癒されぬトラウマ : Tim O'BrienのIn the Lake of the Woodsを中心に
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Tim O'Brien's In the Lake of the Woods as a Response to the Trauma Narratives in the 80s and 90s
The Vietnam War damaged the American myth of innocence, letting the public regard not only the government but also the U.S. soldiers themselves as victimizers of the war. Severe experiences in the battlefields and the cool treatment of the veterans after their homecoming caused many of them to suffer Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. However, the movement of restoring their honor in the 1980s established their image as victims of war, trying to remedy their traumas, ultimately trying to remedy the traumas in U.S. society.
In the 80s, the movement of remedying the trauma of the Vietnam War prevailed in various fields of U.S. society, including the film industry. The image of U.S. soldiers and veterans as victims is repeatedly shown in the films of the 80s such as the Rambo series, Platoon, In Country, and Jacknife.
The 80s and 90s was a period when trauma narratives, not necessarily war trauma, boomed. The terms Adult Children as well as PTSD became widely known. The term Adult Children, originally Adult Children of Alcoholics (ACoA), means the people who find difficulties to thrive in the world because of the effects of the troubles they suffered in their families during their childhood. The boom in the trauma narratives, including those of Adult Children, stirred the interests on treatment for trauma in the fields of psychiatry and clinical psychology, showing the possibilities that trauma could be remedied with the aid of such treatments of those fields.
As John Wade in the novel suffers both from PTSD and the traumas of ACoA, In the Lake of the Woods, which O'Brien started to write in 1990 and published in 1994, reflects the boom of remedying traumas in the 80s and early 90s. John himself had tried to overcome his trauma by obliterating his traumatic memory of his alcoholic father's suicide and his murder of two people in the massacre at My Lai. The novel, however, does not suggest the possibility of overcoming trauma. Not only did John failed to overcome his trauma, but also, the narrator, who was in My Lai as a soldier one year after the massacre, failed to clarify the mystery of John's disappearance. As a result of his pursuing the mystery, the narrator realizes that John is beyond knowing and so we all are.
Because John remains an absolute and impenetrable unkown, the narrator seems to give up integrating the fragmented information he gathered, and just seems to present the fragments. The novel consists of numerous fragments of evidence, hypotheses, and narrated stories. Readers, as well as the narrator, try to integrate these fragments in order to understand not only the mystery of John's eclipse but also that of wickedness in human beings, only to find it impossible.
Flashbacks as the fragments of traumatic memories, which have not been integrated fully in the person's consciousness, appear repeatedly like snapshots, demanding full integration and understanding of the meaning of the traumatic events. Therefore, unless the fragments are not integrated in his/her consciousness, they are not interpreted nor rationalized fully, attacking him/her as flashback. They refuse to be obliterated. Since the fragments in the novel are not integrated in the readers' mind nor in the narrator's, we cannot interpret nor rationalize them fully. The fragmented traumatic memories of the massacre repeatedly force us to integrate them in our consciousness, refusing to be obliterated.
広島大学総合科学部紀要. I, 地域文化研究