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by Marianne Moore

Silence Theme of Power

Whether we like it or not, fathers are authority figures. They set the rules (and can ground us if we don't follow them…), but they can also teach us a lot of things. In "Silence," the speaker's father teaches her (and us, indirectly) how to be a "superior person." Superior people also have authority – by definition, they are higher or better than normal people, right? But in the end, it's the speaker's own choice whether she wants to follow her father's advice and wants to have this kind of superiority.

Questions About Power

  1. What does the speaker's father mean by "superior"? In your own words, how would you characterize these superior people? Does the father present them positively, or is he being sarcastic?
  2. Do you think the speaker agrees with her father's description of how superior people behave?
  3. Do you imagine the speaker following her father's advice, or does she seem to question it? In other words, do you think she accepts her father's authority here, or does she challenge it?
  4. Why is the cat like superior people? Do superior people also have "mice" that they eat? Why, or why not?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

When the speaker quotes from her father, she is not handing over the poem to him, but rather asserting her own authority. She takes his words and makes them her own, showing that she now has control over when and how her father's words are spoken.

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