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Chapter One Trauma on the Doomsday
1.1 The Formation of Trauma
The original meaning of the word trauma is the wound on the body which is physical. The psychological trauma is usually caused by the sudden shock which is hard to be accepted by the participator or witness of violence and also takes shape gradually while the physical trauma exists continuously. Body, as the basic element of one?s life, is the primary condition of all other activities which make life meaningful and valuable. And the continuous injury on physical also would cause mental damage. While confronted with the blasted environment which is no longer suitable for living, human beings would suffer from the trauma both on the physical aspect and on psychological aspect.
At the beginning of the novel, the description of silent, dark and horrible environment creates a serious atmosphere for the whole novel. Though McCarthy did not give the exact explanation to the disaster, what we can see distinctly is the “barren, silent, godless” (McCarthy 4) landscape permeated with a sense of despair and death. The gloomy scenes of the doomsday present in front of our eyes. The scenery here is the best portrayal of The Waste Land of Elliot, and everything is covered in darkness, cold and desolateness. This wilderness of the outside world, to a certain extent, symbolizes the despair of the inner world of human beings. In such a kind of environment, it is obvious that the father and his son who go forward alone will suffer physical and mental trauma.
1.2 Evasion of Trauma
Because of the sudden and overwhelming nature of the traumatic experience, the traumatized person cannot fully accept the occurrence of the event, which will develop a special form of memory that is different from normal memory. Normal memory tends to be forgotten over time, and traumatic memory is just the opposite. It will not only remain for a long time but will also be magnified and deeply imprinted in the mind. The traumas which are not fully grasped would “return later in repeated flashbacks, nightmares, and other repetitive phenomena” (Caruth, Unclaimed 91). Traumatic memories cannot be understood in the way which normal memories are, being transformed into long-term memories. Instead, it is hard to store them in the right way all the time, and therefore they are forced to repeat in the form of short-term memories. In the face of sudden traumatic events, the traumatized persons sometimes show unexpected calmness and composedness, as if they are not affected by anything. However, the indifference and numbness of the traumatized persons are the manifestation of the huge shock on the spirit. They refuse to recognize the fact that traumatic events exactly happened, so they choose to suppress their sorrowful emotions and hide their inner hurt as if nothing has changed, which is an escape response to traumatic events.
The sudden outbreak of disaster has brought great impact to people, both physically and mentally. The father and son experience a series of unimaginable traumatic events along the way, which make it difficult for the father and son to accept these terrible things and understand the occurrence of trauma accurately. They evade trauma and suppress their emotions, which is their first reaction to the trauma.
Chapter Two Healing on the Journey
2.1 The Process of Healing
Walking alone like lonely ghosts in the wilderness, the bodies and minds of the father and son are greatly hurt in this disaster. They are almost hit by the misery of life, without the company of other relatives and friends, and their road to find hope is extremely difficult and distressed. However, there is a glimmer of hope in their hearts that they are not willing to give up, and they carry the fire with them all the time. The father and son neither are unwilling to fall into the loss of morality and conscience nor to end their lives curtly becoming the losers of cruel life. The road to survival is also a healing journey of the father and son. On the way, they try their best to overcome the negative impact of trauma on themselves, restore normal interpersonal communication skills and sense of trust, and establish a new connection with this society. The trying of the father and son to cancel the barriers and make connection with other survivors promotes the healing process of themselves.
2.1.1 Interdependence of Father and Son
In this desolate and cold doomsday world, the father and son warm each other as the only relative. As the mother said that “A person who had no one would be well advised to cobble together some passable ghost” (McCarthy 57), no one can live alone. The evil and darkness of this world are terrible enough to swallow people and they would completely lose in despair and loneliness. The son is the last barrier between the father and death, who is the father?s last insistence giving the father spiritual support. The father whose spirit is traumatized is easily out of control. When his son is asleep, he often accuses this world that does not conform to the rules and curses all the gods in this world in the corner. However, in the face of his son, the father tries his best to control his emotions, and he does not want to bring his feelings of despair and helplessness to his son. The father and son live in different societies and have distinct cognitive systems.
2.2 Exploration of Existence
The disaster has destroyed all modern civilizations, along with the moral principles of civilized society. It is very difficult to survive on this doomsday world, but the father and son still want to be good people and stick to their final bottom line. On the way to the south, their hearts are stimulated by all kinds of thrilling events, which makes this journey of survival also a way of exploring the meaning of existence for the father and son. Since “Helplessness and isolation are the core experiences of psychological trauma”, Herman points out that “Empowerment and reconnection are the core experiences of recovery” (205). When a little sense of security and trust is restored, they could once again trust the worthy people and learn to have reservations about people who are not worth it. At this moment, they are ready to risk deepening relationships. The traumatized father and son are vigilant about anything they encountered on the road since in their eyes any kind of careless behavior could kill them. They try to avoid the possibility of contact with others, while the existence of unknown people is a threat to them.
The encounter with other survivors causes the father and son to have internal conflicts. They want to establish a moral standard that is applicable to the current society, and seek a balance point in establishing connections with others, so as to protect themselves without violating their conscience and avoiding strong self-condemnation. At the same time, the confusion about life and death has always plagued the father and he also inevitably wants to explore the nature of life and the existence of gods he once believed in.
Chapter Three Growth in the Disaster ........................... 64
3.1 Establishment of Faith and Belief .................................. 64
3.1.1 Father?s Improvement in Morality ......................... 65
3.1.2 Son?s Brave Confrontation with Trauma .................................. 67
Chapter Three Growth in the Disaster
3.1 Establishment of Faith and Belief
The sick father eventually fails to avoid the harm that the world brings to him, but the journey with a companion by his son carries out the spiritual transcendence of the father. There is light again in the father?s heart, which his son lights for him. Th e father reestablishes his own values, understands the meaning of life, and becomes a good man with a firmer idea. No longer wallowing in the world of the past, the father bravely faces the reality and rewrites the traumatic memory. Along the way, the son not only learns from his father the basic survival skills which are necessary in this complex and sinister society, but more importantly, he has grown into an independent surviving individual with more mature thoughts and the principles he insists on. The trauma suffered by the son gradually heals in the process of getting along with his father, and makes him form a stronger inner heart and dare to face up to the suffering.
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