What Words Cannot Achieve: Silence.

Silence can speak. It can speak in many different forms and can represent everything.


While reading the All Quiet on the Western Front chapters assigned, I got the idea for my re-framed blog: Silence. It came from the lines,

“We are benumbed. Hardly a man speaks. We cannot make ourselves understood.” (pg.107)

These three sentences are the thoughts of the narrator during a bombardment. These three sentences are the results from the anxiety and fear brought up by the bombardment. Waiting through the never ending bombs, under the dug-out earth, in fear of the haunting pain and death, is too much. What the narrator feels, what every soldier in that dug-out feels, cannot be expressed through anything but Silence.

As I read that line, “We cannot make ourselves understood,” I clicked. It is something that I feel a lot of people struggle with, being understood. Maybe it’s just one of my personal problems, but sorting out my thoughts and making it known to others is quite a struggle. I thought it was funny because I immediately came up with an odd analogy: it seems as though we are being bombarded with feelings sometimes, and it seems impossible to express them.

In the story, only Silence could be used to express what words can’t. My current English teacher always talks about how blissful silence is, and I admit, I only half understood it. Yeah, Silence is great and all when you want to be left alone because you are in a bad mood, but after that, what’s the use of Silence? But, I like to think that I understand it a bit more now. In this scene, Silence is used to show the fear, anguish, and bewilderment that the soldiers faced down in the dug-outs. Those emotions and many more that cannot be expressed as well through my words are said by Silence.


These new views of Silence led me to other kind of thoughts too. Aside from the chaotic thoughts Silence can express, it can do the same with love. And I thought back to last chapter in the story, when the narrator expresses his love for his friend in the lines,

IMG_2080“We sit on the edge of it crouching in danger, the grease drips from our hands, in our hearts we are close to one another, and the hour is like the room: flecked over with the lights and shadows of our feelings cast by a quiet fire. What does he know of me, or I of him?”(pg.95)

This section appears as Silence to me because it seems like this is a one-sided view on a relationship, because of the last part, “What does he know of me, or I of him?” There are no words exchanged between them. They are just sitting there, eating. But, the narration seem to depict that the Silence between them is okay, because they both acknowledged the relationship.

It’s funny because my English teacher has said that when two people understand each others’ Silence, then that’s when a relationship is strong. Those were my initial thoughts when I first read this scene. And that’s cool; I hope that everyone can experience something like that.


The last part of Silence that I detected from the section was when the bombardment ended and the Company Commander called for a headcount,

“Now we freeze, it is autumn, the leaves rustle, the voices flutter out wearily: ‘one—two—three—four—‘and cease at thirty two. And there is a long silence before the voice asks: ’anyone else?’” (pg.136)

This section’s Silence speaks sadness. A kind of sadness that crying, screaming, or talking can’t express. I imagine the scene as the soldiers look around at their comrades or stare at the ground. They know what the bombardment has done to their comrades, what it has done to them. However, no words will ever be enough to heal the scar that the bombardment has given to them. Not one word can describe their feelings as they march on.


What words cannot achieve, Silence will. Communication is sometimes unnecessary. And that makes me feel a little better, considering I have trouble with it. At some point, it reassures me to know that words can be saved for later, and the pain, happiness, and sadness can be taken with nothing more than Silence because it speaks justly at the right moments. At the right moments, Silence can speak a language that nothing else will ever achieve.IMG_2999[1]


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