The Meaning of Silence: The Silence of the Oppressed in Maya Angelou’s I Know 'Why the Caged Bird Sings' and Zora Neale Hurston’s 'Their Eyes Were Watching God' and 'Jonah’s Gourd Vine'

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Anca-Beatrice Matei


The paper explores the meaning of silence in Maya Angelou’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings and Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God and Jonah’s Gourd Vine. The short, introductory section entitled The meaning of silence: some theoretical considerations defines the concept of silence from a feminist perspective and tries to determine its causes and consequences. While mainly intended to suggest some forms of silence, it also contrasts the meaning of silence to that of language, emphasizing their power to both relieve pain and cause spiritual and physical death. The silence of the oppressed examines sexism and racism as causes of silence and renders a person’s emergence from silence to speech not only possible, but also enriching. It further points out that although silence may, indeed, create the illusion of self-protection, it does not help establish a network of support, nor does it make psychological scars disappear. Rather, like a boomerang, it turns against the very individual who has chosen its course, deepening his or her crisis and perpetuating precisely that which it is supposed to resist.


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How to Cite
Matei, A.-B. “The Meaning of Silence: The Silence of the Oppressed in Maya Angelou’s I Know ’Why the Caged Bird Sings’ and Zora Neale Hurston’s ’Their Eyes Were Watching God’ and ’Jonah’s Gourd Vine’”. Linguaculture, vol. 4, no. 1, June 2013, pp. 59-78, doi:10.47743/lincu-2013-4-1-283.
Author Biography

Anca-Beatrice Matei, Alexandru Ioan Cuza University of Iași, Romania

Anca-Beatrice Matei is teacher of English and collaborator of the Department ofEnglish of the Faculty of  Letters, Alexandru Ioan Cuza University of Iasi, Romania. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in English and  History, a Master’s degree in American Cultural Studies and a Ph.D. degree in Philology. Her research  interests include AfricanAmerican literature and feminism, identity construction, literary theory and cultural studies.