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Grogan, Christine Lynn.
"the wound and the voiceless :
h [electronic resource] /
b the insidious trauma of father-daughter incest in six american texts"
by Christine Lynn Grogan.
[Tampa, Fla] :
University of South Florida,
Title from PDF of title page.
Document formatted into pages; contains 260 pages.
(Ph.D.)--University of South Florida, 2011.
Includes bibliographical references.
Text (Electronic dissertation) in PDF format.
ABSTRACT: Cathy Caruth's pioneering study of trauma and the posttraumatic forges a connection between the psychoanalytic theory of traumatic experience and the literary as such. Since trauma defies linguistic processing, she explains, the language used to describe it will always be figural. For this reason Caruth privileges imaginative literature, with its highly mediated nature, as a means of representing the otherwise "unclaimed" experience of trauma. Her influential reflections inform a crucial direction within trauma studies: the search for a narrative voice that articulates trauma effectively. But how should we think about trauma that is not a singular "event" but a chronic occurrence? Over the last twenty years trauma scholarship has explored how trauma outstrips discursive and representational resources, but has only begun to address the ways gender, race, and class must complicate our understanding of the posttraumatic. I argue that in order to frame an adequate approach to the posttraumatic, we must take account of the cultural, political, and social matrix of trauma. The feminist psychotherapist Maria Root has developed an idea that she calls "insidious trauma" to refer to the cumulative degradation directed toward individuals whose identities, such as gender, color, and class, differ from what is valued by those in power. Though not always blatant or violent, these effects threaten the basic well being of the person who suffers them. Root's conceptualization provides a useful framework for understanding certain long-term consequences of the institutionalized sexism, racism, and classism that systematically denigrate the self worth of the socially othered who are rendered voiceless. Where Caruth privileges literary representations of the traumatic, I explore how literature can also be a privileged site for the articulation of insidious trauma. My study addresses literary representations of father-daughter incest and the complex trauma associated with it, showing how--in very different ways--six works of modern American literature compel us to confront the traumatogenic nature of social oppression, especially that which is endemic to the structure of the heteropatriarchal family and American racism and classism. F. Scott Fitzgerald's Tender Is the Night ambivalently exposes the gendered politics of psychological trauma, particularly the conspiracy of silence perpetuated by a psychiatric culture that revictimizes the female victim of incest. Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man uses a story of paternal incest to work through the trauma of racism, challenging stereotypes of black masculinity even as it reinscribes patriarchal phallocentrism. Referencing Ellison's depiction of father-daughter incest, Toni Morrison's The Bluest Eye marks a watershed in the inscription of incest narratives as it is written mostly from the perspective of what I call a "could-be" victim of incest. Morrison includes the perspective of the father while foregrounding the experience of the daughter, exposing child abuse as an extensive social and political problem ultimately supported by imperialist ideals. Enabled by Morrison, Dorothy Allison's semiautobiographical Bastard Out of Carolina is narrated by a young "white trash" woman who shares her story of sexual violation in defiance of that culture's patriarchal structure. Conforming to certain class stereotypes of father-daughter incest, Bastard Out of Carolina escaped the hostile backlash provoked by Kathryn Harrison's memoir, The Kiss, whose critical reception suggests that, even while allowing some discussion of incest, mainstream culture continued to collude in its silencing within the context of the white middle-class. Finally, I revisit a particularly infamous literary narrative of father-daughter incest, Vladimir Nabokov's Lolita, but in terms of the feminist appropriation of Nabokov effected in Azar Nafisi's memoir, Reading Lolita in Tehran. Problematically downplaying the sexual abuse of Lolita, Nafisi appropriates Nabokov's work to bear witness to the patriarchal subjugation of women in her home country, the Islamic Republic of Iran.
Mode of access: World Wide Web.
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Hirsh, Elizabeth .
x American Literature Literature
t USF Electronic Theses and Dissertations.
The Wound and the Voiceless: The Insidious Trauma of Father Daughter Incest in Six American Texts by Christine Grogan A dissertation submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy Department of En glish College of Arts & Sciences University of South Florida Major Professor: Elizabeth Hirsh, Ph.D. Gary Lemons, Ph.D. Gurleen Grewal, Ph.D. Laura Runge, Ph.D. Date of Approval: March 25, 2011 Keywords: Fitzgerald, Ellison, Morrison, Allison, Har rison, Nafisi, Nabokov Copyright 2011, Christine Grogan
Dedication To Dave: For All the Favors lon g enough!)
Acknowledgements but I was certainly no rock or island in the writing of this project. My committee members and their writings have informed this dissertation, a nd I hope they see the traces of their work here. Of course, I assume responsibility for mistakes. To Dr. Hirsh: for taking on this project so late and turning it around and making it happen. You were the one who told me that I can criticize patriarchy and more importantly, that I should, as you gave me the confidence to do so. I thank you for your dedication and for making me a better thinker and writer. Your response in JAC helped me understand trauma theory a little bit better and your radical feminist views are inspiring. To Dr. Lemons: for your courageous words in Womanist Forefathers and Black Male Outsider and your encouraging emails that seemed to come at just the right time. To Dr. Grewal: for your t made me revisit the character of Soaphead Church. And to Dr. Runge: your book on gender and language in eighteenth century British literary criticism showed me that official forms of power belonging first and foremost to the white middle class male subje ct is unfortunately nothing new. I also thank you for your support in seeing me to the end. I wish to thank Dave, my parents, Sarah in Uganda, Mike, Logan, my students, and those in the ILL Department for helping me bring this dissertation to fruition. An d, last but certainly not least, I acknowledge those victims of father daughter incest.
i Table of Contents Abstract iii Chapter I: Introduction: The Wound and the Voiceless 1 The History of Psychological Trauma: T he Return of the Repressed 4 Trauma in Transit: Trauma Theory 9 The Silent and Silencing Trauma: From Secret Trauma to the Last Taboo 15 The Insidious Trauma of Father Daughter Incest in American Literature 20 Six American Works 24 References 36 Father Tender Is the Night 44 48 The Gende 54 67 References 73 Invisible Man 76 Challenging Stereotypes and Moving Past Trauma 82 Emancipation 94 Invisible Man and the Woman Question 100 References 105 Chapter IV: Signifying, Testifying, and Bearing Witness: The Bluest Eye Feminist Understanding of Incest 108 How The Bluest Eye Was Born: Reshaping the Trueblood Mold 114 121 125 132 References 141 Chapte Trauma in Bastard Out of Carolina 146 151 Putting into Print Father 155
ii Why Anney Was Not A 160 166 Masturbation, Lesbianism, and Narration 169 References 178 Chapter VI: The Failure of Bearing Witness: The Politics of Truth Telling a nd The Kiss: A Memoir 182 The Memoir 187 The Incestuous Father 191 The Collusive Mother 197 Happily Ever After? 204 An Unavoidable Book 208 References 214 Chapter VII: Lolita Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Me moir in Books 220 Lolita 224 My Reading of Lolita 229 of Lolita ? 239 The Value of the Literary in Empowering Women 244 References 248
iii Abstract connection between the psychoanalytic theory of traumatic experience and the literary as such. Since trauma defies linguistic processing, she explains, the language used to describe it will always be figural. For this reason Caruth privileges imaginative literature, experience of trauma. Her influential reflections inform a crucial direction within t rauma studies: the search for a narrative voice that articulates trauma effectively. occurrence? Over the last twenty years trauma scholarship has explored how trauma outstr ips discursive and representational resources, but has only begun to address the ways gender, race, and class must complicate our understanding of the posttraumatic. I argue that in order to frame an adequate approach to the posttraumatic, we must take acc ount of the cultural, political, and social matrix of trauma. The feminist refer to the cumulative degradation directed toward individuals whose identities, such as gende r, color, and class, differ from what is valued by those in power. Though not always blatant or violent, these effects threaten the basic well being of the person who suffers ain
iv long term consequences of the institutionalized sexism, racism, and classism that systematically denigrate the self worth of the socially othered who are rendered voiceless. Where Caruth privileges literary representations of the traumatic, I explore how literature can also be a privileged site for the articulation of insidious trauma. My study addresses literary representations of father daughter incest and the complex trauma associated with it, showing how in very different ways six works of modern A merican literature compel us to confront the traumatogenic nature of social oppression, especially that which is endemic to the structure of the heteropatriarchal family and American racism and classism. Tender Is the Night ambivalen tly exposes the gendered politics of psychological trauma, particularly the conspiracy of silence perpetuated by a Invisible Man uses a story of paternal incest to work thro ugh the trauma of racism, challenging stereotypes of black masculinity even as it reinscribes patriarchal phallocentrism. The Bluest Eye marks a watershed in the inscription of ince st narratives as it is written mostly from perspective of the father while foregrounding the experience of the daughter, exposing child abuse as an extensive social and pol itical problem ultimately supported by imperialist ideals. Bastard Out of Carolina s patriarchal structure. Conforming to certain class
v stereotypes of father daughter incest, Bastard Out of Carolina escaped the hostile The Kiss whose critical reception suggests that, even while allowing so me discussion of incest, mainstream culture continued to collude in its silencing within the context of the white middle class. Finally, I revisit a particularly infamous literary narrative of father daughter incest, Vladimir Lolita but in terms of the feminist appropriation of Nabokov effected in Azar Reading Lolita in Tehran Problematically downplaying the sexual subjugation of women in her home country, the Islamic Republic of Iran.
1 Chapter I Introduction: The Wound and the Voiceless We are beginning to understand that rape, battery, and incest are human rights violations; they are political crimes in the same sen se that lynching is a po litical crime, that is, they serve to perpetuate an unjust social order through terror. Judith Herman, 37) In his chapter on trauma studies in History in Transit: Experience, Identity, Critical Theory Dominick LaCapra calls atten tion to the politico ethical stakes involved in formulating an approach to the study of psychological trauma and the posttraumatic. One of the biggest challenges, he argues, is to develop a method that contextualizes trauma within a social and political fr amework. In recent years feminist theorists and psychotherapists have been especially attentive to the traumatic effects of oppression on women as a social group in a heteropatriarchal society saturated with sexism, racism, and classism. Challenging the de finition of trauma, these feminists have asserted that trauma is well within the range of female human experience, and that in addition to being intergenerational (passed down from one generation to the next through stories or photographs, for example, in which the children or grandchildren of trauma victims may exhibit traumatic symptoms even though they never experienced the traumatic event refers to the traumatogenic effects of oppression that, although not always blatantly violent, threaten the well being of the person who suffers them.
2 or understanding the long term consequences of many types of institutionalized sexism, racism, and classism. Questioning the social structures that perpetuate victimization, this dissertation will explore literary representations of the insidious trauma re lated to father daughter incest. Much of my discussion in this introduction is devoted to the evolving understanding of trauma in the work of clinicians and cultural theorists. I will be centrally concerned with how the study of twentieth century American literature can help develop an approach to trauma that foregrounds its status as a social and political issue as well as a personal, psychodynamic one. Root asserts that contrary to current medical definitions of psychological trauma and posttraumatic st ress disorder, most of the traumatic experiences of women and those economically deprived and racially othered, are not time Rather, many of the traumas affecting these groups are current, cumulative, and quite common. By acknow ledging outside environmental factors as contributors to psychological distress, we move away from locating the pathology of abuse within the introduction, I briefly chart the history of theories of psychological trauma, explain the emergence of trauma theory as such, and discuss how six twentieth century texts that depict the social and political landscape of trauma can help in developing the approach that LaCapra adv ocates. Conceptually and theoretically informed by mostly radical feminist perspectives, my discussion focuses around the concept of insidious trauma to question existing hierarchal political and social systems that are inherently tied to patriarchy. Comme nting on the therapeutic process for trauma victims, Elizabeth Hirsh
3 ability to assert agency and transform the social fabric into a more gender equitable place. Three issues are central to this introduction and to my project as a whole: first, the distinction between trauma as narrowly defined in medical and diagnostic terms, on one hand, and on the other, the idea of insidious trauma as characterized by repetitive and cumulative experiences; second, and inseparable from the former, the idea of the insidious trauma of father daughter incest as a normal function of heter opatriarchy, not a breach or breakdown in the social order; and third, the understanding that the daughters and even some of the fathers, as represented in the literature I analyze here, are victims of insidious trauma. In the case of the fathers, their tr auma stems not from their gender, but rather, from their race and class. Illuminating the need for figurative language to bear witness to psychological trauma that shapes reality, my discussion explores the literary representations of the insidious trauma of father daughter incest in the following six Tender Is the Night Invisible Man The Bluest Eye Bastard Out of Carolina Kathryn The Kiss: A Memoir and A Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books Like Cathy Caruth, who argues for the importance of literary representations in depicting time limit traumatic events, I hope to indicate how literature can be a privileged place for illustrating in sidious trauma because it provides a wide ranging view of the personal, the political, and the social.
4 The History of Psychological Trauma: The Return of the Repressed October 15, 1896 was a day of honest revelation. After years of listening to female p report on 18 case studies titled The Aetiology of Hysteria at a meeting of the Society for the bottom of every case of hysteria there are one or more occurrences of premature sexual experience Herman, Trauma and Recovery d anticipated, Freud was met with stark silence from his distinguished peers, who ostracized him from their patriarchal pantheon. Not surprisingly, by the following year Freud had shifted from a trauma etiology of hysteria to an Oedipal model of psychic on (qtd. in Herman, Trauma and Recovery 14). Despite his theoretical shift that ult imately defended the system and not its victims, Freud, a controversial yet inescapable figure in the genealogy of trauma theory, was among the first to explore the terrain of psychological trauma and to suggest that our conscious rationalizations fall sho rt of explaining our behavior. He was also among the that childhood sexual exploitation lay at the root of what was then termed hysteria, and is today called psychol ogical trauma. Furthermore, Freud glimpsed the horror of father
5 daughter incest and understood that it is not uncommon, and is far too often traumatic. 1 He came dangerously close to admitting that studying the psychology of a female victim pointed to large r social and political problems the literally wounding effects of patriarchy. Retracting his first theory of hysteria and severing the link between sexual abuse discrediti ng accounts of incest as Oedipal fantasies. In her groundbreaking book, Trauma and Recovery which represents the fruits of twenty years of research and clinical work with victims of sexual and domestic violence, Judith Herman discusses how the theory of p sychological trauma evolved out of medical, philosophical, and social history. She trauma and charting its three main waves. The late nineteenth century witnessed Freud an d the age of hysteria in which the dominant psychological theory rested, as we have 2 The catastrophe of World War I revitalized the discussion of psychological trauma when th e 1 In her 2007 study, Joan Atwood notes that sometimes incest is not traumatic. Despite the fact that many theorists phobias, dissociative responses, lowered self esteem, higher promiscuity, c onfusion about in addition to studies reported neutral effects indicating that the daughte adults (294, 296). 2 In Trauma: A Genealogy Ruth Leys traces trauma theory Freud. She argues that our mo dern understanding of trauma began with the work of the in victims suffering from the fright of railway accidents and attributed the distress to shock or concussion of th
6 public was forced to deal with soldiers who began to act oddly like hysterical women. Herman explains that at first these traumatic symptoms were thought to be physical in origin. The British psychologist Charles Myers attributed them to the effects of e xploding though this name remained in use, it became painfully obvious that these soldiers were experiencing, not physical trauma, but, rather, psychological trauma. Despite this new It would take another fifty years for the truth about traumatic disorders to be w amnesic history, Herman explains, For most of the twentieth century, it was the study of combat veterans that led to the development of a body of knowledge about traumatic di sorders. that the most common post traumatic disorders are those not of men in war but of women in civilian life. (28) Indeed, it was through the efforts of second wave feminists tha experience was forced upon public consciousness. In addition to organizing the first hered that announced the prevalence of sexual abuse. Sociologist and human rights activist Diana Russell performed a study in the early 1980s concluding that one in four women had been raped, and one in three had been sexually abused in childhood (qtd. in Herman 30). Russell was
7 every six women in this country had been incestuously abused (16). She cites 1978, the year when the first feminist analyses of incest were published in book form, as a turning point in the discussion of incest, which then took a more victim oriented perspective. 3 Further, Russell criticizes Freud for the repudiation of his theory of hysteria, as well as Alfred Kinsey for his oversight in the otherwise comprehensive scientific studies of sexual behavior in the 1950s. In a thought provoking passage, Russell questions, Why, one wonders, did Kinsey and his colleagues have the courage and honesty to inform the scientific community and the public at large about the prevalence of homosexuality, masturbation, premarital and extramarital sexual relations, sexual contacts with animals, and some address the problem of child sexual abuse ? (7 8) thought to be too taboo for words. Calling attention to these omissions, feminists also focused on rape and other forms of violence against women and children. I Susan Brownmiller developed in Against Our Will: Men, Women, and Rape and that Ann Cahill revisits in her 2001 article that rape is a means to maintain male power. It is a way to keep women in a state of fear 3 The two groundbreaking 1978 feminist analyses are Conspiracy of Silence Kiss Daddy Goodnight
8 by threatening their safety, limiting their mobility, and denigrating their self worth as individuals. Millions of American girls are sociali zed into victim roles in a culture that allows and supports violence. As Griffin and Cahill conclude, violence is inherent in a patriarchal society. Focusing on how gender constructions are significant to the historical and contemporary struggles for Afric an American liberation, Gary Lemons maintains repetitive and cumulative experiences of female devaluation characterize insidious trauma and remind the female that her safety is tentative. Since the late 1970s, feminists have questioned the existence of an incest taboo and have noticed that the practice is not so much universally prohibit ed as selectively complex, some also argued for its race (white) specificity. For example, Lemons contends that in many African American households marked by domestic violenc e, the son dis identifies with his father and re identifies with his mother in an effort to save her seen as a paradigm of female victimization with sexual access t o the female as the basis for the patriarchal right. As these feminists pointed out, incest itself is not the taboo, for it happens quite often; talking about it is (Doane and Hodges 1). In 1980, as Herman notes, psychological trauma became an offici al diagnosis. Included in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders ( DSM ) III, the Psychiatric Association lexicon. The definition stipulates the necessary c onditions for
9 Trauma 3). According to DSM III, ensuing symptoms include nightmares, flashbacks, disturbed sleep, an d distracted mind. 4 Applauding the professional medical diagnosis of psychological trauma, Herman then 1980, when the efforts of combat veterans had legitimated the c oncept of post traumatic stress disorder, did it become clear that the psychological syndrome seen in survivors of rape, domestic battery, and incest was essentially the same as the syndrome seen in hysteria of women and the combat neurosis of men as versions of the same kind of psychological experience results Trauma in Transit : Trauma Theory Around the same time that Herman was working on Trauma and Recovery which sprang from her clinical work in the trenches, so to speak, theorists in humanities departments were developing a body of knowledge of trauma that initially grew out of the study of the Holocaust or Sho ah of World War II. Trauma theory, as it has been developed in recent years by LaCapra, Caruth, Shoshana Felman, Dori Laub, Robert Granofsky, and James Berger, among others, seems to concur with Herman that there are 4 PTSD was originally identified in the DSM III as an anxiety disorder with four diagnostic criteria: 1. Traumatic event. 2. Reexperiences of the event. 3. Numbing phenomena. 4. Miscellaneous symptoms. Leys observes that cognizable stressor that would evoke significant
10 certain indelible characteristics of tr auma, ones that do not discriminate based on gender. These theorists agree on the difficulty of representing traumatic reality. For Freud, trauma Unclaimed Experience: Trauma, Narrative, and History way that its very unassimilated nature the way it was precisely not known in the first ins tance unitary phenomenon but is forever being displaced. 5 5 The psychiatrist Bessel van der Kolk offers a neuroscientific account of the unassimilated nature of trauma. He contends that during a traumatic event, the brain cannot handle the stimuli it receives and consciousness splits off from experience as a defense mechanism. This splitting, he argues, is caused by hormones and neuro transmitters hype rinfusing the amygdala, the part of the brain that stores emotion and is responsible for processing information in a perceptual, sensory way. At the same time, the hippocampus, which is responsible for integrating, symbolizing, and giving language and context to an experience, is deactivated. The result is dissociation, which he (570). Instead of being processed linguistically, trauma, especially w hen experienced in childhood, leaves a neural pathway or imagistic imprint in the amygdala. Often children who have been victims of trauma have stored the information in a sensory perceptual way in which a smell, sound, or color will remind them of the tra uma and trigger that segment of memory. rejection of the Freudian concept of repression (109). 09 of Writing History, Writing Trauma of research from the mind bac k to the body. Such a focus would be at odds with a
11 Inaccessible, radically non linguistic, and resistant to understanding, trauma also causes other traumatic events and has lasting effects. The trauma returns in horrific visual images and/or as olfactory, auditory, kinesthetic visceral sensations. For example, a victim of father daughter incest may experience a panic attack whenever she sees a red bedspread, or a war vet eran may have flashbacks to battle whenever he hears a helicopter. Since trauma is thought to stand outside experience, or, is a caesura of experience, it although real, 69 ). 6 Because of its peculiar nature, trauma is a shattering experience that distorts memory and is particularly susceptible and vulnerable to problems of understanding and reporting events. Perhaps the epistemological and ethical challenges of representing trauma are best (qtd. in Rothberg 19). Although Adorno has been mi sinterpreted as calling for a ban on all representation, his writing suggests the need for new forms of representation capable of registering the traumatic shock of modern genocide, in particular, and of extreme experience, in general. Moreover, he acknowl edges the need for a revision of what conceptualization of trauma that accounts for cultural values and political realities. Leys trauma is a matter of social ly and contextually determined meaning, his ideas about the literal nature of traumatic memory make such memory in principle a matter of the Trauma: A Genealogy 6 real For ies outside representation and resists symbolization. The real
12 constitutes traditional realistic representation, one that will take into account the limits of representing traumatic experience or nonexperience and one that is sensitive to the estrangement of language. Eric Santner has called the desire to gloss over trauma and 7 Likewise, Sandra air, or undo the wrong it is reporting. This may lead one to question if trauma, that which is not presentable, should or even can be expressed or re presented as a narrative. of trauma is futile. For this reason many trauma theorists, including Freud, turn to literature, privileging the mediated nature of literary works mediated not only by the system of language, but also by the conventions of narrative and, in some cases, nov elistic fiction. Recognizing that trauma can never be known in a straightforward way, Caruth, taking a somehow literary: a language that defies, even as it claims, our under ( Unclaimed Experience 5). Since trauma disrupts the structure of experience, the language used to describe it will always be a linguistic adaptation and therefore bound up with a crisis of truth. A dilemma results in which one feels compelled to Trauma 154). Trauma is an event that 7 In using the word fetishism Santner is reappropriating a word that Fr eud appropriated. F etishism in attributing inherent value or power to an object glosses over the structures of displacement and lack through which alone value is constituted
13 simultaneously destabilizes language and demands a vocabulary but one that will always be incommensurable in conveying it. To put it another way, as trauma signifies the collapse of signification, there exists a compulsion to speak and the failure of speech. Because of the paradoxical nature of trauma, Ca ruth contends that Freud turned to Unclaimed Experience 3). Issues of reference, heart of literary studies, where the status of the literary text which is always by definition possibly a fiction is in other words, the problematics and estrangements of language are always concerns for literary s tudy. Literature and other works of art seek to give form to the contradictions of existence. Figurative language may well be the only properly referential language to convey what is a radically non linguistic event. In ry (as synecdoche for literature, that which is figurative) seems best suited to represent an experience that defies traditional modes of communication. role fiction can play with respect to understanding or reading events and experiences: Especially in the recent past, fiction may well explore the traumatic, including the fragmentation, emptiness, or evacuation of experience, and may raise the question of other possible forms of experience. It may also explore in a particularly telling and unsettling wa y the affective or
14 emotional dimensions of experience and understanding. ( History in Transit 132) Since truth claims are not necessarily important considerations in fiction, this form of writing gives voice to trauma without imposing narrative closure, be traying the trauma, or turning it into the sublime. 8 with Caruth in thinking that the literary (or even art in general) is a prime, if not the Writing Histo ry 190). Not only does fiction offer an avenue to explore new forms of representation, it ms, Erlebnis in which trauma is a shock to the system and may manifest as compulsive repetitions (or acting out, a form of transference, or melancholia), to Erfahrung (a form of working through, or 8 For a discussion of how fiction should not be read as telling lies, see Rosaria The Politics of Survivorship: Incest, Women Theory (1996): she states that literary works are narrative recastings of events unrecognized by history. The notion that novels represent untruths is historically a recent phenomenon. Prior to the nineteenth century, the novel represented a different not lesser Chapter 3 of History and Its Limits: Human, Animal, Violence for iscussion. (75). Likewise, James Berger who understands that a merger between discourses of trauma and disc ourses of the sublime takes place due to absent referents and overlapping vocabularies, is adamant about not combining the two for a fuller discussion of why he see s trauma as having no connotations of sacrifice and no potential for redemption
15 mourning), which involves articulating the experience, which in turn may provide openings to possible futures. 9 LaCapra is quick to add that working through is not a cure and that trauma may never be fully mastered; it is not a way to attain total inte gration of the self; it is not a total redemption of the past or absolute healing of traumatic wounds. work[ing] on posttraumatic symptoms in order to mitigate the effects of trauma by generating counterforces to compulsive repetit ion (or acting out), thereby enabling a more viable articulating of affect and cognition or representation, as History in Transit 119). LaCapra does not suggest a totalizing form of wor king through; rather, he states that we can work to change the causes and effects of trauma. Advocating an approach to to claim the experience not transcend or betray it but bear witness to it ( History in Transit 112). 10 The Silent and Silencing Trauma : From Secret Trauma to the Last Taboo voice that cries out, a voice that is paradoxically released through the wound U nclaimed Experience 2). For Caruth, trauma creates a structural deficit or hole in the mind an absence in linguistic 9 Even though Erlebnis and Erfahrung are two distinct German terms, they are both translated into English as experience 10 In Traumatic Realism: The Demands of Holocaust Re presentation Rothberg echoes communication, at testimony, is above all else ethical that is, it should be undertaken, even if the value of its results is far from obviou s, and even if what is communicated is
16 processing where representation ought to be, and yet there is a mental imprint or a wound in which a human voice cries out: hence the title of her introduction to her is more than just a linguistic challenge at work? To be more specific, what happens when female child (Morrison 210)? 11 And what happens when the trauma is chronic? In Incest and the Literary Imagination Elizabeth Barnes mentions yet another problem with ure, women are taught not to speak soldiers in war and women in civilian lif e as versions of the same. Trauma affects both men and women; however, there is a significant gender component to trauma. Due to sustained, repeated, and more damaging Hucles and Hudgins 1151 child), she may find that the most traumatic events of her life take place outside the realm of socially validated reality. Her ex Trauma and Recovery 8). Grouping war, Holocaust, political terror, and child abuse under the single category of trauma raises some serious ethical questions that have not been properly dealt 11 her work; however, Felman addresses the question of sexual difference in What Does a Woman Want? Reading and Sexual Difference (1993) Felman subscribes to the recent theory held by feminist psychiatrists and psychotherapists
17 resistant to gender differentiation and has not been overtly informed by feminist race, and class, Root insists that we that may exclude many of the current traumas of women of color and insidious trauma Arguing persuasively for research on political systems of structural inequalities, bell hooks, Patricia Hill Collins, Morrison, and other black female intellectuals offer a critical analysis of systemic domination that exposes the mechanics of patriarchy to show the interconnectedness of sexism, racism, and classism. Laura Brown, who is aware that gender, race, and class are absent or submerged elements in trauma theory, challenges the definition of trauma, claiming that the DSM questions the images of trauma that have been composed by the dominant groups of culture (read: white, young, able b odied, heterosexual, middle class, Christian men) who write the diagnostic manuals, inform the public discourses, and control the pharmaceutical and insurance industries. As she calls for a more complex definition of psychological trauma that accounts for the social structures that perpetuate female
18 adequate conceptualization that can help us recognize the subtle manifestations of trauma in a heteropatriarchal, racist, classist culture, and may aid us in understanding why many women who have never been rape and/or incest victims have symptoms of a ra pe trauma. In her feminist analysis, Brown powerfully writes, Mainstream trauma theory has begun to recognize that post traumatic symptoms can be intergenerational, as in the case of children of survivors of the Nazi Holocaust. We have yet to admit that it can be spread laterally throughout an oppressed social group as well, when membership in that group means a constant lifetime risk of exposure to certain trauma. When we do so, and start to count the numbers of those for whom insidious trauma is a way of life, we must, if we have any morality, question a society that subjects so many of its inhabitants to traumatic stressors. (107 08) Just as attempting to represent trauma is ethical and needed for the process of working through, so too, discussing th e social context of injustice is imperative to arriving at a 73). An engaged feminist study of trauma demands it. Brown is not alone in her call for revising the definition of psychological trauma. Many others recognize that the current definition is too narrow to encompass the
19 constellation of traumatic events that vulnerable members of our society suffer daily. Sinc e Brown wrote her article, there have been some changes in the DSM but not diagnosis to describe the effects of exposure to repetitive interpersonal violence and victimizatio individual, Brown urges us to consider the sociocultural experiences that are repetitive and cumulative. Joining with Brown, both Herman and van der Kolk are pushing for an expand ed diagnostic concept to be included in the existing psychiatric canon one that 12 fo would account for chronic trauma and for trauma experienced in childhood, as it is in most cases of father daughter incest (Herman Foreword xiii). van der Kolk states that even t experiences constitute the single largest public health problem in the United States and, relate d symptomatology under the category of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) (457). van der Kolk, Herman, and colleagues are well aware of the political implications of 12 Anthony Marsella et al. note that t he complex PTSD diagnosis grew out of clinical work with (mostly [white and middle class] ) American female adult survivors of
20 broadening the diagnosis of psychological trauma and understand that the field of psycho logy is often slow to change. 13 The Insidious Trauma of Father Daughter Incest in American Literature As some trauma theorists and clinicians have claimed, trauma can result not only from a one time event but also from a culmination of negative experience s, a dissertation originates in a desire to better understand how twentieth century writers have represented the social and political problems implicit in the trauma of incest. The form of incest that I explore in this study occurs when fathers or stepfathers sexually violate their daughters. This allows me to focus on characteristic forms of father daughter incest, res are difficult to obtain, and it depends on which study one consults, but current data suggest that anywhere from one in five to one in three girls experiences sexual abuse at the hands of fathers or father figures (Marshall 403, Fischer 96). 14 According 13 Complex PTSD is not projected to be recognized in the DSM 5, schedule d to be published in May 2013. See http://www.dsm5.org/ for the latest draft. 14 These researchers reflect the definition of father daughter incest as outlined by Herman in Father Daughter Incest mean any sexual relationship between a child and an adult in a position of paternal authority. From the psychological point of view, it does not matter if the father and child are blood relatives. What matters is the relationship that exists by virtue of t s This definition includes any unwanted sexual activity, beyond that of penile penetration, which had previously been the only act
21 National Center on Child Abuse and Neglect, which has shown th at the incidence of the official recognition of PTSD that same year (96). Fischer adds a caveat, stating that ctual escalation in abuse or daughter incest is thought to be one of the most underreported and therefore silent crimes: most of the girls never become part of a national, anonymous statistic and many of the effects of incest go untreated (Atwood 307). Gaining a better understanding of what one could rightly call an epidemic, my study explores father daughter incest as a function of a heteropatriarchal society that privi leges white, middle class men, which is in and of itself trauma producing for most individuals. Analyzing these texts, I gain insight into the traumatizing factors that inflict daughters and that produce men who rape their daughters. Knowledge of the men w ho 129). Arguing that both women and men are harmed by patri archy, bell hooks points out that we should not dismiss the scarring effects patriarchy has on men in teaching th em to be emotionally unavailable and that patriarchy is particularly dehumanizing for men without class and race privilege. Additionally, knowledge of the young girls who suffer incestuous abuse has been critically neglected until recently. The question th at guides my research is to what extent these texts capture the complexly traumatic dimensions of father daughter incest, that is, how they represent and explain chronic, insidious trauma agenda is to examine
22 their authors portray the experience of the female gender to give voice to this traumatic experience. Recent studies of literary incest include Janic Telling Incest: Narratives of Dangerous Remembering from Stein to Sapphire in which they contest the idea of false memory syndrome. They chart some of the significant historical shifts in the discourse of incest narratives in ord er to ask, not if the stories are true or false, but what a believable incest narrative sounds like. 15 argues that daughter incest have been co opte d by and yet resistant against reads incest as a way to gain insight into the complex cultural, political, and economic transformations from the 1970s to the 1990s. In her edited collection, Incest and the Literary Imagination Barnes includes authors who undermine belief in the universality of the incest taboo and show how it is relative to time and culture. Her collection offers a view of how the narrativizing of i ncest informs, and is informed by, discourses of sex, gender, race, and class. 15 w hich patients come to believe in the truth of false memories, that is, in incest memories that are fabricated rather than recovered within a therapeutic 7). Champagne calls attention to pant For a discussion that casts further doubt on the re
23 length study that focuses on father daughter incest as represented in twentieth century American literature in the context I examine how two novels authored by males (one white, one black), two novels authored by females (one black, one white), and two memoirs authored by middle to upper middl e class females (one Western, one Middle Eastern) have depicted incest in their works, delineating a shift from father daughter incest employed as a topic of literary fascination to a portrait of incest as one of the most poignant illustrations of insidiou s trauma. As the last three chapters indicate, there is an increasing emphasis on the female Even though the culture is changing with modest improvements being made in w ( Will 41). Expanding our concept of how we bear witness to trauma through language, some of these literary representations call into question traditional no tions of sexual already mentioned, some novels in this study suggest that the fathers committing incestuous acts are victims as well. Specifically, Toni Morrison and Dorot hy Allison go to great lengths to show that the fathers in their works suffer from forms of trauma before they traumatize their daughters. While as Minrose Gwin observes, father daughter incest of color and of lower socioeconomic status are not immune from the horrors of patriarchy (417). Without being apologists for the fathers or making anti feminists claims, some of the writers I examine
24 suggest that these fathers are victims too, implying th at heteropatriarchy can be, as bell hooks points out, destructive for both the male perpetrator and the female victim. Across the six main chapters of my discussion I develop the argument that these authors bring into focus the social and political dimensi ons, the insidious trauma, of father daughter incest, compelling us to confront the traumatic potential embedded in the patriarchal family structure. Six American Works When Herman published Trauma and Recovery she argued that the trauma of men in war Tender Is the Night brings together father daughter incest and non shock, anticipating the connection Herman made sixty years later. Instead of using incest solely as a metaphor for the decadent, wastelandic conditions of post World War I, Fitzgerald recognizes the traumatic effects of father daughter incest for the daughter. And instead of locating incest in the homes of poor, isolated rural subcultures and/or in disa dvantaged minority groups, which dominated incest narratives in the late nineteenth century, he has the incest occur in a family of race and class privilege. In Chapter 2 Tender Is the Night argue that in his ambitious novel Fitzgerald reveals, at times ambivalently, the gendered cost him almost a decade of literary labor, he suggests that trauma caused by incest should be taken as seriously as trauma caused by war. Most concerned with his male
25 protagonist, Dick Diver, he is also quite sympathetic to his main female protagonist, Nicole Diver. Toward the end of the novel, Nicole, whom the reader le arns in Book 2 has been father en built around getting her and to show her uncertain progression from victim to survivor. His novel explores the of father daughter incest ( Tender traumatic events in her life take place outside of th (8). Not only does Fitzgerald write with a keen understanding that whereas the trauma of war had been socially acknowledged, the trauma of incest had not, he also shows sensitivity to the fact that Nicole has been obj ectified, devalued, and made vulnerable for most of her life, particularly subjected to insidious trauma while a mental patient. While carefully creating a character who suffers from posttraumatic stress disorder caused by incest, Fitzgerald exposes the li mits of psychiatry as well as the gendered, racialized, and classist politics involved in what gets deemed psychological trauma. If Fitzgerald questions civilized society by exploring the effects of incest and war, Ellison interrogates a racially rigged society where father daughter incest is used to mask what was equally unspeakable in 1952, the year he published Invisible Man racism. In Chapter 3
26 Invisible Man the constitutive role language plays in representing a metaphor to explore interracial relations; or, to put it another way, to comment on how a white supremacist and emasculates black males. Within this homoracial socialized abuse, Ellison paints the character of Jim Trueblood as a victim of society who learns to exploit a system that has rendered him socially and racially impotent. Well aware of the master incest narrative that erroneously confines incest to just the homes of the poor and racially othered, Ellison has Trueblood invent a story about how he impregnates his daughter, simultaneously c hallenging stereotypes of black men as sexually deviant and yet in ways reinforcing patriarchal phallocentrism. effects and can open up the opportunity for new futures. T he vi vid story Trueblood fashions about father daughter incest results in financial gain but at the expense of objectifying both himself and his daughter: his narrative suggests that, in addition to being therapeutic, literary representations can reproduce and mimic trauma. Trueblood has suffered a life of insidious trauma from racism, suggested in the incessant repeating of his story, ostracism from the black community, and scapegoating (disguised as charity) by the white. Having Trueblood craft a story in whic h he claims to have had sex with his own daughter, something his white counterparts yearn to do but cannot, Ellison cleverly shows power shifting, if only temporarily, from the wealthy, white men to the poor, black man. As he exploits the trauma of father daughter incest, Trueblood works through the trauma of racism ironically by playing into stereotypes of the black barbarian, along with
27 to make money. Unfortunately, t he same opportunity is not afforded the daughter, Matty is revealed about her, whose perspective remains obscured The novel can be read as a way for Ellison to be ar witness to the trauma of racism, but the story Trueblood invents of father daughter incest fails to show the traumatic potential of incest as such for father or for daughter. The Bluest Eye that a cultural space was etched out for paying attention to what happened to female victims or could be victims of father feminist portrait of incest as she shows the victimization of both father and dau ghter and the increasing focus on the act of incest itself. The Bluest Eye marks a significant shift in the discourse of incest narratives and a turning point in recognizing how gender, race, class, and nation contribute to the traumatic experience of fath er daughter incest. Chapter 4 The Bluest Eye theme to show how racism has disempowered the black male, rendering him unable to fulfill the role of father. Certainly Morrison, like Ellison, is concerned with exploring the ways an imperialist system of racial othering emasculates black males. Throughout her novel, she suggests that the story of racial self loathing is perhaps as difficult to tell as the taboo story of incest. considers the consequences for the female victim. At the same time, she explores the
28 reasons for father figures to commi t such acts. In addition to examining the section told from the third person limited perspective of the incestuous father Cholly Breedlove, this which we see the reality of child abuse extended beyond the poor, racially othered Breedlove family and positioned as a social and political problem supported by imperialist ideals. Morrison also illuminates why a character such as Soaphead is unfit for story and is only able to retraumatize her. The male perspective has presence in the text, but Morrison carefully controls the narrative to bring and in a dissociated form captured in the chapter when she has a conversation with a hallucinated other reminiscent of Nicole this multi narrated l paved the way for the female victim to author her own traumatic story. dimensions of father daughter incest. With other works of second wave feminism, Fath er Daughter Incest The Bluest Eye prefigured discourse of incest from theorizing a supposedly universal incest taboo to disclosing the explains in her psychoanalytic, sociological, and anthropological disciplines theorized a universal incest though
29 As already stated, Herm an, and other feminist psychologists and sociologists argued that father daug the poor, or those deemed racially daughter incest, Herman patriarchal f Father Daughter Incest 110). Incest signals not chaos but rather an order that is familiar, the order of patriarchy. 16 The feminist analysis indicates that rather than representing a threat to civilization, fathe r daughter incest is very much a part of a heteropatriarchal, racist, classist, imperialist culture and is deployed to produce power. These incestuous acts reflect normal gender relations in Western culture. One of many female authored incest narratives published in the 1990s, Dorothy autobiographical Bastard Out of Carolina reflects the feminist discourse of incest as common, albeit abusive, attempt to gain/maintain power in a society of capitalistic heteropatriarchy. Harkins addresse s the question of why in the 1990s we witnessed a boom in autobiographical novels and memoirs about incest. She which incest was linked to daytime talk shows, such as self help books (2). Commenting on the explosion of incest narratives, Harkins attributes second wave feminism and the civil rights movement for transforming 16 For one of the most important arguments that called for the reconceptualization of incest, see concerns, Rubin reengages writers who had previously discussed gender and sexual relations economically (Marx and Engels), anthropological ly (Lvi Strauss), and psychologically (Freud and Lacan) to show how the Oedipus complex reinforces structural male domination.
30 cultural expectations about literary subject matter and open[ing] new rise of small feminist and lesbian presses made publication accessible for women who had previously been excluded from mainstream presses, and the success of a few best sellers made even mainstream publishing possible for a select group of women. Once the publishing industry grasped the possibilities of this new market, more and more women were empowered to speak out and contradict the masculinist silencing of incest in print. (2 3) I would add that the increase in incest narratives may have had something to do with the inclusion of PTSD in the DSM Told through the eyes of the daughter victim, Bastard Out of Carolina is a testament to the female narrating her trauma, and marks another milestone in the emergence of incest narratives. In Chapter 5 Bastard Out of Carolina e that Allison writes against the cultural construction of patrilineal authority. Instead of ambiguously depicting the gender politics of incest trauma as seen in Tender instead of using incest symbolically as in the Trueblood account, and instead of havi ng the main narrator be someone other than the female victim herself such as Claudia in The Bluest Eye daughter incest Bone Boatwright experienced, told from her perspective.
31 This chapter explores h Anney has suffered from class and gender from her community at all costs, even when that means turning a blind eye to her own experiences, seems to confirm assumptions that incest is mostly to be found in the homes of the poor. Yet, she problematizes that stereotype by having the abuse come from to upper class. Readers learn, as Bone high class expectations. In its indictment of a heteropatriarchal society of reclaiming her body through masturbation and by authoring her story of female violation. Allison i s an out lesbian who has said that lesbianism saved her life; however, Bastard Out of Carolina ends just shy of having Bone come out as a lesbian. The ambiguous ending of Bastard leaves open the possibility that Bone may free herself from her ess and recognize that lesbianism might offer a safe and healthy alternative to heteropatriarchy 17 17 herapeutic Culture (2002), Ann Cvetkovich argues that sexual abuse is sexual orientation. She quotes Laura Davis, co author of The Courage to Heal as 334). And as Cvetkovich adds assumption that there is something right, rather than something wrong, with being lesbian claim lesbianism as one of the welcome effects of sexual abuse, I am happy to
32 victim d isplays full humanity and subjectivity. publishing boom was not always met with applause. I n fact, the volumes of incest The Kiss a memoir that challenged the form of telling about incest and threatened many of the current dominant incest narrative paradigms. For example, the abuse is rendered more as a pursuit between two consenting adults, with the daughter portrayed as memoir documents t he ambiguous terrain of the four year affair traversed by her father (a minister, of all professions) and herself when she was in her twenties. In the immediate wake of its publication, The Kiss garnered scathing reviews. Even though Harrison had published much of the same material in her fictional account titled Thicker Than Water which was praised by most critics, it became clear that using the label memoir made a big difference. In other words, kissing your father and telling about it in fiction is one thing; kissing and telling in memoir another. The bottom line seemed to be that talking honestly about incest is still taboo. Not only were reviewers shocked by what she said in her unflinching account of incest, but they were also shaken by who Harrison i s a white (blonde in fact), upper middle class, successful writer, wife, and mother. As Leigh Gilmore puts it, the question that weighed 12). As I argue in Chapter 6
33 The Failure of Bearing Witness: The Kiss : A Memoir The Kiss tells the unwavering truth about father daughter incest that it is a traumatic event, despite the age, class, race, and future of the daughter. of memoir as a genre, The Kiss father daughter incest, suggesting that mainstream American society at the end of the twentieth century, although talking much about incest, paradoxically colluded in the silencing of in cest and maintained the immunity of the white middle class. Even though Allison had told a similar story not five years prior to Harrison, she did not receive such hostile reception because the context that Allison describes poverty stricken, uneducated, s outhern, white trash assumptions about father daughter incest, bringing incest too close to home for many readers. Instead of reading about a young, uneducated, black girl desperately trying to account for the broken pieces of her life, as we witnessed with Pecola Breedlove, or a young, The Kiss we confront a mature member of the literary elite who suffers from complex PTSD and is attempting to assess her ro le in the family affair. Throughout her narrative, Harrison explores the privilege of her father and the vulnerability of her mother. Coming from a lower class home than her
34 authority taken from her as a result of teenage pregnancy. The Kiss much like Bastar d turns its gaze on the emotional betrayal of father and mother, in which the mother assumes a prominent role in the love triangle. As Harrison explores female agency, her book revisits an important question about father daughter incest: how does one tell the trauma when society refuses to bear witness? Lolita one of the most provocative incest novels of the twentieth century that enjoyed the reputation of being simultaneously condemn ed as pornography and celebrated for its morality. In Chapter 7 Lolita Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Book s Lolita for being the work of fiction that she claims best resonates with th e lives of females in the Islamic Republic of Iran. As Lolita is needed to investigate how she imports a wo rk about incest to comment, not on the act itself, but on how Lolita reveals the corrupt patriarchal system that subjugates its females. Nafisi is quick perhaps too quick to forge a connection between Lolita and her Muslim female students who comprise thei r secret book club. Further intimating an analogy between Humbert and Ayatollah Khomeini, Nafisi argues that Nabokov sympathy Nabokov elicits for Humbert himself, a character w ho presents himself as an
35 unfortunate victim of social convention. Contrary to what Nafisi and other recent critics argue about Lolita containing a feminist statement, I contend that the novel, told almost eat sympathy for the self proclaimed pedophile, but does so at the expense of Lolita, who, like Matty Lou, is bodily present in the text but whose voice and thoughts are virtually absent. 18 Throughout his narrative, and narrating in vivid detail his impulsive urges (80, 17). Although Nafisi argues that Nabokov uses a blatantly unreliable narrator to reveal what the narrative otherwise works to conceal, I respond that Nabokov choo ses a narrative strategy that allows him the luxury of ambivalence about father daughter incest and glosses over how much this affair the moment rt wants his readers to think he is a victim of a straitlaced society and has suffered from the traumatic loss of his childhood sweetheart; however, his pleas are unconvincing and provide further justification for the pain he inflicts on Lolita. Despite wh she leaves Humbert for the pornographer Quilty, the text makes it difficult to assess the 18 See Tony M (2002), Er Lolita (2004), and Anika Susan Is Lolita (2009) for three of the most compelling arguments regarding the fem inist sympathy in Lolita Essentially t hey argue that Nabokov is playing with long held perceptions of female objectification to call attention to their falsity. Moore argues that the text fosters criticism of Humbert as it undermines his control of the na rrative and exposes his ploys contends that Nabokov provides a scientific framework to reinterpret myths about female sexuality, and reveals how cultural myths dismiss the f emale behind the sexuality. Quayle praise Nabokov for his moral message on pedophilia.
36 and informs Weste rn readers that insidious trauma knows no borders. The work of Nafisi, along with Fitzgerald, Ellison, Morrison, Allison, and Harrison, illustrates what Herman states in the epigraph that opens this introduction incest and the silencing of incest serve to perpetuate an unjust society. These writers present no simple assignments of individual blame; rather than painting in broad strokes of black and white, they use maddening shades of gray to capture the psychological complexity of the traumatic experience, showing its sociocultural dimensions. My project attempts to convey the urgency for revisiting father daughter incest and to show how important literature can be for bearing witness to trauma and exposing the systems of oppression that exist and persist i n our culture. I offer suggestions for reframing the discussion of father crucial to this effort. Exploring the literary representations of domestic trauma and considering its social context can help prevent another traumatic story from being written. References Allison, Dorothy. Bastard Out of Carolina New York: Plume, 1992. Print. American Psychiatric Association. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorder 3 rd ed. Washington, D .C.: APA, 1987. Print. Armstrong, Louise. Kiss Daddy Goodnight: A Speak out on Incest New York: Pocket Books, 1978. Print.
37 The American Journal of Family Therapy 35 (2007): 287 313. Academic Search Premier Web. 11 May 2009. Barnes, Elizabeth, ed. Incest and the Literary Imagination Gainesville: UP of Florida, 2002. Print. Contemporary Literature 38.3 (1997): 569 82. JSTOR Web. 12 July 2010. --JAC 24.3 (2004): 563 82. Print. Trauma: Explorations in Memory Ed. Cathy Caruth. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP, 1995. 100 12. Print. Brownmiller, Susan. Against Our Will: Men, Women, and Rape New York: Simon and Schuster, 1975. Print. Butler, Sandra. Conspiracy of Silence: The Trauma of Incest San Francisco: New Glide Pu blications, 1978. Print. Phenomenology of Fear: The Threat of Rape and Feminine Bodily The Feminist Philosophy Reader Ed. Alison Bailey and Chris Cuomo. Boston: McGraw, 2001. 810 26. Print. Caruth, Cathy, ed. Trauma: Expl orations in Memory Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP, 1995. Print. --. Unclaimed Experience: Trauma, Narrative, and History Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP, 1996. Print.
38 Champagne, Rosaria. Feminist Th eory New York: New York UP, 1996. Print. Tender Is the Night Texas Studies in Literature and Language 47.1 (2005): 75 100. Project Muse Web. 11 May 2009. Cvetkovich, Incest and the Literary Imagination Ed. Elizabeth Barnes. Gainesville: UP of Florida, 2002. 329 57. Print. Doane, Janice, and Devon Hodges. Telling Incest: Narratives of Dan gerous Remembering from Stein to Sapphire Ann Arbor: U of Michigan P, 2001. Print. DSM 5 Development American Psychiatric Association. 2010. Web. 17 Oct. 2010. Ellison, Ralph. Invisible Man 1952 New York : Vintage, 1995. Print. Recovered Memory Project: Case Archive, Commentary, and Scholarly Resources Brown University Blogs. 2010. Web. 17 Oct. 2010. Felman, Shoshana. What Does a Woman Want? Reading and Sexual Difference Baltimore: Joh ns Hopkins UP, 1993. Print. Gender and Society 17.1 (2003): 92 110. JSTOR Web. 01 July 2010. Fitzgerald, F. Scott. Tender Is the Night Gilbert Extremities: Trauma, Testimony, and Community Urbana: U of Illinois P, 2002. 260 70. Print.
39 I, Rigoberta Mench The Kiss and Scandalous Self S igns 28.2 (2003): 695 718. JSTOR Web. 01 July 2010. Lolita Nabokov Studies 8 (2004): 87 104. Project Muse Web. 23 Nov. 2009. 971. Women : A Feminist Perspective Ed. Jo Freeman. Palo Alto: Mayfield, 1975. 24 39. Print. Haunted Bodies: Gender and Southern Texts Ed. Anne Goodwyn Jones and Susan V. Donaldson. Charlottesville: UP of Virginia, 1997. 416 40. Print. Harkins, Gillian. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 2009. Print. Harrison, Kathryn. The Kiss: A Memoir New York: Avon, 1997. Print. --. Thicker Than Water New York: Random, 1991. Print. Henke, Suzette A. Writing The Trauma Controversy Ed. Kristen Brown Golden and Bettina G. Bergo. Albany: SUNY P, 2009. 127 41. Print. --. Foreword. Treating Complex Traumatic Stress Disorders: An Evidence Based Guide Ed. Christine A. Courtois and Julian D. Ford. New York: Guilfo rd P, 2009. xiii xvii. Print. --. Trauma and Recovery New York: Basic, 1992. Print.
40 Herman, Judith Lewis, and Lisa Hirschman. Father Daughter Incest Cambridge: Harvard UP, 1981. Print. and Extremities: Trauma, Testimony, and Community Urbana: U of Illinois P, 2002. 71 91. Print. Trauma and Rhetoric JAC 25.1 (2005): 209 12. Print. hooks, bell We Real Cool: Black Men and Masculinity New York: Routledge, 2004. Print. --. The Will to Change: Men, Masculinity, and Love New York: Atria Books, 2004 Print. LaCapra, Dominick. History and Its Limits: Human, Animal, Violence Ithaca: Cornell UP, 2009. Print. --. Hist ory in Transit: Experience, Identity, Critical Theory Ithaca: Cornell UP, 2004. Print. --. Writing History, Writing Trauma Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP, 2001. Print. Testimony: Crisis of Wi tnessing in Literature, Psychoanalysis, and History Ed. Shoshana Felman and Dori Laub. New York: Routledge, 1992. 57 74. Print. Lemons, Gary. Womanist Forefathers: Frederick Douglass and W.E.B. Du Bois New York: SUNY P, 2009. Print. Leys, Ruth. Trauma: A Genealogy Chicago: U of Chicago P, 2000. Print.
41 Marsella, Anthony J., Matthew J. Friedman, Ellen T. Gerrity, and Raymond M. Scurfield, eds. Ethnocultural Aspects of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder: Issues, Research, and Clinical Applications Washington, DC: American Psychological Association, 1996. PDF file. The Kiss College English 66.4 (2004): 403 26. JSTOR Web. 01 July 2010. Moore, Tony. Ed. David Larmour. London: Routledge, 2002. 91 110. Print. Morrison, Toni. The Bluest Eye 1970. New York: Plume, 1994. Print. Major Literary Chara cters: Lolita Ed. Harold Bloom. New York: Chelsea House, 1993. 29 32. Print. Nabokov, Vladimir. Lolita 1955. New York: Vintage, 1997. Print. Nafisi, Azar. Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books New York: Random House, 2003. Print. Quayle, Anika Sus Is Lolita Nabokov Online Journal 3 (2009): 127 52. Open Access Web. 30 Nov. 2009. and Race as Disempoweri Ethnocultural Aspects of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder: Issues, Research, and Clinical Applications Ed. Anthony J. Marsella, Matthew J. Friedman, Ellen T. Gerrity, and Raymond M. Scurfield. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association, 1996. 363 87. PDF file.
42 Rothberg, Michael. Traumatic Realism: The Demands of Holocaust Representation Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 2000. Print. The Second Wave: A Reade r in Feminist Theory Ed. Linda Nicholson. New York: Routledge, 1997. 27 62. Print. Russell, Diana E. H. The Secret Trauma: Incest in the Lives of Girls and Women New York: Basic, 1986. Print. Sanchez Encyclopedia of Women and Gender: Sex Similarities and Differences and the Impact of Society on Gender L Z. Vol. 2. Ed. Judith Worell. San Diego: Academic P, 2001. 1151 68. Print. Santner, Eric. Stranded Objects: Mourning, Memory, and Fi lm in Postwar Germany Ithaca: Cornell UP, 1990. Print. The Bluest Eye and Just Above My Head James Baldwin and Toni Morrison: Comparative Critical and Theoretical Essays Ed Lovalerie King and Lynn Orilla Scott. New York: Palgrave, 2006. 83 102. Print. v an der Kolk, Bessel A. Afterword. Treating Complex Traumatic Stress Disorders: An Evidence Based Guide Ed. Christine A. Courtois and Julian D. Ford. New York: Guilford P, 2 009. 455 66. Print. v Traumatic Stress: The Effects of Overwhelming Experience on Mind,
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44 Chapter II Father Tender Is the Night In a letter written to F. Scott Fitzgerald, friend and fellow artist John Peale Bishop ends an otherwise co mplimentary note on Tender Is the Night by voicing his concern with what he sees as the unconvincing part of the novel the theme of father daughter believe it. Nor do I Correspondence of F. Scott Fitzgerald 339). Many early critics had a difficult time with the paternal incest and argued that Fitzgerald employs it as a metaphor for the decline of West Tender Is the Night did Fitzgerald not just use the wastelandic imagery of the postwar landscape to capture the ruins? Why does he cast Nicole Diver, his lead female character, as a recovering victim of father daughter incest? 1 Besides being confused by the paternal incest, some early critics had a difficult ovel. They found the long awaited, post Gatsby novel to be second best. Even though Fitzgerald started working on Tender immediately after Gatsby it took him almost ten years to finish, not appearing in 1 : The Masks of Innocence in Tender I s the Night takes up this question Her interpretation differs from mine in that she argues that Fitzgerald employs the incest to expose the exploitative myth of female innocence that was so cherished in popular culture, particularly in cinema.
45 complete form until April, 1934. 2 Initially criticiz over from and a sprawling, imperfect, utterly personal novel, Tender briefly made it to the bestseller list and garnered some sensitive r eviews, but it was clear that its initial reception did not attention was given to Ten der Tender to Save Me the Waltz which was often seen as a companion piece. In addition to exploring criticism over the last sixty years has intersecting concerns with gender, sexuality, race, and nationality. Although there has been a deepening appreciation of Tender as a perceptive novel about history, its psychological elements continue to be contested. My chapter enlarges the critical discussion of gender and psychological politics in the novel by focusing attention on the incest theme and its relation to trauma. Even Tender daughter incest reveals sexual domestic abuse, in a white, wealthy family, no less, as a Tender Is the Night 2 The book was serialized in four monthly installments in from January to April 1934.
46 which he maintains that Fitzgerald exposes the limits of psychiatry as practiced during his day, I argue that in doing so, Fitzgerald also exposes the gender politics of psychological trauma. I contend that in addition to reading Tender Is the Night as a critique of the profession of psychiatry for its impotence at healin g what the narrator calls psychiatry, particularly, if not at times ambivalently, the insidious trauma perpetuated by a profession that purports to heal (245). During t he time that Fitzgerald was composing the novel, incest was still thought to be an extremely rare occurrence one case in a million (Wilson 35). As explained in most h ysterical women had repressed memories of childhood sexual abuse, was, to borrow from Bishop, being forgotten, and his revised theory, which centered on the Oedipus complex, was in full swing. A new science of psychiatry was emerging and a younger generati on of trained practitioners was experimenting with new therapies, including hypnosis, psychoanalysis, ergo therapy, and electric shock treatment. One of the most influential concepts was reeducation mentioned in the novel and endorsed by Abram Kardiner, w ho not coincidentally studied with Freud. It held that the goal of therapy was not necessarily to recover traumatic memories from amnesia, but rather, to Politics of Tender Is the Night reeducation what happened to her has no political significance, no bearing on the relation between men and wom
47 psychological trauma, Fitzgerald, unlike Freud, takes women at their own word by creating a femal daughter incest ( Tender 129). incest and the psychological trauma that accompanies it are portrayed much more realistically. Profoundly autobiographical, Tender would not have emerged as the book it unsuccessful atte mpts to regain her health (Donaldson 186). Richard Lehan points out, Tender Is the Night : by the thirties he knew firsthand and all too well the meaning of sickness, physical decline, and modeled after, led Fitzgerald to revise his original thinking for the novel, as the outline for his new plans indicates: The heroine was born in 1901. She is beautiful on the order of Marle ne Dietrich or better still the Norah Gregor Kiki Allen girl with those peculiar eyes. She is American with a streak of some foreign blood. At fifteen she was raped by her own father under peculiar circumstances work out. She collapses, goes to the clinic and there at sixteen meets the young doctor hero who is ten years older. Only her transference to him saves her when it is not working she reverts to homicidal mania and tries to kill men. She is an innocent, widely read but with no experience and no
48 orien tation except what he supplies her. Portrait of Zelda that is, a part of Zelda. (Bruccoli 80) as Fitzgerald coli, pure illness may make one question if Zelda was in fact a victim of father daughter incest and that is why F. Scott wrote so authentically about it. The Limits of Psychiatry Exposed: the man a l During the time that Fitzgerald was deploying and depleting his resources on the novel that would cost him almost a decade of literary la bor, the topic of psychological trauma was being revisited because of the effects of World War I. According to Judith Herman in Trauma and Recovery men died in four years. When the slaughter was over four European empires had been destroyed, and many of the cherished beliefs that had sustained Western civilization had ctors staggered back home in tatters, both physically and mentally, their symptoms mimicked those seen in hysterical women
49 physical ailments wounds from exploding shel ls. But it became clear to the military largely psychological in nature caused by the emotional stress from war. In the midst of this revelation, Fitzgerald enlists as his male protagonist an inept psychiatrist who is unable to diagnose his own psychological ailments and is himself arguably suffering from N on onal and professional battles, and the novel should not be read as a critique of Dick Diver the man. Rather, through the character of Dick, Fitzgerald offers a subtle critique of the field of psychiatry as he questions what leads these mostly white, middle to upper class men into the profession. He suggests that in this field of predominantly male practitioners and female patients, the power dynamics that keeps females subservient to males remained intact and that the occupation may have been used as a mea ns for these men to recover some of the masculinity they felt they had lost during the world war. In the case of Dick, his motivations for becoming a doctor of the mentally ill are far from noble. Dick is no stranger to being attracted to young beautiful women, and like many psychiatrists of his day, he breaches the doctor patient contract on more than one occasion. 3 In the exposition provided in Book 2, Dick admits to Dr. Franz Gregorovius resident pathologi richsee and lat er business partners with 3 Affairs between male doctors and female patients seemed to have been an accepted part of the culture of early psychoanalysis and its poli tics that even Carl Jung was said to have breached professional ethics by pursuing a relationship with, although not one of his patients, one of his students, S abina Spielrein (Boker 306 07). It is not clear if Fitzgerald was aware of their relationship, b ut he certainly knew of Jung and on at least one Zelda, page 179).
50 Dick at the old clinic of Braun on the Zugersee field of psychiatry pursuing the affair any further (187). Similarly, Dic k takes a special interest in the woman at Braun her forehead. After her death, when we learn tha t she had most likely suffered from neuro artist he Chicago, against the advice of Doctor Dohmler, Dick assumes the role of doctor husband, forever blurring the distinction between his professional and personal lives. The novel suggests that some physicians became emotionally involved with their own patients; and as William Blazek asserts, neither psych irrational, dimensions of the field and suggests that detached, scientific superiority is a myth. In addition to undermining psych Fitzgerald exposes it to be a self serving, money making occupation that maintains the differential power relations between male doctors and female patients and the haves and the have nots. In Fitzgerald ist, A. H. Steinberg claims that the patients at
51 glimpses the truth of this and capitalizes on it. For example, Franz asks Dick if the war changed him as it changed th shell shocks who merely heard an air raid from the distance. We have a few who merely ick dismisses this as nonsense and Franz admits that it may dialogue Fitzgerald casts doubt on the ethics guiding the field of psychiatry. It seems that attention goes not to those who need help the most, but to the highest bidder. The Warren d of Braun on the Zugersee for $220,000, which Baby thinks is a small price to pay for having peace of mind about her sister. Franz approaches Dick for this venture not because Dick is a highly skilled physician, but because Franz needs money and knows that the Warren family has it. He exclaims to Dick, and to an eavesdropping Baby, add buying a doctor husband for Nicole and a money making clinic for Dick. It is no wonder why Dick, who agrees to the purchase, feels forever indebted to the Warrens, whom he not incorrectly thinks own him. He seems to understand that his professional life is at the mercy of borrowed time and borrowed money. psychiatry by suggesting that his ego
52 profession. Just as Rosemary Hoyt first sees Dick on the Mediterranean beach in Book 1 as the pinnacle of perfection, readers are (re)introduced to a promising, youthful Doctor Diver at the start of Book 2. At th is point in his budding career, Dick wishes to be the ambitions in a number of ways. We read that at the beginning of 1917, not coincidentally the same year that the US be came involved in World War I, Dick burned almost a hundred of his textbooks to heat his rooms the profession before he 4 Indeed, throughout the book Fitzgerald drops subtle hints about these doctors who are themselves a little ba depressive and is unable to manage his own clinic, which is really run by his wife and her lover (132). Of town New Dick (315). Fitzgerald points out the irony in that some psychiatrists who treat others for mental illness are not immune to breakdowns themselves. 4 disillusioned with the profession of psychiatry before he meets Nicole.
53 Perhaps one of t that ever lived is to compensate for his lack of masculinity in a world that Fitzgerald presents as becoming increasingly feminized, as illustrated through his economically independent female charact force. Tellingly, Dick conscripted and therefore never fires a gun. For example, we di (these examples all occur on page 115). Likewise, we learn early that Abe North, whose alcoholic undoing ot. John Kuehl has observed that Dick shows the most respect in the scene in which they visit the site of the Battle of the Somme, one of the bloodiest military operations ever recorded; however, he most likely puts on a grave face to show off for Rosemary poised for war after taking his degree from Johns Hopkins, is dissatisfied by his work in 18). In ot her words, he was disillusioned by the war because he did not fight on the frontlines. Fitzgerald has Dick compensate for his lack of battle experience in what prove to legg ed writing a short textbook, one of his many forthcoming pseudo scholarly meditations. 5 Furthermore, Fitzgerald describes the prewar Dick in phallic terms that may be r ead as 5
54 stick. Similarly, his name is a not so sly wink to the male genitals. But, his big break at Nicole Diver, victim of father daughter i ncest (136). The Gender Politics of Trauma: Just as Fitzgerald reveals through Dick that many white, middle to upper class men become psychiatrists to compensate for feeling emasculated, he suggests through the character of Nicole that psychiatry is often used as a tool of patriarchal control. Not silent and silenced, with one of the first things disclosed about her bei absent from the scene in which the story of incest is told, also not coincidentally, through a daisy chain of men first reluctantly from Devereux W arren to Doctor Dohmler, then motives are conspicuously absent, and Nicole does not get to author her story. However,
55 Tender Is the Night (129). cast a dark shadow on the entire novel. In fact, what makes most readers turn the pages of Book 1 is Fitzgerald builds up suspense in Book 1 and most of the plot hinges on or rather is unhinged by the father daughter incest. In other words, the movement of the novel revolves aroun d Nicole and follows the integration of her personality and how it impacts technical mastery, had doubts about the organization of Tender responses. Bef ore formally introducing Dick, the 1934 edition opens from the young female perspective of Rosemary, the Hollywood starlet, who, in many respects sets the out the groundbreaking style of his 1934 novel in which he stated that he found the new form that Gertrude Stein and Joseph Conrad had been looking for (Donaldson 177). Many are also familiar with e true beginning the young psychiatrist in Switzerland Freud. Both men at first realized the severity of incest but when they were criticized for their disclosures, they retreated (Freud in a much more drastic way than Fitzgerald). and her problems as functions of a dilemma w hich remains in essence that of the gifted
56 but flawed male (anti )hero. In case there are any doubts about whose story Fitzgerald Richard Diver, A Romance Early negative revi ews about the distorted chronology of the novel and the concealed Dick troubled Fitzgerald so much that Malcolm Cowley published the Book 1. Cowley justified the changes by claiming that quite sure in reading it whether the author had intended to write about a whole group of Americans on the Riviera that is, to make the book a social study with a co llective hero or whether he had intended to write a psychological novel about the glory and decline of Richard Diver as a person. (106 07) Tender should chart the story of Dick. Despite their intention s, I would argue that the finished 1934 work shows the personal trauma of Dick and Nicole and how their stories are intimately intertwined. Whether or not we want to claim Fitzgerald as a politically conscientious artist with feminist sympathies, the nove psychological trauma. As argued recently, the nonlinear narrative and the shifts in point of view illustrate how the form of the book follows its function, with the function being to show that the parts are not well integrated. The pieces do not form a coherent whole, psychotherapeutic situation i n which first the present is offered, then the past explored,
57 and finally the present again analyzed. It works well to open from the perspective of Rosemary, whom we at first think will be the star attraction, because we later see that view dances on the shimmering surface and provides a superficial take on what soon gets probed and exposed the dark depths of the Divers. Appropriately, through the nave perspective of Rosemary, Dick and Nicole are seen as ook 2, when he is introduced in medias res is Dick the pieces of himself and of Nicole (Callahan 190) Fitzgerald perhaps violates what Kenneth Burke Book 2, leaving readers to embodies the purposeful incoherence of Tender a book marked by senseless violence and psychological instabil ity. The structural distortion of linear time is one of the main story of in cest, are more true than he probably realizes (126). Rosemary and Nicole. The question of w hat makes Dick crack has been an obvious topic of critical discussion obvious prima rily because what makes him dive in to oblivion is
58 not so obvious 6 but the reader is never quite sure what ails Dick Perhaps he suffers from w ar trauma, or what Dick terms on shock But we do know what makes Nicole crack a much easier question to answer than what breaks Dick. Nicole suffers because of father daughter incest and the silence surrounding the event, but, against all odds, seems to be faring better than Dick by th Zelda was indeed a victim of incest, Fitzgerald may have known that psychological trauma caused by war was a serious, validated, seemingly unquestioned condition whereas trauma caused by domestic sexual abuse was not. By making it clear that Nicole is a victim of father daughter ince st whereas Dick is a confused case of non shell shock, Fitzgerald exposes the gender politics of psychological trauma and challenges contemporaneous assumptions that held war trauma legitimate while domestic sexual abuse was seen as questionabl e, at best Giving paternal incest critical attention, Fitzgerald demonstrates political consciousness and moral conviction. perspective, granting her complexity and humanity and rend ering her mental illness with unparalleled clarity and precision for his day. However progressive it may seem that 6 the t ransference and countertransference that takes place between the couple, the death of old American values embodied in the death of his father, the symbolic incest with Rosemary, who is s junior ( young enough to be his daughter ) the Warr en money, his desire to be loved, which is tempered by his desire to be a social climber, and alcoholism.
59 Fitzgerald grants his female victim voice in 1934 a huge feat given the political and social climate Fitzgerald accomplishes this by betrayin reproducing her private letters written to him while she was institutionalized. In Zelda: A Biography rrible and private letters to him, written in the anguish of the early months of her illness in Switzerland, snipped least one occasion Zelda jokingly Courbin 28). Although Zelda was able to refer to this They also undermine claiming him as a visionary feminist hero. Disappointingly, such a talented fiction writer felt the need to borrow from his wife, thus exploiting her at her most vulnerable, to add credibility to his novel. Nevertheless, through Nicol paragraph monologue, and and shows how she is a victim of a collusive system of male power masquerading as a profession of healing. In these critical sections Fitzgerald reveals the patriarchal forces acting on Nicole that make it difficult, if not impossible, for her to ever transition from victim to survivor. Strategically placed immediately before the story of incest are nine letters that
60 condit ion. Giving Nicole voice albeit an incoherent voice at times over the course of eight months and that he answers all of them. The fact that Nicole s ends Dick fifty letters after meeting him only once indicates that she has transferred her paternal fixation to Dick; the fact that he answers all of them implies that Dick has a uced, only Armistice and pre marriage ogical condition, but they also suggest that Nicole may have more understanding of her illness than the doctors of the hospital are willing to admit, and, moreover, that in keeping the truth from Nicole, they are guilty of revictimizing her (Grube 183). In two of the letters, love has an ambiguous meaning here. In another letter, Ni cole tells Dick that she has written her father to come and take her away. The narrator notes a change between letters shift in the tone and level of self awareness in l etter four, in which Nicole expresses anger with the silence surrounding her sickness. In this letter Nicole voices her frustration be a semi insane asylum, all because nobody saw fit to tell me the truth about anything. If I had only known what was going on like I know now I could have stood it I guess for I
61 not only rightly blames the institution of psychiatry for failing to inform her about her illness, but also demonstrates her ability to process information and her likely awareness that she is a victim of father pain c actions. In this letter, Nicole comes across as capable of handling the truth. As Jacqueline Tavernier Courbin puts it, Nicole is a far stronger and more complex characte r than she is usually given credit for. She is inherently strong and a natural survivor who sank into neuroticism as a result of one ugly incident and the conspiracy of silence surrounding it on the part of both her family and her doctors. (216, emphasis a dded) working through her trauma. In her last reproduced letter, written after drifting in and out of mental stability, wrapped up in her own personal t roubles, wearing the domino she refers to at the close of Book 1, to realize what is going on in the outside world (123). The significance of knowledge. Moreover, they hint at the threat of the failure of psychiatry that many patients are never cured. Nicole knows that she has not recovered and may never be cured
62 primarily for their well that her continuing trauma will prevent her from living a normal life in the near like boys were ages ago before I was sick. I suppose it will be years, though, before I patient, understand that she is no candidate for love and marriage any time soon whereas e question of Suggested in these letters, and pronounced later in the novel, is the fine line between therapist and rapist. After hearing the story of incest, Dick sighs and tells Franz that all he said in be a corrupt institution that infantilizes women, referring to them as girls, and teaches them to submit to white male power. Also during this exchange with Dick, Franz tells him Nicole struggled with feeling complicit in what happened with her father. Tellingly, when she was in the company of girls at the boarding school, she had no feelings of com plicity. The implication is that when she is at the hospital surrounded by male doctors
63 (131). 7 Nicole seems well enough to know that the doctors are revictimizing he r by failing to disclose the information surrounding her illness. In other words, the therapy of reeducation is shown to be a form of brainwashing, fraught with gender politics. Strikingly, Fitzgerald has Dick admit so much toward the end of Book 2. The bo ok that had opened with such promise for Dick ends with an emasculated Dick who is mistaken for a man accused of raping and killing a five year explain to these people how I raped a five year old girl. Maybe I did 35). Although Dick may have Rosemary in mind when he makes this speech, for he and Rosemary had just consummated their affair, it seems likely that he is also thinking of Nicole and comes very close here to admitting that his involvement with Nicole may no t have been in her best interest after all. Perhaps the more important question than what causes Nicole to crack is what or who puts Nicole back together. Against all odds, she seemingly recovers from the incest. 8 In addition to the nine letters that Nicole writes to Dick, we hear her voice again in the illness and wellness. Udo Natterman argues that in this retrospective part of the narrative, 7 complicit or even that she initiates. Warren explains that N icole would come to his bed every morning after her mother died and sometimes sing to him (129). 8 Tender Is the Night Jacqueline Tavernier ychiatrists repressed atmosphere of France (216 17)
64 given through Nicole 9 This section of the book is the only time, aside from the letters, that the point of view changes from third person to first Natte rman argues that this passage supports reading Tender as a book with many characteristics of a psychological novel, commenting on the strategic placement of the scene: Though this segment of 17 paragraphs and some 1,500 words makes up only about one perce nt of the entire novel, it is nevertheless significant. It is placed in the exact middle of the novel; it constitutes the longest prominently as stream of consciousness; and it covers alm ost six years of alone and being pregnant, as well as the terrors of her breakup are described with great sub idea that repressed elements reappear in symptoms, often as symptomatic actions In other words, Fitzgerald recognizes the cyclical, elusive, belated effects of trauma. This work through her trauma. 9 Although Zelda was most likely hurt by the reproduction of her intimate letters to her husband it is said that she stream of consciousness section (Natterman 213).
65 things, the highlights of the marriage of Dick and Nicole and provides insight into why a divorce is imminent. The passage, which seems to come out of the blue, is found in the middle of Chapter 10 of Book 2. It opens with the l which Nicole is negotiating with her lawyer and sister how much money she is allowed of contention between Nicole and Dick, as is evident topic nderful to be just like everybody vicarious shell shock of those who only read about war in the newspapers (159). Ironically, Dick wants to be extraordinary (the grea test psychologist that ever lived), realizes Dick is dissipating (160). Nicole alludes to her breakdown following the birth of her daughter, Topsy. Most likely, Nicole is distraught over the birth of her daughter because she fears, with good reason that Topsy may be a victim of incest, like her mother. 10 10
66 passage in which Nicole expresses a desire to translate English novels into French and study medicine like Dick. She repeat bringing the reader full circle: Book 1 opens (3). that she is on proclaim ed in her letters to Dick. The rich juxtaposition suggests that once the conspiracy with Dick; however, she tells this not to Dick, but to Tommy Barban (162). Nicole th inks that through an affair with Tommy, she will be restored to health if only for a short the starring of consciousness occurs embodies one of the males in her life Dick, her daughter incest, Nicole finds language too far
67 removed from the traumatic event to represent it in words. In other words, she is skeptical of words. Additionally, as a female, Nicole realizes that language is gendered in that the male voice is validated and legitimized, oftentimes at the expense of the female who is expected to be seen, not heard For all that Fitzgerald does to give Nicole voice throughout Tender Is the Night he undermines deep ambivalence about his female characters indicates that he feared the consequences exist in worst fears is that N cherishing her illness as an instrument of power. Nicole does seem to be in better health than Dick wants to admit. At the end, she is in a position not only to deal with the truth but to challenge D ick to civil battle. Fitzgerald reveals early in the novel that Dick is preparing for war with though he got from her everything he needed, he scented battle from afar, and However, it becomes increasingly clear that Nicole has been mobilizing as well. In the that
68 the girl he was accused of kissing was just a delusion. In a poignant response, she shouts, holds Dick partly responsible for keeping her in the dark about her ill biggest challenge is posed toward the end of the book when, in attempting to censor a song with the word father probable that if Dick and the other doctors had it their way, yes, Nicole would flinch in fear every time she hears the word father This would keep her forever under their patriarchal power, in need of their protection. 11 Unlike Nicole, this woman year old woman is that ). Dick claims her as his patient and in a conversation between the two of them the nameless woman reveals that she thinks she is suffering because she (185). Unlike Nicole 11 Tender Is the Night most closely modeled on Zelda is not Nicole but the nameless woman artist, tortured by eczema (186) In the Zelda biography, Milford confirms that Zelda did indeed suffer a bout of severe eczema in mid June of 1930 (169)
69 227). However, this woman, who is really dying from a sexually transmitted disease, is also the symbol of a generation of women who dared to step out of their prescribed gender roles and define themselves not in subordination to men but in opposition to th em. On the one hand, creating such a sexually liberated character speaks more prominent. In this section Nic ole finds her voice and shows that she is capable of not flinching at the word father a turning point that suggests she is strong enough to work through her trauma, independent of Dick. In uttering these words, she turns the linguistic key and begins to u implies that her trauma is a vicious cycle in which she gets passed from one man to reeducated ut to be a mere repetition of transference. Fitzgerald writes,
70 as possible, and knowing vaguely that Dick had planned for her to have it, she lay on her bed as soon as she got home and wrote Tommy Barban in Nice a short provocative letter. (289) in ten years she was under the Fitzgerald provides of Tommy, a barbaric character whose main goal in life is war, it is their relations the idea that Nicole is restored to health by having her marry Tommy. In supporting trauma in that one is never completely restored to health. But in having Nicole marry a man picked for her by Dick, Fitzgerald denies his female character independence and agency, and by having Nicole marry Tommy, of all men, the suggestion is that we are entering t he Age of Barban, the age of the hypermasculine, an age that Fitzgerald does not seem to endorse, yet one in which Fitzgerald makes Nicole complicit. 12 Tommy gets the last words in the novel, the final focus is on Dick. Fitzgerald closes Tender ambiguously, with a wandering Dick whose whereabouts are unclear. Just as 12
71 questioned by his lack of substantial relationships. After it becomes clear to Dick that for America, jour neying from Geneva, Switzerland, to the less sophisticated small town in psychiatry (314 15). The reader hears vague facts about Dick, such as that he was entangled in an affair with a girl who worked in a grocery store and involved in a lawsuit about some medical question. Unlike the wartime letters to which Dick always entirely close the c is freed in the process. If the ending of Tender feels unresolved, perhaps it is because Fitzgerald, who wrote much of himself into the character of Dick and much of Zelda into the c haracter of Nicole, felt uncertain about their future. 13 Divorcing fact from fiction became increasingly difficult for Fitzgerald during the writing of Tender The material that As most mental breakdowns and attacks of dissociation made the book what it is a study of psychological illness resulting from traumatic experience. 13 He also modeled Tommy on the French aviator Edouard Jozan, with whom Zelda had an affair and Rosemary on Lois Moran, the movie star with whom he had an affair.
72 In a sober lett er to Zelda, Scott comments on the toll her mental illness took on Tender Is the Night has much to teach about the consequences of father daughter incest. The novel is mor e than a clinical study of deterioration as it illuminates the politics understanding of psychological trauma are that women in civilian life are subjected to trauma far mo re often than previously thought and that father daughter incest crosses class and race lines, occurring in privileged, quite wealthy, white families such as the three c more than a half of a century later that traumatic incest and the silence surrounding it severely impact too many families and make the real taboo not so much the act itself, as it which he suggests that trauma is both social and personal and those experi ences are often gendered (28). He recognizes as early as 1934 not only that women occupied subordinate positions but that their second class status was often maintained by the hidden manipulations of white male power. Fitzgerald hints at the need for psych iatric reform for diagnoses and treatments that would take into account the complexity of gendered experiences. In this light, it seems that the father daughter incest is a necessary, indeed monumental, part of the novel, that, despite what John Peale Bish op contends, should not be forgotten.
73 References Tender Is the Night Twenty First Century Readings of Tender Is the Night. Ed. William Blazek and Laura Rattray. Liv erpool: Liverpool UP, 2007. 67 84. PDF file. Tender Is the Night Literature and Medicine 11.2 (1992): 294 314. ProQuest Web. 23 Nov. 2009. Bruccoli, Ma tthew J. The Composition of Tender Is the Night : A Study of the Manuscripts Pittsburgh: U of Pittsburgh P, 1963. Print. Bruccoli, Matthew J., and Margaret M. Duggan, eds. Correspondence of F. Scott Fitzgerald New York: Random, 1980. Print. Burton, Mary ELH 38.3 (1971): 459 71. JSTOR Web. 0 3 May 2006. Callahan, John F Critical Essays on F. Tender Is the Night. Ed. Milton R. Stern. Boston: G. K. Hall & Co., 1986. 187 211. Print. Tender Is the Night Texas Studies in Literature and Language 47.1 (2005): 75 100. Project Muse Web. 11 May 2009. Cowley, Malcolm. Critical Essays on F. Scott Tender Is the Night. Ed. Milton R. Stern. Boston: G. K. Hall & Co., 1986. 102 09. Print.
74 Tender Is the Night Writing the American Clas sics Ed. James Barbour and Tom Quirk. Chapel Hill: U of North Carolina P, 1990. 177 208. Print. Essays in Criticism Ed. Marvin J. LaHood. Bloomington: Indiana UP, 1969. 127 3 7. Print. Fetterley, J The Sexual Politics of Tender Is the Night Mosaic 17.1 (1984): 111 28. MLA International Bibliography Web. 17 Dec 2009. Fitzgerald, F. Scott. Tender Is the Night Print. Tender Is the Night Tender Is the Night. Ed. Milton R. Stern. Boston: G. K. Hall & Co., 1986. 211 37. Print. Ten der Is the Night Essays in Criticism Ed. Marvin J. LaHood. Bloomington: Indiana UP, 1969. 179 89. Print. Herman, Judith. Trauma and Recovery New York: Basic, 1992. Print. Essays in Criticism Ed. Marvin J. LaHood. Bloomington: Indiana UP, 1969. 1 19. Print. Essays in Criticism Ed. Marvin J. LaHood. Bloomington: Indian a UP, 1969. 61 85. Print. Leys, Ruth. Trauma: A Genealogy Chicago: U of Chicago P, 2000. Print. Milford, Nancy. Zelda: A Biography New York: Harper, 1970. Print.
75 : Essays in Criticism Ed. Marvin J. LaHood. Bloomington: Indiana UP, 1969. 86 101. Print. Natterman Massachusetts Studies in English 10.4 (1986): 213 28. Print. Tender Is the Night Twentieth Century Literature 26.2 (1980): 189 221. JSTOR Web. 04 Mar. 2009. Tender Is the Night Modern Fiction Studies 4 (1958): 136 42. Micr ofilm. Essays in Criticism Ed. Marvin J. LaHood. Bloomington: Indiana UP, 1969. 138 43. Print. Introduction Ten der Is the Night. Ed. Milton R. Stern. Boston: G. K. Hall & Co., 1986. 1 20. Print. Tavernier C Save Me the Waltz Southern Literary Journal 11.2 (1979): 22 42. JSTOR Web. 23 No v. 2009. --Tender Is the Night French Connections: Hemingway and Fitzgerald Abroad Ed. J. Gerald Kennedy and 32. Print. Not in This House: Incest, Denial and Doubt in the White Middle Yale Journal of Criticism 8.1 (1995): 35 58. Print.
76 Chapter II I Invisible Man Ralph Ellison Invisible Man ( 66) embraced patriarchal phallocentrism ideals that privilege the masculine and maintain that masculinity is the cent ral focus and source of power and authority to devastating effects (77). 1 Instead of challenging a white supremacist, sexist system that has denied them a satisfying manhood, hooks explains, they have reinscribed it. And instead of lashing out at white mal e domination, they have often turned on women, using rape and as defined by the dominant culture Invisible Man an introspective literary exploration of black male identi ty, we encounter an unnamed narrator who comes of age during a time before racial integration. During his journey to self knowledge, Invisible Man meets many characters who shape his perspectives. One character he meets early in his 1 As Patricia Hill Collins an d Margaret Anderse n perceptively note in their anthology, Race, Class, and Gender blackness, or masculinity, or any category for that matter is not a uniform experience and the languag e we use to describe and define different groups can be problematic (xviii).
77 adventures is Jim Trueb lood, a man who insists on staying with his family even after he allegedly committed father daughter incest. Critics over the years agree that Ellison is not writing a case for incest; however, what precisely he is doing in the second chapter of his epic n ovel has not been so obvious. Rhetoric of Dramatic Irony and Tall Humor in the Mid Century American Literary Public isode to argue that the actions that Trueblood describes with vivid details never happened. When viewed in this light, it becomes clear that Ellison is using this spectacular story of father daughter nave biases. Moreover, Ellison employs paternal incest metaphorically to get us to acknowledge racial homosociality and to reverse the social raping of black men, all in an effort to make readers confront the trauma of racism that lies at the heart of American society. However, despite his valiant efforts to work through the trauma of racism, Ellison fails to bear witness to t he trauma of father daughter incest. Progressive on the yet, on the other, it reinforces male domination and reinscribes patriarchal well as the entire novel, neglects to illustrate the insidious trauma that plagues many female incest victims.
78 Published on the eve of the civil rights movement, Invisible Man was praised for its aesthetic and philosophical qualities and recognized as a landmark post WWII novel central to American and African American literary history. 2 Its engagement with the politics of racism, however, sparked, and continues to elicit, impassioned debate. Some early reviewers claimed that because it did not fit in th the militant black power movement emerged, a new generation of black youth started to assert that the theme of invisibility did not existential freedom was too abstract. The first book length, single author study of Ellison The Craft of Ralph Ellison contained as its central chapter a cl ose reading of Invisible Man By the 1990s, critics began to explore the ideological struggles at work in the novel in which bold claims were made for its literary historical significance and political sensibilities. With the rise of poststructuralist theo decade of the twenty first century saw the publication of two biographies of Ellison: s Ralph Ellison: Emergence of Genius (2002) and Arnold Ralph Ellison: A Biography spawned more literary outpourings on Invisible Man that revisit a multitude of topics 2 Invisible Man was published as a whole in 1952; however, copyright dates show the initial publication date as 1947, 1948. The discrepancy is explained by the fact that Ellison
79 poetics, and, as I address in this chapter, gender dynamics. Critics over the years have noted the importance of the Trueblood episode, but only a few have commented at length on the chapter. Selma Fraiberg was the first to suggests, she praises Trueblood for rising above the Oedipus myth and casting off the pretense of innocence by acknowledging his unconscious moti believe that any black, true to his blood, incest as a metaphor for interpersonal and interracial relations in the novel. In 1984, Houston Baker added his voice to the to transcend the stereotypes that whites have imposed on him. He emerges not just as a creative, but also a commercial, man who capitalizes on his story of incest. Trueblood, claims Baker, successfully challenges the castrating effects of white philanthropy. By the end of the 1980s, as feminist schol characters in Invisible Man
80 first to comment on ho concludes her essay by claiming that the incest taboo prevails for good reason. 3 Understandably, only a few critics devoted entire essays to the incest: Invisible Man is not centrally about fath er daughter incest. In fact, the portrayal of incest is confined to the second chapter of the novel, a mere 35 pages in a book just shy of 600. who journeys from the ru ral south to Harlem, seeking personal identity. Aside from the Prologue and the Epilogue, the entire story is told as a flashback, in which the reader learns about the many memorable, yet traumatic, events Invisible Man experiences. In sum, he is used by a lmost everyone he comes in contact with. which the narrator, who has just graduated from high school, is made to perform for the white men before he can deliver his graduatio n speech. Evident in this passage is white male homosociality which is characterized by Southern racist discourse and anxiety about or displaced homoerotic desire for black male sexuality. In this scene, Ellison societies establish strong masculine networks homosocial bonds primarily through exchanging women, proving their heterosexuality, and, as we see in this scene and throughout the novel, exhibiting their abhorrence of black men. Ellison illustrates how this phenomenon is a white male prerogative that does not apply to the black male 3 The Bluest Eye reinvigorated discussion of the Trueblood episode as critics such as Michae l Awkward, Janice Doane,
81 community whose solidarity is foreclosed. The oppressive white male society splits Invisible Man from his community, which is essential for maintaining the inequitable power dynamics as it thwarts an effective cohesive struggle against the oppressor. made to perform for entertainment purposes: after a beau tiful blonde woman is paraded in front of the them, causing at least one to have an erection, they are made to box blindfolded and then tricked into picking up from an electrified rug what is later revealed to be fake money (26). In the first chapter, Elli son sets the tone for the rest of the book in which black men are denied humanity and pitted against each other for the enjoyment of white men. Although Invisible Man is given a scholarship for the black college upon giving his speech at the end of the ba ttle royal, his undergraduate years are cut short. He gets expelled from college as a result of the Trueblood events. He then ventures to New York with what he assumes are letters of recommendation from the president of his college but turn out to be anyth ing but. 4 After teaming up with the Communist party, the Brotherhood, which Invisible Man thinks will provide a venue for evoking social change honor individuality. in a basement in Harlem contemplating his personal and social responsibility. convenient device that furthers the storyline, for Invisible Man gets expelled from the 4 These letters that Dr. Bledsoe writes say essentially the same thing that Invisible Man dreams his grandfather to say at the end of the first chapter: To Whom It May Concern Keep This Nigger Boy Running
82 university because, instead of showing one of the white college founders, Mr. Norton, evidence of racial progress, Invisible Man showed him the shack of Jim Trueblood, who so willingly shares his story o f incest. The episode is brief and Trueblood and his family are barely referred to in the rest of the novel. 5 But, Ellison could have chosen any number of reasons to have his narrator expelled from college. He chose a story of father daughter incest told f rom the perspective of a poor black farmer to a white, wealthy, seemingly cultured Mr. Norton and Invisible Man, who is chauffeuring Norton for the day. The mythic journey and transformation from innocence to experience/hipster ism. The Trueblood episode is the initiating factor (more so than the battle royal) that signifies and true beginning of being educated in the ways of a racially ri gged male society that bonds together in fear of, or homoerotic desire for, black founded and controlled by white men. For most of the novel, he grapples with reconciling the conflicting messages dealt to him by the Nortons and the Truebloods of society. Challenging Stereotypes and M oving Past Trauma The second chapter is a dizzying hall of mirrors in which the reader never quite knows if Trueblood committed the incest or not. Johns points out that there are good sophisticated game in which master storyteller and trickster figure Trueblood outsmarts his captivated 5 of ag e.
83 audience, and not as a definit ive account of how Trueblood impregnated his daughter. As Invisible Man is made to entertain an audience of white men in the previous chapter during the battle royal, Trueblood also entertains the white men, in his case with a humorous, albeit at times cru de, story of incest. Knowing that direct acts of aggression against whites are socially prohibited, he fashions a story that conforms to stereotypes of drops subtle hin reputation prior to the incest was one of hard worker and caring father. Moreover, we ol Such deta or the axe wound inflicted by wife Kate upon discovering the incest that Trueblood is made to carry with him for a fictional eternity; however, it seems plausible that Matty Lou was impre inflicted wound, a rather small price to pay when compared to the money the white folks give him after hearing his story (54). Moreover,
84 full fronted motions of far Lou a re in their final trimester (47). And yet, the axe wound that Trueblood claims he around it, which suggests that the wound is still open (54). Did Kate really harm him so although Trueblood metaphorically embodies the wound of the American black family. The up white patriarchal society. Just as we learn a little about Trueblood before we meet him, we also are given a few details about Mr. Norton. In his initial descri ption of Norton, As Invisible Man drives Norton around for the afternoon, Norton shares a story about his daughter, his own true blood. The white college benefactor explain s to Invisible Man that his destiny is somehow connected with the destiny of black people; however, as deceased od works for the Negro are the two sustaining forces of his life. We do not understand yet how they are he indulges in detailed description of his daughter who died whil e abroad with her father,
85 a loss that consumes an aging Norton. Describing his daughter, Norton tells Invisible Man, delicate than the wildest dream of a poet. I could never believe h er to be my own flesh and blood. Her beauty was a well spring of purest water of was rare, a perfect creation, a work of purest art. A delicate flower that bloomed in the liquid light of the moon. A nature not of this world, a personality like that of some biblical maiden, gracious and queenly. I words t ake on new meaning in the context of the Trueblood episode. on the lawn, but a cameo of sorts which her father reverently carries on his person, as Norton may Ostensibly shack (46). W ith thoughts of his daughter on his mind and her photograph pressed to his person Norton meets Trueblood, whose wife and daughter are both pregnant, seemingly by Trueblood. Upon seeing what he perceives as a monstrous demonstration of surfacing
86 unbridled s exual urges, Norton is envious that Trueblood committed such an shouted, his blues eyes blazing into the black face with something like envy and unconscious impulses are at odds. is hard to overlook in trying to make sense of the Trueblood episode in the grand scheme of Invisible epic design. Mary Rohrberger is characterized by an urgency explainable only by the assumption that he must have direct in his reading of th incest because he desired his own daughter (50). It is no wonder why Norton proves to be a one man enthralled audience. When questioned how he has many of the characters in the novel who are plagued by social blindness, Trueblood can see just fine, a stark contrast to Norton, who fails to see that the white patriarch is deeply impli cated in the story of father daughter incest. the Trueblood episode challenges white male domination as it shows power shifting, if only temporarily from the white upper cla ss to the black lower class, or what Ellison
87 how he is seen by society. His black male selfhood is defined as the image of the brute, which, in We Real Cool: Black Me n and Masculinity supremacist (xii). As such, he i s predisposed to commit father daughter incest. Invisible Man notes how easily Trueblood matches the assumptions that breed institutional inter and intra belt people] s ang, but since the [white] visitors were awed we dared not laugh at the 6 He is said to have earthy qualities and to emit animal sounds. In sum, Ellison constructs him as trickster figure presents himself in an unrefined, presocial state, almost bragging about how he violated the incest taboo. Ellison complicates the stereotypical image of the oversexed black male, however, by having the incest result from a convoluted, coded, yet highly suggestive 6 Intra racism describes the phenomenon in which a ra cialized group internalizes white supremacy, and, in turn, self loathing, and redirects the gaze and judgment at members of its own community. Those individuals at the lighter end of the spectrum are considered more attractive, and are therefore privileged, whereas dark skin is stigmatized. Ellison stick around; if intra racism explores intra racism and African American artistic expression see Faedra Chatard ities of Skin Color: Intra Racism and the Plays
88 dream that parodies Freudian dream scape. 7 The incest, if it was in fact incest, arises not the storytelling would be conscious) but rather from a miscellaneous dream in which it becomes increasingly clear power. Through the erotic dream, Ellison is able to j abundance of underground images indicating that Trueblood lusts for power in the real world as much as the powerful Norton lusts for the bo fouled intentions as Trueblood is innocently enough sleeping three abed with himself and wife on either ends and daughter Matty Lou in the mid dle, all in an effort to keep warm (62). Before he finds himself atop Matty Lou, Trueblood explains that he had a another indication that Ellison is using incest as a metaphor for interracial relations in the so subtle clues to daughter (57). The dream opens with T 7 incest seem t down into components and reveals man in what might be called his presocial and something ca lled Totem and Taboo of the homosexual Emerson Jr. (180). But fully explain what Ellison is doing in the Trueblood chapter (291).
89 send him to Mr. Broadnax, who lives up on a hill. After climbing the steep hill, tions, is filled with sexual detail evoking the stereotype of black male promiscuity Trueblood notes that no one is in the living room so he goes into what turns coincidentall y, belonging to a white woman (57). At this point, Trueblood notes that the stronger all the time The implication of this line seems to be that Trueblood is uncon sciously penetrating his daughter. Immediately realizing his mistake in being in a gr 58). Trueblood again attempts to flee, but he notices that he is stuck. The woman in his dream (or daughter in his story) starts to scream, holding Trueblood tightly around his neck. He the bed (58). Mr. Broadnax then enters the room/dream and dism
90 (58, 59). Upon seeing what he thinks is a jack o After sharing his dream with Norton and Invisible Man, Trueblood next launches into details about the nightmare he is unwittingly engaged in with his daughter. As play, then what follows equals a full cause he knows she Lou, whom he thinks has just recently become sexually activ e, as the seductress. him a whore her sleepy mumbles to be without Trueblood states that he is not the only one struggling with conflicted emotions (59). and to tell the honest to God truth I
91 in addition to writing a satire of black male barbarism, as Hays notes, Ellison is questioning who is guilty, and hints that perh aps Matty Lou should take some of the blame (335). how the black male community is prevented from homosocial bonding, and Invisible inexperience lack community certainly thinks that Trueblood is guilty. Upon barrel shotgun, an iron, and finally an axe, reason s ever seen and that [he] better go confess [his] sin and make [his] peace with for being a disgrace to their community (52). Even Invisible Man, who admits to being freely about incest in the presence of a respectable white man (68). Invisible Man thinks k belt people,
92 (58 ). At this point in his journey, Invisible Man does not understand why Trueblood persisting naivet which he until the end. I n contrast to the way Trueblood is ostracized and disowned by his own family and black community, he is rewarded by the white folks, something that he claims he capitaliz folks the whites want to keep the sharecropper among them, arguably for less than noble reasons. By helping Trueblood, the white community can maintain the hierarcha l social them to assuage their own feelings of guilt, whether stemming from incestuous desires and/or from racism, and to reward Trueblood for showcasing the stere otypical traits of black masculinity as a frustrated manhood that ultimately seeks expression in violent and deviant ways. dominant beliefs in the immorality of those racially othered, and thereby helps own prejudices in a way that they can cleverly disguise as charity. He tells Norton and Invisible Man that he is better now than ever before: so muc
93 worry, that they was going to send word up to the school that I was to stay to show yuh that no matter how bigg ity a nigguh gits, the white folks can always cut him down. The white folks took up for me. And the white folks white folks, too, from the big school way cross the State. Asked me lots it all down in a book. But best of all, suh, I got more work now than I ever uire new clothes and shoes, abundant food and work, long needed eyeglasses, and even the 81). Instead of being chased out of the county, the white community give Trueblood colored man, no matter how good a nigguh he ). At the end of the tale, a traumatized Norton, who has coincidentally pulling out the picture of his daughter, and hands Trueblood a hundred dollar bill, the exact amount county and settle elsewhere (69). Also not coincidentally, as Norton hands Trueblood the signifying the decline of We stern civilization. What is also worth noting is that in
94 doing everything wrong and is rewarded. At the beginning of the chapter, Invisible Man had high hopes that Norton good basta rd! You get a hundred events, he is stripped of his scholarship and expelled from the university, receiving letters that ens contrived narrative poses a challenge to the assumption that all African American men are hap pily promiscuous, incestuous, or absent fathers. Despite the challenges it poses to stereotypes of black masculinity, however, tale, readers should question, just how rewarded is Trueblood? Even though he gains financial wealth through the telling of his tale, his narrative is a commodity in which he, much like Invisible Man and the other black males of the battle royal, is made to perform stereotypes of male blackness and entertain the white men. This public posture of
95 entire Trueblood episode can be read as a pejorative commentary on the castrating effects of white [male in a way that he never could; thus, he is shown to be less of a man in a society that prides itself on having its male members fulfill the roles of provider and protector. Moreov daughter incest masks the trauma of racism that Trueblood himself suffers Instead of blatantly telling the reader about or not yet initiated readers in to believing that the incest seems to result in quite the opposite. Spillers notes that Trueblood seems st otherwise. For example, the story of incest opens with Trueblood, wife, and daughter sleeping in one bed because of utter poverty: it is so cold and they are too poor to afford ed to git storytelling becomes an almost ritualized repetition of trauma that further indebt s him to the white community. Although Cathy Caruth, Judith Herman, and Dominick LaCapra, rovides him a voice, but the story he articulates is one in which both he and his daughter are objectified and retraumatized The most disturbing part of the Trueblood tale, at least for this reader, is that in working through the trauma of racism, Ellis on has Trueblood invent a story of father
96 daughter incest that does not show the traumatic potential of incest for father or for daughter. Playing with the stereotypes of black masculinity and having Trueblood contrive a tall tale of familial sex, he has T rueblood exploit the trauma of father daughter incest. Furthermore, Ellison suggests that to counteract feelings of emasculation and impotence brought on by a white male supremacist society that bonds together over ves is to demonstrate his potency through his seductive tale about how he impregnated his daughter and has not just one, but two, women with child. Trueblood, who is smarter than Norton or even Invisible Man would be willing to admit at this point, seems to understand that although incest is said to be an act of regression, it is also a secretly sanctioned way to gain access to patriarchal a number of things including (limited, if not outright denied) access to the patriarchal role, hooks argues in political action in which black men act out their feelings of powerlessness in an attempt phallocentrism is demonstrated in the words exchanged between him and his wife in which he insists, despite her protests, (66). 8 It seems as if Trueblood, who successfully externalizes stereotypes of black masculinity, has internalized social constructions of white masculinity, failing to 8 Doane and Hodges read T
97 recognize that these ideals may be j ust as damaging to black females as stereotypes have been to black males. understandably troubled many critics. Female characters are few and far between (literally between, as in ones who are included in the novel are overwhelmingly stereotypes. Summarizing feminist responses to Invisible Man Tate writes, Questions Invisible Man since women clearly occupy peripheral roles in the novel. And then after Mary Rambo and the other female characters that i s, the old slave woman, the magnificent blonde, the rich sophisticate Emma, the anonymous seductress, and finally the prophetic and pathetic Sybil are (163) Commenting on the surrea lity, sexuality, and role of women in Invisible Man Rohrberger voices similar concerns: Nowhere in Invisible Man is there a woman not characterized as automaton prostitute or mother. From the blonde woman in the opening scene, through the innocent and nam eless black girls who dream of romantic love and marriage, to Sybil, subsumed by fantasies of rape, to
98 one dimensional figures playing roles in a drama written by men. (130) Certainl homosocial drama constructed by white men in which women are static characters. Spillers is direct in her objection to the way in which Kate and Matty Lou are portrayed: For all intents and purposes, the wi fe/mother Kate and the daughter/surrogate love Matty Lou are deprived of speech, of tongue, since what they said and did and when are reported/translated through the medium of Trueblood. These silent figures, like materialized vectors in a field of force, are curiously silent. (132) Since the entire tale of incest is told by Trueblood (and the rest of the story told by Invisible Man), Matty Lou is deprived of speech, and, the reader receives a limited account of the incest and never knows the extent of her trauma whether stemming from racism or from familial abuse. Unlike Tender Is the Night included, in Invisible Man bodily present in the text. For instance, when Invisible Man and Norton pull up to the Trueblood cabin, Matty Lou and Kate are performing a typical female job washing clothes. It becomes clear though that it is Trueblood who airs the dirty laundry. As the women scurry off upon Invisi women are meant to be seen and not heard, a standard practice/role of the female in patriarchy. Emphasis is placed on their pregnant bodies, not on their voices. In fact, Matty Lou is consistent ly denied voice throughout the saga. Aside from moaning the
99 not granted voice (59, 62). Trueblood expla ins that in addition to Matty Lou not speaking little we do know about her suggests that she was complicit in, if not encouraging, the incest with her father. In othe r words, Trueblood, and perhaps even Ellison, wants his seduction (59). Equally problematic is the pregnancy of Matty Lou. Arguably, in suggesting that both Kate and Matt y Lou were impregnated by Trueblood, Ellison conveys the virility of the sharecropper and this could be read as a way to reverse the impotence Trueblood has experienced from being a black man in a white male supremacist society. Baker notes Trueblood encounter reveals the phallus as indeed producing Afro the poor farmer as the most fertile, the truest to his blood, father in the entire novel. Proving Tr patriarchal culture real manhood is predicated on using the female body. Although the implication is that the Trueblood name will live on in his numerous offspring, Matty of whether Trueblood committed the incest and impregnated his daughter or not, Trueblood has the last word, in this case only word, so his legend will prevail (67). Unfortun child herself, Kate has the potential to be the moral center of this chapter, and perhaps
100 most importantly, to pose the biggest challenge to patriarchal phallocentrism. Kate edges slight ly beyond stereotype and decides to take action into her own hands. Upon finding out about the incest, she tries to do what she can to punish her husband and to protect her daughter. For instance, she charges after Trueblood with weapons. When thinking tha t Tru eblood comes back to claim his spot as head of the family he overpowers his wife and children. He runs off the heap of women and threatens to kill Cloe if she touches a finger to retreat in silence. Invisible Man and the Woman Question At the end of his overview of Invisible Man experience and how feminin Certainly seeing beyond the stereotypes of black masculinity affirming black manhood Invisible Man is primarily concerned with how white society has failed to s ee the complexity of black male identity, nullifying and rendering it chapter In visible Man has an epiphany in which he makes a connection between himself and Trueblood. Finding himself in a situation eerily similar to the one described by
101 Trueblood in the second chapter, he states, waking, b In the second chapter, Trueblood first used the jaybird metaphor to explain to Invisible Man and Norton that he fel reflects on his journey, he realizes that he is not that different from Trueblood: they have both been immobilized yet can clearly see their situation and place it in a larger context. Recognizing his alliance with Trueblood, Invisible Man discovers his d istance from Norton. In the Epilogue, the brief reunion between Invisible Man and Norton marks Invisible Man om he claimed as disheartened to learn that he neither recognizes him nor remembers claiming him as his future (578). Furthermore, Norton is not in the least bit ashame d. At the end of their where you are, who nd social ambiguity, as well as verbal play, while Norton holds fast to the comparatively mechanical social
102 Moreover, he acknowledges that Trueblood is one of the invisible men who use the power of the spoken word to combat the trauma he experiences because of the color of his skin. Despite furthering our understanding of the experiences of many black men in the female s has not been so clear. Rohrberger proposes that Ellison includes stereotypical female figures in his novel to call attention to the stereotypes and objectification The fact that Invisible Man, even after his 600 page journey, fails to acknowledge the humanity of women and patriarchy. For example, on more than one occasion he is c onfronted with vulnerable females, but, instead of forging a connection between his journey to self actualization and figures (Mary and Kate) and uses white females as sex objects (Sybil, the white woman naked blonde woman who dances for the men at the battle royal). There is a brief moment of human recognition by Invisible Man during th e battle royal scene when he focuses on the eyes of t he blonde woman which are filled the time to run from the room, to sink through the floo r, or go to her and cover her from my eyes and the eyes of the others with my body; to feel the soft thighs, to caress her and destroy her, to love her and murder her, to hide from her, and yet to stroke where below the small American flag tattooed upon he
103 Showing that women occupy a subservient role in patriarchal culture, Ellison does daughter incest in which daughter and wife are silenced and marginalized, then it is hard Brotherhood and made to lecture downtown o n the Woman Question. Upon learning woman question and searching their faces for signs of amusement, listeni ng to their voices as they filed out into the hall for the slightest sound of suppressed laughter, stood there fighting the sense that I had reason that he should feel honored to speak on such a taboo topic for a black man; however, he comes to this realization only after he thought is was an amusing joke, at best, or severe punishment, at worst. And not surprisingly, the Woman Question is quickly dropped when Invisible Man is called back to Harlem; the implication is that Perhaps even more troubling than the haste with which Invisible Man disregards the Woman Question is his encounter with Sybil, a white woman whom he met during the woman lecture series and who is a self proclaimed nymphomaniac consumed by a desire to be raped by a black man. Further revealing the damaging effects of black male desire for white women by having the affair initiated by the white woman, Ellison leaves it to his reader to unveil
104 episode, the female as seductress becomes a recurrent t heme, most pronounced through information about the Brotherhood and thought the best course of action was to go through a woman to seek out the company of a female, she turns out to be more than he expected. Much like Trueblood, he describes his situation as one of entrapment, in which he is made to play the role of the sexually aggressive black man. Ell ison conveys the dangers of such stereotyping for the black male. He does not, however, show how stereotypes of female sexuality deny complexity and humanity to females. bea rs witness to the trauma of racism, but it does not bear witness to the trauma of incest. A male centric narrative, Invisible Man shows how the male characters are certainly products of white supremacist capitalist patriarchy that represses and silences th e female most clearly illustrated through his encounter with Sybil, proves just as problematic as complexity by sketching her in stereotypical terms. Seeking a unified masculine self that of age is incomplete in its failure to the novel calls attention to the homoerotic nature of white male supremacy and furthers our understanding of the trauma of inter and intra racism. Succeeding i n challenging
105 and privileges when it comes to representing the insidious trauma of sexism. References Andersen, Margaret L., and Patricia Hill Collins. Race, Class, an d Gender: An Anthology 2 nd ed. Belmont: Wadsworth, 1995. Print. The Bluest Eye Toni Morrison: Critical Perspectives Past and Present Ed. Henry Louis Gates, Jr., and K. A. Appi ah. New York: Amistad, 1993. 175 209. Print. --The Bluest Eye Critical Essays on Toni Morrison Ed. Nellie McKay. Boston: Hall, 1988. 57 67. Print ving: An Analysis of Creativity and Commerce The Critical Response to Ralph Ellison Ed. Robert J. Butler. Westport: Greenwood P, 2000. 73 93. Print. Butler, Robert J. Introduction. The Critical Response to Ralph Ell ison Ed. Robert J. Butler. We stport: Greenwood P, 2000. xix xl Print. ities of Skin Color: Intra Racism Theatre Topics 19.1 (2009): 15 27. Projec t Muse Web. 19 Oct. 2010. Doane, Janice, and Devon Hodges. Telling Incest: Narratives of Dangerous Remembering from Stein to Sapphire Ann Arbor: U of Michigan P, 2001. Print.
106 The Story and Its Writer: An Introduction to Short Fiction 7 th ed. Boston: Bedford, 2007. 864 65. Print. --. Invisible Man 1952 New York: Vintage, 1995. Print. Fitzgerald, F. Scott. Tender Is the Night Speaking For You: The Vision of Ralph Ellison Washington, D. C.: Howard UP, 1987. 308 21. Print. Partisan Review 28 (1961): 646 61. Print. Invisible Man Western Humanities Review 23 (1969): 335 39. Print. Speaking For You: The Vision of Ralph Ellison Washington, D. C.: Howard UP, 1987. 285 307. Print. Hill, Michael D., and Lena M. Hill. Invisible Man : A Reference Guide Westport: Greenwood P, 2008. Print. The Masculine Masquerade: Masculinity and Representation Ed. Andrew Perchuk and Helaine Posner. Cambri dge: MIT P, 1995. 69 88. Print. --. We Real Cool: Black Men and Masculinity New York: Routledge, 2004. Print. Jackson, Lawrence. Ralph Ellison: Emergence of Genius New York: Wiley, 2002. Print. Read Dramatic Irony and Tal Humor in the Mid Century American Literary Public
107 Texas Studies in Literature and Language 49.3 (2007): 230 64. Project Muse Web. 6 Nov. 2009. The Craft of Ralph Ellison Cambridge: Harvard UP, 1980. Print. Rampersad, Arnold. Ralph Ellison: A Biography New York: Knopf, 2007. Print. Sexuality, and the Role of Women in Invisible Man Invisib le Man. Ed. Susan Resneck Parr and Pancho Savery. New York: MLA, 1989. 124 32. Print. Sedgwick, Eve. Between Men: English Literature and Male Homosocial Desire New York: Columbia UP, 1985. Print. Changing Our Own Words: Essays on Criticism, Theory, and Writing by Black Women. Ed. Cheryl A. Wall. New Brunswick: Rutgers UP, 1989. 127 49. Print. Invisible Man Speaking For You: The Vision of Ralph Ellison Ed. Kimberly Benston. Washington, D. C.: Howard UP, 1987. 360 85. Print. Invisible Man Speaking For You: The Vision of Ralph Ellison Ed. Kimberly Benston. Washington, D. C.: Howard UP, 1987. 163 72. Print. The Collected Writings of Wallace Thurman: A Harlem Renaissance Reader Ed. Amritjit Singh and Daniel M. Scott II I. New Brunswick: Rutgers UP, 2003. 35 39. Print.
108 Chapter IV Signifying, Testifying, and Bearing Witness: The Bluest Eye She stood there, her hands folded across her stomach, a little protruding pot of tummy. Toni Morrison, The Bluest Eye ( 173 74 ) The Bluest Eye accomplished a great feat: authored by a black woman who criticized patt erns of silence was thought by some to be even more taboo than the act of incest itself. Her ambitious first novel expanded the literary canon and encouraged many female auth ors to bear witness to such subjects as incest, racism, and domestic colonialism. In addition to employing father daughter incest as a metaphor for racial relations, Morrison treats the paternal incest as literal, tragic, and traumatic. Claiming the nove l as a privileged site for representing the trauma of incest and
109 LeClair 371, 372 ). In her literary represe ntation of the insidious trauma that plagues her black characters, Morrison constructs an inventive, carefully controlled structure employing multiple narrators. An early version of the novel used third person narration to tell the story of Pecola and the Breedlove family. Dissatisfied with its inability to engage the reader, Morrison revised the point of view to introduce the perspective of Claudia MacTeer, who grew up black and poor, a could be victim of father daughter incest herself. Serving as main nar rator of the fragmented account, Claudia reflects on the experiences of Pecola and gains ine year old self and the adult Claudia, dominate the story. Although a pioneering work for narrating from the could The Bluest Eye has been criticized in recent years for not being femini st enough. Commenting on the relationship between voice and empowerment, some fault the novel for silencing the dispossessed protagonist while seeking to redress power relations. Pin chia Feng thinks that the work ultimately fails because, dominated by Cla the story is over before Pecola begins to speak, Janice Doane and Devon Hodges are dissatisfied with the experimental chapter where, they claim, Pecola fails to find a voice. Monica Michlin c but her
110 ambiguously structured, but is a closely constructed narrative with aesthetic design tha t includes the male perspective while bringing the experience of the female to the fore. To better understand how this is achieved, I look at three late chapters in the novel detailing the trauma men of color often experience, and in this sense extending sympathy to an incestuous father, she remains in control of the Cholly and Soaphead chapters, never simply handing over her narration but presenting their thoughts through a th ird person limited perspective. In the Cholly chapter we are given his perspective but not his voice, and gain understanding not just about how the incest happened, but also why it happened. The chapter focused on the perspective of the critically neglecte d figure Morrison exposes the reality of child abuse as a social and political problem, an effect of institutional racism, classism, and imperialism, and not solely confined to the particular context of poverty. Missing from the few pieces of scholarship on Soaphead is a discussion of how this pedophile, while immersed in his own pathologies, ironically ut why a character steeped in racist and sexist thought would not be able to bear witness, but only retraumatize Pecola. Morrison shows black men as victims of patriarchal phallocentrism in a capitalist society of white supremacy. Perhaps more importantly for this study, she considers the effects these violations have on Pecola, the scapegoat of society whose perspective is rendered in a first person, schizoid narration that offers some understanding of why she steps over into madness.
111 The Bluest Eye was ahead of its time and close to two decades passed before critics recognize d the importance of the work as Morrison points out in her 1993 Afterword. Connecting lack of attention given to Pecola she implies that it to ok twenty five years for society to acknowledge the oppression of young girls, particularly poor, black girls like Pecola: exceptions, the initial publication of The Bluest Eye trivialized, misread. And it has taken twenty five years to gain for her the respectful Rejected by twelve publishers, one of whom claimed that the book lacked structure, it was out of print by 1974 after its initial publication with Holt, Rinehart and Winston Although published in the midst of second wave feminism shows that 11). Morrison acknowledges its mixed reviews: New York Times Book Review qtd. in Schappe ll 73). It was not a commercial success, earning Morrison only $3000 and receiving less critic al acclaim than most of her later works. 1 According to Nancy Peterson, it took five years for the first scholarly treatment of The Bluest Eye to even appear; how 1 1977 Song of Solomon won the National Book Critics Circle Award for fiction and the American Acade my and Institute of Arts and Letters Award, and her 1987 Beloved received the Pulitzer and in 2006 was voted by New York Times the best piece of fiction written in the US in the last twenty five years. Interestingly, t he winner for the previous twenty five years Invisible Man (Tally 2)
112 black female writers would not receive proper scholarly attention. 2 We should not forget how rev olutionary The Bluest Eye was. Writing a fragmented, nonchronological account of the physical violation and psychological destruction of eleven year girl gone to beauty, Morrison shows the interconnectedness of racism, rape, classism, and with incest, racial self loathing, and intraracism, Adrienne Seward claims that the novel and beyond the black community, The Bluest Eye American literature, signaling a shift away from the white male dominated literary from the margins to the center of the literary canon; she moved the center (1). The novel that significantly departed from the domin ant symbolic representations of father daughter incest, which had been almost entirely male authored, inspired a whole generation of African American women, such as Alice Walker, Gloria Naylor, and Toni Cade Bambara, to tell their own stories. Additionally as I show in the following two chapters, dealing with familial rape more realistically than earlier works, The Bluest Eye was 2 Karen Stein notes that that she was limiting her canvas by focusing on black characters: this critic contended her talents writing about the African American community
113 instrumental in enabling incest victims to claim narrative as a vehicle for working through their trauma. There has been an imp ressive growth in Morrison scholarship in the last three between 1980 and 2000 (x). In addition to two edited collections devoted to The Bluest Eye the latest published in 2010, there are numerous essays in compilations and monographs on Morrison and in literary journals. Critical discourse has focused on the s influenced. loathing in es how The Bluest Eye depicts the wounds caused by inter and intraracial shaming and how father daughter incest is most destructive to the child. argue that Morrison sho ws what recent trauma theorists are beginning to understand that trauma can result from a constellation of experiences in addition to a single offense, and that the patriarchal family holds traumatic potential. Drawing on Bouson, I also reengage Michael Aw The Bluest Eye builds on Invisible Man by providing a revisionary feminist reading of his male biased Ellison and James Baldwin to cl ear canonical space for herself, I see her work signifying
114 on Invisible Man as it simultaneously pays tribute yet critiques the novel. 3 Like Ellison, Morrison explores the effects of racism and classism on the individual; however, she expands his canvas to How The Bluest Eye Was Born : Reshaping the Trueblood Mold The Bluest Eye published despite repeated rejections attest to her belief in a work she saw as groundbreaki ng and critical. Her reasons for writing the novel take on a storytelling quality of their own, as Nellie McKay observes: month return to Lorain, an editing job at the textbook subsidiary of Random House in Syracuse, and writing at night after the children were asleep (to combat the loneliness she felt then and there) to bring her efforts to take book form. The seeds grew out of a conversation she had with one of her elementary mental image of a beautiful black girl receiving blue eyes, Morrison wondered who told book to fruition, Morrison attributes its publication to social and political concerns: dissatisfied with the lack of young black female characters in published novels, she ever 3 American literature term black writers as an act of rhetorical self
115 Besides being the first novel to give a black female child center stage, The Bluest Eye was origin what I did, which was to write without the white gaze 53). I admired Ralph E llison, Invisible Man invisible to whom? Not me. They are confronting the enemy; the enemy is a white guy, or the white establishment or having to explain elements of her work which draw on African American traditions. were going to get skipped over (Houston 256). The Bluest Eye is her attempt to capture to remember why it became a nec essary statement in the first place. 4 Developing a minor scene in Invisible Man when the protagonist sees an advertisement in a Harlem store window for a product that promises a whiter complexion, Morrison reflects throughout her novel on the time when b some black women would go to devastating extremes to do what the dominant white society required funkiness of nature, the funkiness of the wide range of human states that for women who subscribe to such ideals, the funkiness is embodied in a 4 The Bluest Eye makes o ne of the most po on the relationship between Western
116 number of ways a laugh too loud, a gesture too generous, a behind swaying too freely, and lips lined a little too fully (83). The vigil for eruptio ns of funk has to be constant. Later Pecola, with her dirty torn dress, matted plaits, muddy shoes, soiled socks, and safety pin in place of where a hem should have been, is seen as embodying the dreaded funk and reprimanded for it. She is indoctrinated a t an early age into a society that, as Morrison writes, labels some plants flowers and others weeds. The taboo topic of racial self noticed its glaring absence in literature (Houston 256). To undercut t he power of white ideology and standards of beauty, Morrison famously opens with a subversive primer stories. 5 ext on while promoting literacy, disseminated racist, classist messages at the expense of black children, whose existence they effectively erased. The Breedloves and eve n the MacTeers serve as the antithesis to this idyllic image of home and family. destructive whit e ideologies are to black people. In addition to writing for a largely black audience, Morrison was one of the first African American women writers to powerfully attack Western standards of formal education and female beauty and to address in her novel how 5 These primers were widely used in elementary schools across the United States from the 1930s through to the 1970s.
117 Building on Ellison, she exposes the damaging internalization of white standards and the loathing. Asked if she intended to revise the work of well known black male writers, Morrison said she was adding her voice to the tradition, not reproving it: against exist ing voices. There had been some women writing Paule Marshall, Zora Neale Hurston, though I wanted to write about, which was the true devastation of racism on the most vulnerable, the mo st helpless unit in society a black female and a child. I wanted to write about what it was like to be the subject of racism. It had a specificity that was damaging. And if there was no support system in the community and in the family, it could cause spir itual death, self loathing, terrible things. (Dreifus 102) But despite this claim, parts of her novel have given critics ammunition to argue that it is those that had been skipped over in Invisible Man little doubt that he was familiar with her work and even less doubt that she knew his (qtd. in Stepto and Harper 10). 6 Awkward convincingl 6 Ther the similarity between the last names Trueblood and Breedlove and the fact that both incest accounts include similes comparing breath to a balloon. In Invisible Man toy balloon
118 self conscious revision of the Trueblood tale as she indicates that the construction of identity is not only racialized and classed but also gendered, and that the violent sexual initiation of the daughter is just as impo way into the Afro American literary tradition by foregrounding the effects of incest for female emphasis added). Morrison of biased depiction of father daughter incest, exposing the dangers of adhering to patriarchal phallocentrism chapter. Awkward sees Mor his representation of incest which marginalizes and renders as irrelevant the Revisiting the connection between Invisible Man and The Blues t Eye Doane and Hodges note more similarities than differences between the two and contend that Morrison creates sympathy for the father, much like Ellison. Observing that The Bluest Eye int of view, they or how hard it may still be to recognize the complexity of Mo ; in The Bluest Eye back of her throat. Like the rapid loss o th also include a variation o I yam what I am! after scarfing down the yams (266) s novel, Soaphead writes in his letter to God, hat I
119 and, to a lesser extent, Soaphead, may be explained by the literary tradition of sympathetic fathers, such as Jim Trueblood and Devereux Warr en. Similarly, the perspective is understandable given the model of Matty Lou. Where Fitzgerald conveys whiteness and wealth as the norm, Morrison, like Ellison, is driven to understand how a racist, classist culture has denied people humanity. A central theme in black American literature, invisibility is taken up in The Bluest Eye as Morrison explores the conditions under which her characters both male and female are rendered invisible. Both novels force the reader to look at black male characters like construction of masculinity, have been emasculated or feminized by being positioned as passive victi ms of white male aggression. Because of this polarized construction of gender, figures like Cholly and Soaphead reinscribe patriarchal phallocentrism and mistakenly align themselves with the oppressor in attempting to escape the role of victim. Morrison a poor black girls (210). When she hopes to acquire by ingesting, the narrator tells us that the blue eyes of Mr. Yacobowski reluctantly look toward Pecola as his hand hesitatingly offers her the candy: Slowly, like Indian summer moving imperceptibly toward fall, he looks toward her. Somewhere between reti na and object, between vision and view, his eyes draw back, hesitate, and hover. At some fixed point in time
120 and space he senses that he need not waste the effort of a glance. He does not see her, because for him there is nothing to see. (48) Morrison illu strates how invisibility is visited on Pecola because she is black and poor (as is Trueblood), and also because she is a female child. The vacant gaze of Mr. Yacobowski suggests that nothing in society would allow for a white male storeowner to give a poor black girl a look of approval or acceptance. Pecola has internalized her outsider position so much that she reactively wishes herself into invisibility. Hearing her but her eyes to fade away. Rendered invisible and scapegoated from the black blues (75). Morris doubt, and how black fatherhood has been warped in a Western society that consequently strugg le with the ways its black characters were metaphorically raped by whiteness. Depicting father daughter incest in all of its contradictions, Morrison dramatizes the violation of Pecola cannot be isolated from the larger context of racism and domestic imperialism. She refuses to divorce the single act of incest from the larger cycle of abuse. In so doing, she makes it difficult to blame any individual; her mission is not to indi ct persons, but to bear witness to the victims of systemic violence.
121 Breedlove At the beginning of the story, Claudia discloses the outline of a plot th. She except why. But since why is difficult to handle, one must take refuge in how chapter it becomes clear that Morrison does want to explain why such an act ion would occur. Instead of allowing her reader to confront incest as an isolated event, she devotes a 30 simultaneously victim and victimizer. Unlike the Trueblood tale that only takes up the better part of one chapter, Morrison places incest at the center of her story. Instead of having Cholly emerge as wealthy and wise, or at least remorseful, after the experience, she shows the forces that have led to his aggression an d arguably, his distorted expression of love. Before the reader even turns to the Cholly chapter, Morrison provides a couple of prefatory pages painting him with the stereotypical traits of the black man as irresponsible, abusive, and criminal, but then explaining how he got to be that way. He is further showing how far the Breedlove s are not only from the ideal Dick and Jane family, but also how outsided, othered, they are from even their own black community who put
122 stranger to alcohol, described as drunk at least twice to be sent to his wife to be harshly judged and rightfully punished (42). In accounting for Cholly, Morrison provi des her reader with his dark history traumatic past, as she claims only a musician could do, she shows him as lifelong victim. From the beginning of his chapter, the read er knows that he never stood a chance to succeed in society, for his father left town before he was born and his mother abandoned do with him, it is no wonder that he do Pecola and Sammy away at least twenty seven times by the age of fourteen. When Cholly is fourteen, the one stable figure in his life, Aunt Jimmy, dies, leaving Cholly once again an orphan. 7 His efforts to reunite with his estranged father meet with disaster, as Samson Fuller dismisses 156). These words sting him, and the scene concludes with a soiled Cholly curled in fetal position crying for his dead Aunt Jimmy. Morrison sums up his familial there 7 The reader can infer that the ages are not accidental and serve to reinforce the idea that traits good and bad, are passed on are bred into the next generation.
123 when Cholly engages in sex for the first time. The experience w ith Darlene is initially marked by curiosity and first However, the difficult part comes in due time Cholly notice s that two white hunters are standing over him, watching as they have sex. Like Trueblood, who entertains the white folks with his tale of incest, Cholly, the target of white discrimination, is made to perform for the racist raccoon hunters, who instruct h Internalizing white supremacist constructions of masculinity all too quickly, Cholly directs feelings of hatred, not onto the white men, but onto the black girl: Never did he once consider d irecting his hatred toward the hunters. Such an emotion would have destroyed him. They were big, white, armed men. He was small, black, helpless. His subconscious knew what his conscious mind did not guess that hating them would have consumed him, burned h im up like a piece of soft coal, leaving only flakes of ash and a question mark of smoke. He was, in time, to discover that hatred of white men but not now. Not in impotence but later, when the hatred could find sweet expression. For now, he hated the one who had created the situation, the one who bore witness to his failure, his impotence. The one whom he had not been able to protect, to spare, to cover from the round moon glow of the flashlight. (150 51)
124 suggests that he is feminized in a society where femininity is equated with helplessness and primed into thinking that venting his anger on weaker people like Darlene and later Pecola is acceptable. What rtant in seeing his thwarted sexual awakening as well as how he mistakenly cultivates his hatred of the black female (215). for he never had one himself it is also understandable why he do for his first time ends in complete humiliation. who is hanging over a fence scratching herself with her deformed foot (160). Morrison s Pauline, or rather marrying her, that did for him what the flashlight did not rongs he has suffered. Yet, Cholly, who has learned that violence and sexuality go together, not surprisingly is confused by how to express love. concludes with the rape of Pecola, it is clear that the father daughter incest completes the meeting look at [Cholly] and see his love for his daughter and his powerlessness to help her pain. By that time, his embrace, the rape, is al l
125 manifestations of love. In recognizing how much his daughter resem bles his wife, Cholly is filled with feelings of tenderness. The word tender or a form thereof litters the two and a half page scene along with a litany of questions in which Cholly wonders what he can do to be a better father. Phyllis Klotman observes tha t the rape may very well be the only expression of love that Pecola receives. The rendition of incest is filtered through a third person narrator that closely adheres to the consciousness and experience of Cholly, leaving Pecola silenced throughout the sce ne, uttering only one sound Invisible Man the reader is invited to focus those of his daughter. The narrat ive positions readers to see the wounded and wounding Cholly. Church psychiat his emb
126 eyed West proclaimed psychic and hoodoo spiritual Mr. Hen Cholly, Soaphead, and Mr. Henry Morrison further illustrates that the sexual violation of young females is an extensive problem. 8 understand his motives and perhaps even his perverse sexual pleasures with little girls. roduced too late in the novel to seem a critique of colonialism. Gurleen Grewal mentions that the connection Morrison makes between capitalism and colonialism has been glossed over by many critics, who instead focus on her critique of white and black communities that have bought into white a mere function of plot, more than an agent who will grant Pecola her blue eyes and who will substitute as the dog in the Dick and 8 The Bluest Eye The Explicator 60.4 Sum mer 2002: 231 34) for a convincing argument that Claudia is molested by Soaphead.
127 Through the interracial and racially conscious character of Soaphead, Morrison extends her critique of wh ite supremacy beyond the United States to include its effects on British colonized islands in the West Indies, where some were deluded into thinking that incest and inbreeding with the whiter members of their family were preferable in the quest to lighten up their lines and get rid of the funkiness. Proud of their diverse their patriarch and are grateful to him for introducing the white strain into the family in the early why Pecola is left at the end of her story in a psychotic state, attempting to bear witness to her own tale. In the 20 page section written from the limited third person perspective of Soaphead, we gain some understanding of why Pecola would seek him, of all people, and why he is unable to bear witne poignant scenes, rivaled in emotional content only by the incest scene, a pregnant Pecola asks Soaphead to grant her wish for blue eyes, her desperate desire for beauty. Morrison explains her choice in having Pecola go to this particular man for help: with Soaphead, I wanted, needed someone to give the child her blue eyes. Now she was asking for something that was just awful she wanted to have blue eyes and she wanted to be Shirley Temple, I mean, she wa nted to do that white trip because of the society in which she lived and, very importantly, because of the black people who helped her want to be that. her mother, of course, made her want that in
128 the first place who would give he if black people were more like white people they would be better off. (qtd. in Rosenberg 444) Before the meeting where Soaphead ostensibly gives Pecola blue eyes, Morrison devotes many pages to providing his lineage an d detailing the colonial legacy that he and his committed to the idea that white is right, and, as Morrison puts it, if they were more like white people, they would fare bett er. Through the characterization of Soaphead, she exposes how the imposition of white Western standards of beauty, education, privilege, and religion prevent the development of a black identity that embraces African culture. The narrator says that So exist without its help, an d that a society is great and brilliant only so far as it preserves that the U. S. fails to see its own eugenics movement and allegiance to racial purity and preference for blonde haired, blue eyed people. Morrison exposes the education that Soaphead receives, lessons that promote whiteness and encourage him to separate himself Internalizing white standards to the point of near paralysis, Soaphead attempts to sever
129 the connection between body and mind. However, as he later explains in his letter to God, he is unsuccessful when it comes to the bodies of little girls. Soaphead thinks he has transcended stereotypes of black masculinity as he learns to value self cleansing and tries to repress his embodied blackness, but much like Cholly, his misguided actions lead him to identify with the oppressor. In using the bodies of young girls, Soaphead and Cholly reenact a dominant/passive hierarchal structure. Emulating the whiten ess of the ruling class, Soaphead imitates its exploitative nature. He excels in most of his efforts to rid himself of the funkiness and repress bodily desire, an easy task as he distains human contact and is disgusted by flesh on flesh, body odor, breathe odor, earwax, blackheads, blisters, and lost teeth (166). By his logic, his attention is naturally drawn to those he finds least offensive and most passive little girls. Not surprisingly, Soaphead, who exhibits psychopathic behavior and considers molesting young girls clean acts, experiences delusions of grandeur, thinking himself capable of doing the works of ventures into his back the most fantastic and the most logical petition he had ever received. Here was an ugly gain mastery of her story of violation. Her request can be read as a plea for him to bear witness to h er story of trauma, which Soaphead attempts to do. Here, as nowhere else, he wishes he could perform miracles. In language evocative of the range of emotions Cholly
13 0 experiences during the encounter with Darlene and later the rape scene with his daughter, M orrison writes, A surge of love and understanding swept through him, but was quickly replaced by anger. Anger that he was powerless to help her. Of all the wishes people had brought him money, love, revenge this seemed to him the most poignant and the one most deserving of fulfillment. A little black girl who wanted to rise up out of the pit of her blackness and see the world with blue eyes. His outrage grew and felt like power. For the first time he honestly wished he could work miracles. Never before had he really wanted the true and holy power only the power to make others believe he had it. It seemed so sad, so frivolous, that mere mortality, not judgment, kept him from it. (174) Some find Soaphead despicable in using Pecola to poison the dog he wishes would contend he should assume some of the blame for his actions since he is complicit in them. But Morrison shows that Soaphead too is a victim of an unjust society, and suggests that 82). Unlike Mr. Yacobowski, who tries so hard not to see or touch Pecola, Soaphead acknowledges her existence and claims to have loved her. Just as in the incest scene, Morrison makes her reader question the concept of love and were motivated by compassion. Certain she has been given
131 the bluest eyes, Pecola seems to think that what Soaphead did for her was a loving, nevertheless indicates how pedo philia is a part of patriarchal culture: he has been a victim of racism and domestic colonialism. Without suggesting that what these father figures do to female children is right, Morrison reveals the history of her male characters to explain how interrela ted are the forces of racism and rape. Despite his family ties and the formal education that has led him to deny his African roots, Soaphead admits that the white traits he and his family so eagerly display are their worst. At the beginning of his letter to God he implies that he knows he has been led astray: We in this colony took as our own the most dramatic, and the most worst. In retaining the identity of our race, we held fas t to those characteristics most gratifying to sustain and least troublesome to maintain. Consequently we were not royal but snobbish, not aristocratic but class conscious; we believed authority was cruelty to our inferiors, and education was being at schoo l. We mistook violence for passion, indolence for leisure, and thought recklessness was freedom. (177) Soaphead goes on to chastise God for leaving it to him to help a girl like Pecola, and for making little girls desirable and seductive, but his words sug gest that he understands that the white characteristics he has devoted his life to emulating may be his most terrible traits. He also shows awareness that the authority he demonstrates in his professional life as community healer is nothing but a pretense, like the feigned power of the ruling white
132 class, which is predicated on keeping racially othered and economically deprived people subservient. However, in the rest of his letter Soaphead retreats to his delusions, which seem easier to confront than the s tark reality of his existence. 9 He proceeds to undermine his assertions and emerges as a deeply troubled, culturally displaced man who, like Cholly, has been denied love and therefore does not know how to love. As Pecola administers the potion Soaphead con cocted for Bob the dog, she, and perhaps Soaphead, are really convinced that a miracle has been performed. However the reader can see that sanity. PlayJanePlay : Pecola Breedlove Concerned with commented on her mixed feelings about writing the novel. She provides insight into her uneven treatment of the masculine and feminin e sensibility, specifically in her ability to capture the voices of Cholly and Pauline: When I wrote that section on Cholly in The Bluest Eye I thought it would Pauline. And I thought, 9 Pecola, too, seems to retreat into madness because reality is too painful. As bell hooks writes in Black Looks: Race and Representation T he Bluest Eye (6).
133 it straight through. And it took me a long time maybe eight or nine hours the first time, not stopping at all. When I got to Pauline, whom I knew so well, I could not do it. I could anyway in the book because I used t in Stepto 386 87) like the emptiness left by a boom or a cry. It required a sophistication unavailable to me, and some deft manipulation of the voices around her. She is not seen by herself until she hallucinates a self. And the fact of her hallucination becomes a kind of outside the Many critics too have argued that it is problematic that Pecola remains undeveloped and is invisible and si lent in her own story. Bouson is particularly troubled as the narrative proliferates, telling stories including the tragic and sympathetic stories of Pauline, the co mplicit mother, and Cholly, the violating father around the empty 10 Even 10 er gender is what makes the book a work of genius: my mind, is her characterization of Cholly Breedlove, who rapes and impregnates his eleven year old daughter Pecola. While a lesser wr iter
134 Awkward notes the similarities between Pecola and Matty Lou, both of whom occupy words and makes one ambiguous action if she does so out of disgust to push him off of her or out of desire to hold him there. Also, a fourth of the novel is told from a third person perspective of the male characters, Cholly unanswerable questions. We are then provided with the history of Soaphead where we learn more about a m an who has been victimized by an imperialist, racist, classist, and with his chapter, I too would have been disappointed and read the novel as another form of objectif ying and victimizing the daughter figure by privileging the male perspective. an entire chapter in which Pecola attempts to author her story of trauma, which is framed by Cl witness, but, by piecing together vague conversations and community gossip, Claudia cannot help perceiving this father daughter tragedy as mutual. (qtd. in Doane and Hodges 39) Doane and H
135 Pec albeit divided voice are nonetheless present at the end of the text. Just as she had granted perspective to Cholly and Soaphead, who are otherwise invisible men, Morrison also gives voice t o Pecola and, as Fitzgerald had done, presents a realistic portrayal of a female character suffering from posttraumatic stress disorder brought on by father daughter incest. In the dialogue between Pecola and what one may consider an imaginary friend, the reader finds out that the incest happened more than once (at least twice), Sammy ran away, Pecola no wanted all along the bluest eyes. 11 Significantly, we learn all this information from Pecola herself. In this 12 page section, Morrison offers a realistic depiction of a trauma victim who has dissociated her traumatic experiences as perhaps a self preservation mechanism. Typical of many incest victims, Pecola faints after the first rape. Much like her somatic reactions that occur in extreme states of shame which include physiological but also the physical recision, anticipating recent discussions about the social and political context of family trauma. 11 Morrison titles her novel The Bluest Eye not Eye s, perhaps playing with the s saddest.
136 experiences, perhaps the most important being, a second incestuous experienc e. In the quickly turns into a question about how Pecola let Cholly sexually violate her. When abou t the first time. I mean about the second time, when you were sleeping on the couch about the second time? Pecola rushes on to other topics (Sammy, her blue eyes), the reader may have a difficult hat Saturday afternoon when (161). Aside from suggesting that Cholly is a repeat offender, she leaves it to the reader to judge him. Through her narrative withholding, she draws on her readers to decide the moral repercussions of incest happening more than once, which may lead to rethinking our previous assessments of Cholly. describe the second time to her imaginary friend, thus remaining unable to work through scene, Pecola is a character who lives outside of language. Morrison explains in her Afterwor
137 chapter, a contempt and herself through the eyes of white society and those in her community who have forever asking f or acceptance. She is unable to tell her story and fails to find her voice in madness; the best she can do is struggle to reconcile her dissociated other into a whole. un punctuated, indistinguishable primer paragraph that opens the novel. show who co more than a writer beyond the scope of any one artist existence to become coherent. As disappointing as the silent and silenced Pecola may be for some readers, the For this reason Grewal, The Bluest Eye as a complete tragedy. been told finally from a female point of view, told so well, and, I believe for the first time The Bluest Eye as Barbara
138 main first person narrator, Claudia attempts to understand the complexity of the issues surrounding father daughter incest and struggles to figure out whether Cholly is a villain, victim, or both. most humane outcome. 12 Sh these events could happen to someone so much like herself. However, as Claudia realizes, there is a significant difference between Pecola and Claudia and her sister Claudia and Frieda come from a l oving, supportive family. By the end, Claudia assumes at the heart of her year father; the entire community had a hand in raping Pecola. In a powerful confession, reminiscent of Soaph All of our waste which we dumped on her and which she absorbed. And all of our beauty, which was hers first and which she gave to us. All of 12 Like Ellison who t in tha t Morrison provides the plot details on the (214) But unlike Ellison who has the Trueblood name live on, Morrison kills off baby and Cholly, suggesting an end to the B reedlove line.
139 us all who knew her felt so wholesome after we cl eaned ourselves on her. We were so beautiful when we stood aside her ugliness. Her simplicity decorated us, her guilt sanctified us, her pain made us glow with health, her awkwardness made us think we had a sense of humor. Her inarticulateness made us beli eve we were eloquent. Her poverty kept us generous. Even her waking dreams we used to silence our own nightmares. (205) After revealing just how much the community depended on Pecola to make themselves look and feel better, Claudia explains that Pecola l eaves the community and retreats into madness. If Claudia reaches any conclusions about the incest, it is that Cholly loved his envelop her, give something of himself t views of father because it was too depressing. In her Afte rword, she explains that she thought the novelty victims or could be victims of rape the persons no one inquired of (certainly not in 4). And since Pecola does not possess the language to they pretended to be in the beginning, would have to do that for her, and would have to fill those silences with t
140 the discourse of incest was on the horizon. und courage after reading The Bluest Eye to author their own stories of sexual violence and many have used revisited the novel in an attempt to fill the void that is the dau Scott 97). The Bluest Eye second wave feminism has been ambivalent. Although politics are an undeniable part of her aesthetics, Morrison has questioned if it is possi ble to be a black feminist (qtd. in novels (qtd. in Suggs 35, qtd. in Jaffrey 140). Morrison insists that her novels are irrevocably black. According to Carolyn Denard, she ine cultural values that black women said in an early interview that she writes for black women with male perspectives as part of her feminist sensibility (qtd. in Russel l 46). Undeniably, issues of race, gender class, and nation mark the landscape of her work, which seeks to give power to historically silenced figures. An artist fully committed to works that are aesthetically powerful and politically involved, she writes beautifully and truthfully about the social and political dimensions of father daughter incest. In exposing the traumas of incest, imperialism, and racism, she suggests that they are interwoven threads of oppression. Composed of many
141 perspectives, The Blu est Eye is a brilliant synthesis that features the voice of the female victim and could experiences of black characters, and bears witness to the insidious trauma of paternal incest. References The Bluest Eye Toni Morrison: Critical Perspectives Past and Present Ed. Henry Louis Gates, Jr., and K. A. Appiah. New York: Amistad, 1993. 175 209. Print. Bennett, Narrating Mothers: Theorizing Maternal Subjectivities Ed. Brenda O. Daly and Maureen T. Reddy. Knoxville: U of Tennessee P, 1991. 125 38. Print. Studies in Black Literature 6 (1975): 21 23. Print. Bloom, Harold, ed. Modern Critical Views: Toni Morrison New York: Chelsea House, 1990. Print. --. The Bluest Eye. New York: Infob ase Publishing, 2010. Print. Bouson, J. Brooks. Morrison Albany: State U of New York P, 2000. Print. Toni Morrison: Critica l Perspectives Past and Present Ed. Henry Louis Gates, Jr. and K. A. Appiah. New York: Amistad, 1993. 59 99. Print.
142 Conner, Marc C. The Aesthetics of Toni Morrison: Speaking the Unspeakable Jackson: UP of Mississippi, 2000. Print. Demetrakopoulos, Step Toni The Bluest Eye. Ed. Harold Bloom. New York: Infobase Publishing, 2010. 64 67. Print. Crit ical Essays on Toni Morrison Ed. Ne llie McKay. Boston: Hall, 1988. 171 79. Print. Denard, Carolyn, ed. Toni Morrison: Conversations Jackson: UP of Mississippi, 2008. Print. Dickerson, Vanessa. The Bluest Eye Refig uring the Father: New Feminist Readings of Patriarchy Ed. Patricia Yaeger and Beth Kowaleski Wallace. Carbondale: Southern Illinois UP, 1989. 108 27. Print. Doane, Janice, and Devon Hodges. Telling Incest: Narratives of Dangerous Remembering from Stein t o Sapphire Ann Arbor: U of Michigan P, 2001. Print. Toni Morrison: Conversations Ed. Carolyn Denard. Jackson: UP of Mississippi, 2008. 98 106. Print. Ellison, Ralph. Invisible Man 1952 New York: Vintage, 1995. Print. Feng, Pin Chia. The Female Bildungsroman by Toni Morrison and Maxine Hong Kingston New York: Lang, 1997 Print. Fitzgerald, F. Scott. Tender Is the Night
143 Gates, Henry Louis. Figures in New York: Oxford UP, 1987. Print. Grewal, Gurleen. Circles of Sorrow, Lines of Struggle: The Novels of Toni Morrison Baton Rouge: Louisiana State UP, 1998. PDF file. Harris, Afro American Folk Tradition in The Bluest Eye Critical Essays on Toni Morrison Ed. Nellie McKay. Boston: Hall, 1988. 68 76. Print. hooks, bell. Black Looks: Race and Representation Boston: South End P, 1992. Print. Toni Morrison: Conversations Ed. Carolyn Denard. Jackson: UP of Mississippi, 2008. 228 59. Print. Toni Morrison: Conversations Ed. Carolyn Denard. Jackson: UP of Mississippi, 2008. 139 54. Print. Klot man, Phyllis and Jane and the Shirley Temple Sensibility in The Bluest Eye Black American Literature Forum 13.4 (1979): 123 2 5. Print. LeC Toni Morrison: Critical Pe rspectives Past and Present Ed. Henry Louis Gates, Jr. and K. A. Appiah. New York: Amistad, 1993. 369 77. Print. Lester, Rosemarie. Critical Essays on Toni Morrison Ed. N ellie McKay. Boston: Hall, 1988. 47 54. Print. The Bluest Eye The Explicator 60.4 (Summer 2002): 231 34. Literature Online Web. 21 Sept. 2008.
144 McKay, Nellie. Introduction. Critical Essays on Toni Morrison Boston: Hall, 1988. 1 15. Print. Push and the Signifying on Prior African tudes Anglaises 59.2 (2006): 170 85. Print. Morrison, Toni. The Bluest Eye 1970. New York: Plume, 1994. Print. --T IME .com TIME. 07 May 2008. Web. 20 Feb. 2011. --American Presence in American Michigan Quarterly Review 28.1 (1989): 1 34. Print. Peterson, Nancy, ed. Toni Morrison: Critical and Theoretical Approaches Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP, 1997. Print. The Bluest Eye Black American Literature Forum 21.4 (1987): 435 45. JSTOR Web. 06 Nov. 2010. Critical Essays on Toni Morrison Ed. Nellie McKay. Boston: Hall, 1988. 43 47. Print. Toni Morrison: Conversations Ed. Carolyn Denard. Jackson: UP of Mississippi, 2008. 62 90. Print. Scott, L Toni The Bluest Eye. Ed. Harold Bloom. New York: Infobase Publishing, 2010. 97 101. Print. Stein, Karen. Reading, Learning, Teaching Toni Morrison New York: Peter Lang, 2009. Print.
145 Toni Morrison: Critical Perspectives Past and Present Ed. Henry Louis Gates, Jr., and K. A. Appiah. New York: Amistad, 1993. 378 95. Print. n Interview with The Critical Response to Ralph Ellison Ed. Robert Butler. Westport: Greenwood P, 2000. 3 15. Print. Toni Morrison: Conversations Ed. Carolyn Denard. Jackson: UP of Mississip pi, 2008. 32 37. Print. The Bluest Ey e and Sula : Black Female Experience from Childhood to The Cambridge Companion to Toni Morrison Ed. Justine Tally. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2007. 11 25. Print. The Cambridge Companion to Toni Morrison Ed. Justine Tally. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2007. 1 7. Print. Ed. David Middleton. New York: Garland, 199 7. 3 25. Print.
146 Chapter V Bastard Out of Carolina Luce Irigaray, Speculum of the Other Woman (135 ) could make you hear. Behind my carefully buttoned collar is my nakedness, the struggle to find clean clothes, food, meaning, and money. Behind sex is rage, behind anger is love, behind this momen Dorothy Allison Two or Three Things I Know for Sure (39) Claiming Toni Morrison, Alice Walker, and Zora Neale Hurston as major influences in the development of her feminist voice, Dorothy Allison has commented on how struck she was by The Bluest Eye The Bluest Eye her own. And like The Bluest Eye which broke ground by being the first novel to have a little black girl Bastard Out of Carolina charts the coming of age of a character little seen in literature
147 what can happen when a father internalizes class hatred and unleashes his frustrations on his daughter. This semiautobiographical novel m arks a significant departure from daughter incest in that the story of sexual violation is told entirely from the perspective of the female victim herself. 1 In et Bildungsroman Boatwright authors a story that illuminates the insidious trauma surrounding the domestic to speech, A llison enables the traumatized subject to claim narrative as a way of working through trauma. Allison has said that in Bastard Out of Carolina put in print everything [she] understood that happens in a violent family whe re incest is Skin Skin 34 ). Her book is one of the first to explore the role of the mother in father daughter incest, as she tries to come to terms with how the him over her daughter. herself, all of whom are marked by classism and institutional mis ogyny. In recreating 1 it would have been a lot
148 capitalism enable father daughter incest. I also examine how Aunt Raylene, who assumes ctim to survivor. Tender Is the Night making. She had published with feminist, lesbian, and gay newspapers, periodicals, and presses for almost two decades, but the publication of Bastard moved her work to a mainstream press and readership. The novel that had begun as a poem in 1974 was bid on by two female editors; no male editors were interested. Carol De Santi at Dutton got the contract and gave Allison a $37,000 advance, a significant sum co nsidering Allison had $200 to her name before publishing the book It received flattering reviews in The New York Times Book Review the San Francisco Chronicle and The Village Voice It was scathing attack on writers of incest narratives. Although it was m ainly received as a novel written in the tradition of Southern regionalist fiction that told the story of working class families, many reviewers also emphasized the issue of sexual abuse. The novel garnered accolades (Sandell 222). It was a finalist for the 1992 National Book Award; it won the Ferro Grimly prize, the ALA Award for Lesbia n and Gay Writing, and the Bay Area Book Reviewers Award for fiction. It became a best seller and spawned an award winning (although for Allison, disappointing) film. Allison, the first in her family to graduate from high school, also reached another miles tone: her first novel established her as a major contemporary American author credited with altering the literary landscape.
149 white experience and father daughter incest, Bastard speaks previously unspoken truths about culturally marginalized figures. As it tells the tale of the damage done to Bone, the female incest victim who is disempowered by age, gender, and class, Bastard also reveals the psychological trauma, stemming from systems of oppression, that causes perpet rators to exploit and abuse more vulnerable members of society, such as female children. One difficulty for early critics was how to talk about poor white culture and father daughter incest without reinforcing stereotypes of poor southerners as sexually pe rverse, promiscuous, dirty, drunk, criminally minded, lazy, and stupid. In other words, how does one address these topics without suggesting that incest and inbreeding happen only in poor rural families? Allison herself has even said in jest, th Carolina virgin? year ( Trash popular view that white (36). Alliso n admits that to a degree her novel does reinforce standard images of white excuses for the behavior of her family members, Allison contextualizes the material realities of economic oppression and the romanticized view of heterosexuality to show Allison suggests, much as Mor rison had, that violence can be learned from domination as these metaphorically emasculated, socially impotent fathers come to resemble their oppressors. Kenneth Millard points out that Bastard social t
150 Since its publication critics have discussed how the novel both confirms and transcends stereotypes of poor white southerners. Provoking a steady stream of literary analysis, Bastard has been approached fro m diverse lenses. Critics over the last two decades have commented on its postmodern sensibility, narrative strategies and storytelling, southern locale, depictions of class, gender, sexuality, race, and region, the bending. Chapters on the novel have appeared in at least five books published in th e twenty Race and White Identity in Southern Fiction Embodied Shame: Uncovering Female Shame in Contemporary Corporeality, and Textuality in Contemporary American Culture Literary Trauma: Sadism, Memory, and Sexual Romance: Reading Incest in Neoliberal America In Class Definitions: On the Lives and Writings o f Maxine Hong Kingston, Sandra Cisneros, and Dorothy Allison Michelle M. Tokarczyk discusses how socioeconomic class shapes these writers and their works. The first (and to date only) collection of essays exclusively on Allison was published in 2004: Crit ical Essays on the Works of American Author Dorothy Allison edited by Christine Blouch and Laurie Bastard
151 Per ceptive critics pointed out, and Allison candidly acknowledged, that Bone is a thinly traces and the effects of subverting clear genre distinctions between fiction and autobiog raphy. Allison, who labors to humanize without idealizing her characters, th at she is driven by compassion and a desire to get at why these people are the way they are, including Glen. Acknowledging the stereotypes that have been foisted on her and her loved ones, Allison has stated, I show you my aunts in their drunken rages, my uncles in their meanness. broken down cars and our dirty babies. Some of that stuff is true. But to write about it I had to find a way to pull the reader in and show you those people as larger than that contemptible myth. And show you why those protect themselves or their children. Show you human being s instead of fold up, mean, cardboard figures. (Hollibaugh 16) horrible, you novel most of the uncles do think they have the right to stay drunk from sunset on Friday
152 smoke, drive jacked up cars, talk dirty, display frightenin g members, however, of a close knit family who genuinely love each other (McDonald 18). For example, even though Bone notes that her uncles go to jail as early and often a s some people go to school, these same uncles make gifts, such as coin purses, hair barrettes, and key tags, for their nieces during their stints at the county farm. end of documented about him, Allison has revealed that he raped her from the time she was five month Two or Three Things 39). The scene in Chapter Four in which Glen molests Bone in the hospital parking lot while Anney has a miscarriage is based on actual events. In an interview with Marilyn Strong, Allison confided that her stepf ather gave her gonorrhea when she was twelve, which left her sterile (96) Most right to tell their stories (Graff 47). To this day, he lives in denial, claiming he n ever San Francisco Focus touched her at all. I did everything I possibly could for that girl all my l Despite the fact that her stepfather has called her a liar, she is sensitive and even
153 compassion as she humanizes Glen and shifts the responsibility for f ather daughter incest away from the indictment of any one individual. circumstances surrounding Bon a drunk driving accident, an unconscious teenage mother, and the word illegitimate stamped on her birth certificate happened to Allison, whose mother was a grade school drop out, working as a waitress, and one month past fifteen when she gave birth ( Skin 15). Literally unconscious during not say the words I knew he was fucking you. She could only say: I never meant for those things to happen. in Hollibaug words, which suggests that, even though she knew what was happening, naming the incest was impossible for her. However, Allison seems to understand why her mother was so evasive, and, through writing Bastard she arguably comes to forgive her for Allison remarks the obsessive compulsive need for heterosexual validation to which her mother, aunts, and many other women fall prey. Aware of the harshnes s of
154 r culture think the shame [my mother] felt was one of the reasons she stayed with my stepfather. o notes the hold that her stepfather had on her mother, with marriage reinforcing his claims to patriarchal d. in Jetter 56). Still living six after suffering from mother apologized to her for the abuse she ha d endured; trying to explain that she never (168). 2 forgive her in order to show a child w dichotomies of victim and perpetrator. It becomes clear that she is not out to seek revenge 2 For a fuller account of her Skin: Talking About Sex, Class and Literature
155 Putting into Print Father Daughter Incest If the events Allison writes about so movingly actually happened, why does she turn to fiction to recount them? She anticipates this question with what critical theorists such as Cathy Caruth, Shoshana Felman, and Ronald her account for personal reasons, her timing was also apt: in the early nineties when the novel was published, mainstream presses were s tarting to publish novels about incest and sexual trauma in what would come to be seen as a publishing explosion. Allison thus spearheaded a trend. In fictionalizing her story, she was also able to draw out the broader cultural implications of a personal s tory, conveying a keen sense of ethical and political urgency. Like Morrison and Ellison, Allison is concerned with how a classist society contributes to the problem of father daughter incest And like them, she is concerned with depicting her father figu re as something other than a villain. In her first person account, told retrospectively by Bone from the ages of seven to thirteen, Allison asks what causes some fathers to commit incest. In the case of Glen Waddell, his pathology takes the form of paterna l incest because of the pressures of trying to compensate for what his father sees as his failures in a capitalistic and patriarchal society. Strikingly, Glen does not come from the poor white class: his family is comfortably and consciously middle class, part of a patriarchal southern culture that prides itself on property ownership. His father, Mr. Bodine Waddell, owns Sunshine Dairy; the oldest brother, Daryl, is a lawyer; and the
156 other brother, James, a dentist. Their wives are housewives, enjoying the luxury of not having to work outside the house and frowning on women who do. In contrast to the men in his family, Glen works in menial, low paying jobs. When, at seventeen, he first meets little Glen Waddell 11). The precocious his inability to live up class standards. To compensate, Glen does what his society has taught him to do; he turns to women to reassert a masculinity defined as domination. Glen chooses Anney, and in a scene in which we clearly se e what Gayle Rubin for pursuing a Boatwright woman. 3 From the beginning we know that Glen is attracted boy reputation. In a brother Earle brings Glen to the White Horse Caf where she works so they can meet. Earle makes sure the meeting takes place after an appropriate lapse of time since the y for a number of not so noble reasons. Marriage, he (like Cholly Breedlove) thinks, will provide access to patriarchal privilege, 3 that considers its consequences for women, the object of masculine exchange. She argues that the heteropatriarchal construction assures male ownership rights over females.
157 and marrying into a family less fortunate than the Waddells is an act of rebellion that allows Glen to disgrace his family. F of the Boatwright boys, who are feared and even oddly respected by the rest of the community for their bad tempers and violent ways. Like Morrison, whose narrative the whole Boatwright legend, shame his daddy and shock his brothers. He would carry a knife in his pocket and kill dependency on the Boatwrights shows his internalization of the ideals of a sexist, elitist, patriarchal society. Flexing his masculinity, he comes to see himself as the rightful owner of the female bodies of his new family members. the insidious trauma he experiences, blurring any clear distinction between victim and abound in the novel. Although well aware of his black stay long, but a young Bone knows
158 It was true. Around his father, Glen became unsure of himself and too careful. He broke out in a sweat, and hi s eyes kept flickering back to his most to see. He would pull at his pants like a little boy and drop his head if anyone asked him a question. (99) Furthermore, Anney tells her sist love so much and had so little of it. All Glen really needs is to know himself loved, to get is quick to identify Gle justify what he does to her daughter. he struggles financially. He has married beneath his class, canno t hold a steady job, cannot make good on the rent, and, on at least one occasion, cannot feed his family. In a memorable scene, Anney resorts to feeding her daughters soda crackers and ketchup with salt and pepper after Glen is laid off from yet another jo b. The scene ends with what the disappointments is his inability to achieve the myth of fatherhood and produce children of his own. When Glen Jr. dies in childbirth, h is failures in a capitalistic and patriarchal society collide. Perhaps not coincidentally, Glen Jr. dies the same time that Glen first molests Bone in the hospital parking lot. Juxtaposing these two traumatic events, Allison suggests that the death of Glen now legally his daughter. Unable to father his own son and carry on the Waddell name, Glen cannot even afford to buy a burial site. According to Bone, not having enough
159 money to buy a plot for From that day, Glen becomes obsessed with patriarchal independence, making the family Cholly, Glen moves his family to the socially Despite her sympathetic portrayal of her stepfather, Bone does not excuse his abuse of her as she starts to see the truth of what her mother has said all along that Glen suffers from the abuse of his own father. She sees firsthand how tightly intertwined poverty and abuse are, but she also shows an awareness that Glen assumes the role of oppressor. After he goes to work for h is father earning less than the other routemen, Bone Glen had stuttered when his fathe r spoke to him. That old man was horrible, and working father and that he is no stranger to the hunger and rage she feels while in the company of the more privileged. Y et she also begins to understand that despite what Glen has the Waddells attack Glen verbally; his abuse of Bone is emotional, physical, and sexual.
160 Why Anney Was Not Able to Save At the heart of Bastard is the story of Anney Boatwright, who is sixteen years old of age as shaped by her and capitalistic norms: Anney, along with most of her sisters, has b ought into the standards as well. As Morrison comments on the tragic results of internalizing white heteropatriarchal practices. In a culture in which women are old at twenty five and me n these strong women they all believe that suffering it what they are supposed to do. And y breed insecurity and self doubt in Pecola and Sammy, so do the Boatwrights breed suffering and uncertainty into their children. Anney is unable to see how shame has controlled her relation to her own body y, a stamp of shame she wishes to erase. Since Anney goes into labor after being knocked unconscious as a result of a drunk driving accident, she is unable to provide a name for her baby daughter. And since troubled by the fact that there is no man to give Bone a last name, as Granny ran him out Despite her efforts to make it appear that
161 Bone is not fatherless in a patriarchal culture, Anney fails and is left with two babies and all by the age of nineteen. To compensate, Anney agrees to marry Glen, with on e of her first thoughts of him being that he would which she thinks will protect her and her girls from class prejudice, actually makes it easier for the abuse and incest to happen. The union between Glen and Anney grants The dangerous privilege of male entitlement only escalates throughout the novel, unhindered by Anney. For many readers, Anney emerges as a woman who actions or motiv ations Glen beat me there was always a reason, and Mama would stand right outside the bathroom door. Afterward she would cry and wash my face and tell me not to be so rstand how her daughter is always bruising herself; abuse. But not until the very end of the book does Bone chastise her mother for failing to intervene. Instead of b laming her for a series of bad choices, which some readers might
162 do, Allison reveals the lack of freedom Anney has in making choices and the factors that prevent her from exposing the familial secret of child abuse and leaving her abusive husband. Bone rec rewarded settled women with a small dose of respectability and, most importantly, against being a singl e mother may explain why Anney, who does move out temporarily, is ultimately unable to leave Glen, even after she witnesses the rape of her daughter with her own eyes. As we see in the novel, Anney is not the only one to long for heterosexual validation. Most of the Boatwright women have internalized patriarchal ideals to cheating, she separates from him boys started Bone le arns at a young age the unequal power dynamics in which men are granted certain they marry (23). Bone comments on the stark differences between the females and the males in her family: My aunts treated my uncles like overgrown boys rambunctious teenagers whose antics were more to be joked about than worried over and they seemed to think of themselves that way too. They looked young, even out, while the aunts Ruth, Raylene,
163 Alma, and even Mama seemed old, worn down, and slow, born to mother, nurse, and clean up after the men. (23) death, used up, and thrown the novel, as her beauty wanes during her marriage to Glen. The men at the diner who once talked about how pretty Anney is start to talk about how pretty she had been (120). Similarly and not coincid she goes back to him, she assumes her tired, haggard looks. Repudiating a sentimental view of poverty, Allison shows how these women literally embody their hardships. She also gestures toward a larger truth: healthy heterosexual relationships are impossible when masculinity and femininity are constituted in and through structures of oppression. Allison il lustrates how Western standards of female beauty weigh on the women, sentiments are echoed man thought you were pretty sometime, and the more babies she got, the more she knew she was worth someth 31). Anney says she wanted to cry and hit Ruth when she told her that, but Anney, as Bone begins to understand, has also internalized standards of oppression and wants the love of a man, at all costs. Bone remains unsure throughout the story abou culture that celebrates beauty and marriage (32). It is therefore no surprise when, as her
164 wanted to be more like the girls in the storybooks, princesses with pale skin and tender unattainable standards of beauty and to convince herself that no part of her is beau tiful and that is why Daddy Glen is so hateful towards her. Even Ruth, who glimpses that all the signs of abuse are there and who speaks with the wisdom of a dying woman, is so committed to patriarchal norms that even in her final days, she still excuses male behavior. In a poignant scene Bone attempts to break her relationship with Anney (12 3). However, like Anney and her other sisters who infantilize baby more than her hu is no wonder tha t when Ruth presses the question about Glen touching Bone, she denies her explanation normal discipl
165 been ready to tell the truth, her family was not ready to listen. Unlike Ruth and Anney who, f or almost the entire novel, are unable to bear biography at its core (61). Bone shares w ith the reader the fact that her mother weeps for happiness, that under that bis cuit crust exterior she was all butter grief and hunger, that more than anything else in the world she wanted someone strong to love her like she Glen temporarily bre the couch, and cried so quietly I could just barely hear her through the closed door. I curled up on the far side of the bed and listened to the small sounds of her weeping until I fell asl her family members who try, unsuccessfully, to warn her against marrying Glen. Great Aunt out the sides of his eyes like some old junkyard dog waiting to steal a bone. And you
166 already has her heart set on remarrying and staying wed. abuse: the horrific rape scene placed at the end is a turning point for not jus t Anney, but also for Bone, who, unlike Pecola and Matty Lou, finds her voice and starts to hold her parents accountable for their actions. Regarding the placement of the scene Minrose novel, we, like leading up to the rape show how Bone has been conditioned to victimhood, coming to see herself as less than human and deserving of the inevitable rape. Al though her alienation, sense of shame, and emotional disconnection are prominent during the scene in which her and emotional abuse she has previously endured are sugge insidious trauma may be more damaging than what is literally done to her body. After suffering much pain at the hands of her stepfather Bone is confronted by Glen in a passage that shows his despair transforming into indescribable violence but also, and s indoctrination into a patriarchal culture as it conveys father daughter incest as an expression of patriarchy, a systematic organization of regulated power in which women are oppressed by men (280).
167 is the first book in this study to devote man y pages twelve consecutive pages to detailing the traumatizing rape of the confused and terror stricken twelve year eanut butter sandwiches to take with her on a picnic. At this point in the novel, Bone, along with her mother and sister, are living with Aunt Alma because Aunt Raylene discovered the domestic abuse, calling it to the attention of the entire family. As a h ealing Bone is giggling at the Bone, who is accustomed to retreating into silence, stands up to her father in this and the of age status gett (280 family by (W oo 699). Contradicting what he had just said about Bone growing into womanhood
168 e, who had like imagery, Bone divulges details, making the reader share in her pain and despair. As he violently en [her] li awakens to the sight of her mother. The outcome for Bone is just as upsetting as it was for Pecola, who tells her imaginary friend that her mother refused to believe the inces t had occurred. As in The Bluest Eye the rape scene does not end with the mother comforting her daughter. Instead, Anney mothers Glen. Ann Cvetkovich (346). This is a question Allison clearly struggles with. The reader knows that Bone mainly keeps quiet about the abuse
169 keep him in a subservient state, Bone had come to identify as a victim who assumed all been afraid to scream, afraid to fight. I had always felt like it was my fault, but now it (291). In her a her own need for that love (291). There is some question about categorizing what happens between Trueblood and Matty Lou, and even between Cholly and Pecola, but there is no doubt in Bastard that Bone is both raped and traumatized. The rape is the climax of the story, yet Allison eriences. From chapters Nine to Seventeen, as Vincent King points out, the narrative becomes less concerned with Masturbation, Lesbianism, and Narration A striking feature of the novel is Alli internal splitting or division of body and mind, a response we also saw with Pecola, the novel suggests that for Bone masturbation is therapeutic: it all ows her to work through trauma by reclaiming a body that has suffered many forms of injury. Allison is able to write about incest without
170 repetition simultaneously acts out t he trauma and creates authority and agency for herself. She notes the paradoxical situation fantasies with peopl at least temporarily for those who are enduring severe trauma. Bone is at times unable to separate her sexual desire from the experience of being abused, and Allison has been criticized for her controversial linking of childhood sexual abuse with practices of sadomasochism. But Bone wo rks through, and at times seemingly masters, her sexual abuse by repeating it in fantasy. Through masturbation she is able to recreate the punishment so that she pleasurably relives the event and phantasmatically controls it. In addition to masturbating to thoughts of her father, having orgasms to images of I dreamed I was a baby again, five or younger, lea hip, her hands on my shoulders. She was talking, her voice above me like a whisper between stars. Everything was dim and safe. Everything was warm and quiet. She held me and I felt loved. She held me and I knew who I was. When I put my hand down between my legs, it was not a sin. It was like her murmur, like music, like a prayer in the dark. It was meant to be, and it was a good thing. (253)
171 However, Glen is not a part of this fantasy. Longing for the comfort her mother fails to provide, Bone uses masturbation as a way to reconnect with her mother. Tanya Horeck finds the abandonment by Anney to be more traumatic than the violation by Daddy Glen and arg her mother. In this final fantasy Anney certainly provides for Bone in a way she never did in real life, and makes good on the promise she once made to her young daughter th at throughout the course of the novel suggests that the healing process must en gage the body (qtd. in Jetter 57). Bone moves from passivity to activity by learning to enjoy her body and turn the senseless abuse into gratifying acts. Along with the potential to heal herself through masturbatory fantasies, another saving grace for Bon e is the character of Aunt Raylene who, as we learn in the last chapter, is a lesbian. Unlike her sisters, Aunt Raylene does not adhere to patriarchal practices such as marriage and pregnancy; nor does she feel less of a person for being born into poverty: always been different from her sisters. She was quieter, more private, living alone with sisters, Ra ylene has rented the same house for most of her adult life. Commenting further ).
172 in having to choose between husband and daughter because Raylene had made th e is the one who finds the bruises on Bone and makes the abuse known to the rest of the family. Unlike her mother and other aunts who inundate Bone with not so subliminal messages about how to grow up to be a housewife and mother, Raylene instills a sense that heteropatriarchal ideologies can be resisted. She teaches Bone to question a system that defines women as selfless wives who mother their husbands sometimes at the ne glect of their children. The fact that Raylene is a positive lesbian model may suggest that Bone Allison drops subtle hints about Bon however, the lesbian theme is understated in Bastard becoming more prominent, but still ambiguous, in the final chapter. 4 In the concluding scene, as she delivers Anney leaves her daughter in the care of Raylene (309). The irony is that she gains legitimacy through disinheritance in addition to having no father, Bone is now left without her birth mother. As Bone rests her 4 est girl child we iked feeling a part of something nasty and strong and separate from my big rough boy cousins and the whole
173 Who had Mama been, what had she wanted to be or to do before I was born? Once I was born, her hopes had turned, and I had climbed up her life like a flower reaching for the sun. Fourteen and terrified, fifteen and a mother, just past twenty one when she married Glen. Her life had folded into mine. What would I be like when I was fifteen, twenty, thirty? Would I be as strong as she had been, as hungry for love, as desperate, determined, and ashamed? (309) different question what makes her stay as she seems to have some understanding that a Bone offers honest questions, much as Cholly does in The Bluest Eye about her mother as well as her own emerging identity. As Bone draws Raylene closer to her, she notes that greater autonomy, it is clear that in tracing her heritage through the women in her family, Bone is becoming comfortable with her a life that challenges the patriarchal order in which femininity is oftentimes traumatizing. Alli
174 Allison leaves us with and her love may indicate that lesbianism offers Bone an alternative to the dangers of heterosexuality and a way o ut of the cycle of abuse. Bastard (Cvetkovich 350). An out lesbian who has written explicitly about sex in other works, write the lesbian Bildungsroman in Bastard not about growing up queer successfully, and I got the real strong impression from talking to people was, what they hoped I would writ did not want to link incest and lesbianism and thereby imply that lesbianism is the only recourse to father more lesbians ( Two or Three Things if thinking in dichotomies, but as the novel powerfully shows, binaries like victim/victimizer can be deceptive. An imp ortant lesson Raylene teaches Bone is to author a different version of her story, one that turns senseless violence into meaningful artwork. Literally collecting trash out of the river she lives near, Raylene illustrates to Bone the transformative power of the individual. B astard Out of Carolina is a story of childhood sexual abuse, but it is also a significant. For Bone, storytelling has always been a part of her life an d she has stories, it was one of the things we were known for, and what one cousin swore was
175 y, an avid storyteller, seems to be the one most guilty of failing to distinguish fact from fiction: She would lean back in her chair and start reeling out story and memory, making no distinction between what she knew to be true and what she had only hear d told. The tales she told me in her rough, drawling whisper were lilting songs, ballads of family, love, and disappointment. Everything seemed to come back to grief and blood, and everybody seemed legendary. (26) This reconstruction of reality mesmerizes young Bone, who learns that tragedy can be stories as threats to his patriarchal control. Glen dismisses Granny, instructing Bone and However, from the time of the rape on, Bone has no intention of allowing Glen to own reality. Well into her abuse, Bone starts to tell frighteni gruesomely raped and murdered, babies cooked in pots of boiling beans, vampires and soldiers and long razor sharp knives. Witches cut off the heads of children and grown ups. Gangs of women rode in on motorcycles and set fire opened and green can be read as a cry for help, but they also suggest that in creating fictional stories, Bone
176 is learning to gain critical distance from her trauma and to reconstruct reality. At a crucial stares into his eyes, she like Friedel comments on how important narration is for Bone, and by implication, for incest victims in their t ransition to survivor: [Bone] is aware that in order to fully overcome this traumatic experience she will have to be able to tell a story of it to herself, fit it into a mental signifies for her, in her memory, Bone will be able to assimilate it all into narrative language, a story she can tell herself about herself that she will be able to use to transform emerging feelings of shame into a source of empowerment. (36 37) Despite the eno rmity of the obstacles she faces, Bone knows that reinventing herself through narration and by putting a different ending on her story than the one her stepfather wants will aid her in authoring her own story and taking back a part of herself. In her fi ctional Bastard Out of Carolina which is not entirely fictive, Allison possess at that age. She makes Bone get angry at thirteen, which Allison thinks will save Bone unlike Allison, who did not get angry until she was in her twenties (Megan 73). Effectively rewriting her own story, Allison is pleased with the ending of her book in
177 t Through storytelling, Allison is able to counter the physical and economic domination of a patriarchal society that at one point crippled herself and her protagonist. Ev en though Allison is optimistic about the healing potential of fiction, which to her describes a better world than the one she knew, some of her critics are more skeptical. Allison is granted agency but it is by telling the story of a violated feminine sexual innocence. Similarly, Horvitz questions how one can preserve memories of horrific brutality without repeating o author her story, Allison insists that writing is redeeming. To her, it is a form of resistance and a subversive way to uncover the class structure and the abuse that such inequities breed. Storytelling became a strategy for Allison not only to comment o n social oppression but also to make sense out of her own life. Skin 218). In effect, then, Bastard Out of Carolina can be read as making meaning out of a senseless experience. Throu gh the act of storytelling Bone helps save herself; through the act of writing Allison learns to survive the trauma that she captures so powerfully in her about my life simply and easily to the patriarchy, or to incest, or even to the invisible and much relations and helps us understand why father daughter incest continues ( Skin 15 16). Her wor k is transgressive in telling her story in her own words as it questions the legitimacy of patriarchal, legal family structures that do not protect children as they claim.
178 Transforming the disabling effect of traumatic experience to an empowering story of survivorship, she makes good on her promise to her readers to break their hearts and then heal them ( Skin 212). Like the story of the impoverished Pecola Breedlove, in which Allison saw her own experience, the story of Bone inspired a generation of female some of these writers relinquish the label fiction in order to achieve a more effective representation of father daughter incest. References Allison, Dorothy. Bast ard Out of Carolina New York: Plume, 1992. Print. --. Skin: Talking About Sex, Class & Literature Ithaca: Firebrand, 1994. Print. --. Trash New York: Plume, 1988. Print. --. Two or Three Things I Know for Sure New York: Dutton, 1995. Print. Blouc h, Christine, and Laurie Vickroy, eds. Critical Essays on the Works of American Author Dorothy Allison Lewiston: Edwin Mellen P, 2004 Print. Bouson, J. Brooks. Embodied Shame: Uncovering Female Shame in Contemporary Albany: State U of NY P, 2009. PDF file. Incest and the Literary Imagination Ed. Elizabeth Barnes. Gainesville: UP of Florida, 2002. 329 57. Print. Di Prete, Laura. Contemporary American Culture New York: Routledge, 2006. Print.
179 Duvall, John N. Race and White Identity in Southern Fiction: From Faulkner to Morrison New York: Palgrave, 2008. PDF file. Ellison, Ralph. Invisi ble Man 1952 New York: Vintage, 1995. Print. Fitzgerald, F. Scott. Tender Is the Night White Trash Myths in Bastard Out of Caroli na Critical Essays on the Works of American Author Dorothy Allison Ed. Christine Blouch and Laurie Vickroy. Lewiston: Edwin Mellen P, 2004. 29 54. Print. New York Times 5 Jul. 1992: 3. Print Gilmore, Leigh. The Limits of Autobiography: Trauma and Testimony Ithaca: Cornell UP, 2001. Print. Graff, J Poets and Writers Magazine (Jan Feb. 1995): 40 49. Print. d Survivor Discourse: Reading the Incest Story Haunted Bodies: Gender and Southern Texts Ed. Anne Goodwyn Jones and Susan V. Donaldson. Charlottesville: UP of Virginia, 1997. 416 40. Print. Harkins, Gillian. ly Romance: Reading Incest in Neoliberal America Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 2009. Print. (July 1992): 16 17. JSTOR Web. 17 Mar. 2009.
180 riting the Fiction of Childhood in Dorothy Bastard Out of Carolina New Formations 42 (2000): 47 56. Print. Horvitz, Deborah. Literary Trauma: Sadism, Memory, and Sexual Violence in American Albany: State U of NY P, 2000. PDF f ile. --Corregidora Bastard Out of Carolina Contemporary Literature 39.2 (1998): 238 61. JSTOR Web. 11 May 2009. Irigaray Luce. Speculum of the Other Woman Trans. Gillian C. Gill. Ithaca: Cornell UP, 1985. Print. ive Strategies in Bastard Out of Carolina College Literature 25.2 (1998): 94 107. Print. Jetter, Alex New York Times Magazine 17 Dec. 1995: 54 57. Print. Bastard Out of Carolina by Dorothy Allison. The Nation 20 Dec. 1993: 815 16. Print. Bastard Out of Carolina Southern Literary Journal 33.1 (2000): 122 40. JSTOR Web. 11 May 2 009. Bastard Out of C arolina 26 (1998): 15 25. Print.
181 Megan, Carolyn. The Kenyon Review 16.4 (1994): 71 83. Print. Millard, Kenneth. Coming of Age in Contemporary American Fiction Edinb urgh: Edinburgh UP, 2007. Print. Morrison, Toni. The Bluest Eye 197 0. New York: Plume, 1994. Print. Progressive 59.7 (1995): 30 34. Print. (Nov 1995): 65 68 71. P rint. The Second Wave: A Reader in Feminist Theory Ed. Linda Nicholson. New York: Routledge, 1997. 27 62. Print. the Work White Trash: Race and Class in America Ed. Matt Wray and Annalee Newitz. New York: Routledge, 1997. 211 30. Print. San Francisco Focus ( June 1994): 61 98. Print. Tokarczyk, Michelle Class Definitions: On the Lives and Writings of Maxine Hong Kingston, Sandra Cisneros, and Dorothy Allison Selinsgrove: Susquehanna UP, 2008. Print. Mother/Daughter Conflict Bastard Out of Carolina English Language and Literature 49.4 (2003): 689 705. Print
182 Chapter VI The Failure of Bearing Witness: The Kiss : A Memoir When Dorothy Allison published her semiautobiographical account of father daughter incest in her 1992 Bastard Out of Carolina no one batted an eyelash. Her novel confirmed what most readers suspected father daughter incest is found in the home s of poor, southern, white trash families who lack the rationality and morality necessary to control their impulses. Despite problematizing such pattern by having the abuse initiated by a man whose family is comfortably middle eived as an suggests that violence was endemic to the South Carolina landscape in which she grew up and in which jokes about inbred white trash held some truth. The s ame cannot be said of The Kiss published five years after Bastard A three time novelist, Harrison had published a good part of the material she uses in The Kiss including the father daughter incest, as fiction in a book titled Thicker T han Water in 1991. However, when she published The Kiss: A Memoir controversy ensued. This was not the semiautobiographical tale of Dorothy Allison growing up poor and being sexually abused by her stepfather. Nor was it the fictional first person accoun t of father daughter incest authored by Harrison. Instead, it was the story of paternal incest told from the perspective of a member of the white, upper middle class New York literati. Worst of all just a story. Subtitling her work a memoir, Harr ison stripped the account of its fictional to swallow.
183 Through writing The Kiss Harrison engaged in what Suzette Henke calls ing out and writing through traumatic experience memory through writing can be helpful: she states that to successfully work through trauma one should convert traumatic m emory, which merely and unconsciously repeats the past, into narrative memory, which narrates the past as past. Hence, she claims that physioneurosis induced by terror can apparently be reversed through the use of Trauma 177, 183). The idea is that the authorial effort to reconstruct a story of psychological debilitation could offer potential for mental healing and begin to alleviate symptoms common to th ose suffering from PTSD. Writing, in these cases, becomes a protective space that encourages critical distance. Herman and Henke see much value in narrative recovery, meaning both the recovery of past experience through narrative articulation and the psych ological reintegration of a trauma victim. However, Herman, along with Dori Laub and Shoshana Felman, point out that there is another important piece to the healing process the case of The Kiss man y reviewers were unwilling to do that. Many in fact went so far the reviewers fail to attest to her story of incest, is another manifestation of the insidious trauma s of heteropatriarchy which sent the message that at the turn of the century, talking about father daughter incest was still taboo. In addition to what is revealed in the memoir, the ensuing controversy and the Harriso
184 expose the tumultuous, abusive social network that continues to create yet deny, father daughter incest. explored in this dissertation in significant ways. The in cest for Tender Is the Night Nicole, Invisible Man Matty Lou (if there was in fact incest at all), The Bluest Eye Pecola, and Bastard Out of Carolina Bone occurred when the girls were children. Not so for Harrison. The incest did not begin for Harr ison until her father, who had been cast out of her life when she was a toddler, waltzed back into her life when she was twenty years old, a week after her twentieth birthday, to be exact. Unlike the other daughters, Harrison did not grow up with her fathe r or father figure. Her parents, who had met as teenaged virgins and had a shotgun wedding, were married for less than a year, divorcing only twice once when she is fiv e and the other time when she is ten. Instead of the four year run, not ending until her mother loses her battle with breast cancer. And, instead of documenting the in Invisible Man and, to a lesser extent, in The Bluest Eye 1 Even more telling, her father is not even granted a name he remains nameless throughout the entire narrative. 2 1 Because the father is not granted much voice in the memoir, Gillian Harkins suggests that Th e Kiss the father is portrayed as a peripheral figure (214). 2 K K mentioned only once in the memoir K K
185 Unlike Fitzgerald, who includes letters written from Nicole to Dick, as we saw in but she does where is portrayed more as a consensual matter than one of childhood exploitation, and the act of sex is elided. Nonetheless, The Kiss does not understate the horrors of incest. In The Kiss is a traumatic event even if the victim is grown, even if her father is not som eone she has definition of incest while still showing the abusive power it entails. Unfortunately, some of the reviewers did not concur: they cried that instead of deservin g credit, the book deserved contempt. 3 (10). 3 Despite attracting muc h negative atten tion from many reviewers and making for quite the literary event, the memoir did not provoke nearly as much scholarly debate. To date, one can still easily mine the scholarly articles and essays written on the work. Currently, there are no book length studies devoted to The Kiss: A Memoir or to Kathryn Harrison. Two dissertations feature discussion on The Kiss Revelations: Forms of Incest Telling in 20 th
186 terms told her to shut up. For example, at the Wall Street Journal widely ignored words of advice for Ms. Harrison and her discussion of father daughter incest to cease. He ends his scathing review in which he calls The Kiss on and on about this book, piling one abusive paragraph upon another, is extreme, but ngely, not heeding his own The Kiss In the coyly titled father daughter incest, should be kept secret. He writes, Eakin maintains that one does not make front page news f or violating literary traditions. He claims that Harrison was condemned for the act of self narration itself and for violating privacy I, Rigoberta Mench The Kiss and S candalous Self Jacqueline Hodgson The Kiss Challenges of Disclosing Fath er The Kiss
1 87 The Bellarosa Connection this continually impresses me will keep things to themsel so disguised way of saying essentially what Crossen said shut up already. Mary Gordon and Catharine Stimpson are indeed right to d etect a dose of misogyny in the re views and the responses they generat ed, one of which is titled Wolcott Smacks Kathryn Harrison in the Kisser (qtd. in Begley 31). The Memoir In part, these reviewers were lashing out at the genre of memoir, the ever so popular literary form of the 1990s that they felt was being ov erused and abused. It seems likely that the reviewers were tiring of the confessional, testimonial form of discourse that is at times self absorbing and self indulgent. For instance, Crossen reduces The Kiss narcissistic narrative of solipsism, the memoir, both the genre of and this particular with and draws on conventions of fiction an (Marshall 404, emphasis added). Therefore, it is a liberal discourse that challenges the obviously raises questions of referentiality a 60). However, most reviewers of The Kiss took memoir to mean autobiography and charged Ha rrison with purposely misrepresenting events in the book. Tobias Wolff, a memoirist himself and sympathizer
188 with Harrison, argued that The Kiss was an easy target for reviewers to vent their frustrations with memoirs. He recognizes the literary merit of th to know how a man of flesh and blood, not of fiction, made sense of what had been done way of working through trauma, the reviewers found it devoid of art and an easy avenue Is this why, when Harrison published the same material (some of it word for word) as fiction, she was praised, but when she did as memoir, she was criticized? 4 really criticizing the genre of memoir, Yardley states written in his 35 year 4 Thicker Than Water attracted favorable reviews. For example, Washington Post Emerson praised the Similarly, New York Times other perceptiv e reviewers commented on the thinly veiled autobiographical references. Diana Dekker from the Evening Post stated that Thicker Than Water Isabel Isabel/Kathryn, Michiko Kakuta ni from the New York Times authorial distance between Isabel and her creator, almost no indication that this is a novel literary scene with her reviewers of Thicker Than Water glimpsed that she became a publishing event.
189 med to be distressed by its content. They were concerned with the taboo subject Harrison was so unflinchingly revealing. Put simply, they had a difficult time believing that the story of father daughter incest was Eberstadt cites the interview Harrison gave after the publication of Thicker T han Water in which Harrison states that she had m daughter incest described in The Kiss Likewise, Yardley questions the validity of the he wonders if what Harrison describes actually eerily similar to that used by the False Memory Syndrome Foundation, who discredit the truth of father daughter incest, insisting that therapists plant false memories of incest in the minds of their female patients. 5 Eberstadt and Yardley were not alone in their quest 5 The False Memory Syndrome Foundation (FMSF) was founded in 1992, one year after Harrison published Thicker T han W ater and five years before The Kiss A non profit organization funded by membership dues and contributions from families and friends, FMSF was started by Pamela and Peter Freyd after their daughter accused them (wrongly they felt) of childhood sexual abuse Advocating for parents who believe they have been academics and professionals, and researchers in the fields of memory and clinical practice were sought out to form its advis ory board. The goal of the organization spread from advocacy to attempting to address issues of memory. Describing itself as a scientific organization, FMSF engages in partisan political and social activity. In focusing on problems of memory, some of their activities have excused criminal behavior and reversed gains made by feminists and victims in gaining acknowledgement of incest. Although some reports of incest are the product of therapist induced false memories and denial on the part of perpetrators is
190 for sniffing out the truth. Jeff Giles of Newsweek as alive and well. read as manifestations of insidious trauma, the following discussion will turn to textual analysis look at how, even though Harrison withholds details about the actua l incest, the portrait she constructs of her father reveals him to be an insecure man longing for power. from motherhood. Instead of indicting either parent, however, Harri son attempts to understand how her childhood emotional deprivation transformed into a sexually abusive, adult relationship. What Harrison exposes in her memoir should make us question those uld also make us
191 The Incestuous Father stating that t ime minister and a part time second wife and children. But to write him off as a mental case would be another justification, rationalizing the pain he inflicts on his daughter. The reviewers also remarked that Harrison supplies no good reason why she, or any woman for that matter, would fall in love with a man whom she describes as ph ysically unattractive. Although at breasts, and voluptuous, almost feminine, arms w hich would make Harrison seem like the perverse one for being attracted to him (67). 6 They criticize her failure to furnish her father with a name, going so far as to wonder if she called him Dad in bed (Wolcott 34). They delight in the double entendres t sorry, no other word will do with the reappearance of her father and his seduction of the not most disturbingly, they feel almost let down by the lack of sex scenes, calling those subtle scenes more chaste and coy than revealing. 6 Strikingly, Harrison describes her father in feminine, almost maternal, terms.
192 fragments of the events surrounding her traumatic experience. The chapter year reunion, ends with what readers are also likely to expect forced penetration (32). But instead of reading about how her father took her virginity, we encounter a her daughter from a similar fate to her own becoming a teenage mother. The doctor watches as her college series of graduated green something that the critics were quick to note. But, the event that affects Harrison the most lives up to the freakish foreshadowing of the the kiss. At the end of their ten year reunion, just as head how tightly he holds me to him, the kiss changes. It is no longer a chaste, closed lipped kiss. My father pushes his tongue deep into my mouth: wet, insistent, exploring, sp, but she is unsuccessful, as she will be for the next four years. She does include a brief scene in he initial airport kiss
193 seems to haunt her the most. Couched in fairy long term effects: that of a scorpion: a narcotic that spread s from my mouth to my brain. The kiss is the point at which I begin, slowly, inexorably, to fall asleep, to administers in order that he might consume me. That I might desire to be consumed. (70) Despite the emphasis that Harrison places on the kiss, the reviewers had rather little to say about the initiating traumatic event. Wolcott does mention it, but he makes light of s as if the reviewers However, it should be noted that the kiss, not necessarily her father at this point, wields much power over the twenty year old Harrison, who h as been denied love most of her life. Instead of being a kiss of enchantment, it is one of disenchantment; instead of awakening a sleeping beauty, it puts Harrison in the depths of sleep, and judging from the hypnotic, trance like, somnambulistic writing s tyle, pits from which Harrison has not fully emerged. But if the kiss blinds Harrison to the incest, which allows it to go on for four met her after those ten years When he first lays eyes on his grown up daughter,
194 Harrison describes them 63). They turn on his always closed, fail to do (62 ). Finally, it seems that Harrison has been awarded the attention she felt she never got even after years of playing the good daughter, being high school valedictorian, acing Latin exams, petitioning to take unusually high course loads in college. The ga ze that Harrison refers to throughout her memoir is penetrating. Just as The Bluest Eye with Pecola, Harrison yearns for someone to acknowledge her existence, to see her into being. As much as Pecola wants to be pretty, Harrison wants to be s een. Like Pecola who goes to Soaphead Church for blue eyes, Harrison takes clearly shows her longing for attention. The scene plays out as follows. Five years after Harr e yes. An impatient Harrison kneels by their box every day until she can no longer stand with one thumb on the upper lid, the other on the lower, I carefully pulled its eyes open, procedure on all five of the kittens. A day later their eyes are swollen shut and when Harrison tries to clean the yellow crust away, a worm of pus shoots out. Fi nally telling
195 cannot bring herself to explain what happened. The scene with the kittens can be read a microcosm of the entire memoir. The closed eyed kittens represent H eyes is comparable to the sexual and emotional violation Harrison experiences at the hands of her father. It also stands for the revenge of her mother that Harrison accomplishes via the father eyes to naturally open mir rors her inability to resist the temptation of her father. Not telling the truth to her grandmother can be interpreted as a failure to speak out. Eberstadt recognizing the conflicted emotions that the scene conveys, however, Eberstadt suggests that this scene illustrates how corrupt Harrison is a kitten tormentor who keeps feelings of guilt at bay to continue doing disgusting things. Undoubtedly, this is a terrible scen e that shows a darker side of Harrison. But one may wonder why Eberstadt finds this scene more disturbing than the airport kiss scene, or any of the other scenes in the book in n which he makes her pose naked for him. Like Glen from Bastard Out of Carolina father exerts control over his daughter, evident in more than one scene. Using language a task accomplished by making her meet his parents. The meeting of the paternal grandparents includes her grandfather placing his hand on her thigh and her father performing oral sex
196 s, Eberstadt conspicuously singles out the kitten scene, in which Harrison is clearly the perpetrator, as seemed endless and vacillated between criticizing her writing to attacking her person. many contemporary authors, Harrison does not a ppear to be very well or very deeply read: it is hard to tell from this memoir whether she is even familiar with the Oedipus daughter incest memoir? A deeper reading, howeve r, suggests that Harrison is well acquainted with the Oedipus story. She evokes the mythic precursors of Oedipus Rex and Tiresias, not just to emphasize the themes of sight and blindness, but also to expose the aps it is Powers who is guilty of a superficial reading. Before Harrison begins the sexual affair with her father, she desires sex parent and wishes to eliminate the same sex parent In the alternative storyline Harrison offers, the daughter first falls in love and stays in love with the same sex parent. Ultimately, daughter incest has everything to do other, who knows of the affair, speaks the truth when she you me
197 The Collusive Mother The reviewers were outraged and offended by what Harrison disclosed about her minister fathe r; however, they had very little to say about what she revealed about her mother, who at first glance embodies the textbook definition of the collusive mother. In Father Daughter Incest Herman provides the portrait of the mother of paternal incestuous fam similar to that in the psychiatric literature. Neither source holds back on saying what is wrong with the mother. She is typically sexually unavailable to her husband, emotionally dista nt from her daughter, and rendered powerless in her family. Although the language (qtd. in Herman 43) Since the father has lost access to the mother as his normative sexual Because of her powerlessness, devaluation, and economic dependence in the traditional, male dom inated family structure, the mother is unable to protect her daughter. Ironically, from the perspective of popular culture and even some of the professionals in the field of psychiatry, father daughter incest is thought to illustrate the extreme failure of maternal protectiveness. throughout her narrative to understand her mother rather than simply to blame her for being a cold and negligent parent. Like Anney Boatwright of Bastard Ou t of Carolina Both women are dependent upon the attention of men and react with ambivalence toward
198 what they perceive to be the degrading and dispiriting role of mother Yet, despite feeling unmothered, the daughters unconditionally love their mothers and cannot forsake them. 7 Both books are written after their mothers die of cancer. Harrison ma kes clear that her mother was in a powerless position most of her life, but her weakness is most poignantly shown, maternal grandparents find her father not good enough for their daughter, a judgment that has almost everything to do with class and ethnicity. Harrison explains that her mother y, with no more than high school father will financially provide for the family doubting his ability to support them. selling at least one set of dark red Britannicas Commenting on the class division between her paren immigrant ancestors, the miscegenation of his Native American grandmother, not one but arriage, not to mention their contrast to that of her wealthy Jewish grandparents, who were born in London and lived 7 Thicker T han Water is even more explicitly about her mother, particularly T he father daughter incest i s present in the novel, but it does not factor into the storyline until the last fourth of the book.
199 s financial situation a factor, but so too is his religion. He is a non Jew and history implied by antiques tha one of poverty. nts to divorce comes not from either of them, but over between him and his daughter. Exempting him from financial responsibility, such as grandmother goes so far as to cut his face out of every picture, thereby erasing his being. compounded by the treatment he receives from his own parents. We (and Harrison) know very little ab father, H instead of paying attention, he was watching the women watch his father. Additionally, fina lly, Harrison tells us that her grandfather is slowly dying of prostate cancer because he refuses treatment, evidently preferring death to the loss of his testicles. Harrison sums
200 s father, and thus his own manhood: mythic sexual appeal, violent sexual jealousy, and fatal sexual follow his father but falling miserably short. Likewise, the in overpowered by his maternal grandmother who insisted that he become a preacher. He does become a man of G castration implied Cholly Breedlove of The B luest Eye who redirects his hatred from the white men to grandmother, who took away his wife and daughter, and his own mother, whom he thinks failed to protect him from her mothe r. This may explain, without excusing, why he feels ds the power granted by her presence, and he needs to thwart that as if Harrison was his to take. nted not to be, and her negligence is allowed by her own parents. Like Anney of Bastard mother is a
201 far cry from what a traditional, idealized mother should be. In fact, her actions can be seen as rebelling against not just her own parents, but also against typical feminine and eeps whenever she can, preferring unconsciousness to living her life and being a mother. When Harrison is six ther moves into a nearby apartment, telling her family what street it is on, but neither house number nor phone number is furnished. Years later, Harrison understands that her mother wished to e summoned by fevers or husband the freedom from the duty to care for her daughter. What do we make of all of this? Harrison neither fully blames her mother for poor parenti ng and negligence, nor does she excuse her mother for turning a blind eye to the abuse. She hints that her mother has been a victim of emotional abuse in her own family. Trying to get to the root of her childhood emotional deprivation and the resulting fat her daughter incest, Harrison suggests how crucial yet fragile mother daughter relationships are in heteropatriarchal societies. When the bond between mother and daughter is strong, it most efficiently wards off father daughter incest; when it is weak, it makes the daughter most susceptible to sexual abuse. Rearing and nurturing children in a heteropatriarchal society falls on the mother, who is expected to be caring, attentive, and ains in Of Woman Born : Motherhood as Experience and Institution to properly perform these self
202 self self what oppression whether heteropatriarchal or racial or economic undermines, correctly observes Paula Bennett. Instead of passing on a healthy sense of self worth, the mother often transfers to her daughter her own sense of deprivation and helplessness. In inherits sexual submissiveness and degradation from her mother. Because she cannot protect herself, such a mother cannot nurture or protect her daughter. In a undest love and loyalty. That spot is reserved for fathers. Seeking in men in this case, in her father what her mother cannot provide results in competition. In this oppressive society, women are pitted against each other in an unnecessary rivalry. Inste ad of or in addition presenting herself as a victim of father daughter incest, Harrison suggests that she is out to get revenge, but despite what the reviewers claim, the revenge is more on her mother than on her father. Ironically, through the sexual affa away the masks that divide us. And now, even as I draw closer to her to judge the level of Harrison uses her father to finally get the attention she so craves from her mother. 8 th daughter and father know what they are doing, though. When talking about love, Harrison and her Her 8 In Thicker Than Water Harrison is even more frank: hated my mother so much, enough to allow her husband to fuck me, had I not loved her
203 Harrison, h er mother, and her grandmother the structure that her father reconfigures, by usurping the his family), is fully realized through the incest. They manipulate, play eac Harrison claims that it takes kissing the bodies of two corpses her maternal to break the spell cast by her father. that the affair with her father is over. Having clung to her long hair as a symbol of sexuality, Harrison explains that her father was as dedicated to her h air as she was, being the one to trim it for the past few years. However, when her mother is on her deathbed, Harrison ventures to the salon to have twenty three inches severed, which she then offers to her mother in a gesture of surrender. Without saying anything, Harrison is confident life is severed as well. Discarding [my hair], I promise her that she can die knowing the affair between her husband and her daughter acknowledgment, however, seem to come in the dream Harrison has of her mother, which she describes in the last two pages. Instead of the nightmares she usually has of her mother, this dream is tranquil. In it, she (206). Harrison ends her memoir with these sentences: a few inche s apart. As we look, all that we have ever felt but have never
204 said is manifest. Her youth and selfishness and misery, my youth and selfishness and misery. Our loneliness. The ways we betrayed each other. In this dream, I feel that at last she knows me and I her. I feel us stop hoping for a different daughter and a different mother. (206 07) ng words show how hurt mother and daughter were by the incest. In a moment of fantastic reconciliation, they reach an understanding of each other, something not accomplished in their lifetimes. Happily Ever After? 9 Christopher Lehmann Haupt takes this assertion a step mysterious healthy survival is the major flaw of the memoir. He assumes, as Lisa Alther notes, that if what Harrison claims to have happened really did transpire, then she should be too traumatized to tell the tale. Instead of remaining silent, Harrison goes on to write her story in best seller f ashion, no less. Lehmann questions. Did Harrison really survive the trauma? What does survival mean exactly? What is the proper form to use to tell a story of trauma, a story that entails complex linguistic challenges? Is t here ever one? Or, should victims of father daughter incest heed 9
205 witness? The fact that Harrison (like Claudia and Bone) goes on to author the book suggests that she has made progress in working through her trauma, at least enough to gain critical distance and put to words the events through the writing of it. Yet, questioned in the previous chapter, can one demonstrate agency when writing about a story of female violation? Mo reover, can one represent memories of horrific experiences without repeating them? And, to borrow from Rosaria Champagne, can one ever be her mother on February 7, 1995 in which she seems to reach some kind of closure, but this does not mean that Harrison is free from nightmares. Her entire memoir, like The Bluest Eye is written from the perspective of someone suffering fr om PTSD. For example, on the very first page, she time 69 emphasis added). Because the shattering experience results in a distorted memory, the memoir is appropriately nonlinear and recursive. Also Caruth argues, appearing in its belated symptoms. 10 10 As Ruth Leys states, psychoanalysts Roy Grinker and John Spiegel view ed the use of won ability to distance and narrate
206 In addition to feelings of dislocation and timelessness, Ha rrison experiences physical symptoms, symptoms all too common to those diagnosed with PTSD. Not surprisingly, Harrison experiences a split between body and mind when her father s feels neither good nor bad. It effects so complete a separation between mind and body that I rom dissociation, which is a defense that happens during the traumatic event, or from the fact defense in which memory for the event is in some f the sexual encounters, Harrison is not fully conscious of them. In a telling passage, Harrison reflects on her inability to recall her feelings during the sexual experience with her father despite the fact that she can remember exact details, such as the socks he wears, the lines surrounding his eyes, and the hair on his hands: I arrive at the state promised by the narcotic kiss in the airport. In years to always on top and that I always lay still, as still as if I had, in truth, fallen a particular motel room, or the kind of tree outside the win dow. That he ld indicate defeat.
207 every tiny thing about him. I will be able to close my eyes and see the pattern of hair that grew on the backs of his hands, the mole on his cheek, the lines, each one of th em, at the corners of his eyes. to remember what it felt like. No matter how hard I try, pushing myself to 37, emphasis added) Able to remember fine details surro unding the sexual affair, she is unable to recall her feelings, her affective response, which at least partly explains the restraint of the But whereas her mind fails to supply these memories, her body keep s score. In other words, she has corporealized her feelings. Eberstadt notes that what we learn of Harrison is that she is very sick. Presenting her more as a hypochondriac than as someone n alphabetical order only) amenorrhea, amnesia, anorexia, asthma, bulimia, dehydration, depression, and acts of self may want to remind Eberstadt that this is more than a book Harrison is well aware that her mental distress is manifes ted through her bodily symptoms. Not coincidentally, she comes down with shingles the summer her father visits. When she asks what would cause the chicken pox to become active after fifteen enough to prevent her trip to see her father, the shingles nevertheless alert Harrison of the
208 severity of their budding relationship. She realizes what clinicians Herman, Bessel van der Kolk, and others have maintained the body has, events recorded physically, the abuse takes its toll (170). On at least one occasion Harrison compares her condition to that of soldiers injured in the war. When looking at the naked pictures her father takes of her in an soldiers during the Civil War. Undressed and propped against walls or on crutches, the Tender Is the N ight in which he discusses war soldiers and women sexually abused in civilian life. The Kiss as a style gly, he uses the term shell shock instead of PTSD. Judging from Giles and from the other daughter incest were not given the same credit as accounts of soldiers returning from war, and that it was once again acceptable to question, if not blame, the victim of incest. An Unavoidable Book Robert Coles, distinguished life long advocate for the voiceless, child psychiatrist, Harvard professor, prolific writer, and author of The Moral I ntelligence of Children among others, originally wrote a blurb for The Kiss praising it for its literary
209 11 However, when he found out that Harrison is the mother of two young children (as of 2000, three young childr en), he retracted his 12 According to Warren St. John of The New York Observer had young children of her own who would have to cope with her p It seems that for Coles and others, because Harrison is a mother of young children, she should not publish a memoir of this sort. Withdrawing his endorsement, Coles may have had good reasons he may have been attempting to protect Ha intergenerational trauma. However, the implication of his retraction can also be seen as childhood sexual innocence. However, as we now know, fat her daughter incest is quite 11 the re ( http://kathrynharrison.com/thekiss.htm ). 12 Kiss provides a fuller explanation of the events and his own role The eminent Robert Coles, whose blurb, gushy as blurbs must be, blessed gleeful, hilarious and virulently nasty attack on The Kiss in The New Republic Mr. Coles read the article and ad mitted that he deserved Mr. should be nk what are they to think ? And why would the mother of those children want to put that down so that all the families of Coles received the galleys of The Kiss when he w as busy teaching a Harvard seminar in The Bluest Eye reading and discussing the book with his students that he wrote the blurb without ased on real life and that she is a mother (31).
210 prevalent one in five to one in three girls are victims, most before the tender age of ten. really the answer? For Harrison, silence was not a n option. In an interview with the New York Observer completed it in a mere four weeks. Similarly in an interview with the Seattle Times The Kiss ook that came out of a decade of thought. There was a point in my life as a writer and as a human being in which I reached a kind of clarity and an ability to be honest with myself about what my relationship with my father had been. And I knew as a human b eing and as a writer that it would be a real mistake to back away from that, and the only apparatus I have as a human being for understanding things is Thicker T han Water evidently one point said that it is easier to get at truth through fiction, revised her thinking and stated that after writing Thicker Than Water she felt like she had betrayed her experience not necessarily to expose her father, but to face up to herself. In The Kiss instead of telling what happened, as she does in Thicker Than Water Harrison, like Claudia fro m The Bluest Eye attempts to understand why it happened. She chose memoir as an avenue to tell the truth about what she had undergone as an attempt to work through her trauma.
211 But, as we have seen, most of the reviewers were unwilling to believe her and, therefore, refused to bear witness to her trauma. Laub and Felman have written on the necessity of telling impossible narratives of trauma and having others bear witness to the event that had previously been unwitnessed. ot be simply remembered, it cannot simply be to recover something the speaking subject is not and cannot be Likewise, in his chapter titled silence which surround i t, which attest, today as well as in the past, to this assertion of questioning why she fails to provide specific dates, locations, names, and juicy details of the sex sce nes. Moreover, Laub contends that to undo the entrapment a trauma victim to wr ite about the trauma; another matter publishing it. It seems that in addition to becomes a testament to the therapeutic value of articulating painful experiences. Harr suggests a political consciousness to break the taboo of talking about incest. Father daughter incest at first appeared as an individual problem, one father sexually viola
212 personal narration is linked to a larger social critique. If Harrison was not aware of the insidious ways heteropatriarchy works to dehumanize her and discredit her story, she certa inly is after the reviews of The Kiss Like Laub and Felman, Christine Shearer impossible story of trauma, emphasizing the political importance for such telling. They write, Tra uma narratives epitomize in a painful way the fragmentary and uncertain status of all narrative in a postmodern world. This is not to atrocious stories of male violence against women m ust come to voice in order for women to secure their full human rights. (11) Giving voice to her story of incest, Harrison challenges the patriarchal and hierarchical discourses that seek to silence her. Despite what Lehmann lived to tell about it, and went on to marry (a fellow novelist and deputy editor of ), have children, and establish her place as a successful writer; rather, it failed in the eyes of the reviewers because it did not int egrate unspeakable acts into a narrative that meets conventional expectations expectations stipulate that a political critique of this kind can be neither too overt nor come from a white, middle to upper class, h ighly educated woman. 13 This was a book 13 class attitudes toward s the sexual abuse of children and reasons why the denial of incest is so persistent.
213 the Daughter Tells Her Story: The Rhetorical Challenges of Disclosing Father Daughter red a story about father daughter incest, women who write trauma narratives, especially those disclosing father daughter incest, that reviews or critical essays are sit es of ideological struggle about control of, and The Kiss speaks to this ideological struggle and to the politics of truth telling in that most of the reviewers who endorse hetero the horrors of this social order. They glimpsed the truth that we live in a society that allows and even encourages such violence and lashed out in fear of exposure. When Bastard Out of Carolin a met with success, Allison thought she must have done something wrong to garner such accolades. As the critics praised the book, and at champagne, Allison started throwing up (Jetter 57). With only $200 left to her name when she published Bastard literature that I despise. How could the people who were the pantheon of that literature think I did something right? I th Allison loathes literature that adheres to a masculinist canon and echoes heteropatriarchal, racist, classist discourse. According to her, it is often written by men, judged by men, and passed off as universal. 14 It repeats what has been said before, and in 14 Both Allison and Harrison are young enough to have grown up with feminism. But, u is not nearly as clear. In an inte suspicion with any group including feminists
214 universalizing the experience it portrays, denies the humanity of those who dwell outside of its gates. Tellingly, the gatekeepers of literature, many of whom perpetuate the order of a racist, classi The Kiss: A Memoir What they identified as the failure of the book is perhaps its true success. Expanding our conceptualization of father daughter incest, exposing the violence inherent in hierarc hical discourses, and generating a negative climate of reception from what the insidious trauma of women looks like. The reviews reveal a truth perhaps equally as unple asant as the incest itself our society is not ready to face up to the implications that come with a female authoring her autobiographical story of father daughter incest. References Allison, Dorothy. Bastard Out of Carolina New York: Plume, 1992. Print 14.10/11 (1997): 33 34. JSTOR Web. 01 July 2010. Kiss New York Observer 07 Apr. 1997: 31. Print. Narrating Mothers: Theorizing Maternal Subjectivities Ed. Brenda O. Daly and Maureen T. Reddy. Knoxville: U of Tennessee P, 1991. 125 38. Print. incest is not the taboo; talking about it is echoes the lang uage of feminists.
215 Caruth, Cathy. Unclaimed Experience: Trauma, Narrative, and History Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP, 1996. Print. Champagne, Rosaria. Feminist Theory New York: New York UP, 1996. Print. New York Times Book Review 30 Mar. 1997: 11. EBSCO Web. 30 July 2010. Wall Street Journal 04 Mar. 1997: A16. ProQuest Web. 11 Aug. 2010. rical Challenges of Disclosi ng Father Survivor Rhetoric: Negotiations and Narrativity in Abused Ed. Christine Shearer Cremean and Carol L. Winkelmann. Toronto: U of Toronto P, 2004. 139 65. Print. Evening Post 11 Oct. 1995: 29. LexisNexis Web. 20 Aug. 2010. Biography 24.1 (2001): 113 27. Project Muse Web. 21 Sept. 2010. Weekly Standard 24 Mar. 1997: 31. LexisNexis Web. 30 July 2010. Ellison, Ralph. Invisible Man 1952 New York: Vintage, 1995. Print. Washington Post 09 June 1991: X11. LexisNexis Web. 20 Aug. 2010. Felman, Shoshana. What Does a Woman Want? Reading and Sexual Difference Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP, 1993. Print.
216 Fitzgerald, F. Scott. Tender Is the Night Auto/Biography Studies 14.1 (1999): 51 70. Print. Observer 13 Apr. 1997: 6. LexisNexis Web. 21 Aug. 2010. Newsweek 17 Feb. 1997: 62. EBSCO Web. 30 July 2010. --Newsweek 28 Apr. 1997: 81. EBSCO Web. 30 July 2010. I, Rigoberta Mench The Kiss and Scandalous Self R Signs 28.2 (2003): 695 718. JSTOR Web. 01 July 2010. Harkins, Gillian. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 2009. Print. Harrison, Kathryn. The K iss: A Memoir New York: Avon, 1997. Print. --. Thicker Than Water New York: Random, 1991. Print. Henke, Suzette A. Writing Herman, Judith. Trauma and Rec overy New York: Basic, 1992. Print. Herman, Judith Lewis, and Lisa Hirschman. Father Daughter Incest Cambridge: Harvard UP, 1981. Print.
217 Hodgson The Kiss Feminist Review 6 8 (2001): 140 59. JSTOR Web. 01 July 2010. New York Times Magazine 17 Dec. 1995: 54 57. Print. New York Times 26 Apr. 1991: C20. LexisNex is Web. 20 Aug. 2010. Testimony: Crisis of Witnessing in Literature, Psychoanalysis, and History Ed. Shoshana Felman and Dori Laub. New York: Routledge, 1992. Print. Lehmann Haupt, Christo New York Times 27 Feb. 1997: C18. Print. Weekend Australian 12 Feb. 2000: R10. LexisNexis Web. 21 Aug. 2010. Leys, Ruth. Trauma: A Genealogy Chicago: U o f Chicago P, 2000. Print. The Kiss College English 66.4 (2004): 403 26. JSTOR Web. 01 July 2010. Courier Mail 26 Apr. 1997: 7. LexisNexis Web. 21 Aug. 2010. Morrison, Toni. The Bluest Eye 1970. New York: Plume, 1994. Print.
218 Publisher 240.9 (1993): 33 34. Literature Resource Center Web. 30 July 2010. Commentary 103.6 (1997): 38 41. Print. Rich, Adrienne. Of Woman Born: Motherhood as Experience and Institution New York: Norton, 1976. P rint. Shearer Cremean, Christine and Carol L. Winkelmann. Introduction. Survivor Rhetoric: Ed. Christine Shearer Cremean and Carol L. Winkelmann. Toronto: U of Toronto P, 2004. 3 22. Print. Spence New York Times Book Review 21 Apr. 1991: 713. Print. New York Observer 21 Apr. 1997: 1, 9. Print. se Dichotomies of Fact and Fiction: Institute, 1998. Print. Yale Journal of Critici sm 8.1 (1995): 35 58. Print. New Republic 31 Mar. 1997: 32 36. Print. New York Times 06 Apr. 1997: 19. ProQuest Web. 30 July 2010.
219 yn Harrison Writes a Shameful Washington Post 05 Mar. 1997: D2. ProQuest Web. 30 July 2010. --Washington Post 10 Mar. 1997: B2. ProQuest Web. 30 July 2010. --Wa shington Post 14 Apr. 1997: D2. ProQuest Web. 30 July 2010. Incest and the Literary Imagination Ed. Elizabeth Barnes. Gainesville: UP of Florid a, 2002. 358 76. Print. --th of Michigan, 2008. Print.
220 Chapter VII Lolita Revisited: Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books The desperate truth of Lolita not the rape of a twelve year old by a dirty old man but would have become if Humbert had not engulfed her. Yet the novel, the finished work, is hope ful, beautiful even, a defense not just of beauty but of life, ordinary everyday life, all Azar Nafisi, Reading Lolita in Tehran (33 ) No study of literary representations of father daughter incest would be complete without a discussion of one of the, if not the most notorious book on the subject published in the twentieth century Lolita tale, told from the perspective of forty something year old Humbert Hum bert about his desire for twelve year old Lolita, a girl who is forced against her will to endure a two year, cross country trip, in and out of cheap motels doing dirty things with the man who calls himself her stepfather, has raised eyebrows over the year s and generated difficult questions about father history are dizzying journeys in themselves. After being rejected by four American publishers, one of whom said that if he printed the book bot h he and Nabokov would go to jail, the novel was released in Paris in 1955 by Olympia Press, primarily a publisher of pornography. It would take another three years for Lolita to make its debut in the United States, published in 1958 by Putnam. Upon public ation, Lolita elicited impassioned and
221 often opposing criticism. Graham Greene praised it as one of the best books of 1955; Lionel Trilling trumpeted the novel as a love story; Ellen Pifer heralded Nabokov as an ethical writer. Anticipating some of the lat er dissenting criticism, Christopher Lehmann Haupt argued that Lolita Schuman 133). As debates over child abuse and sexual violence against women and children started to gain public attentio n in the late 1970s and into the 1980s, feminist critics such as Nomi Tamir Ghez and Linda Kauffman faulted the book for turning the rape of a young girl into an aesthetic experience and making art out of perversion. They criticized Nabokov for portraying the sexual exploitation of a pubescent girl as a joke, or, novel and its initial reception, asking the critical question that resounds today Nabokov anticipated tha swing. Confident in the immortality of his masterpiece, he predicted the day when some critic would cry that Lolita that one day a reapprai Humbert rues the day when he captured Lolita, many recent critics have gone so far as to argue in f Lolita as a proto feminist
222 narrative. 1 Nabokov would not have been amazed by this, but he may have been surprised to hear that one of his most ardent defenders at the dawn of the twenty first century is a wom an from Iran, whose memoir about reading Western classics in her secret, subversive, all female student book club in her home country is entitled Reading Lolita in Tehran making Lolita a synecdoche for all great Western literature and a model text for exp osing all solipsists who deny their subjects humanity. Although no stranger to revolution, Nabokov did not live to see his work imported presumably unknowable to Nab work as a forbidden novel symbolizing Western decadence (22). But in this transcultural text about the story of Dolores Haze, better known as Lolita, Nafisi finds an ally in her war against the dominat simultaneously as personal memoir, literary analysis, and political commentary, employs Lolita of all books, to expose the insidious trauma females in Iran experience on a daily basis. Essentia selling memoir tells the story of a female professor of English literature, who was educated in England and the United States (receiving a Ph.D. in English and American literature from the University of Oklahoma in the 1970s) and after r esigning her post at an Iranian university, gathers seven of her most devoted 1 Lolita Modern Novelists: Vladimir Nabokov of For recent critics who praise Nabokov for his feminist sensibilities in Lolita Lolita Is Lolita
223 students to read and discuss Lolita and other great works of Western literature in what and the two years of the book club, 1995 1997. The book recounts and bears witness to Nafi praise of Lolita is problematic, but her memoir succeeds in providing Western readers an memoir suggests that at the dawn of the century books about father daughter incest were being imported not necessarily to comment on the act itself but to articulate a hist ory of female subjugation in which incest is just one part of a larger network of oppression. I think Nafisi is right in that incest is one manifestation of political and social ills, but I find that her memoir easily lends itself to suggesting that the ac t itself and the insidious trauma surrounding it should be placed in a binary which too often leads to a hierarchy that, in this case, would privilege a discussion of insidious trauma at the expense of talking about the act of incest. as heavily criticized for its alleged neoconservative and pro military messages critics argued were not so cleverly occluded by the aesthetics of a book that was perhaps not coincidentally published not even two years after the attacks of September 11, 200 criticism is a valid concern I take up in the second half of the chapter, but I am more interested in how Nafisi uses a book with an ambiguous message about father daughter
224 incest to defe nd literature and to illustrate the insidious trauma she and many other Iranian women face. I include her work to see what it can tell us about transnational feminist discourse and reading father daughter incest in the twentieth first century. In the disse or, at times, misreads, Lolita followed by a discussion of how I read it. She overlooks the ethical and literary ambiguities and contradictions embedded in Lolita Unlike Nafisi, I contend that Nab okov chooses a narrative strategy that, at best, grants him the luxury of ambivalence about father daughter incest and one that, at worst, celebrates the actions of Humbert Humbert as it glosses over how much this affair causes trauma to Lolita. Most of Lo lita Judith Herman correctly observes in Father Daughter Incest ions, a discussion The Kiss It closes in representing and bearing witness to psychological trau ma, particularly to the insidious trauma that is foreign to neither women of Iran nor to females living in the United States. Lolita 350 page memoir opens with a 77 page section devoted to Lolita the book she claims best represents her experience in revolutionary Iran. Sensing that her perceived American, female, probably feminist, readers would be curious about her Lolita
225 Lolita in 2 The first page of her memoir provides an answer: she explains that she goes against the advice she gives to her literature students about not turning works of fiction into carbon copies of real life and says that if she were to rk of fiction that would most resonate with our lives in the Islamic Republic of Iran, it would not be The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie or even 1984 but perhaps Invitation to a Beheading or better yet, Lolita She reminds us in the following chapters that she and her seven female students are not Lolita and that the Ayatollah is not Humbert; however, she states that Lolita was Lolita in particular, such a crucia I felt the regime was imposing its dream on us. As women, it confiscated younger Annabel Leigh. Every girl he sees, he imposes his dream of Annabel on the reality of Lolita. The poignancy is that, as Humbert says, epublic, where else did they have to go? (qtd. in Power 58) 2 Mitra Rastegar maintains that Nafisi writes for an American not an Iranian, audience: translated into Farsi or is widely available in Iran, although some copies are likely circulating. One journalist in Tehran found that almost no one had heard of the book, and of those who had, many were highly critical, sayi nothing to do with or that its portrayal was dated (Vick
226 Knowing what it feels like to be powerless in the face of male authority, Nafisi closely identifies with the novel because she has experienced how religious totalitarianism can confiscate indivi dual identity and replace it with distorted views of its own imagination. much with her own situation in war torn Iran where adultery and prostitution warranted being st oned to death, women, under Sharia law, were considered to have half the worth of men, and nine year were ripe for marriage (261). Lolita o forge unexpected parallels between the book and her life in the religious patriarchy of the Islamic Republic in which Humbert Humbert is not unlike Ayatollah Khomeini and other representatives of the Islamic state and Lolita shares striking characteristi cs with the women in the book club. Just as Humbert overpowers Lolita, Nafisi views her country as hijacked by a minority of celebrates the work for its vivid imaginatio n that helped the women of this book club recreate a world beyond the confines of revolutionary Iran. Agreeing with Nafisi, Pifer reveal what the narrator attempts to con ceal although Humbert is the most unreliable of narrators, Nabokov is a reliable author. Nafisi enthusiastically endorses Nabokov for motivating our condemnation for Humbert as well as our compassion for Lolita Nafisi is most concerned with the character of Lolita and her resistance to Humbert. Like Lolita, she and her students attempt to escape the repressive regime by
227 creating little pockets of their own freedom: they shed their mandatory veils and chadors to be not year old by a dirty old man but the confiscation of another sexual abuse of Lolita, which, they note, is rendered much more seriously and realistically than the murder of Quilty, but they subsume the incest under the larger crime of denying Lolita her individuality. Nafisi admits that as readers we at times sympath ize with Humbert and are seduced by his poetic language; however, she and her students argue that Humbert does not succeed in winning over Lolita or his readers because he never es a ackno critics to find Lolita, it seems to have something to do with the fact that Nabokov ha s not thoroughly comment on those aspects and concludes that the finished w ork is a Despite that the majority of Lolita that Nabokov elicits sympathy for his narrator (who, for most of the novel, is an unapologetic pedophile), Nafisi p
228 women of this book club hope that their trapped situation as women will come to pass. She and her students fo rmed a special bond with Lolita because living in the Islamic illusory wor love, Humbert imposed his relentless fiction on Lolita. Parading as a normal stepfather to her, he commits crimes against humanity, which are all the more terrifying to Nafisi an d her students who seem to know too well how barbarism can be garbed in civility. Viewing Humbert as a villain because he lacked curiosity about others, especially about the one he claimed to have loved the most, they see Lolita as a double victim, unab le to live a life apart from her cruel stepfather and author her life story. Sensitive to the omissions of Lolita in Lolita Nafisi and her students recognize that absences can have more importance than presences. At the start of the memoir the now expatri ated Nafisi reflects on the images in two photographs: one with her students donning the government mandated hijab (head scarves and black robes) and the other with the same women stripped of their coverings. After a brief description of the six women who comprise her book club, Manna, Mahshid, Yassi, Azin, Mitra, and Sanaz, Nafisi (5) and the one who, as we find out later, was probably most like Lolita because she was
229 sexually abused by her uncle when she was just eleven years old. Her tale would be incomplete, Nafisi states, without mention of those who did not remain with the group: s is appropriate epigraph for her discussion of Lolita in which, as Nafisi and her students bert chooses ideals and the tyranny under which Lolita, and many other women, suffer My Reading of Lolita solipsism, but Lolita he ative as the meandering middle, Nabokov structures his work in such a way that the reader is invited to identify with Humbert. 3 Not only are we given the intimacy of the first person narrative, he also presents us with a seemingly dapper civilized professo 3 Jen Shelton points out that the Foreword conditions our response to the rest of the the clever, sophisti cated author against the forces of simplistic morali sm which Ray framing device makes readers more likely to side with Humbert and overlook incest and its disturbing implications.
230 well educated, middle Ghez has a good sense of humor, and tells us on more than one occasion just how attractive he is. Contrary to what Nafisi asserts, Nabokov makes it easier to sympathize with Humbert, whom we know so much about, than with Lolita, who is virtually unknown to the reader, and the little bit of information he doe I agree with Nafisi that life and fiction as well as protagonist and author cannot simply be conflated, but, neither, as Sarah Herbold argues, can they be clearly separated (75). Humbert who, like Invisible Man figure and master storyteller, may be twisting the end of his tale in which he awakens to the pain he has caused Lolita as a get out of written six days, was at first intended to be read during his has to fully enter into his imagination to construct the sordid business in the fir st place. In so doing, he humanizes his male protagonist as he provides access into the mind of a man situation Nabokov writes about is often more comic than tragic or traumatic. Exhibiting more glee than disgust throughout Lolita he demonstrates a moral mobility writing about incest and solipsism in a less than serious tone as he provides more questions than answers, leaving readers to wonder if he secretly condones Hu
231 message about the dangers of solipsism and why another may jus t as fervently criticize him for denying his female character voice in what could be read as another form of victimization and illustration of insidious trauma. novel. Nafis i does not comment on the lengths that Nabokov goes to in order to embody Lolita, but she mentions many times throughout her memoir how emphasis is placed on the Iranian female body, especially on the veil that is intended to render women invisible yet iro nically makes their presence ubiquitous. She insists that the major oppressive government policy is the constant surveillance of the female body and the threat of violence if the rules are not obeyed. Certainly Nafisi and her female students are no strange throughout the text in place of where their voices and thoughts might be. For example, Nabok ov launches into almost scientific detail when describing the body of nymphets: stage of breast development appears early (10.7 years) in the sequence of somatic changes accompanying pubescence. And the next maturational item available is the firs ly Humbert if not Nabokov is obsessed with the sexually maturing female body. 4 4 Sexual attraction between middle aged men and pub escent girls is a topic that Nabokov visited on many occasions in his body of work. Stacy Schiff, who wrote Vra dimir was by no means Humbert, but he was the author of a fair number of works in which middle aged men fidget under the spells cast by underaged
232 nine inches; thigh girth (just below the gluteal sulcus ), seventeen; calf girth and neck circumference, eleven; chest circumference, twenty seven; upper arm girth, eight; waist, twenty three; stature, fifty seven inches; weight, seventy eight pounds; figure, linear; intelligence quotient, 121; vermiform append exceeding seventeen and a half inches. The focus on the exact measurements of the female body raises disturbing questions. On the one hand, Nabokov may have been quite the researcher, scanning scientific textbooks that at that time had just begun to include such details about the human body and then mocking the generalizations he found in them On the other hand, one may wonder if he is more concerned with the body of the female than with her voice and thoughts. Lolita a novel he often referred to he was preoccupied with this theme between the years 1935 and 1974, as Brandon Centerwall claims: He first developed the theme of the secret pedophile in his novel Dar ( The Gift ) written 1935 37; expanded the theme into a novella Volshebnik ( The Enchanter ) in 1939; wrote the 300 page Lolita in 1949 54; drafted a full length screenp lay in 1960; single handedly translated Lolita into Russian over a two year period (1965 67); and, after much copyright wrangling, reacquired the screenplay for revision and publication in 1974. (469) Playboy two more works wer e added to the list: Invitation to a Beheading (in which a 12 year old girl, Emmie, is erotically interested in a man twice her age) and Bend Sinister (in which the protagonist dreams that he is wincing a little, in his lap during the rehearsal of a play in which she w 1969 Ada, or Ardor pages of Lolita ). Despite his claims that he give a damn for incest one way or works offer a less doctrinaire view of the subject ( Strong Opinions 123, 15 16).
233 words are few and far between, they speak volumes an d call attention to the fact that Humbert is holding her against her will. The few instances in which she is granted words, her voice reveals her to be the antithesis of what Humbert fantasizes her to be in his mind. She gets some stellar one liners that m time, an unusually tongue tied Humbert fumbles for appropriate euphemisms to conceal their situation from her. Lolita, howeve (119). Similarly, she refers to the Enchanted Hunters hotel, where they have sex three Lolita threatens to turn Hum bert in to the authorities in no uncertain terms: she yells, She shows that sh e knows of his transgressive behavior and wishes it to stop, evident censoring pa The problem is not that t he reader does not receive any words from Lolita (she Nabokov gives free reign to his male protagonist and chooses to tell the story by having
234 us read his journal. In Reading Lolita Nafisi and her students are painfully aware that Lolita is a double victim deny Lolita self some of the responsibility of making Lolita a double victim? As Nafisi herself admits in a ty of not about the rape of Lolita. She insists that Lolita exclusive and would argue that the novel is about both. To categorize the crimes of humanity in such a hierarchal structure is another form of victimizing the f emale figure, which Nafisi makes clear in other parts of her memoir, is not her intention. There is much know what Lolita would have become if Humbert had not engulf from the book that bears her made up name. Leland de la Durantaye perceptively here poetically loved, but as to her thoughts and feelings psychological trauma. Nabokov drops subtle hints that Lolita is suffering, passing statements that Nafisi
235 prefer to live a life with a child pornographer, who does not love her, than with Humbert, who claims he so desperately does. Identifying the crux of the problem to be the perverse intimacy Lolita is forced to gy motels and byways, in his home or even in school, he forces her to consent to him. He prevents her from mixing with children her own age, watches over her so she never has boyfriends, frightens her into secrecy, bribes her with money for acts of sex, wh Humbert robs Lolita of the normal life of a girl her age. The best piece of evidence that Lolita is suffering, which Nafisi points out, comes at the beginning of Part Two of Lolita er sobs in the night every night, every night unanimously agreed. In her diary, Vra expresses her wish for some critic to listen to the cries of Lolita. Nafisi quotes, Critics prefer to look for moral symbols, justification, condemnation, or etic dependence on monstrous HH, and her heartrending courage all along culminating in that squalid but essentially pure and healthy marriage, and her letter, and her dog. And that terrible expression on her face when she had been cheated by HH out of some little pleasure that had been essentially very good indeed or she would not have straightened out after
236 being crushed so terribly, and found a decent life with poor Dick more to her liking than the other kind. (40; ellipsis in orig.) student, Manna, criticizes the same way Humbert treats Lolita: they only see themselves and what they want to some pages have gone by. Additionally, he mentions it in passing. It is very easy to gloss over what Nabokov places as almost a footnote in the adventures o easily be lost on the hasty reader following in the footsteps of Humbert, a trap that Nabokov knowingly sets and for which he should therefore assume some of the responsibility. Wher fixation with nymphets originates in the traumatic loss of his childhood sweetheart, Annab el Leigh, something that Nafisi seems to uncritically accept. Unlike some of the other vital information that Humbert withholds until the end of the book (such as his change of heart regarding his regret for what he had done to Lolita), he readily disclose s takes
237 Annabel Leigh. Every girl he sees, he imposes his dream of Annabel on is the result of being traumatized by the death of his first love. She does not mention that inspired by his wife, a cousin of his and a mere 13 years old when she married the 26 year old Edgar) and/or toying with the Freudian reader who would take stock in the psychological repercussions of traumatic loss. beginning of a vicious cycle in Nabo the killing off of almost all of his the plot into m novel: Nabokov does not seem to like Charlotte Haze, who represents the capitalistic consuming, overbearing housewife and mother. After Humbert plots a clever scheme to drown Charlotte even more gruesome: she is struck down by the Beale car, which, while trying to spare a neighborhood dog, conveniently for Humbert, kills Charlotte, who had just discovered his sexual
238 age of thirty female characters in Lolita As it becomes clear that theories of traumatic loss and childhood fixation do not tuation, it seems likely that, as James Tweedie mentions, the outside his self Lolita crystallize and there are a few instances in which he admits that in idolizing her, he was in make my rape long for in order to practice the art of being a granddad on), and stating that he took her oo little, then too of heart is genuine and triggered by true repentance of a guilty conscience or is another one of the schemes he constructs out of fear for going to jail for harming Lolita. They are also un dermined when he claims that
239 perceiving, the fact that I was to her not a boy friend, not a glamour man, not a pal, not even a person at all but just two eyes and a fo ot of engorged brawn to mention only has been guilty of for most of his narrative denying her humanity by turning her into a figment of his imagination. Lolita ? Throughout Lolita resonate with Nafisi, who feels that the Ayatollah is imposing his warped views of what a woman should be onto t he women of Iran. For most of her memoir, she reflects on the dire circumstances that define and confine the women of Tehran. In a passage often quoted by critics, Nafisi describes the world outside her home, where the girls take refuge and are free to exp ress their individuality. She explains that before venturing outdoors, one of her students, Sanaz, has to re veil herself for what she has been told is her own safety. Focusing on the regulation of the female body, Nafisi notes how Sanaz is transformed fro m a colorful individual to an anonymous veiled figure: She says her good byes and puts on her black robe and scarf over her orange shirt and jeans, coiling her scarf around her neck to cover her huge gold earrings. She directs wayward strands of hair unde r the scarf, puts her notes in her large bag, straps it on over her shoulder and walks out into the hall. She pauses a moment on top of the stairs to put on thin lacy black gloves to hide her nail polish. (26)
240 As Nafisi sees it, the robe and scarf are e rasers of feminine identity. Her description of Sanaz illustrates the great lengths that she and other women must go to just to walk down overt and state sanctioned vi olence. Women like Sanaz are subjected to random arrests, segregated classes, and virginity searches. They can be penalized for any number of perceived indiscretions such ways, for eating a piece of fruit too seductively, growing their nails, listening to forbidden music, reading immoral books, and sometimes even for wearing pink soc ks (9, 26, 59, 76). The Toyota patrols, four gun eets primarily to make like Sanaz wear their veils properly, do not wear makeup, do not walk in public with men Iranian custom mandates that if a woman gets on a bus, she must enter through the rear door and sit in the back seats because of her affiliation with an opposing religiou s organization, cuts to the reality of Many critics were disturbed, if not outright angered, with how Nafisi portrays stern, liberal humanist perspective, they faulted her for providing a dangerously oversimplified depiction of Iranian women
241 as nothing but victims of an inherently misogynistic Islamic tradition. They felt her book worked within the dominant discursive pra ctices in the West as it confirmed some of the stereotypes about Iran and Islam as a radical religious state of evil. Noting that a book about Iran is intrinsically political in an age of imperialism and militarism in which a thought she should have been more careful in representing the complexity of the situation in Iran as well as more critical in her choice of texts since her inclusion of four Western authors can be vie wed as conceding Western superiority and, by implication, legitimizing the need for outside military intervention. arly accolades selling one million copies; being translated into thirty two languages; winning the 2004 Non fiction Book of the Year Award from Booksense and the Persian Golden Lioness Award for literature; advancing to the number one spot on the New York Times Book Review list, where it stayed for a year and a half; in short, becoming an international sensation in soon found itself under attack. The most outspoken of the critic s was a fellow Iranian born and US educated scholar, Hamid Dabashi. The current Columbia University professor of Iranian Studies and Comparative Literature and staunch anti war activist, Dabashi argued that Nafisi irresponsibly paints Islamic tradition as misogynistic and calls for foreign
242 5 Quoting the postcolonial feminist Gayatri Spivak (with whom Bahramitash notes Nafisi is unfamiliar as her memoir gives no indication that she has read any postcolonial feminist literary critics) and drawing on the work of Edward Said, Dabashi contends that 6 He arrives at this conclusion after arguing that Nafisi re duces the complicated social history of Iran to a struggle for cultural diversit y in the US academy, and hijacks and eroticizes the literary scene of Lolita 7 5 women in Iran. For other hostile Jasmine and Stars: Reading More than Lolita in Tehran Bahramita sh nism: Case 6 In Orientalism the Morrison chapter with Dabashi and others find Nafisi guilty of internalizing the hey argue that she writes from a native orientalist perspective, uncritically adopting the belief that the West is superior. Marandi charges Nafisi for not being familiar with the works of Said (186). She does however, make a passing reference to Culture and Imperialism in her memoir. 7 of girls reading a newspaper to see the results of an election in which they have been active. Fatemeh Keshevarz thinks that this cropped image purposely misleads Western readers into thinking that Iranian women have no agency. Nafisi responds that she had very little
243 neoconservative movement to ex pand its military force. Comparing Reading Lolita in Tehran between Nafisi and the US s oldier convicted of mistreating prisoners at Abu Ghraib, and Muslim neo Lolita at Muc h less radical in their critiques than Dabashi, Amy DePaul, John Carlos Rowe, Anne Donadey, and Huma Ahmed lend itself to conservative US ideological rescripting. Asking if Reading Lolita serves qualified yes Rowe is skeptical of what purports to be disengaged from politics but is really a manifestation of macropolitical Reading Lolita in Tehran Donadey and Ahmed Ghosh write about the ironic and unfortunate use of the memoir to bolster US military operations of globalized capital. Surveying the historical and political context of revolutionary Tehran, Donadey and Ahmed Ghosh challenge the monolithic portrait of Muslim w insisted Lolita because of its sexual innuendos (qtd. in DePaul 78).
244 the memoir comes dangerously close to confirming a set of stereotypes about Islam for readers who are already saturated with them: that it is a theocratic, evil religion that should be allowed no place in the public sphere ; that it oppresses women; and finally, that it stands in stark contrast to the American way of life, thus justifying further foreign military intervention and U.S. political dominion over the world. (643 44) The critics agreed that regardless of author read as an appropriation of feminist rhetoric to fulfill the neoconservative agenda of a call to arms. The Value of the Literary in Empowering Women dorsement of US military unveil the insidious trauma many women in Iran experience. Nowhere in the memoir does Nafisi promote warfare as the answer to her problems in rev olutionary Iran. In fact, Kulbaga 518). In place of supporting war, Reading Lolita charts the intimate lives of selected Iranian women during the devastating rise of Islamicism in Iran and how these women engaged with literary denied any merit to literary preservation and as acts of survival (25). Like the other works discussed in this study, her
245 memoir illustrates how literature can be a privile ged site for representing and working through psychological trauma. Celebrating the transformative potential of fiction to illuminate the situation of herself and her female students, Nafisi credits Nabokov and other Western writers she deems as great fo r elucidating the human condition. She advocates an aesthetic appreciation of literature. For her, literature becomes a refuge from politics, which is ironic in that her book became the topic of a highly politicized debate about neoconservatives and pro wa r propaganda. In pointing out the mistreatment of women in Iran and the hypocrisy of revolutionary Iranian ideology, her work was criticized for highlighting the divide between life in Iran and life in the US, a democratic country that promises liberty and the pursuit of happiness. However, it should be quite clear at the end of this study that the systems of oppression that thwart the humanity of its female citizens and keep them in a pre victim state are not just problems in Iran. Bahramitash correctly po Raising cultural awareness about what she and her students endured during their darkest days of the Iranian turned to books, it was because they were the only sanctuary I knew, one I needed in Fiction became a way for her to reassert control over reality as it allowed her to create counter Lolita curren t situation in Iran by escaping into the world of great novels, Nafisi insists that she
246 and her students fashion their own counter realities. Great novels, she reminds us, and prevents you from the self righteousness that sees morality in fixed formulas about good Lolita and other works was informed by their own personal sorrows. The act of reading literature had liberating po wers, helping her and her students imagine a world other than the one in which they lived. Like Henry When studying Lolita Nafisi and her students noted that the double vi ctim Lolita they were in that class to prevent themselves from falling victim to the crime of having their life stories taken from them. Through authoring her story, Nafi si achieves what Humbert and Nabokov deny Lolita the right of self representation, something that this study suggests came with, and continues to be, a struggle in a patriarchal culture. In writing her memoir, she calls our attention to the trauma of Irani an people and offers an alternative solution to war empathy. The social change that she champions does not come from violence, but from learning about the humanity of others, lessons, according to Nafisi, that are found in the great works of literature. Calling our attention to the value of the literary and how books like Lolita can powerful analogy between life in the Islamic Republic and the sexual domination and exploita tion of females. I find this interesting because although she does not give as much unwanted sex to convey total state domination and complete female victimhood.
247 Attemptin g to explain to her husband how she felt living in such a repressed culture, dislike, you make your mind blank you pretend to be somewhere else, here. We are constantly pretending to be somewhere else we either plan it or dream it. (329) Nafisi sexualizes the experience of state power, xual control of patriarchy, in general. Sex, although one part of this process, is a central act of aggression. The confiscation of ordinary life, which is accomplished th rough the insidious trauma of females, matters most to Nafisi. In addition to supporting what LaCapra, Caruth, and other trauma theorists argue about literature being a prime site for enabling new forms of representation and for giving voice to traumatic e home the message that we need to reevaluate the definition of psychological trauma and what experiences should be included to validate the realities of females along with males of color and of lower socio economic standing. Readi ng Lolita in addition to the five other works discussed in this dissertation should make us see how the current medical definition of psychological trauma does not account for the experiences of females, most of whom like Lolita, Harrison, Bone, Pecola, Ma tty Lou, and Nicole, have been conditioned into submissive roles before and after the father daughter incest took place. These books help us see how insidious trauma is a more adequate conceptualization for
248 recognizing manifestations of trauma in a heterop atriarchal society saturated with sexism, racism, and classism. mistreatment of women is a human rights violation and a political crime in that, as 136 37). As LaCapra proposes, the literary can aid us in developing an approach to the study of trauma and the posttraumatic that contextualizes the social and political forces that, in this cas grateful for at the end of the twentieth century are not nature and sweets, but being a wom daughter incest until patriarchy is dismantled and even though insidious trauma is still not validated in the medical definition of psychological t rauma, literary works offer empowering avenues to clarify and transform our realities. References Critique: Critica l Middle Eastern Studies 14.2 (2005): 221 35. Academic Search Premier Web. 01 Nov. 2010.
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