She cried out, she cried for her mother, she felt her breath start jerking back and forth in her lungs as if it were something Arnold Friend was stabbing her with again and again with no tenderness. (144)
Arnold's psychological torture of Connie is just as terrifying as the threat of physical harm. Connie loses the ability to speak for herself, to stand up for herself. This loss of speech is felt as an actual physical attack, a kind of death.