The Traumatic Imagination: Histories of Violence in Magical Realist Fiction

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Where more remains for David to relate there are only ellipses over which the unknown and unspeakable endure. Yet, David's moments of shattered speech nevertheless tell us many things about the irreconcilable conflict within him concerning being the husband, mourner, and assisting killer of his beloved wife. More specifically, the fractured language corresponds to what narrative critic Elana Gomel describes as "an aspect of violence that cannot be incorporated into discourse [e. Necessary, even pivotal, to the story, the violence remains outside discourse, indicated but not shown; spoken about but not described; hinted at but not explicitly named.

And this aspect has a disturbing impact on the coherence of the narrative and, consequently, on the coherence of the self created through this narrative" xx.

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Namely, David no longer knows who he is after killing his wife, or what he did exactly to speed her passing, which makes his sense of self and the narrative he provides distressed and unfinished. Worse still, as a bereaved killer, David's guilt intensifies his grief, transforming his mourning into little more than "interminable melancholy" LaCapra To this end, shock and shame leave David with a fractured sense of self that he cannot piece back together or live with and, as Gomel persuasively contends, "A subject with no inner logic is a subject in ruins" xx.

Overall, for David, the loss of his wife along with his uncertain implication in her death destroys logic and, as he tries to explain to Thomas, "in that vacuum everything's nonsense, is. As he acts, Thomas watches and comes to be traumatized by what he witnesses and struggles with remembering the act afterward. After Thomas witnesses David's suicide, the shock of his father's death does not sink in for Thomas until he sees David's unfinished peanut butter and jelly sandwich, "[o]f which he had eaten only three or four bites.

Somehow this forced him deeper onto those stones. This made his ribcage cut through his skin.

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This stained his coat in the patterns of the jelly that breached the paper hide of that bread," shown in Figure 2. Thomas stands right behind David as he commits suicide, and reaches out and touches his father's coat seconds before he falls; and yet, looking back on that moment, Thomas claims, "I don't remember the pushing or the falling or the body my father became," and alleges that he "did not watch him hit" the stones below. One moment David stands at the edge of the cliff and, in the time it takes Thomas to reach out and touch the corduroy of his father's jacket, David is "already gone.

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Seeing the unfinished sandwich triggers the trauma of his father's fall from the cliff, which is to say, the original moment of trauma makes itself felt at a later time and place through an estranged scene, one that simultaneously comprises an event and an image for Thomas. Caruth claims that "[t]o be traumatized is to be possessed by an image or an event" "Introduction" , which assumes, perhaps unrealistically, a discrepancy between the traumatic past-event and its latent, triggering image. Instead, Thomas sees his father's shattered body slice through "the paper hide of that bread," replacing the innocuous image of his unfinished peanut butter and jelly.

Thus, it is only when Thomas returns to the tent and finds the unfinished sandwich that David's death erupts into memory. In other words, suddenly, Thomas remembers the afterimage of his father's body broken across the stones; the memory and "the absurdity to which it leads" are made viscerally real too quickly and too late because Thomas is still not prepared for the shock of his father's death.

The image of the unfinished sandwich, and the "body" the visual recalls, embody and express "an event that has no beginning, no ending, no before, no during and no after" and, therefore, no logic Laub There is no "now" that the trauma of "then" does not dismantle for Thomas, who walks away from the site and sight of his father's suicide only to confront the body and the stones it burst upon waiting to fall back upon him in a future time and place. Trauma continues to influence the narrative through Thomas's compulsive behaviors and recurrent dreams, which are common post-traumatic reactions.

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After his mother's death, Thomas shares, "I was, in her absence, the groundskeeper, and these were my grounds: her garden, her room, her hiding place, [and] the woods between. Tending to these places after his mother dies becomes a way to remain close to his mother despite her absence, and to mitigate the trauma of her loss. Thomas also repeatedly wears a lion mask, "a present" given to him by his mother, as he completes his grounds-keeping tasks. More important, though, Thomas tells how, during this time, "I would dream things. These big, humid allegories. What took place exactly in the dreams Thomas cannot, with certainty, now remember, "due in no small part to hundreds of youthful daytime fantasies enacted to erase the nocturnal dramas.

I would play games and make songs to forget about what I remembered in the evening. How the dreams are represented in the story indicates Thomas's trauma, which becomes clearer once David falls to his death during the narrative's conclusion, because Thomas seems to be falling in two of the three dream panels and cannot remember exactly what he dreamed during the months after his mother's death.

In addition, because his father kills himself by falling from a cliff, the dreams seem to be overwritten by the memory of his father's suicide. In other words, Thomas falling in the dreams correlates with his father falling from the cliff, which has not yet taken place at this point in the chronological sequence of the narrative. Because the dream panels capture moments frozen in time, Thomas, always midway through his fall, represents his father locked in time and space to the moment of his death: when David fell.

As mentioned above, however, the dreams are ambiguous for we cannot be certain whether Thomas falls or floats. Falling embodies the memory and facts of his father's death while floating connects with the truths of his father's "escape," discussed below. What is important to note for now is that falling and floating embody unique yet corresponding issues about the trauma Thomas works to retrace and come to terms with over the course of his narrative. Beyond traumatized characters and content, Mother, Come Home represents symptoms of trauma on the structural levels of the narrative.

As Ball asserts, fragmentation is an integral way graphic narratives represent trauma stylistically: "A fragmented narrative effectively represents trauma symptoms because traumatic events can disrupt chronological time" par. Trauma creates fragmented memories; graphic narratives tell stories linked by fragmented panels, or, as Scott McCloud explains in his innovative work Understanding Comics , "Comic panels fracture both time and space, offering a jagged, staccato rhythm of unconnected moments" A graphic narrative that doubles as a trauma narrative, then, mimics the fragmentation of traumatized memories via the panels broken up across the pages of the comic.

To illustrate, after the "Drifting Man" section that opens the novel, the narrative depicts the time when Thomas's mother gave him the lion mask. Unlike the first six panels, which are all moderate-sized panes of equal height and width sharing a single page in the comic, the last panel spans two complete pages by itself and, in so doing, depicts the immensity of this unmatched moment in time and memory.

To be clear, though, all of the panels depict memories, and the splintered chronology portrays Thomas's shock and confusion after the sudden losses of his mother and father at a young age. What is more, the picture of his father's unfinished sandwich which rests below a text box that reads "[t]hat is the one thing I remember about my mother," remarkably renders that trauma effaces the temporal framework of memory leaving only displacement, indirection, and fragmentation in the wake.

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  6. Post-traumatic fragmentation continues and intensifies via several portrayals that create an impossible simultaneity as past and future traumas co-occur within mutual spheres of representation. It is difficult to say when the schoolroom portrayals take place, mostly because they superimpose events that in one sense have already occurred — much of what we see in these panels relates to traumatic flashes from Thomas's past — while in another have not yet happened in the chronology of the narrative.

    Consequently, the past and future traumas blend indistinguishably with one another within the liminal time-space of the schoolroom. Michael Rothberg's notion of "multidirectional memory" and Roger Luckhurst's coinciding "polytemporality" or polytemporal memory create an important framework for working through the simultaneous representations of past and future shock in the schoolroom scenes. Although acting as a counterpoint to competitive memory, or one social group's struggle for recognition of their sufferings in opposition to those of another — for instance, the legacy of Africanist oppression across U.

    Similarly, for Luckhurst, polytemporal memory stands for the ways in which "the traumatic events of one time and place are read through the filter of another" time and place While multidirectional and polytemporal memory, respectively, are structured around social or political implications for remembering or marginalizing the pain of others, they are nevertheless relatable to the personal manifestation of trauma that Mother, Come Home portrays for, in the space of the schoolroom, "the traumatic events of one time and place" are manifestly "read through the filter of another.

    What is more, the passages the schoolchildren read aloud match almost exactly with bits of dialogue and narration leading up to David's suicide later in the narrative. For instance, a little girl reads a passage from the book about how leaves on trees do not really turn white when it rains, but only seem to because of the wind turning them over. We later encounter what she reads here echoed the night before David's death, as father and son take shelter from the rain in their makeshift tent, when David tells Thomas about the "little systems of explanation" people make up "that are easier to digest than the intricacies of reality.

    However, the teacher excuses Thomas from class soon afterwards so he does not have to hear "the very sad part coming up in the story" — the upcoming suicide of the father. Of course, during our first reading of the comic, we are not aware of what is truly going on here — the relevant and significant similarities between the class's novel and Thomas's experience — that makes the classroom scenes seem unremarkable at first.

    Nevertheless, the schoolroom panels and the tragic ending they correspond with imprint trauma onto the structural levels of the narrative, because a cataclysmic and haunting incident takes place — albeit, in spoken form — yet is grasped only after originally encountered, much like trauma stems from severe stress that makes itself felt after the life-shattering experience has already occurred.

    Mother, Come Home strikingly illustrates the emotional and psychological tolls of trauma on human memory through interweaving the story content with the fragmented frameworks of the narrative. Beyond content and form, however, Mother, Come Home most notably illustrates the interplay of memory and imagination that enables traumatized persons an alternative way to share with others an experience that would be almost impossible to tell through memory alone. Consequently, Thomas's creative narrative suggests that fact and truth, memory and imagination, coexist inseparably for those who live through and continue to live with trauma, which poses challenging questions for how we read and empathize with trauma narratives that elide memory and imagination in similar ways.

    The instantaneous impacts and permanent effects of trauma create serious complications for survivor memory and narrative. Yet, past and current theorists of trauma commonly regard memory as the means by which a traumatized person claims agency over the original shock, thus sidestepping the interplay of memory and imagination in the construction of trauma narratives.

    After discussing how traumatized patients are instructed in therapy sessions to establish agency over extreme life-events by envisioning aspects that were not a part of the original experience — picturing beautiful flowers blooming amidst the awful muck of a concentration camp — van der Kolk and van der Hart reach an odd conclusion about the power of memory to rescue itself from the crippling paralysis and amnesia of trauma: "Memory is everything.

    Once flexibility is introduced, the traumatic memory starts losing its power over current experience. By imagining these alternative scenarios, many patients are able to soften the intrusive power of the original, unmitigated horror" However, van der Kolk and van der Hart contradict their claim that "memory is everything" for, as they share, it was through "imagining. Memory is one thing but not the only thing in survivor remembrances and descriptions of suffering. On the contrary, trauma, memory, and imagination share a dynamic, though often censorious, liminal time-space that mediates what is remembered and how it is remembered in trauma testimony, memoir, and fiction.

    More recently, psychoanalyst Isaac Tylim asserts, "Memory and horror [trauma] are not compatible. The reason for this lies in the fact that. So as not to overburden memory, both clinicians and their patients frequently call upon "imagination in representing the horrors that [would otherwise] resist representation" to extract the shards of shock from memory and gather them into a narrative of the experience Focusing even further on imagination in recent trauma studies, Eugene L. Arva redefines trauma as a fundamentally recursive interchange between memory and imagination. For traumatized persons, a tangible sense of unreality pervades the original shock which makes the ordeal and descriptions survivors try to tell about it virtually impossible.

    These "time-spaces marked by events whose violence has rendered them resistant to rationalization or adequate representation" fundamentally entail "an act of imagination" to be rendered narratively and "artistically visible" Arva 26; Since memory malfunctions during and after the original or repeated trauma, imagination may perform a supportive if not restorative task in reassembling the pieces of memory into a stream of narrative in which temporal lapses and anachronisms may remain, essentially authenticating posttraumatic veracity across the narrative's thematic and structural levels.

    Performances of imagination in trauma narratives nevertheless trigger questions of grave significance concerning the overall authenticity of the survivor's story. After filming interviews with Holocaust survivors for the Yale Fortunoff video archive, Laub remembers the remarkable testimony of a female Auschwitz survivor, whose incredible story sets "traumatic imagination," a conscious attempt to share one's trauma as truthfully as possible even if certain details or strategies of sharing the experience make the story seem untrue, against traumatic fabrication , a conscious misrepresentation or manipulation of traumatic history designed to deceive others into believing a narrative that may be more or less make-believe.

    She was fully there. The flames shot up into the sky, people were running. It was unbelievable'" What the survivor tells and how she tells it, with "sudden intensity," "passion and color," works through the communicative complexities of her trauma — if only momentarily, the woman speaks out against the unspeakable horrors of the Holocaust — and permits the interviewers to imagine and, more importantly, share with her an extraordinary moment from Auschwitz history without wrongfully appropriating the experience as their own. However, Laub continues,. Laub shares that he "profoundly disagreed" with the consensus that the woman's testimony was invalidated and unreliable because portions were historically inaccurate, and argued instead that the survivor "was testifying.

    One chimney blown up in Auschwitz was as incredible as four. The number mattered less than the fact of the occurrence. She testified to the breakage of a framework. That was historical truth" La Capra studies the same passages from Laub in a late chapter of his enlightening work Writing History, Writing Trauma in which he reflects on the historians' dilemma regarding the woman's counterfactual description of accredited Holocaust history.

    La Capra determines that. Ultimately, for Laub and LaCapra, the fantastical or counterfactual material does not invalidate the authenticity of the woman's testimony. Though what she says may not fit the facts of what we know about the Auschwitz uprising, she makes no attempt to deceive her listeners; to make them believe that four chimneys rather than one were destroyed. She testifies to the truths of an experience she carries distressingly within her, and she speaks of how it seemed to happen, and not simply the facts of an event as it absolutely — that is, without any shade of uncertainty — did happen.

    Much like what is remembered and what is imagined creates challenges for the veracity of the Auschwitz survivor's testimony, Thomas's imaginative re-enactments of certain traumatic episodes from his childhood enable him to share the emotional and psychological complexities of his trauma through narrative. Yet we, those he entrusts with his story, must keep in mind that "the re-presented or reconstructed truth will not be of what actually happened but of what was experienced as happening" Arva That is to say, for Thomas, his original memories are not only, as he admits, "muddled through a seven year-old's screen," they are also complicated by the traumas that bookend this period of his childhood.

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    Consequently, when dealing with trauma fiction, or even trauma history, we must remember that what we are told and what we see are not necessarily what happened exactly, but what seemed to take place, which conveys the truths of the misfortunes endured by the survivors that they must afterwards create some way to live with.

    Throughout Mother, Come Home , Thomas adjoins memory and imagination, in this way, shows and shares the truths of his traumatizing childhood loss. During an early section of the narrative titled "The Hiding Place," for instance, Thomas portrays a one-panel, imaginative re-enactment of his mother's funeral in which he and his father are drawn in a child-like fashion: the lion mask blends with Thomas's face, while David floats above the ground at the foot of his wife's grave. As cartoon sketches, the portrayal emphasizes the shock and surrealism of that day, for Thomas and his father have just lost their mother or wife to terminal illness, and the day of her funeral is the only time the two visit her "hiding place" together.

    A more realistic portrayal of the interment precedes the imaginative one in the story, and the contrasting aesthetics of the two depictions challenge all who read and see to consider carefully which illustration more truthfully attests to loss and mourning. The original enactment renders the post-burial scene in remarkable artistic detail and captures father and son in a moment of shared grief, shown in Figure 5. The latter illustration, on the other hand, portrays the same moment but does so in the style of a child's drawing. The original portrayal represents what the mother's funeral must have looked like and creates a literal version of what took place, while the cartoon illustration represents how the mother's funeral seemed to Thomas, which, due to the fantastical caricatures and physics of the drawing, at the very least would be described as improbable or unreal.

    To be clear, both illustrations of the mother's funeral trace back to a mutual memory but both portrayals draw that memory in distinctly different styles and with different outcomes. One version conveys a verisimilar portrait of the funeral that, although factual, does not quite express the submersed truths of the son and father's bereavement. The cartoon version, on the other hand in Figure 6, enacts a remarkable level of imagination yet does not necessarily distort or misrepresent Thomas's memory of his mother's funeral; quite the contrary, the imaginative aesthetics permit him to show how her interment seemed , which makes the cartoon drawing appear unreliable or untrue, while possibly more truthful to memory, shock, and loss.

    Conclusion: "And we all will be released."

    Overall, the two representations illustrate the interplay between memory and imagination in the narrative because, when viewed jointly, the two versions coauthor a more authentic narrative of traumatizing grief. That is to say, one draws out the facts of the memorial — for instance, the funeral was a somber day, other people attended, and there was snow — while the other sketches the truths of the loss. Thus, taken together, we get a more thorough portrait that the day of his mother's funeral was a solemn day for Thomas and that he felt, or perhaps everything seemed, dreamlike or at the very least to drift outside of reality.

    Either illustration by itself could convey certain facts or truths of the mother's funeral, but the interplay joining the two creates a more illustrative and meaningful narrative portrait that one could not fulfill without the other. Possibly the most illustrative and haunting example of the interplay between memory and imagination in Mother, Come Home takes place in the book's final section, "We Make Good Our Escape.

    As with the two illustrations of the mother's funeral, the narrative sets up two versions of Thomas and David's escape. The first is drawn in a childlike fashion and seemingly portrays how Thomas imagined he and his father would perform their getaway. Thomas arrives at the clinic and hands over his forged patient-release papers to the nurses who swiftly discharge his father from the facility's care with no questions asked. Afterward, Thomas and his father run into some nearby woods when, at that point, David stops and says, "I have horrible things to tell you.

    Nothing is very simple. David then drifts away into the distance, leaving Thomas all alone, illustrated in Figure 7. What originally looks like make-believe, however, is actually later revealed to be an imaginative re-enactment of a real, traumatic memory by the second portrayal of Thomas and David's escape in the narrative.

    Unlike the first portrayal, the second version of Thomas and David's escape is drawn in a more realistic manner that copies exact details of what happened during the escape, see Figure 8. Strong Essays words 6. Gabriel Garcia Marquez, a famous Latin American author, has written many pieces of what is generally conceived to be Magical Realism. Strong Essays words 3 pages. For me, the background of the story is not unfamiliar at all, since the author Gabriel Garcia Marquez was born and raised in Colombia and I found most of the details of the story related to me when I used to live in South America.

    Trauma, Memory, and Imagination in Paul Hornschemeier's Mother, Come Home

    The magic realism used in this story illustrates many aspects of our society today. The reaction of the people in the town towards the appearance of an unknown creature with a bald skull, just a few teeth in his mouth and enormous and dirty wings resembling a rare angel, makes me think about how people Strong Essays words 1.

    People want to believe the supernatural and the unknown but perhaps they have never encountered something odd or strange themselves. The author uses details of the old man's persona and describes several strange events that occur to demonstrate the difference between natural and supernatural It seems the only skeptic was a man of the church, Father Gonzaga, this mainly because he is aware of the devil, who can trick the innocent of human thinking.

    Good and evil played a role in the fact that the family used the creature for greed, Elisenda thought of the idea to build a fence and charge 5 cents admission to see it Marquez, , p.

    The rest of the world wanted to use the creature to help heal possible illnesses and that is selfish, many traveled with the hopes to find health Marquez, , p Religion has had a profound effect on human culture; unfortunately, the trouble with it is faith, which creates skepticism in many individuals. In order to accommodate the issue of faith, religions have regulations, values, and ceremonies, making religion a belief system, hence creating clarity to support faith. Catholicism has become a belief system that feeds its follower with answers; however, these answers are only assumptions.

    There are no factual answers, and as a result, religious leaders have created an expectation in which religion is supposed to fit; nonetheless, its accuracy is unknown