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Relationship Between Trauma, Style, and Narrative, Book Review Example

Pages: 8

Words: 2182

Book Review

Introduction

Narratives have various styles and techniques of helping readers relate to the events and characters in a story. A story may be in first, second or third person narration. The first person narration is where the characters give an account of the story from their point of view. The second and third person narrative is where another person tells the story from their perspective. In some narratives, the author acts as the narrator while in others one of the characters gives an account of the story. There are also novels with two narrators and some of the characters reveal their distress by narrating the parts where they faced difficulties. Authors may use one narration style throughout the novel or they may also incorporate two or three narration techniques depending on their preferences. Some novels are analyses of other novels. For instance, the author of a novel analyzes the story in another novel to give it more meaning. The analysis of the novels Beloved and Jazz, and the articles The Bluest Eye and Sula: black female experience from childhood to womanhood and ”Can’t Nobody Fly with All That Shit” reveals the relationship between trauma, style and narrative.

Beloved is a novel that contains a ghost story and a realistic narrative. The author used this style to relate to the trauma his characters, especially Sethes family, went through. The story reveals how people lost their identity through the fragmentation caused by slavery. Sethe lost her identity as a mother because she killed her daughter. Mothers are capable of doing various things to protect their children, but killing them to give them eternal protection is absurd. The author uses a third person narration to give an account of the plights of the characters. It is an omniscient narration because the narrator knows the thoughts and deeds of all the characters. This style of narration portrays the trauma in the novel through the narrator. Through her narration, the readers feel the presence of the ghost character Beloved. The trauma in the novel is the fact that a mother killed her daughter to save her from slavery. Sethe, Beloved’s mother did not want her children to go back to the life of slavery. She thought that killing them, would be a better option than letting them face the troubles caused by slavery. The narrator includes the thoughts and memories of the characters to help readers understand the story from the characters point of view and not the narrator’s. The author also changes the narrative style to first person for readers to gain a full portrait and deeper understanding of the characters and their emotions. The narrator uses first person narration for Sethe to reveal the reasons for killing Beloved. Through this narration, the readers can understand the effect of slavery among the blacks. Sethe believed that death was the only way of saving her children from the dangers of slavery. She thought that death would keep them at a peaceful place. The presence of Beloved also traumatizes Sethe to a point where she starves herself to feed her. The narrator highlights the plight of the Sethe because she cannot do so by herself. She does not know that the presence of Beloved is consuming her, so the narrator tells the story from her point of view to inform reads about the ordeal faced by Sethe. On the other hand, the narrator uses first person to inform viewers of the troubles brought by Beloved. Characters such as Paul D also inform readers about Beloved. The stories told about Beloved prove to the readers that she is truly a ghost. Stamp Paid identifies Beloved as the girl who escaped from Deer Creek. On the other hand, beloved sings songs that only her mother and family can understand. For this reason, the two styles of narration help to explain that Beloved was a ghost that traumatized Sethe.

Jazz is a unique novel because of its narration style. The title of the novel reveals the complexity of its structure. The author used the call and response style in of the Jazz music genre. For this reason, the characters explored the same events from different perspectives. The readers have to analyze the novel through the lens of jazz music to tolerate the novel and also adapt to its expressive power. Just like the jazz music, the novel’s setting is Harlem. The narrator is believed to be the author of the novel; however, like the novel beloved, the narration switches from time to time. The characters also inform readers about various events from their perspective. Readers also understand the viewpoint of various aspects through the perspective of inanimate objects and concepts. The narrator gives a description of New York City from his perspective when he says “I’m crazy about this City. Daylight slants like a razor cutting the buildings in half. In the top half I see looking faces and it’s not easy to tell which are people, which the work of stonemasons” (Morrison 5). This description relates to various activities that link to the trauma faced by the characters in the novel. The story also has various aspects of trauma and the narrator uses various narration styles for readers to understand. For instance, she uses third person to show how love can make people do crazy things. The narrator informs readers that Joe shot Dorcas because he found her dancing with Acton at a party. The author then switches to first person because she wants readers to relate to the trauma felt by the characters at the party. The narrator reveals that Joe could not bear the trauma of seeing Dorcas with another lover. The characters could not understand why she did not want to receive any help. Dorcas told the people at the party that she did not need any help, so they should leave her alone (Morrison, Jazz, n.d.). On the other hand, she insists that she would tell the other characters about the man on the next day. This aspect shows that the event traumatized Dorcas and she chose death because it would save her the trouble of explaining things to her aunt and Violet. Dorcas thought that death was the end of her trouble. The novels Jazz and Beloved are similar because the Dorcas and Beloved died because of the love from other people. However, the novels differ because Dorcas chose to die but Beloved did not wanted to die, that is why she came back in form of a ghost to haunt her mother. Violet was also traumatized by the fact that her husband had an affair with Dorcas. The narrator explains her trauma through her acts. The third person narrative helps tells a story that Violet cannot explain. She portrays her trauma through her actions, so the narrator has to reveal the actions to the reader. Violet went to Dorcas’ open casket to disfigure her face because she was bitter about what she had done. The author also uses first person narrative style to inform readers about the traumatizing events in the lives of Violet and Joe. He informs readers that Violet left the family when she was young, so she was raised by a single mother. On the other hand, Joe also had a traumatizing childhood because he grew up in an adoptive home. Third person narration also reveals the traumatizing nature of the death of Violet’s mother. The narrator informs readers that she committed suicide. The narrator also informs readers about the whereabouts of Joe’s mother. Through third person narration, the readers understand that Joe questioned his identity.

The Bluest Eye and Sula is an article that uses third person, as well as the inversion narrative technique. The inversion technique helps readers to understand that the novel was modified from the film adaptation of the novel Limitations of life (Tally, 13). This technique helps readers to relate to the experiences of the characters from the perspective of another story by a different author. The experience gained from the initial source is carried on in the article. Suranyi’s article analyzes the Toni Morrison’s story from her perspective. She uses third person narrative style to refer to the events revealed by Morrison in her novel. For example when she says, “Pecola, desperately trying to escape the squalor of her life, finds that she can will her body to disappear, limb by limb, piece by piece, but never manages to free herself of her eyes, her invisibility never quite complete” (Tally, 12). This line gives readers an insight of Pecola’s traumatizing life from Suranyi’s point of view. On the other hand, Suranyi says, “At the novel’s end she has been raped by her father, lost the baby she was carrying, been driven into madness, but continues her quest for “the bluest eyes,” conversing with her imaginary friend, her double. Ironically, having been denied a sense of self and a voice to articulate her pain, in the end an insane Pecola has found not one, but two voices”( Tally, 15). This statement also reveals the traima’s in Pecola’s life. Suranyi uses third person to inform readers that Pecola had an imaginary friend. Through Suranyi’s article, the readers also understand that the Pecola could only confide in her imaginary friend. She wanted to be like Shirley, who is believed to be beautiful because she is white and has blue eyes. According to the characters in the article, Shirley had the ideal beauty. For this reason, Pecola developed self-hatred because she could not be like Shirley. The line “Her lack of self-esteem is generated by her alleged ugliness· and also by the neglect, abuse, and contempt heaped upon her” (Tally, 15). Suranyi’s article also highlights the shift from ‘I’ to ‘we’ in Morrison’s novel. Through this shift, readers discover that the narrator was present when the events took place. this is evident in the line “All of us … felt so wholesome after we cleaned ourselves on her. We were so beautiful when we stood astride her ugliness … Her inarticulateness made us believe we were eloquent. Her poverty kept us generous”. Through Suranyi’s analysis of the novel, the audience get a profound indulgence of the novel.

”Can’t Nobody Fly with All That Shit” is an article by Bouson Brooks, which analyzes Toni Morrison’s novel, Song of Solomon. The article mostly uses third person technique although there are instances where Bouson quotes directly from Morisson’s novel for emphasis. For instance, Bouson uses third person when he says “Song of Solomon ·is addressed, in part, to middle-class African Americans, especially males, who have a kind. of amnesia about their cultural history” to reveal the trauma faced by the black Americans after they realized their origins. This people boast around because they think they have been part of the western culture since its inception. They realize that they are a shameful lot because they had no voice during the time of slavery. Most of those who have developed the boisterous nature of the western culture become traumatized when given stories of the slavery of their ancestors. Most African Americans from the middle class boast about their position in the American society but this pride is limited by the fact that they have slave origins (Bouson, 76). The narrator in the article explains Morrison’s view of the black pride through analysis of her story Songs Of Solomon. The narrator tries to explain the trauma in this story by analyzing various concepts in the story. The narrator uses first and third person to inform readers about the idea of black masculinity and trauma from the perspective of the characters, Morrison as well as his own perspective. This narration style ensures that readers acquire maximum understanding of the concepts of trauma in the novel.

The four novels reveal various traumatizing aspects through narrations of the victims of trauma or from the point of view of the characters or other authors. The trauma is caused by other forces that drive people crazy. For instance, love made some of the characters to commit murder and also the society made some of them lose their self-identity. The events that followed enhanced the trauma in the characters’ lives.

Conclusion

Authors use various narrative styles to relate to the events in a story. In most narratives that use the third person narrative style, the authors give an account of the story because their lives inspired them to write the stories. First person narrative styles help to understand the story from the characters’ perspective. The character explains the story as it should be. Authors use this technique to eliminate any doubts from the readers. The style also shows readers that there is no exaggeration in the story given.it also helps readers to relate to the emotions and tone of the story.

References

Bouson, J B. Quiet As It’s Kept: Shame, Trauma, and Race in the Novels of Toni Morrison. Albany, NY: State Univ. of New York Press, 2000. Print.

Morrison, Toni. Beloved. London: Vintage Classic, 2010. Print.

—. Jazz: A Novel. New York: Vintage International, 2004. Internet resource.

Tally, Justine. The Cambridge Companion to Toni Morrison. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007. Print.

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