Violet needs to be cared for. She needs to be told what to do. She needs to be given “orders” because she cannot yet live for herself. There’s a lot about the world that she has yet to understand. Love, for instance, is an emotion she cannot currently comprehend. What did the Major mean when he told her that he loved her? This mystery gnaws away at the her, driving Violet to make her first autonomous decision and become an Auto Memoir Doll. She believes that by listening to other people’s words, she might one day come to understand Gilbert’s last words. But instead of gaining any sort of clarity, the meaning of words just got a whole lot more complicated. Why do people say things that they do not mean? Why did that woman play hard to get with someone she truly loved? Why did Erica end up defending Violet after calling her unqualified?
“There are two sides to words. What’s spoken isn’t necessarily all there is to it. It’s a human weakness. We tend to test others to reaffirm our worth. How contrary, right?”
Not only is Violet still just a child, she has known only war. Normal social interactions are completely new to her. She’s never had to look for subtle cues or nuances in everyday conversations. All her life, she’s been given clear and direct orders, and she responded with clear and direct affirmations. Words were never supposed to be weapons. Words were just tools — communication tools that assisted her in carrying out whatever mission she was assigned to. As an Auto Memoir Doll, however, the script has been flipped upside-down. Words are now a battlefield. Words can heal, but they can also hurt. Words do not always mean what we want them to mean.
As a result, I can’t help but pity Violet. This must all be terribly confusing to her, especially if — after everything she’s just witness and experienced in this week’s episode — her mind can’t resist drawing the most tempting conclusion: if there are two sides to words, then were there also two sides to Gilbert’s last words? I don’t think so. You probably don’t think so either. Knowing what we know — and granted, we don’t know much — Gilbert likely did genuinely love Violet. But how would she know?
“How odd I can have all this inside me and to you it’s just words.” — David Foster Wallace
There’s also the fact that Violet can’t understand her own feelings. At least not the complex ones. She’s never really had to. During the war, her feelings weren’t mission critical. As long as she had Gilbert by her side, she could express her feelings for him through her actions without even realizing that she was doing so. But it isn’t wartime anymore. And Gilbert isn’t around anymore. All Violet has now are her feelings, and they have nowhere to go. She has so much to say, and no way to put those thoughts into words. There are limits to Violet’s forms of expression. At best, she can only debrief Gilbert on her current “mission”: “I wish to report to him that I’ve assumed a ghostwriting post and have begun training for it.” That’s not all she wants to say, but it’s all she can say. Her letter, which will forever be unsent, is the extent of what she can process. The rest of her feelings remain as raw and immalleable emotions all tangled up within her. They will ache inside her, and with each passing day, that pain will grow and grow until something gives.
“You could say it’s a weapon that lets us working women fight in the wider society.”
Writing is freedom. Writing is intimate. Through our words, readers can enter our mental world and know what we know, feel what we feel. Most of all, we are in control. Readers can only read the words that we’ve written. No more, no less. They say that those like Violet are nothing more than tools without a mind of their own. What better way to prove them wrong than with their own words?
Violet Evergarden‘s time period is no coincidence. There’s a certain sense of nostalgia for what we might call “the good ol’ days,” but lest we forget, women were essentially second-class citizens back then. Women could not even vote. Dolls merely serve as a metaphorical device to bring forth and highlight this inherent social inequality. With postwar reconstruction as the backdrop, these heroines provide the emotional labor necessary to help mend society’s fractured psyche. And yet, those like Violet are seen as nothing more than tools not even worthy of second-class citizenship. You might ask why we feel the need to dredge up issues from the past, but even now, there are those who can’t help but feel that women’s suffrage was a mistake.
Misc. notes & observations:
— Interesting architecture. The staircase forms an eye, which gazes down at Gilbert. It’s a panopticon. I get the sense that the Bougainvillea is (was?) a very important and influential family, and as a result, all eyes are on Gilbert.
— Gilbert’s brother Dietfried sure feels slimy. Well, there’s also the fact that he gifts his brother a lost and destitute child, doll or not. Who knows what Violet has been through up until this point in her life. A living thing is seen as nothing than a “wonderful gift… to celebrate [Gilbert’s] promotion.”
— Cattleya’s design is a bit… much.
— Iris seems rather insecure. “This job ain’t that easy!” she exclaims. She seems to fear the idea of a hotshot coming in and ultimately displacing her. Still, I can understand where Iris is coming from. Cattleya gets all the good requests, so Iris and Erica are mostly stuck typing up addresses or boring, emotionless requests. In other words, none of the stuff that requires empathy. If you just need someone to get the job done, Violet’s probably the best at it. In that case, what would Iris have left to do?
— On the other hand, Erica is meek and unassertive. She’s the sort to mumble her feelings rather than voicing her concerns out loud.
— Cattleya teaches Violet how to use the typewriter, and I can’t help but be reminded of a kid learning to drive for the first time. After all, cars tend to represent physical freedom, and in this episode, writing represents a kind of mental freedom.
— Violet starts off by typing incredibly loudly, but she doesn’t appear to mind the noise, though. You can look at it in a couple of different ways. On the one hand, it seems as though she is less responsive to stimuli than her peers, so does that mean she’s less human than them? On the other hand, she’s so determined to succeed that I doubt she would let something as trivial as the repetitive mechanical noises of a typewriter distract her. Maybe it does bother her, but as a soldier, she’s been through a whole lot worse.
— People keep bringing up the fact that Violet’s still just a kid. This implies that dolls can age. They’re certainly man-made, but how biological are they?
— Iris rants about Violet, but judging by Erica’s expression, she seems to take each word personally.
— So Cattleya pretends to flirt with Claudia just to get Benedict to understand that the company is in dire straits financially? I wonder what her intentions are. Does she want Benedict to pity Claudia? Does she want to motivate him to work harder?
— Every lie has an expiration date. Eventually, Violet will figure out that Claudia has been deceiving her, and that moment will be heartbreaking. He has good intentions, but she will lose trust in him. One day, she’s going to realize that Santa isn’t real.
— Violet begins to offend not only the company’s clients but even her own coworkers when she can’t help but point out their mistakes. Nobody’s told her otherwise, though. She needs proper boundaries and instructions. I put the blame on Cattleya. By her own admission, Iris is still only a rookie, and any manager worth her salt would know that Erica isn’t up to the task of mentoring anyone. Erica doesn’t even protest when Violet apprehends a belligerent customer. Neither of those two can provide Violet the proper direction that she needs. Cattleya should’ve provided clear and concise instructions on how Violet’s second day of training is supposed to proceed.
— So a woman comes in and she wants someone to ghostwrite a romantic letter for her. Unfortunately, Cattleya isn’t in, and Violet’s all to eager to volunteer her services. To nobody’s surprise, our heroine’s letter is total bomb. Again, the blame falls squarely on Cattleya’s shoulders. She did not provide her team with directions on what to do if they get a job request that they cannot handle. This is probably why Cattleya doesn’t scold anyone when she returns. Instead, she takes it upon herself to fix the situation. Nevertheless, I’m interested in seeing how she is initially characterized. Will she have a character arc? Will she eventually develop into a capable leader for her team?
— When Violet reads out loud her “romantic” letter, Erica looks surprised as if this is the first time she’s heard its content. This part stretches credulity. Nobody bothered to check Violet’s letter before it got sent? Erica didn’t check it? The client didn’t check it? Hey, write me a romantic letter! Oh, you’re finished? Okay, send it! Nah, you don’t need to tell me what you wrote! Sorry, but I find that ridiculous.
— I guess I’m supposed to feel for the poor woman because it turns out she truly loved her man. But if she loved him, she should’ve been honest with him. At least, that’s what I think.
— Plus, why would you ever expect strangers to read between the lines when you outright say something like this?
— Benedict bumps into Violet and confesses that he too should start thinking about looking for something else to do. Hm.
— Yeah, dealing with someone like her on a day-to-day basis would get old real quick, but from a distance, her complete and direct honesty is refreshing.
— Erica empathizes with Violet because they both feel the same way about the job. Gilbert’s words touched Violet’s heart, and she wants to understand that feeling. We learn later that Erica was moved by a novel — the very novel written by the blind wife of the man who invented Auto Memoir Dolls — so she too wants to be able to move others with her own words. Nevertheless, they’re both equally unsuited for the job. So in that sense, she and Violet are not so different after all. The sun comes out once Erica comes to this realization. It’s as if the truth has dawned on her.
— Erica and Violet walk in on Iris badmouthing the latter to Claudia. She sure is rather aggressive for a rookie.
— Maybe the company isn’t in trouble after all. It turns out Claudia had spent his month’s pay on getting back Violet’s lost brooch. That’s rather generous of him. Sure, a large part of him cares for her. But another part of him must surely feel guilty. He’s lying to her about Gilbert, after all. I fear his actions might one day be misconstrued as favoritism by the other employees if he keeps this up.