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The Journal of English Language and Literature , Vol.65, No.1, 87 ~ 110, 2019
The Narratives of Traumatic Memory, Amnesia, and Healing: Focused on Slaughterhouse-Five & In the Lake of the Woods
Jung-hoon Jang
This paper defines Slaughterhouse-Five and In the Lake of the Woods as ‘trauma narrative’ texts describing the memory and the psychological collapse of people who have experienced past traumatic events like war and massacre. From the perspective of ‘traumatic narrative’ and ‘literary healing,’ this study tries to analyze the split life of Billy Pilgrim and the narrator of Slaughterhouse-Five who were survivors of the Dresden bombing, and John’s isolation and his separated life in In the Lake of the Woods, hiding the fact of his being a perpetrator in a massacre during the Vietnam War but perpetually suffering from a guilty conscience. Vonnegut and O’Brien assert that no cause can justify war and massacre, while more effectively presenting fragmented lives tainted by the horror of war and the slaughter of the trauma survivors through postmodern narratives. These two authors employ strategies that use combinations of facts and imagination, the destruction of time, an erasing of the boundaries between history and stories, a meta-fiction technique that reflects the author’s self-consciousness, and montage techniques rather than realistic descriptions of their characters’ torn lives and the horrors of war or massacre. These narratives leave a stronger message and a bitter aftertaste, rather than mere factual representations. They want to eliminate false myths and rationalizations about human war and massacre by writing about the people who can’t forget traumatic memory and healing being possibly impossible. This paper asserts that Vonnegut and O’Brien try to induce readers to sympathize with a call to end situations that cause trauma, and to find a way of personal or collective healing through writing about trauma.
Key Words
The Narratives of Traumatic Memory, Amnesia, Literary Healing, Slaughterhouse-Five, In the Lake of the Woods
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