The chapters of Songs of Silence hold together as a chorus of songs from one community, but shaped by the recollections of a narrator whose perspective ranges from the innocence of childhood to the maturity of a young adult who emerges unbroken from a failed relationship. One such chapters is ‘Nathan’ and here the narrator is the reflective adult with a sophisticated notion of the wide range if meanings ‘silence’ holds. Through the character of Nation she is able to present some aspects of this theme, which runs throughout the text in many different ways.
Nathan acts strategically without words, but with potent meaning – revenge (poking Tony’s eye).
Silence is a characteristic feature of Nathan’s personality, which is deep and profound even though he uses few words. The absence of words can mask/hide a great deal (still waters run deep).
Nathan’s deep and profound silence was evident even from his birth and the close connection he had with his sister, the narrator – ‘…soulmates, welded together by our common need for silence.’ They both started speaking late. However, her silence was different from his – ‘he was a man of dark blue silences,’ while hers ‘hers was a silence of moons.’ Here the narrator suggests that contrary to the saying ‘silence means consent’, silence does not always mean ‘consent’ or agreement nor are all silent people to be treated the same.
The ‘manna manna manna mahkita’ game establishes the communication between the narrator and Nathan. It has unspoken personal meaning for them and suggests that its ritual is saturated with almost religious or spiritual significance. It shows that codes of communication which may appear insignificant or meaningless to others looking on, may be a way of expressing connections that (known) words cannot express.
The different silences of the siblings allow them to explore, define and find their own authentic selves in their own ways. (E.g. The narrator and the ants, Nathan and his tightfistedness with money). Silence, like money, can express identity.
Courtney from Study Moose
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