Silence As Power In The House Of The Spirits And Madame Bovary

1425 words - 6 pages

Silence symbolizes power. Silence showcases the ability of restraint and often times angers those who participate in the other end of an argument and do not have the ability to restrain themselves from bursting. Similarly, In The House of the Spirits and Madame Bovary, Isabel Allende and Gustave Flaubert emphasize the symbol of silence in order to emphasize the lack of power from which Esteban and Charles suffer within their families, within society, and within their marriages.
Allende distances Esteban from his family by wedging silence between them as a barrier. As Esteban’s marriage to Clara declines, Esteban notes, “She didn’t even look at me. She walked right by me as if I were a piece of furniture, and whenever I spoke to her she acted as if she were on the moon, as if she hadn’t heard me or didn’t know who I was”, exposing the extent to which Clara’s silence bothers Esteban, weakening him and ultimately his authority over his family (Allende 113). Clara removes herself from Esteban’s reign of power, consequently diminishing his control. In Clara’s eyes, Esteban ceases to exist, which parallels Jaime’s attempt at not quarreling with his father, “To avoid arguing with his father, he had acquired the habit of silence and soon discovered it was far more comfortable” (Allende 332). Jaime inherits his mother’s habit of silence, mocking Esteban with it even after Clara’s death. The barrier that Clara builds earlier in their marriage only seems to grow stronger as the years progress, ultimately isolating Esteban from the symbolic source of support, family. Esteban blames silence for the loss of his family, unable to gain control over them again, when he realizes, “I no longer had my son, and Clara, with her habits of silence and distraction, seemed like a far-off ghost. Even Alba grew daily more remote” (Allende 377). Esteban shrivels along into senescence and fragility, mirroring his diminishing relationship with his family, and subsequently, his authority in society and among his own loved ones. The audience also realizes that death, the extremity of all silences, robs Esteban of his sister, his wife, his mother, his first love, and then when he dies, the only person he has left, his granddaughter.
Flaubert forces the same detachment between Charles and his family through the obstacle of silence. Similarly, Charles suffers from separation anxiety when Emma dies, even though Emma failed to pay much attention to him when she was alive. Charles expresses his grief for Emma through his depressing thoughts, “Emma was lost beneath it; and it seemed to him that, spreading beyond her own self, she blended confusedly with everything around her – the silence, the ground, the passing wind, the damp odours rising from the ground” (Flaubert 307). Charles hopelessly sacrifices whatever little power Emma allowed him in their relationship. The silence steals from Charles not only any charge he is entitled to due to his masculinity in the Victorian time...

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