Core Question 3: Finding Tara's Voice

In Westover’s childhood, good daughters are obedient, stoic, and submissive to patriarchal figures. Over time, she defies her parents’ ideals first in subtle ways and then later in substantial ways. Perhaps the greatest defiance to her childhood is writing and publishing such a vulnerable memoir. Tara Westover eventually finds her voice and wields it to become her own narrator and historian.

Westover writes, “My life was narrated for me by others. Their voices were forceful, emphatic, absolute. It had never occurred to me that my voice might be as strong as theirs.”

Consider the scenes when Tara keeps silent to protect others, preserve the status quo, or avoid pain. Do you see any patterns between the moments of silence? Consider the scenes when Tara uses her voice in a bold way. Which scene stands out to you the most and why?

I feel that she starts timid and when forceful it is for what she feels is her truth at the time.

The premise that Tara was searching for “her voice” as she aged and grew can not be reasoned as anything but natural (and normal) - we all search for “our voice”. This is growth, this is change, this is the metamorphosis of all life.
It intrigues me however, how young she was when so many of these challenges occurred in her life. Eight year old children writing serious journals? Ten year old children performing limited but valiant medical treatment on their brother? Oh, I guess it happened (or maybe happened) but it astonishes me from my own personal life experiences. Or maybe my children and grand-children who’ve attained those ages just were not as prepared for these situations as Tara was.
Human development generally follows a broad pattern of growth. We sit before we crawl, we stand before we walk, we reach out before we grab on . . . these are generally the norms. And all of this happens while we are unwittingly in search of “our voice”.
As we confront more situations during our growth, we are often directed by “influencers” (parents, siblings, teachers, friends) how best to deal with these confrontations. When the “influencers” are more limited (in Tara’s case to parents and siblings) our views (and our voices) are in-turn more limited. This usually will lead to an unbalanced (or out-of-balance) voice because divergent directions are not exposed.
It almost seems as though Tara was aware of this “emptiness” at a very young age and reacted to these situations by identifying herself and her other-self in her journaling - and in her looks in the mirror. It also seems to have delayed the “rebel” side of her personality until later than “normal” times.
As displayed by her current life situation, this did not keep Tara from later rebellion or later challenges, it only forestalled the inevitable for such a wise and perceptive individual.

As my own children grew in age, and size, and wisdom - their growth and their changes were often met by my own dogmas and edicts. I knew then (as I know now) that I needed to constantly examine myself (and my role as a parent and educator) with each individual child. I needed to question myself and what I was preaching. I needed to evaluate my own situation and confront my own short comings. I could not, and would not, allow my own beliefs and values to continue unchallenged. And this was for the good of all - myself, my spouse, my specific child, and all of the siblings.

To this end, Tara got the short end of the stick.
Tara was continuously lectured to - not spoken with - and continually categorized according to her families creed. Make-up, skin exposure - these made her a whore. Public schooling, the medical establishment - these made her a government agent.

Tara remained silent after Shawn encouraged her to go out with him and with no warning Shawn pulled off the road and was physical toward her. I believe this is what made Tara realize that this is not normal behavior and Shawn. I believe, Tara before this last particular instance was able to forgive Shawn because he would come and apologize, in a sense to regain her trust to make her believe she was confused with his behaviors. Tara was intuitive enough to realize she should submit and let Shawn believe he was in control but eventually she would find her voice and stand up to him.

The difference of perceptions of what is experienced compared to what is felt is shown when Tara is confronted during a physical struggle and in private conversation. She turned to an outlet by gathering her feelings and instinctual thoughts in writing but when expressing them more abruptly (i.e. ‘I don’t want to and Don’t touch me’) and outwardly, she was then faced with something very unexpected which prompted feelings of doubt: ‘I don’t know. I just don’t know.’ Further, recounting the abuse, Tara makes a clear point to show optimism and strength as she grew from the experience and became aware of the root of her silence and lack of ability to use her voice to overcome times when she needed to defend herself. When asked about her family, her silence bears a more deeply rooted burden shed from values she grew up with; she sensed it was in direct conflict with her actions, specifically upon the time when Shawn turned on her so suddenly: ‘I had already betrayed them by failing to love them as I should.’ The layers between time and reflection play a part in Tara’s journey in finding her voice.