Silence vs. Metaphor: which do we choose?

HSBurke's picture

Something that happened at the end of our class at the Cannery last week had me thinking about the connection between metaphors and silence. As one who's never quite grasped the meaning or function of metaphor, I was thankful for Howard’s straightforward description. He described metaphors as a tool to explain ideas that can't be put to words by using other objects or ideas as a medium of comparison. Metaphors give words to otherwise unexplainable ideas. What I took away from that explanation was the idea that metaphors provide a sense of agency to those who perhaps lack a broad vocabulary or just those for whom words don't suffice a way to express an experience or feeling. This tool then provides a sense of agency because, all too often, you rendered broken if you can't express yourself in a way that others can understand. In what I saw to be a distinct parallel, Anne explained mentioned at the end of Friday’s class that silence, too, is a strategy that can be used when words just don't work. And, as we've established many times in class, silence is understood as way to exert power and agency in assuring that you aren't misunderstood or your words misused. So, silence and metaphor are used in similar situations but result in vastly different outcomes. What does this say about the choice between using metaphors and choosing silence? Is one more effective than the other? I haven’t really come up with an answer to this question, but I find it particularly striking that while metaphors run rampant in Doing Life, silences have less of a presence, especially in comparison to the silences that characterized Eva’s experience. Perhaps this is only the result of editing and the fact that silences are more difficult to establish on paper. Or maybe incarcerated people are so desperate to have their voice heard that metaphors, over silence, are their tool of choice. 

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Owl's picture

Your post has me thinking

Your post has me thinking about the purpose of voice and how voice only has meaning when it comes into contact with another voice. As you do, I think that metaphors and silence are two mediums through which we can voice agency, but I think that metaphors are much more difficult to grasp in an interaction if the Other has not experienced what is being conveyed through the metaphor. In other words, metaphors are specific and if the Other has no connection to that specific metaphor, the purpose and meaning of the metaphor gets lost. 

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