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by Marianne Moore

Lines 11-12 Summary

Get out the microscope, because we’re going through this poem line-by-line.

Lines 11-12

The deepest feeling always shows itself in silence;
not in silence, but restraint."

  • We're still not sure how to feel about what the father has been saying. Do we agree with him or not? Does the speaker seem to agree with him?
  • But we have to admit, these last two lines are pretty powerful. Isn't it often true that when we're deeply moved by something, we find ourselves speechless? Or we find that words are inadequate in expressing how we feel? Clearly we read literature and we write about it, so we have a lot of faith in words, but sometimes talking a lot about an intense experience makes us feel a bit like we're cheapening it. The speaker's father says that keeping silent about something can prove how much you care about it.
  • How does silence show anything? Isn't silence just…silence? In line 12, the speaker's father revises his statement, saying that it's not silence but restraint that shows the deepest feeling. In other words, you have to indicate, somehow, that you're saying less than you could, that you're deliberately holding back.
  • Funnily enough, the father gets this across by saying more than he could have. Instead of just saying, "The deepest feeling always shows itself in restraint," in one straightforward line, he spreads out this idea into two lines.

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