Sunday, April 4, 2010

the silent woman

While re-reading Gene Wolfe's excellent noir tale, An Evil Guest, I was particularly intrigued by a scene taking place at an otherworldly pub (where the waiter has sharp and hairy ears) called "The Silent Woman."  Cassie remarks as they leave,

"I saw their sign as we left... It's a woman with no head, and it ought to scare me.  Why doesn't it?"

"Because it assures you that women should talk as long as they're able to."

Curious, I looked up "The Silent Woman" in Google and came across this wiki entry.  The Silent Woman is a name commonly given to pubs and taverns in the UK, and the pub-sign associated with these establishments often depicts a decapitated woman holding her own head and/or serving refreshment.

The meaning of the sign is unclear, although at first glance, seems distinctly misogynistic.  "Come gather here, ye men, and avoid the incessant nagging of your wife!"  Or perhaps, a place where men can safely objectify the bodies of women whilst ignoring the unfortunate presence of feminine mind and emotion.  A sort of Bizarro-world Boxing Helena.

The legend on one sign says, "Since the woman is quiet, let no man breed a riot."  Implying that male-male conflict typically results from the sinister influence of women - their capacity to breed jealousy and rage, perhaps, or their evil machinations.

The wiki piece mentions the possibility of the Silent Woman being a martyred saint, but I could find no further research on this topic.  Please post a comment if you know anything about this.


  1. Meaning is `unclear'? The photo depicts the ONLY way a woman can be silent is to have her head removed!
    your p.c disclaimer is disgusting btw


    1. Hi there --

      I'm not sure what pc disclaimer you're referring to. Please enlighten me! No one visits this blog anyways, so your trolling is all for waste. But please go on!

    2. Actually, one person (me) visited the blog today, finding it very interesting. I myself have taken a liking to Wolfes works, and since i finished a rereading of the sorcerers house last weekend it was a joy to read your thoughts on it.