delira as a disease and that “Aunt Carol told [her] to stay away” from Lena (400). Gracie’s refusal to try to pay attention, focus, or speak within her society represents that she does rebel. While this rebellion may seem miniscule, Gracie, as a young child, does not have the same opportunity to rebel as Lena does. Lena can leave home without supervision and engage with other rebellious citizens whereas Gracie, at age five, cannot evade strict supervision. While I agree that we cannot count Gracie as a completely aware rebel, she definitely rebels as well as she can within her given parameters.

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  8. I felt that your argument was very effective in terms of girls in particular being silenced in this novel, but I would like to agree with some of the other comments in saying that boys are also silenced. This is not to say that your argument is not valid, because it certainly is, but I do think it is important to discuss that both genders are at stake in this novel. I noticed that our discussions never revolve around Brian (probably because we meet him only briefly), but I would like to talk about him before discussing Alex. I think it is interesting that we don’t talk about him and I would like to push on this in saying that maybe it is because he is silent in the novel. It seems that while Brian is not a very popular guy, Lena still chose him because he was the best of her three options. In a way, the boys are the ones who get a jab to their self esteem because the girls are forced to pick them out of a group of three, rather than choosing them on their own free will and because they actually like them. Arguably, Brian is the way he is because that is who he was always told to be. He hardly talks when they first meet at dinner, and Lena immediately does not like him. His mother also tells him what to do and how to act, just as the girls are told. I think that we do not notice this as much because it is told from a female perspective, but it is worth noting that he and Lena are in the same position. Maybe Brian doesn’t want to be with Lena either, but he knows his place and that he is going to get the cure just like she is. To touch on your discussion question, I would say that the intrinsic silence is demonstrated through Brian, as well as Alex.
    As was mentioned in some of the other comments, Alex is both a romantic and a strong male hero. That said, he is not allowed to demonstrate his romantic, and arguably feminine side, in the novel. Alex is silenced in his inability to outwardly express his true feelings for Lena, yet at the same time, his ability to do so in the Wilds is a form of his rebellion. He is an invalid who silently lives a double life inside the fence. For me, this is to show that silence can be seen as a form of power in the novel. He uses his knowledge of the Wilds, and the truth behind the government to help Lena and eventually show her how to break free.
    To briefly mention Gracie, while I do think she may be rebelling in her silence, as we know she can in fact talk, I am skeptical to say that she knows exactly what is going on. I say this for the simple fact that she too young to grasp the complexity of the government system. In this way, I would have to agree with Danielle’s comment on Gracie in her reply above. Maybe we are just being hopeful that little Gracie knows what is really happening.
    Overall, I felt that your post was refreshing because it gave us the opportunity to explore how both genders are dealt with, and the way you approached the concept of silence was very well thought out and displayed.

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  9. To answer your second question, I think Gracie is the one with silent power. She has the ability to speak, and yet chooses not to. Everyone around her thinks that she is mute and dumb, but Lena knows the truth; that she is a bright, intuitive child. Lena even tries to get Gracie to speak by telling her “the others would be nicer to [her] if [she] would speak once in a while” (6), but it is Gracie’s refusal to speak that I think makes an impact on Lena. She has gone through her whole life thinking that the Book of Shh and the procedure are well intended and the right thing to do. When she falls in love with Alex, she realizes that she does not want to be silenced, she wants to go somewhere that their love will be fostered rather than shunned.

    I also love that it is Gracie who helps Lena escape, and she does it completely silently. While Gracie is only 6, Lena says that “she’s not fragile– not by a long shot. Gracie is strong, I realize, perhaps stronger than any of us” (427). Lena also realizes in this moment that this silence has been Gracie’s “own version of resistance” (427). When Lena escapes out the window and her family is chasing her, it is Gracie who buys Lena time by not only speaking for the first time, but YELLING. Everyone stops and it gives Lena the chance she needs to jump out the window. It is Gracie’s bravery of using her voice for the first time that gives Lena what she needs.

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