She had got the habit of silence anyway—that was fixed.

This description of the old woman appears in Part II, as the narrator describes her life with Jake Grimes. He offers this “habit of silence” as a reason why the old woman doesn’t interfere with her husband’s and son’s violent arguments. The woman’s silence functions as a protective shield, keeping other people at bay—people who have proven to be nothing but abusive. The woman’s silence also prevents her from establishing any close relationships with other people. In this woman’s world, verbal communication—normally a source of comfort and intimacy—has become painful and harmful, and her choice to give it up is unfortunate but understandable. The quotation leaves the cause of the woman’s silence ambiguous. On one hand, it seems as if the harsh realities of her life have ground the words out of her, transforming her into just another mute beast of burden. On the other hand, her silence may also be an active decision that she makes to disengage herself from a life that has damaged her. The woman’s retreat into a purely internal state may represent an attempt to preserve an element of humanity in an otherwise animalistic existence.