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by Marianne Moore

Silence Questions

Bring on the tough stuff - there’s not just one right answer.

  1. What is the speaker's attitude toward what her father says? Does she quote him because she agrees with him, or does she quote him to criticize his claims?
  2. Why do you think silence, or, better yet, restraint, is given so much value in a poem? Isn't writing a poem the opposite of keeping silent?
  3. What are some ways we, as readers or listeners, can sense restraint in speakers? Try to recall a situation when you sensed someone was holding back her true feelings or opinions. Were there particular words or gestures that tipped you off?
  4. Some literary scholars have claimed this poem explores the father-daughter dynamic, in which a traditional father warns his daughter against talking too much – because polite young ladies should keep their opinions to themselves. Do you see gender being a major theme of this poem? Is it clear that the speaker is a daughter, rather than a son?
  5. Moore attached a few notes to the end of this poem, including one that reveals the poem came from a conversation she had with "Ms. A. M. Homans, Professor Emeritus of Hygiene, Wellesley College." Apparently Professor Homans is the speaker, and the father's long quote is actually a mix of what Homans's father said and what Homans thought herself. How much should this note affect our reading of the poem? Does it give us necessary information, or should the poem be able to stand on its own?

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