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Silence and Expectations

Polly's picture

Silence can be a choice but it can also be forced. It is hard to tell for which of these reasons a person is silent. I can be silent when asked a question because I don't know the answer, because someone/thing has intimidated me, or because I choose not to answer. I can't expect anyone else to know why I am silent unless I, paradoxically, tell them by breaking my silence.

I think that when dealing with silence, we can only expect to get back what we give, to a conversation, a class, or a society. If I do not talk to someone in a conversation, I cannot expect them to keep the conversation going on their own. If I do not contribute in a class, I cannot expect someone to do my learning for me. And if I do not vocalize what I think is wrong with society, I cannot expect change.

I expected Eva, as someone arrested for murder, to want to explain her situation in order to get out of some of her punishment. I have grown up with our legal system, with "innocent until proven guilty," and with "you have the right to remain silent." Eva cannot expect to get anything out of the legal system if she does not speak. The legal system expects voices, not silence.

If I am using my voice, I feel like I deserve a response; I expect it. If I talk to someone, I want and expect them to respond. The choice to be silent is not an open, easy one, because society, from individuals to the government, expects us to be vocal. Fulfilling expectations is a much easier choice than is defying them.


pialamode314's picture

I think silence comes in many

I think silence comes in many different forms, and can be used in many different ways and interpreted by others in many different ways. It's interesting that in most cases, when one chooses to be silent, we say they shouldn't expect a response to their silence. For example, in conversation if you don't talk and stay engaged, you shouldn't expect the other person to keep the conversation going because they can only talk on by themselves for so long. However, we also talked about in class using silence as a form of protest or defiance. By using silence in these ways though, we expect a response from other people or society. I said somewhere that silence can often speak louder than words. In a simple case, for instance, sometimes when you're mad at someone, you are silent around them and ignore them, as if you want to evoke a response in them to your silence. In the same way, sometimes people use their silence to protest issues in society, and expect society to mark their silence and change. So how can we both expect a response to silence, but at the same time, say that those who are silent should not expect a response? Just an interesting idea to ponder...

Celeste's picture

It is possible that Eva's

It is possible that Eva's mind could exist outside of that conventional thought pattern--I've wondered why she wouldn't want to defend herself too.  Perhaps she exists too heavily inside her own mind to even consider self defense through verbalization?  Can we have conversations with ourselves that are just as relevant and useful inside of ourselves, or do we only make "progress" while participating in society?  I'm beginning to think that perhaps we shouldn't expect responses out of people.  But in my opinion, you can't really debate that silence achieves nothing in the long run.  Humans have indeed developed to be together, to interact in groups.  I don't really know how to reconcile the feelings of being an 'outlier' when I choose to be silent on an issue.  Part of it feels like I just have a private life inside of myself that is similar, but not the SAME as the life I live with others, outside of myself.  I just don't think that it's a bad thing to have that distinction.