Female Voicelessness and its Expression of Power

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Her own opinion in these affairs mattered to the degree that her associated male relative felt it should be considered and no more. Even the selection of who her husband was to be could be made without any consultation with the woman most affected. This is the kind of social situation discovered in the opening scenes of The Piano as Ada’s father bursts into her room to tell her that she has been married off to a man in New Zealand that she has never met. The voice-over, understood to be Ada’s inner voice, describes her feelings about leaving her home to cross the sea to live in New Zealand with this new husband. This quick introductory scene makes an instant connection between the character’s physical muteness and the muteness of women in her society. Even when she travels as far away as New Zealand, to a region that remains an untamed frontier, Ada finds herself rigidly trapped within an Englishman’s world. However, in the character of Ada, as she is acted by Holly Hunter, Jane Campion illustrates how such a woman made herself heard even to those who wouldn’t listen.

Deliberately employed by Campion, the female voice has been a powerful symbol throughout history, yet its historical understanding is not widely recognized. Anne Carson provides a succinct analysis demonstrating how concepts regarding the woman’s voice have evolved from practices held in ancient history. According to Carson, it was up to the women to express the social group’s moments of extreme joy, grief, fear and hope through the sound of the ololyga: “a high-pitched piercing cry uttered at certain climactic moments in ritual practice … or at climactic moments in real life … and also a common feature of women’s festivals” (Carson, 1995: 125). Since the noise was distracting to the members of society who were&nbsp.not participating in these rituals, namely the men, the women were usually required to hold them at a location far enough outside of the city to be outside of the hearing range.&nbsp. As time passed, the meaning of these rituals became obscure while the practice remained.