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They Would Rather Be Trees: The Secret Language of Women<p> A Feminine Critique of the novel, <I>The Name of the Rose</I> by Umberto Eco They Would Rather Be Trees: The Secret Language of Women

A Feminine Critique of the novel, The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco

There is a commercial being shown on television today by the organization called ‘Truth’. The words that flash across the screen at the end of it are “Truth is knowledge is power.”

When I saw those words my mind immediately leapt to Umberto Eco’s novel, ‘The Name of the Rose’. In the novel, William tells Adso, “We know things better through love than through knowledge.” Here lies the crux of the story. The search for knowledge, for power, for love. Don’t we all thirst for these very things?

The monks of the abbey thirsted for these things. Denied the natural love between man and woman, they searched for it in other ways - through knowledge and through power. Any thought that approximated feminine was considered evil.

Ubertino says in conversation with Adso, “There was something…feminine, and therefore diabolical, about that young man who is dead.” So the monks were forced, by their own choice, to hold their so-called feminine sides in check. Ubertino tells Adso, “…even the love felt by the soul, if it is not forearmed, if it is felt warmly, then falls, or proceeds in disorder.”

If it is felt warmly…even the natural emotion, the necessary emotion, of love, was not allowed in the abbey. What is a monk to do? What is a man to do when he is required to suppress his natural passions?

He must channel them elsewhere. To the acquisition of power, which in turn, he believes will bring him peace, bring him love - the ultimate love - of the Mother Church and of God."

The poet, Adrienne Rich, says, “…if men want to struggle into life and not die stubborn in the womb, they will have to feminize themselves.” It is too bad the monks of the abbey could not heed Ms. Rich’s words.

A contempt for anything feminine grows in the monks. With the exception of William and Adso, who acknowledge their feminine sides, the other monks become unbalanced and not only destroy themselves but the Mother Church they so venerated.

We see the suppression of ‘femaleness’ in males even today. The divorce rate is on the rise. More and more women choose to remain single. More and more women are reaching mid-life and realizing there are very few men out there who can give them what they seek.

What do they seek? Compassion, humor, love that comes from the soul - they seek a man who can speak their ‘secret’ language, which isn’t so secret after all.

The men in the monastery, and the men of today’s society, have been conditioned by society and their peers that women are weak, women are scary, women are somehow even evil. Thus not only do they shut themselves off from women, they shut out all of the beautiful qualities of their very selves, labeling them ‘girly’ and therefore unfit for a ‘real man’. Like the monks of the abbey, in so doing, they ultimately bring about their own annihilation.

Margaret Atwood, novelist and poet, writes these lines regarding the falsity of men,

I search instead for the others,
the ones left over,
the ones who escaped from these
mythologies with barely their lives;
they have real faces and hands, they think of themselves as
wrong somehow, they would rather be trees.

The monks of Eco’s novel would have done better to seek love rather than knowledge - because it is within love, not knowledge, that real power emanates. Ask any woman - she’ll tell you.


K. Y. Hamilton, BA, MA - Copyright 2002, 2006

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