she had no voice.
In the journey to womanhood, one often finds themselves falling in love with another. They become caught up in romance and intrigue, sending them on a path of discovery with an unforeseen conclusion. Love and heartbreak are an inevitable event that every young woman experiences. Ophelia was drawn in by Hamlet’s charms and was determined to follow her heart. But her father, Polonius, and brother, Laertes, could not risk the innocence and the reputation of the only female left in their family. She obediently accepted their demands to never speak with Hamlet again. Her desire to pursue love came to an untimely end with the words of the men who attempted to maintain their control over her. Still under her veil of obedience, Ophelia agreed to aid Polonius and King Claudius in baiting the prince to discover the essence of his madness. The shocking manner in which Hamlet erupts at Ophelia causes her to believe he never truly loved her, and although her heart is broken, her silence remains intact. Once Hamlet murders her father in cold blood, her mind begins to unravel into turmoil and violence, much like her surroundings. With the loss of her sanity comes the loss of her silence. She may not have the capability to shout or cry out against the tyranny and corruption prevalent in the kingdom due to the state of her shattered mind, but she expresses herself through songs and riddles. Each word uttered out of Ophelia’s mouth at this moment in the play is no longer coming from the mouth of a puppet, but from an individual who has found purpose and obtained courage, two essential aspects of discovering and using one’s voice. “Say you? Nay, pray You mark. (Sings) He is dead and gone, lady,…” (4.5) Ophelia was tossed around by the people in her life to appease their own desires, and she never once uttered a word of defiance. When her father died, so did her sanity, yet she was able to find and use, her voice even if it was buried beneath songs and riddles. For a woman, who initially was portrayed as weak and dependent on others, the act of handing out flowers, which all had symbolical meanings, to the appropriate individuals was a brazen display of defiance which could never have be done during this time unless madness had seeped into one’s brain. Through the flowers and words, it was as if she were revealing to the audience and to the other characters that she were far more insightful and intelligent than she would ever dare to let on.
she found her voice.
she had no voice.
Janie Crawford grew up dreaming of the beauty in love and marriage; the purity and magic in this connection between humans became her primary desire. She was promised to Logan Killicks as an attempt by her grandmother to enforce a traditional future for Janie. Despite her refusal, Janie is sucked into a loveless marriage. At the beginning, she is treated like a princess, but the facade slowly disappears as the intimacy dies off. Logan Killicks grows frustrated with his spoiled bride and demands that she pitch in. Her protestation is muffled beneath his anger and desire for a housewife. As Janie was denied the ability to have a voice in her own marriage, she is quick to jump on Jody Starks’s offer for a fresh start; she would finally have a hand in her destiny and quite possibly receive the marriage and love she desired. Together, the couple makes their way to Eatonville to help establish the first African American town in the United States. The beginning of their relationship is everything Janie has ever dreamed it would be, until Joe begins to enforce expectations which elevates her status over the other women, creating unexpected tensions between the women. Furthermore, Joe’s jealousy desire for Janie to remain his property demands that she wear a rag to cover her hair, a symbol of her womanhood and beauty. Much like her previous husband, Joe attempts to silence her with violence; this time, Janie grows submissive and fails to act against him. Twenty years pass, enough time for the two to drift apart into an oblivion; their marriage now nothing more than the dirt on the streets. Janie finally has the opportunity to share her voice, but he is on his deathbed, so her opportunity to fully express the extent of her distress dies with him. However, at the funeral, she feels her freedom and spirit being restored as he is laid to rest. This feeling is reinforced when she removes the rag from her head and her glorious hair finally hangs loose again at her command. “She tore off the kerchief from her head and let down her plentiful hair. The weight, the length, the glory was there.” (pg. 87) Janie’s voice is reclaimed in this act of defiance against her dead husband, a man who held her hostage in his oppressive ways for years. With the strength her new voice provides, Janie instantly takes control of her destiny, seeking out the youthful desires that once consumed her imagination. Tea Cake happens along, and although she faces backlash for the townsfolk and even her own insecurities, Janie pursues a life of love with him. Some may argue that Janie is a character who can not seem to rely on anyone other than a man, but it takes bravery and vulnerability to put one’s trust solely into the hands of another individual. Unlike the other stories, Janie’s tale more so explored the transformation from childhood to adulthood; focusing on how oppression can silence a person, but can quickly be eradicated when that person obtains courage by escaping a situation, and therefore, is left feeling victorious. When Janie discovered her voice, specifically when the symbol of her oppression was removed from her hair, she discovered that she could truly dictate her own destiny.
she found her voice.
she had no voice.
From the quiet village of Gul Daman to the war ridden streets of Kabul, Mariam’s story of the dichotomy between war and peace- love and lust- sends readers on a journey of sorrow and joy. The external tensions and lack of love are woven throughout her life; her mother harboured resentment against the child she bore out of wedlock, her father was embarrassed by his offspring, and her husband only sought out a son, not a relationship. Being a woman in a society that is traditionally known for oppression against women, particularly in domestic settings, confines Mariam to a world of silence; her voice hidden beneath her burqa. It all began with the sudden suicide of her mother, Nana. The young girl was passed along to her father, a successful business owner who languished in wealth and shame. Under the influence of his other wives, Jalil marries his fifteen year old daughter off to a man twenty five years her senior. At first her marriage appears to be one of respect and admiration, but Rasheed’s jealousy and perspective on women plays a significant role in his treatment towards with her. After each of her miscarriages, his strictness grows into brutality. His rejection of her humanity settles as resentment and anger into her soul, so when another woman comes along, threatening the final strands of “good” in her marriage, Mariam erupts at her. It is in this moment, that Mariam finds a small portion of her voice; her true feelings escape her thoughts, but she screams them at the wrong person. Fortunately, Laila provides Mariam with a response that is foreign to the broken older woman; Laila truly listens to her pain, and offers her nothing else but love. Although both women faced acts of oppression and attempted to escape from their husband’s claws, neither are prepared for his rage when he discovers who Laila was visiting with. He brutally attacks both women, but Mariam ends the battle with a shovel. “This time, she gave it everything she had.” (pg. 349) The blow to Rasheed’s head at the hands of Mariam marks the moment of defiance in her spirit, the moment she speaks out and acts against the violence within their household. Yet this courage would never have been obtained without Laila’s persistent desire to shower Mariam with love and companionship. In some cases, individuals can endure agony and sorrow to immeasurable extents when it is harped upon their own self; however, when that same pain is inflicted on their loved ones, a sense of immortality immobilizes within their spirit, granting them with great strength. For Mariam, she had no doubt in her mind that she had to stand up to the man who had been the cause of her suffering for years, merely to save the life of the only person who ever showed her true love. Rasheed’s death sets both of them free; Laila lives out her new life with Tariq, while Mariam rests in peace after escaping oppression.
she found her voice.
i had no voice.
Unlike the stories of these women, I found my voice much sooner than they did. The opportunities in my life gave me the ability to discover myself without as much resistance that Ophelia, Janie, and Mariam experienced. To have a voice is to have confidence. I lacked both in middle school. As a shy introvert for many years, I buried myself in music and books, eager to be an observer of the world around me. Day by day, I moved away from being an observer to being a participant. It became my goal to offer my own insight into a conversation or to stand up for myself when I felt that I was being taken advantage of. But every time I spoke up, I was dismissed or ignored, mostly by my closest friends. These occasions forced me to become silent again, this time without my consent. I became self conscious of my thoughts and even my looks, as people who walk over you often spit out cruel words as they go. In grade eight, I became truly invested in our school’s drama program. I had been involved in the program for years, but being the oldest lead gave me the ability to truly discover my own power and talent. This opportunity gave me confidence, a fresh start. From that moment on, I found myself reaching out to new people and imitating conversations. If someone said anything vile or demeaning, I brushed it off and no longer felt their words prick my heart with their sharp edges. By putting myself up on to a stage and singing notes I did not know I could hit, I had become incredibly vulnerable, and through this vulnerability, I found strength. The changes I had endured during my final year in middle school only seemed to blossom further in my grade nine year. Others around me were terrified of the new experience and environment they were being thrown into but I embraced it with open arms. It becomes easy to face challenges when you are comfortable with yourself. The quiet girl who refused to open her mouth out of fear of the criticism she would face had traversed through years of pain, then with the aid of a stage and a microphone, had dissolved into a confident, brave young woman who let those same hateful words fly above her head.
i found my voice.
we had no voice.
Hamlet. Their Eyes Were Watching God. A Thousand Splendid Suns. Timeless stories that will remain relevant for years to come because of the underlying issue of female oppression. The central theme of oppression woven into the stories of not only these women and myself, but millions of people around the world. People are either stripped of their voice or are the ones who steal it. In a society torn apart by hatred and fear, it is time for change. By offering personal insight and experience, by using their voice, an individual has the ability to invoke this change. As our generation goes into a new decade, my desire is that we will learn to use our own voices, not only to advocate for ourselves, but to advocate for a world in need of peace and respect. Humans, in particular women, have been silenced for too long. Canadians are blessed to live in a country of free speech and idealism, but in Egypt, women can not even walk down the street without being sexually harassed by mobs of men. Their voices are lost, but what happened to the millions of voices all over the globe? One may argue that we already have a voice, but to be heard is far different than to be understood and respected. The voice we should all seek out is the one which demands this respect and understanding in order to have an impact. It is our duty as human beings to stand against the oppression, the hatred, the pain. We have been gifted with voices, and once it is found, once we go on our own journey away from silence, we must use our voices to save others.
we found our voice.