Intimidation and domination through fear is the underlying thread throughout Silent Ties, however we never see these two good friends speak of it with each other. Missy’s words often express her feelings, but Addie keeps her fears to herself. She is always cautious. There is even a little fear of her friend. How long will she be a friend? If Missy’s family is threatened will she still be a friend? Or will self-preservation win eventually?
Addie’s fear is not shared through her words, but its constant presence is demonstrated through her family’s stories. We see their fear is justified. James speaking to strangers in town causes fear. We witness Uncle Roy beat a boy to death and an entire town too afraid to intervene. Sitting in a parked car one evening becomes enough reason for a young black man to die. Addie does not learn to drive because it is not safe for her to travel alone. The perils in Montgomery during the bus boycott force family to seek safety in that sharecropper’s cottage across the field. A simple act of kindness brings new fear to Addie’s family. Henry wanting a better life is reason to be afraid. Walking home from town and a slowing car wakes us to the dangers for Addie as a young black girl.
Fear was used to control everyone in the Jim Crow south. Daddy and James taking a stand against hooded horsemen brought fear to their families. Grandfather Gordon helping a fellow merchant is a risk for both men. Melanie’s anger when James is hiding their relatives was because of fear. Sheriff Hosper’s slow drives past their homes was meant to intimidate. The danger and necessity of protecting Grandma Em’s secret dominates their lives. Marcus moving to town alarms Missy’s family and threatens their security. For the young man, Daddy cautions him to always be alert and that fear is the secret to making a life in their small town. Fear of Miss Emily forever changed Daddy’s relationship with his brother. The emotional devastation when her father died birthed a new fear, not of her, but of her sons. Daddy allowed Missy to leave the state for college because of fear.
Fear directed their lives. It was an evil force that was a necessary friend then and sadly still now.
“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” Santayana