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Analysis of Quiet Men by Leslie Jamison

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Quiet Men (by Leslie Jamison). Analysis.

„He that hath eyes to see and ears to hear may convince himself that no mortal can keep a secret. If his lips are silent, he chatters with his finger tips. Betrayal comes out of every pore and thus the task of making conscious the most hidden recesses of the mind is one which is quite possible to accomplish." (Freud, 1901)

At the heart of Leslie Jamison's Quiet Men is the character Marianne Mendez. She tells the story of her failed relationships with various men after the man she had been in love with abandoned her. She describes each of them in turn, introducing them to the reader and bringing forth some of the details of their being together. Six stories are presented to us, showing six different characters. In what follows I will try to analyse some of the elements that appeared to me to have a special importance in the understanding of the text: the title in relation to the characters, the characters themselves, and the themes that are encountered throughout the text.

The names of the characters, important elements to deserve attention, are all given, except for the first one, for which the narrator would only use the personal pronoun HE: „HE was a poet who worked with intricate forms... ". Each story is in a way similar, leading nowhere, failing to heal Marianne's wounded self. Kevin, Victor, Guillermo, Treat, and Maurice are the characters that Marianne gets to know and have some sort of relationship with. The first person narrator, Marianne herself, describes each of them briefly, putting in the first line their essential features, important or less important. Thus, she says about Kevin that he was a tennis instructor „who wanted to give books an honest chance." Their relationship doesn't last more than a day, it seems. The second man she meets is Victor, „a joker and a holder of long, unbroken stares." This would suggest lack of seriousness and maturity, as it is to be seen in the text. He tells her, after a long stare, that he finds her attractive, invites her to have a drink and spoils everything, i.e. his affections are rejected.

The third guy, Guillermo, is described as „a Colombian chocolatier who liked to talk shop." She gets to know him „by a man's prophecy", who tells her it is going to be sweet. There is no possible relationship between the two, the ending being the same sad ordinary thing: „<I never asked you to love me>, I told him. <I know>, he said. <But a part of me wanted so>."

Then she introduces the reader to Treat Skylord McPherson, an actor. Soon enough she says that „Treat was an experiment". They are unable to stay together because he does not need anything else than sex. He doesn't care about any of Marianne's issues: „But I don't care about that either. I just don't." Their communication is impossible because there is no point to make. Sometimes the character thinks of a conversation that never takes place: „If he'd asked(...) I would have said(...)"or „I was sick of myself. I wanted someone else to say to my face, „I'm sick of you, too" , and I knew Trear would offer that to me--with signs and sighs and certainly, sometime soon, a failure to return my phone calls." She feels inferiour to him, she feels menaced, unimportant, used, but she stays with him to end up her experiment: „I fancied myself a kind of Gohan, a meal belonging to Treat."

Maurice is the last man she talks about. He is described as „an auto mechanic of few and surprising words." In this relationship she practices „saying things that were simple and true" alluding to a small hope that perhaps this time her simple language will be easy to understand. But it seems that later she gives up the idea, returning to silence: „What do you think is romantic?" he asked. And her reply is „Being quiet. And not minding." But the romantic silence she thinks of is only a dream. The words will not change the state of affairs if there is nothing to save, if there are no feelings. In fact, she doesn't want to feel anything for anybody. However, with Maurice, there is a feeling that she manages to build up something, a sort of friendship, but a very vulnerable one. She does not feel the need to reach to his heart, that is why she is passive: „It's nice, when people like you."

Quiet Men foregrounds lack of communication, or the impossibility of attaining a degree of mutual understanding between the two persons that, somehow, form a couple. It is a different kind of silence in every particular case. From a psychological perspective, behind the silence may lie the longing to be considered a worthy member of the human community, entitled to affection, hope, love or it may point to feeling subject to bitter disappointment, betrayal, deception, uncertainty, rage, scorn. It is possible that the title suggests the never spoken words that the main character longs to hear from either of her partners. However, there is always a gap between the characters. The men are quiet because they never really get to, or are uncapable of talking, speaking. They talk, but at the same time their words do not say anything. There is no sense in what they talk, or so the main character feels. They are quiet because, perhaps, neither of the characters is able to see the real meaning of the words uttered. The meaning is lost or there is no meaning at all. It is possible that quiet reflects their hidden identities and feelings that one is afraid to show or does not feel the need to express through words. In the first case, for instance, Marianne says from the start that although he was a poet, „he spoke quite simply." Thus, the words that remained unuttered could be more important than those that were uttered. At a certain point she says that she wished there were more words to describe the way she feels with him. But HE keeps



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