is no final resolution for the trauma; recovery is never complete. The impact of the event continues to reverberate throughout the survivor’s lifecycle since issues that were sufficiently resolved at one stage of recovery may be reawakened at new milestones of the survivor’s life. Occasions such as marriage, divorce, a birth or death in the family, illness or retirement may cause resurgence of traumatic memories. For example the fighters and refugees of the Second World War experience a revival of post-traumatic symptoms as they encounter the losses of old age. Although resolution is never complete, it is often sufficient for the survivors to turn their attention from the tasks of recovery to the tasks of ordinary life, to take pleasure in life in the present and the future rather than the past. They face life with few illusions but often with gratitude. Their view of life might be tragic, yet for that very reason they have learned to cherish laughter with a clear sense of what is important and what is not. Having encountered the fear of death, they know how to celebrate life (Herman, 211-213).
2.6 Concluding Remarks
This chapter demonstrated the diagnostic symptoms of the disorder as it is categorized in the manual and deals with different dimensions and factors which can be linked to the post-traumatic symptomatology. However the main focus of the chapter is on the theories presented by Judith Herman in her book, Trauma and Recovery. The three main symptoms of the disorder are called hyperarousal, intrusion and constriction. In order to gain recovery, the survivors need to pass through three stages: safety, remembrance and mourning and finally reconnection. Although a full recovery can never be promised, the survivors need to complete their course of treatment in order to regain the power to get connected to the people surrounding them and to face life and cherish it.
Post- traumatic stress disorder was known some centuries before it was included in the diagnostic manual of the American Psychiatric Association in 1980. It was the subject of research for great figures such as Sigmund Freud. But some historical events such as development of workmen’s compensation acts in the late nineteenth century and the wartime experiences of the 19th century resulted in the explosion of literature and interest in the concept in recent decades. Trauma disturbs memory, and therefore identity, in peculiar ways and leaves a residue of psychic scar tissue that never altogether heals.
A Psychoanalytical Reading of Slaughterhouse-Five:
Traumatic Narrator and Traumatic Billy Pilgrims
The present chapter seeks to trace the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder in Slaughterhouse-five by Kurt Vonnegut. The novel consists of ten chapters; the first and the last chapter are about a veteran of the Second World War whose name is not mentioned, hence he is called the narrator in this study. Writing a story about the atrocities he has witnessed at war, is a dream he has been thinking about for twenty years since the war was finished. Finally this dream is fulfilled and a written account of his story forms chapter two to nine. Therefore applying the psychoanalytical theories of Judith Herman about PTSD on this novel will consist of two parts: one devoted to the narrator and the otherto Billy Pilgrim, the protagonist of his story.
As mentioned in Chapter Two, the symptoms of PTSD are mainly divided into three groups: hyperarousal, intrusion and constriction and each have some characteristics which are significant in diagnosing the disorder. In this study two characteristics of hyperarousal which are traced both in the narrator and Billy Pilgrim are their difficulty in falling asleep and their lack of concentration. In the next part their tendency to relive traumatic memories and the flashbacks they have to the event, is evaluated as the major characteristic of intrusion. And finally in the last part, constriction, their inability and reluctance to recall traumatic memories, their tendency towards alcohols and Billy Pilgrim’s state of numbness is investigated.
3.2 Hyperarousal Elements: A Psychoanalytical Reading of Slaughterhouse-Five
3.2.1 Traumatic Narrator
22.214.171.124 The Narrator’s Difficulty to Fall Asleep:
The narrator whose name is not mentioned throughout the novel suffers from insomnia; he thus involves himself with alcohol and the telephone late at nights. He asks the operators of the Bell Telephone Company to connect him with the people he has not heard of for many years. Bernard V. O’Hare, his ‘old war buddy’, is one of those he demands to keep in touch after years. Both attended World War II and were captured and imprisoned in Dresden, Germany, where they witnessed the bombardment of the city and the massacre of thousands of people. Almost twenty years after the incident he tends to write a book about the atrocities of war;therefore he decides to reunite with Bernard for sharing old memories.
I have this disease late at night sometimes, involving alcohol and the telephone. . . . And then, speaking gravely and elegantly into the telephone, I ask the telephone operators to connect me with this friend or that one, from whom I have not heard in years. (3-4)
The traumatic events appear to recondition the human nervous system; as a result,those affected by the disorder suffer from numerous types of sleep disturbances; it takes them longer to fall asleep and they are awaken more frequently during the night than ordinary people( Herman 35-36). The narrator of the first chapter very clearly states that he is suffering from a disease; he knows there is something wrong with him though he might not be aware of the reasons behind such behaviors.As a matter of fact it is the memories of war that he is still suffering from. Theinfluences of such an experience on him are so strong that makes it impossible for him to forget it after almost twenty years. As a result his involvement with alcohol and telephone is an unsuccessful attempt to tune out the repetitive stimuli. Unsuccessful because even in such a situation all he tries to do, is to find O’Hare to share memories with him.
126.96.36.199 The Narrator’s Difficulty of Concentration
One of the other features of hyperarousalis a lack of concentration, the psychological arousal of a traumatized person continues unabated and the system of self-preservation goes on permanent alert as if the danger might return at any moment which might cause problem in concentration (Herman, 35). This characteristic is vividly traced in the narrator of the first chapter. The way he describes his life time events is like following the stream of consciousness of a person who is unstuck in time.He is retelling his twenty- year lifetime experiences after World War, his marriage, his business, the process for writing his book, his reunion with his friend and their return to Dresden in a non-chronologicalorder that the reader finds difficult to follow. Theshift from one period to the other is sudden and random.
As a trafficker in climaxes and thrills and characterization … I had outlined the Dresden story many times….
I thought this bouncing was accidental. But I was mistaken. He had to show somebody what was in the bag, and he had decided he could trust me.
“There is a smashing thing,” he said.
And we were flown to a rest camp in France, where we were fed chocolate malted milkshakes and all the other rich food until we were all covered with baby fat. Then we were sent home…. (4-6)
While he tries to explain his difficulties in writing his book, suddenly he shifts to the battlefield at the end of the warand describing soldiers taking souvenirs. Among them is an Englishman who trusted to show his belongings to him. The time used in this p
aragraph is present as if he is experiencing the incidents at that moment. Yet all of a sudden he changes the subject to the end of war when they were flown to rest camps. The way he describes their settlement at the camp is humorous as if he is making fun of the event and this is the result of the rage and disgust he is still carrying within himself. During the years following the war he has not been able to forget what had happened to him, he was also unsuccessful to fulfill his dream of writing a book about it. The result is a man suffering from a trauma and the consequences of it. His lack of concentration is one of the prominent results of it; his traveling to different time zones in the present and in the past.
3.2.2 Traumatic Billy Pilgrim
188.8.131.52 Billy’s Difficulty Falling Asleep
As mentioned above, one of the problems of traumatized people might confront, is their inability to sleep. Thischaracteristic was discussed about the narrator of the story who made this point explicitly that he was suffering from a disease of sleeping late at nights. Billy Pilgrim, the protagonist of his story, is similar to him in this way. Yet the way he treats this problem is different.
Billy took off his tri-focals and his coat and his necktie and his shoes, and he closed the venetian blinds and then the drapes, and he lay down the outside of the coverlet. But sleep would not come. Tears came instead. They steeped. Billy turned on the Magic fingers, and he was jiggled as he wept. (51-52)
As a wealthy man, Billy possessed a Georgian house with all the facilities a rich man might have. One of this special furniture was a double bed with an electric blanket and a switch to turn on a gentle vibrator which was bolted to the springs of the box mattress. This vibrator called the Magic Fingers, was the idea of the doctor whom Billy took orders from due to Billy’s complains about his weeping out of no reason every so often. The vibrator was indeed suggested by the doctor to help Billy take a nap every day, yet it was not helpful.
In her book Trauma and Recover Judith Herman states that the psychological changes of post-traumatic stress disorder are both extensive and enduring. Patients suffer from a combination of generalized anxiety symptoms and specific fears. Instead of having a normal baseline level of alert, they have an elevated baseline of arousal in which their bodies are always on the alert for danger. The increase in arousal persists during sleep as well as in the waking state, resulting in numerous types of sleep disturbance as a result people with post-traumatic stress disorder take longer to fall asleep, are more sensitive to noise and are awaken more frequently during the night than ordinary people. It is due to the fact that traumatic events appear to recondition the human nervous system (Herman, 36).
Though a wealthy and successful man in his business, Billy Pilgrim has not been able to overcome the grief and pain he has been carrying since the World War. He is living two kinds of life: on one hand is a Billy Pilgrim,an optometrist who is running his own business with five other optometrists working for him, netting over sixty thousand dollars a year. Also theowner a fifth of the new Holiday Inn and half of three Tastee-Freeze, a sort of frozen custard, stands. He is married and has two children, a daughter and a son. On the other hand is a Billy who is stuck in his memories of war, who suffers from insomnia and every so often finds himself weeping. This part of Billy’s personality is kept for himself and his doctor is the only person who knows about it.
184.108.40.206 Billy’s Difficulty of Concentration
The very first paragraph of chapter two which is indeed the beginning of the story about Billy Pilgrim clearly describes his states of mind. Billy’s lack of control over his time travels makes the story more challenging for the reader to follow since Billy switches from a state of his life to the other frequently and often randomly. Chapter two to nine deal with the