Unspoken Voices: Using Silence and Feminine Imagination to Rebel against the Patriarchy in Campion’s The Piano

Hung-Chang Liao, Ya-huei Wang


Constrained for submissiveness, Victorian women were supposed to be silent and not to express their opinions, except on command. The Piano (1993), written and directed by Jane Campion, is set in the mid-nineteenth century, describing a mute Scottish woman (Ada McGrath), who uses silence to claim her voice and self-assertion. If in the patriarchal Victorian society, women and wives are supposed to be submissive, obedient, and silent, Ada chooses to subversively follow the norm to the extreme: by stopping speaking forever. Ironically, while voice acts as empowerment and subjectivity, Ada’s silence lets her escape the patriarchal oppression and gain some power and freedom to reach her subjectivity.

Keywords: silence; Victorian morality; patriarchal oppression; intersubjectivity

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