Author Archives: Hanaa Khadraoui

essay #3

conclusion not really fleshed out yet; but was going to mention that because i was able to understand the characters (‘diagnose’ them) the work grew more meaningful for me

will–as i was about to post this i saw your old essay and realized i used the same essay and work, but i don’t think they’re too similar, i focus specifically on miyake and we come to different conclusions. but i’m planning on talking to prof. francomano just to make sure. thanks!

 

When reading Landscape with Flatiron, I found “The Black Hole of Trauma” by Kolk and McFarlane to be an extremely useful tool in understanding the character of Miyake. When first introduced he seems benignly ordinary, an average man with a predisposition for lighting bonfires, but as the narrative progresses, we start to see the inherent abnormality in his words, actions, and habits that betray his deep-rooted suffering. Applying the model of post-traumatic stress disorder to his behavior sheds light on the motives behind them. His psyche has been altered by some traumatic event that he is continually afflicted by.

Post-traumatic stress disorder is characterized by the “developing of specific patterns of avoidance” caused by the afflicted individual’s “inability to integrate the awful experience” into their lives. We first receive hints of Miyake’s awful experience in his short conversation with Keisuke by the bonfire. Keisuke asks, “But seriously, though, did anybody get hurt? You must have somebody you know in Kobe”, to which Miyake responds curtly, “Let’s change the subject.” Miyake clearly does not wish to talk about the earthquake in Kobe, or the people he knew there. He avoids the subject perhaps because it reminds him of his awful experience. We later learn that Miyake did, in fact, know people in Kobi. He tells Junko about his wife and four kids there, and claims, “I can’t call him an idiot. I don’t have the right. I’m not using my brain any more than he is, I’m the idiot king.” This sudden bout of self-deprecation, though ambiguous, reveals a bit more about Miyake’s distress. He is clearly tortured by some choice he made or some event that has happened to him. Kobi was the site of his trauma. And when asked if he would like to share more by Junki, Miyake responds, “No, I really don’t”. Again, he avoids any reference or possible further discussion about his past trauma.

Another symptom of post-traumatic disorder that Miyake exhibits is that he “organizes his life around the trauma.” He used to live with his family in Kobi, but now lives alone in Ibaraki. His life consists of habitual trips to Junko’s convenience store, casual painting, and, of course, bonfires, his only source of pleasure.  He explains, “It’s almost a sickness with me. Why do you think I came to live in this navel-lint nothing of a town? It’s because this place gets more driftwood than any other beach I know. That’s the only reason. I came all the way out here to make bonfires. Kind of pointless, huh?” Miyake completely uprooted his life in Kobi and created a new existence for himself that is devoid of both point and meaning because his past trauma has affected him so severely. He has organized, or rather, reorganized his life around this awful experience that he has had. His “overall functioning” has become affected by his PTSD and his “interpersonal and occupational problems” can be seen in his relatively solitary life (he does not seem to have any other friends besides Junko and perhaps Keisuke), and his lack of a designated job or career.

PTSD also involves the “repetitive replaying of the trauma in images, behaviors, feelings, and psychological states”. Though the narrative is largely told in the third person limited perspective and does not delve into the minds of the characters, Miyake informs us about his recurrent dreams and thoughts on how he will die in a refrigerator. He says, “I think about it all the time…I’m in this tight space, in total darkness, and I die little by little…I scream but nobody can hear me. And nobody notices I’m missing…I have the same dream over and over again.” The dream is both disturbing and distressing, and a manifestation of his trauma. The fact that this dream recurs constantly reveals the maladaptive preoccupation Miyake has with the event it represents. He frequently replays his trauma because it has affected him so severely.

In PTSD, the traumatic experience is not only replayed, but conserved. It is not “accepted as a part of one’s personal past; instead, it comes to exist independently of previous schemata (i.e. it is dissociated).” The traumatic event becomes another entity, held separate from the rest of the individual’s life. And it is able to be separate and other because it is not integrated or changed in anyway to fit the form of reality. This is the case in Miyake’s dream. He says, “That’s my dream. It’s always the same. Always. Every little detail. And every time I have it, it’s just as scary as the last.” His dream is perfectly conserved and because it has not been diluted or changed through integration, the impact and severity of the event remains intact. He is faced with the full force of its impact every time he falls into his dream.

 

 

hanaa’s rough draft paper 2

In “In the Village”, Bishop dedicates a bulk of her narrative to the description of broken and transformed objects. Though the scene in which the child walks Nelly punctuates this general trend with its lack of object description, it provides a contrast that actually re-emphasizes the impact of the broken and transformed objects. These objects represent the child, who struggles with the trauma of having a mentally unstable mother. Growing up without any reliable adult figure has left her with a broken identity that is reflected in the broken objects found in her mother’s trunks. As she struggles with filling in the gaps of her fragmented selfhood, the story starts to include objects that have been transformed into new ones. Even her short glimpses of happiness or, at the very least contentment, is reflected in the story’s utilization, or more specifically, lack of utilization, of objects. Thus, through the description of broken objects, transformed objects, and a sudden lack of objects, Bishop depicts a character struggling to reclaim her identity.

The broken objects represent the child’s fragmented identity. She says, “so many things in the village came from Boston, and even I had once come from there.” Here, the protagonist creates a parallel between her and her mother’s belongings, using them to represent herself. The child goes on to describe each object, the “bottle of perfume [that] leaked and made awful brown stains”, the “big bundle of postcards” and how the “the curdled elastic around them breaks,” the “two barrels of china. White with a gold band. Broken bits,” and so on. The objects, though diverse and miscellaneous, share the common characteristic of being broken. Some event has happened to them that has forced their structures to disassemble. This evokes the fractured state of the child’s identity. She, like these objects, has been broken. The postcards are further described. They have crystals that “outline the buildings on the cards in a way buildings…should be.” The child wishes “there were a way of making the crystals stick.” She admires the buildings in the post cards because they are clearly delineated and thus, defined. There is no question about the integrity of their structure, no question about their identity. She yearns for this same assuredness. Her ordeal has left her with an incomplete sense of self and she, like the postcards are “crumbling, dazzling, and crumbling.”

Much like the broken objects, the objects in the story that undergo a transformation represent the child’s struggle with the trauma she has faced. The child refers to “the horseshoe nail”, that is now a ring, with “a flat oblong head”, and the “five-cent piece” she swallows that will soon be converted into “precious metals.” Again, these objects, though wide in range, share a common characteristic. They are now permutations of their original selves. They have undergone a transformation that has made them new. There is a clear parallel between the metamorphosis these objects have undergone, and the change the child must go through herself to refurbish her identity. She describes the china cup and wonders if “you could poke the grains out? No, it seems they aren’t really there any more…what odd things people do with grains of rice, so innocent and small!” The grains of rice have lost their identity, much like she has, and have been transformed into the china cup. She, too, though innocent and small like the rice grains must find a way to transform herself, reclaim her identity so as to become whole again.

The lack of objects proves to have as much of an effect as the presence of objects. In the scene where the child walks with Nelly through the village, not much is described about the objects that surround her. She refers to them as she passes them by, the objects in the shop’s window, but claims she “can’t stop to examine them now.” She passes by Miss Gurley’s house “but again there is no time to examine anything.” When compared to the rest of the narrative, which is mostly preoccupied with describing the various objects present in the child’s surroundings, this particular scene is paradoxical. Instead of delving into exhaustive depictions of her surroundings, thereby ascribing to them significance and meaning, she disregards them. This contrast is puzzling. Why doesn’t she seem to be paying more attention to the items in the windows? This question is answered when one considers the nature of the scene. In this particular scene, the child is somewhat content. She has been set the task of walking Nelly and is filled with a sense of purpose. The setting is also equally cheerful, with a lovely meadow and blue sky. It seems that, at least for the moment, she is not oppressed with thoughts about her ordeal or the question of her identity. The lack of objects reflects this momentary freedom from the impact of her trauma.

In “In the Village”, the objects seem to tell the story.

 

*conclusion isn’t really fleshed out, but feel free to comment on it!