Document Type

Thesis - Open Access

Award Date


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department / School


First Advisor

Sharon Smith


alternative languages, Children of a Lesser God, cinematic tropes, Johnny Belinda, mute women, The Piano


In this thesis, I focus my examination of mute women on three mainstream motion pictures spanning from the Hollywood studio to contemporary era times to explore the ways in which film undermines mute women’s attempts to use alternative languages. Johnny Belinda, Children of a Lesser God, and The Piano are films that display mute women and garner popular attention. I argue that the women in these films use alternative languages (such as sign language and touch) to gain representation and resist the masculine order; however, these women cannot obtain autonomy and agency because of their decisions to participate in romantic relationships with men. To identify how these women fail, I scrutinize the cinematic tropes that the films employ, including that of the male gaze, sexual violence, and voyeurism.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Johnny Belinda (Motion picture)
Children of a lesser god (Motion picture)
Piano (Motion picture)
Mute persons.
Deaf women.
Nonverbal communication in motion pictures.
Deaf in motion pictures.
Women in motion pictures.
Man-woman relationships.


Includes bibliographical references (pages 79-85)



Number of Pages



South Dakota State University



Rights Statement

In Copyright