Babies in Great Britain are vanishing - from homes, the park, and even a moving car. There is no explanation for the disappearances. The count of missing babies reaches 83 and still not a single body has been found.

Lella follows the news closely and is quite worried about her own baby. The mother clings to her daughter. One day, Lella spots mouse droppings in the kitchen. She telephones an exterminator but they are too busy to come to the house for at least one month. She next sees a large rat in the living room. Then Lella finds a nest of rodents and flushes it down the toilet.

The distraught mother becomes a recluse. She cannot sleep and has no energy. The doctor evaluates her. He prescribes some blue pills. He notes that "her hormones are still unsettled and her body weak" (107). She only pretends to swallow the medicine. Lella's husband takes a leave from work to care for her.

A tired Lella puts her baby in a cradle and later notices a rat next to it. She picks up a butter knife on the bedside table and is poised to stab the rat. Her husband enters the room, grasps Lella's wrist, and tells his wife it is only her imagination. He is correct. There is neither a rat nor a baby in the cradle, only a folded blanket.


In this unsettling story, some important information is left out. What is real? Does Lella actually have a baby? Is there a proliferation of rats somehow connected to the missing infants? One thing seems factual: Poor Lella suffers from some sort of mental illness. Postpartum psychosis is a possible diagnosis but other emotional traumas (maybe a previous miscarriage or the death of a newborn child) might explain her behavior. This story works well with The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman (see link to F. Aull's annotation and to J. Coulehan's annoation).

Primary Source

The Loudest Sound and Nothing (pp 99-109)


Faber & Faber

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