Sia Figiel’s novel, They Who Do Not Grieve, depicts the story of a family through their same of an unfinished tattoo and the dishonor that it shows. The story tells of growing up and the women’s comings of adulthood. In book one, the family is plagued with despair and grief. This grief is evident in the women themselves as well as the idea of the female body. The grief that the body experiences, becomes a place which prevents the development or travel of the soul.
Lalolagi’s shame is in that of her non-tattooed body. Malu explains, “my grandmother woke up suddenly to find that the fish, the starfish, the spear, the centipede did not take to her flesh,” (Figiel 6) continuing that where others took their lives her grandmother decided to live, “living and impossibility after failing such as operation.”(Figiel 6). Lalolagi’s body then becomes an object of shame and this shame affected her family and continues to affect them. Her body holds the grief and pain that affects her family. The body of a woman without tattoos thus becomes something of humiliation for this person within the body and for the family whose blood also runs through the body. The lack of something on a physical body negates any hope or good that lies within. It is the woman’s body that holds the dishonor and traps the soul preventing it from traveling. With the despair of the body, the soul cannot travel beyond this shame, for the soul resides within the body and the body itself becomes a place of death.
Figiel furthers the body as a place for death, in this novel, through the birth of Malu’s baby. Malu cries, “‘I’ve given birth to a dead baby.’“(Figiel 57). The place most associated with life, the female body, thus becomes a place of death giving birth to death. Although the baby turns out to be alive, the implications of the female body still remain. The body becomes a place for others to die, for souls to die. This is similar to Lalolagi’s body which was a place for her power and her spirit to die or remain trapped in the confines of her grief. Travel of the soul and in general then becomes limited to the body and what the body holds or does not hold.
The grief of the body then gets put onto that of the soul and of the traveler. The physical female body becomes a way to confine the soul through its shame, particularly the physical, visible shame. The women of the novel depict this in their grief which prevents them from traveling beyond their history. Their souls are also trapped from traveling do to the dishonor put into the minds based on the actions of the body. The body becomes a place for which the soul cannot always travel beyond.