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Silence

Silence

by Marianne Moore

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Symbol Analysis

Ever wanted to know how to be a superior person? In "Silence," we get a description of how to be one, but primarily through the example of how such people behave on visits to other people's houses. For the speaker's father, specific actions reveal a person's broader personality and character To him, what a person does or doesn't do while visiting his home can determine whether he is "superior" or "inferior."

  • Lines 3-4: Both allusions to Longfellow's grave and the glass flowers at Harvard seem pretty specific and pretty obscure. Do you really have to know what these particular things are, and have visited them on your own, to be a superior person? The speaker's father probably uses these things as examples of things a superior person might know about, or as representative, or as examples, of a broader cultural knowledge. In other words, the grave and the glass flowers are metonyms for a larger set of cultural references that a superior person (in other words, an educated person who reads classic American poetry and knows his way around Harvard) would know.
  • Lines 13-14: The speaker points out the irony in her father's statement, "Make my house your inn." While this invitation sounds very welcoming at first, the speaker explains that her father's intention is not to say, "Make yourself at home," but rather to make his guest remember that an inn isn't their own home – they shouldn't make themselves too comfortable nor stay too long.

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