What We Cannot Speak About We Must Pass Over in Silence Themes

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Imprisonment

“What We Cannot Speak About We Must Pass Over in Silence” features the narrator's obsession with the imprisoned son of his dead friend. The story offers a critique of the prison system, reflecting the author's activism on the subject. As of 2006, Wideman's son and younger brother were both serving life sentences for murder, and Wideman has given speeches and written stories and articles questioning the prison system and the high rates of incarceration for black males in the United States.

In the story, Wideman's narrator emphasizes the dehumanization of the prison system, in which vast numbers of people are processed and monitored by equally vast numbers of computer specialists punching keys. He presents Arizona, where the son is held, as a state in which the economy depends upon prisons and other sorts of holding facilities (retirement homes, senior centers, hospices, and so on). The inmates are treated not...

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This section contains 1,412 words
(approx. 4 pages at 400 words per page)
Buy the What We Cannot Speak About We Must Pass Over in Silence Study Guide
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