Violet Evergarden Ep. 3: Language in its social context

Violet tries to imagine a letter she might send to Gilbert, but she is at a loss for words: “I’m sorry. I don’t know what I want to tell him either.” I have to admit that this moment hit me particularly hard. I found myself overwhelmed by the idea that she is paralyzed at the thought of expressing herself. We each have so many emotions bound up inside us, and language — whether it’s spoken, written or body language — is the only tool we have to help us communicate our inner feelings to the outside world. And right now, Violet doesn’t have that language. Her feelings are thus imprisoned inside her heart, and I find this so incredibly tragic. I can’t help but imagine the depth and breadth of emotions she must have for her major, and yet, she can’t even vocalize those feelings to herself much less anyone else. For now, at least.

That’s not to say Violet lacks a language. No, she certainly has one. She has the language of a soldier, and as a result, everything she hears and speaks gets processed through that particular language filter. In a school for Auto Memoir Dolls, our heroine finds herself at the top of her class in all of the technical areas. Typing speed? Unrivaled. Grammar? Spotless. Vocubulary? Unmatched. And yet, when she is asked to ghostwrite a letter for her classmate Luculia, the result is reminiscent of her previous failed attempt. She hears perfectly everything Luculia has to say, then filters those words all through her military-influenced language. Along the way, heartfelt emotions are dropped and only “mission-critical” facts remain. The resulting letter earns her a quick reproach from the class instructor, but you can’t help but imagine that it could’ve been a perfect status report to deliver to one’s commanding officer.

What we’re seeing in action is that language is intrinsically enmeshed within the social context. Language is not something that stands alone, divorced from human behavior. We can easily imagine a situation in which everything has been reversed: instead of Violet attempting to convey Luculia’s feelings to her dead parents, the latter must now try to deliver a mission report to her superior in the army. Feelings and emotions wouldn’t be of much use to her commander, would they? In fact, they might not mean anything within that context. We assume that if we want to communicate x, y, and z, then language is a sort of abstract tool that can help us accomplish such a task. But Wittgenstein would say this is the incorrect way to look at the world. Rather, how we see and interact with the world is inherently tied to the language that we employ. In other words, our language is our world.

For a child who has only known the life of a soldier, Violet can thus only use the language of a soldier. After delivering a short speech about her expectations, Violet’s instructor rhetorically asks, “Are you all ready?” Violet humorously and predictably stands up and responds to the woman with a salute: “Roger!” She still sees herself as a soldier, and she still thinks she has missions to carry out. The very nature of her existence is still deeply enmeshed within a military context. It will take time for her to learn a new language and thus adapt to a whole new existence. Some of us can spend our whole lives within the same social context and never fully grasp all the different subtle cues and nuances of our language. So I can’t help but insist that Violet’s not broken. She’s not flawed. She’s not an incomplete human, doll or object devoid of a soul.

Gilbert: “Violet… I hope that one day, you’ll get to see that beautiful view in Leiden.”

On the contrary, Violet’s just a stranger in a strange world.

Misc. notes & observations:

— Does anyone know which cities KyoAni used to design this European-inspired setting? I’m curious.

— So only women are allowed to become Auto Memoir Dolls? Women are all I can see in this classroom. Only young women too. Is there a stigma against men becoming one?

— The instructor is so stern and business-like, I kinda want to see her ghostwrite something touching and heartfelt.

— I totally expected Violet to salute in the middle of class. I bet you did too.

— This is the first time we get an OP, right? It’s alright, I guess.

— Man, an entire classroom full of people hammering away at those old typewriters must be annoying.

— Violet doesn’t start typing, because — according to her — the instructor never specified the required typing speed. I wonder why she didn’t take the initiative to ask for one, though.

Luculia’s meal almost reminds me of banh mi with those shredded carrots.

— Violet tells Luculia that she doesn’t need to eat because she’s “been trained to minimized [her] intake during a mission.” All of a sudden, I can’t recall if I’ve ever seen her eaten anything. In the first episode, we saw her poking at a fish on her plate, but did she actually eat any of it?

— On that note, I don’t think it really matters if she’s actually human or not. Having said that, I’m leaning towards the former.

— They really try to throw you off, don’t they? Violet apparently has perfect recollection. Few humans can boast that.

— Look at how the girls react to Violet’s grades. Iris is the only person who isn’t happy. Dammit, Iris, are you a team player or not?

— There’s a subplot about a beef between Cattleya and Benedict that kinda doesn’t amount to anything. Maybe it’ll continue in next week’s episode, but for now, I guess all we learn is that those two like to butt heads.

— I like that Luculia changes her outfit from day to day. On the other hand, Violet sticks to her uniform. Does she have multiple copies of the same dress and jacket combo, or does she just wash it every night?

— I thought Violet would pick Gilbert for the ghostwriting exercise, but after rewatching this scene, she was told to pick someone close to her. She probably took that literally, which is why she ended up picking Claudia.

— I wonder if Violet is capable of feeling embarrassment.

— Honestly, the first time through the episode, I was afraid that Luculia’s brother might be abusive. Where does he get the money for booze, though? Luculia isn’t employed yet, and he seems too unstable at the moment to hold a steady job. I guess they must have some money left behind by their parents?

— The shocked expression on Violet’s face… I wish I knew what she was thinking in that moment.

— I also get the feeling that other than Luculia none of the other girls bothered to interact with our heroine.

— Luculia: “You always asked after replies from the major in each of your letters.” So we know Violet has done the ghostwriting exercise with Luculia multiple times and has failed multiple times. I kinda wish we could’ve seen these attempts, i.e. did she make any progress whatsoever?

— When Luculia revealed that her parents are dead, I was afraid Violet might interject with something like, “Then why did you ask me to write letters to them?” Y’know, similar to how she reacted to Erica at the end of last week’s episode. I’m glad KyoAni showed restraint, however, and didn’t try to inject humor into every scene. Actually, this episode has been low on the comedic elements.

— So Luculia’s brother is haunted by guilt. I guessed PTSD at first.

— The girl is glad that her brother came back alive. I kinda want to ask if he really did. It’s a sad scene for sure, and I don’t want to come across as if I’m making light of Luculia or anything. I’m just saying… if all he does is indulge himself in alcohol everyday, did he really come back alive? But luckily, she’s too pure-hearted to be that cynical. After all, she seems to bear him no resentment for drinking his days away and embarrassing her in public. Can the perfect letter really put him back on the right track? Is it that simple?

— In the end, Violet helps Luculia by ghostwriting a simple but powerful letter. She even locates him somehow and hand-delivers it. He may think of himself as a failure, but his younger sister doesn’t. He may think life isn’t worth living, but his younger sister doesn’t. Most of all, the letter reminds him that he still has her. He might have failed to protect their parents, but he can still protect her and vice versa. I just wonder, of course, if he actually comes to all of these realizations from just a letter. We get the happy ending that our hearts desire, but I’m not sure if my mind will agree. People plagued by the same demons as Luculia’s brother rarely recover so quickly (if at all).

— I also kind of wanted to see Violet push on as an Auto Memoir Doll without the class brooch. I mean, even Claudia said you didn’t need to pass the class to do the job. But hey, we all love happy endings, right?

— And for now, this is as happy as Violet is capable of expressing.

— I wouldn’t mind seeing Luculia as a recurring character.

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2 Replies to “Violet Evergarden Ep. 3: Language in its social context”

  1. shame can’t enjoying it. Oh Sad character’s background and a very happy ending was just way too idealistic to my preference. It just wasn’t realistic drama I though it would be let alone a sci-fi stories.

  2. I interpreted her expression after being repproved more as hurt pride and confusion than shock. She’s still having issues grasping where she went wrong and how that might affect her self-perception.

    One thing I wanted from this episode but didn’t happen was Violet reading the letters she got from Luculia during these ghostwriting exercises – I like how the episode went overall and how it’ seems she’s already making progress, but I would have liked to see how she would react to that.

    Overall I’m enjoying the show. It gets cheesy and sort of unsubtle at times but I like how it is exploring language, communication and all the relationships between these different women. It’s doing even better than I expected, in a way.

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