Words vs. Actions

Time and time again, the phrase “actions speak louder than words” has been brought up and used in many situations. Just the other day, for example, my cousin was apologizing to her brother for breaking his miniature trumpet figurine. However, she refused to help put it back together, saying “I thought saying sorry was enough!” My aunt went on to tell her that her actions would show more sympathy than her words, which essentially means actions are more telling than words.

Have we ever stopped to really think about and evaluate this statement? Do actions honestly speak louder than words themselves? Well, to figure this out, we’ll have to dig a little deeper. To do so, a few example scenarios could bring some clarity to the common phrase. The examples I’ll be looking into are Holden’s actions, from The Catcher in the Rye, versus his words; Gatsby’s actions versus his words, from The Great Gatsby; and lastly, Hester’s actions versus her words, from The Scarlet Letter.

Photo @2011 by Vs Heidelberg Photos [CC BY 2.0]

Photo @2011 by Vs Heidelberg Photos [CC BY 2.0]

To begin with, there were multiple occasions within Holden’s story where his words are nearly hollow, due to the lack of tangible action backing them up. For example, while at Pencey Prep school, he fails four out of his fives classes, essentially barring him from returning for the next semester. Even though he is failing, he still continues to act as if the school and the world around him is nothing but a show put on by the “phonies.” I guess you could say in this situation, Holden was a small dog with a lot of bark but no bite. This happens many times throughout the story, often leading him into situations where he appears nosy and unsophisticated, such as when he persists in asking Luce who he is having an affair with. Well, so far, we’ve found out that people without actions backing their words tend to lack a strong, respectable character.

Moving on, however, in the story of Gatsby and his tragic affair, Gatsby is a mix of both actions and words. He constantly throws lavish parties in hopes that Daisy might take notice and approve of such a wealthy and prosperous man. When Daisy and Gatsby finally do meet, however, Gatsby seems to lack the right words for the situation. Instead, he continually asks Nick Carraway for assistance and tries to use actions to make the situation better. In this scenario, we have a man who can definitely get things done and act, but his actions lack the necessary words to accomplish what he wants. On the other hand, in The Scarlet Letter, the main character Hester constantly has to express herself via both actions and words continuously. Throughout the story, she is fighting a battle against discrimination and for the purity and well-being of her daughter. Not only does she have a strong will to do the demanding things she does, she has an, in my opinion, eloquent way of speaking as well, which aids her self-expression.

Throughout this school year, I’ve learned a lot about expression through words and expression through actions. Although we didn’t specifically talk about these two methods of self-expression on an individual basis, our class discussions contributed to us learning expression via words. The simple act of raising my hand and adding information to a group discussion has been great practice for thinking of the right words at the right time to get my points across. Additionally, the publishing credit opportunities have provided ways for us to express ourselves and our interests via our actions of exploring and discussing outside-the-classroom topics individually.

To put it all together, I think it is safe to say that actions do tend to speak louder than words, especially when it comes down to strong emotions between people. Simply speaking cannot and will not suffice in many emotional situations such as anger, sadness, and joy. However, actions that do not have words are often ambiguous and leave much to be answered. Basically, words are the brain of self-expression, while actions are the muscles of self-expression. Both contribute to one’s expression, although actions by themselves tend to draw more attention than words alone.

– Bryan Clements

Words..the strongest expression

Photo @2013 by James Vaughan [CC BY 2.0]

Photo @2013 by James Vaughan [CC BY 2.0]

In a world where we live on trust and hope. Many of us don’t realize it, but the things we say can affect our actions. Sure one may be able to argue that the action matters more than the word, but think of it this way. The words are the instigators in what may lead toward your actions. This is almost like catcher in the rye. Continue reading