2.1 Cathy Caruth’s theory of traumaIn order to better understand this thesis’s analysis of the function of language as a medium that channels trauma in Hemingway’s and Vonnegut’s war novels, Caruth’s literary trauma criticism must be anatomized in pursuance of a viable study of the intersection of trauma theory and linguistic techniques in literature. Caruth argues in Unclaimed Experience: Trauma, Narrative and History that both the experience and comprehension of trauma is not based on intelligible patterns of reference and awareness, as the essence of trauma emerges paradoxically when and where its promt acumen is inconceivable.
In her publication, Caruth surveys psychoanalytical works and interpretations of Freud, de Man, Kleist, Kand and Lacan. Caruth’s theory of trauma upon which this thesis is grounded instills Freud’s trauma theory framed in his book entitled Moses and Monotheism and Beyond the Pleasure Principle essay. Caruth observes that the incentive of seizing a personal experience of trauma, such as war trauma, in a literary form constitutes the new mode of reading and of listening that both the language of trauma, and the silence of its mute repetition of suffering, profoundly and imperatively demand .
In order for trauma to be poured into words for the reader to comprehend, it must first be taken into consideration that the experience of trauma consists of an inherent latency within the experience itself . The inherent latency’ of trauma represents the suspension of immediate reaction to any traumatic threat to one’s physical and mental integrity as the conscious self cannot anticipate beforehand any impact of trauma, such as getting wounded or witnessing a bombing raid. It is thus not the actual threat of death which prompts the traumatic shock, but it is the enigma of survival which causes a break in one’s consciousness due to its incapability of coping with the improbable act of survival. As the human mind lacks the comprehension of experience of facing death, the mind generates a repetitive mechanism which corresponds with not simply the attempt to grasp that one has almost died but, more fundamentally and enigmatically, the very attempt to claim one’s own survival . Caruth observes that the repetitive mechanism of revisiting the source of trauma becomes visible in narratives through ingenious linguistic techniques which convey and are related to the impact of trauma. She suggests that trauma opens up and challenges us to a new kind of listening, the witnessing, precisely, of impossibility , which assigns language the challenging task of generating meaning for the traumatic dimension of narratives. The independent relationship between language and trauma in narratives aims at mirroring the strain between the outer experience and the inner perception. The collision of language and trauma has been exploited by several scholars. Lyndsey Stonebridge approaches the modernist stance towards trauma and language in a psychoanalytical manner, stripping trauma narratives of their linear chronologies which, consequently, leads to an ontological paralysis of the self. Dennis Brown explores the fragmentation of the self reflected in war narratives which are ingeniously built in the linguistic structures. Geoffrey Hartman analyzes the symptoms and responses to trauma through the rhetorical and structural innovations in narratives. For Caruth, Stonebridge, Brown, Hartman and other scholars devoted to researching the linguistic symptoms and repercussions of traumatic experiences in narratives, the task of scrutinizing the purpose of certain language constructs to convey trauma and discerning these language structures from those of modern and postmodern nature proves to be a laborious undertaking. Notwithstanding, this thesis intends to investigate and evaluate trauma intimating linguistic techniques seized in the modernist and postmodernist narrative.3. Hemingway and WWI in the novelHemingway signed on to become an ambulance driver at the Italian front early in 1918. Shortly after having arrived at the frontline, he was seriously injured by a mortar fire. Consequently, he was hospitalized for six months in Milan. During his long hospitalization, he met and strongly fell in love with an American nurse named Agnes von Kurowsky. Their love story proved to be shortlived as the nurse decided to reject Hemingway’s love. Kurowsky served as an inspiration for Hemingway’s fictionalized female characters, such as for the character of Catherine Barkley. Although having taken part in the war, even is for short time, Hemingway did not have the opportunity to take active part in most of the battles or even witness them. Having taken inspiration from personal but scarce firsthand experiences, Hemingway had thoroughly researched an impressive amount of books on the topic of the Great War in order to be able to reproduce in detail the battlefields of the Italian front and the scenery of the Italian landscape. It was not until the 1980s that A Farewell to Arms’s profoundly scrutinized literary background granted the novel an apprised and well-merited position in the literary canon, thus surpassing its underestimated label as a mere biography of Hemingway, as it was navely considered by its contemporary audience. While it is undeniable that Hemingway’s own war experience served as a source of inspiration for the story line of the novel, the focus of A Farewell to Arms is not the warfare itself, but rather its traumatic repercussions and aftershock which are being penned by the author, diclosed by the narrator and experienced by the protagonist Frederic. Hemingway deliberately constructs the novel in such a manner that the theme of war gradually loses its significance as a historical event, while its emotional weightiness slowly gains dominance to the extent that its traumatizing memory prevails.3.1 Modernist reading of A Farewell to Arms: a human dimension of warA Farewell to Arms can be studied as a guileless, semi-autobiographical and traumatic record of the war which shaped the overall path of the modernist literary tradition. Hemingway forsakes decorative language and embraces a straightforward and seemingly emotionless language that articulates brutal war scenes, thus accentuating the obvious break from the realist means of literary writing. By phasing out prettifying descriptions of warfare, Hemingway’s graphic depictions are the linguistic techniques which set him apart from other authors of the twentieth century. The focus shifted towards the character’s thoughts and feelings, thus human dimension became the means for disclosing the emotional facet of war, as opposed to reducing the delineation of warfare to facts and figures.The absence of impassioned language elements throughout the entire novel creates a particularly disillusioned atmosphere in the plot, which rationally entwines itself with the judgment of war. The concept of the futility of war is an everpresent factor in the novel, hardly ever disclosed in words and well disguised in condensed dialogues, accurately described fight scenes and detailed picturesque landscapes, such as in the opening paragraph:In the late summer of that year we lived in a house in a village that looked across the river and the plain to the mountains. In the bed of the river there were pebbles and boulders, dry and white in the sun, and the water was clear and swiftly moving and blue in the channels. Troops went by the house and down the road and the dust they raised powdered the leaves of the trees. The trunks of the trees too were dusty and leaves fell early that year and we saw the troops marching along the road and the dust rising and leaves, stirred by the breeze, falling and the soldiers marching and afterward the road bare and white except for the leaves. Through the continous use of sensorial linguistic formulations, Hemingway creates a palpable dimension of the novel which captivates and immerses the reader into each moment. The ritual-like reiteration of the words river, trees and leaves is subtly manipulated to amplify the sensorial experience through language. Even though the descriptions of sceneries are captivating to the extent that they even bear resemblence to melodiousness, they are not to be mistaken for an idyllic or sentimental approach to war. On the contrary, the well-detailed, yet terse descriptions serve as linguistic mechanisms which educate the reader to observe and visualize the undervalued human dimension of war.The novel does not lack in the abundance of detail, such as the retreat from the front at Bainsizza:The wind rose in the night and at three o’clock in the morning with the rain coming in sheets there was a bombardment and the Croatians came over across the mountain meadows and through patches of woods and into the front line. They fought in the dark in the rain and a counter-attack of scared men from the second line drove them back. There was much shelling and many rockets in the rain and machine-gun and rifle fire all along the line. They did not come again and it was quieter and between the gusts of wind and rain we could hear the sound of a great bombardment far to the north. The concise sentences and pictorial elements are an essential part of Hemingway’s unmistakable style of writing. These succint sentences and features call forth the emotional and cognitive perception of the reader. The reader is encouraged, if not compelled to reflect upon the moral vision of A Farewell to Arms, which is not visible on the surface, but is rather hidden below the illusive superficiality of the language. Throughout the novel, the superficial damage caused by war is disclosed in forthright descriptions. The reader learns from the meticulous narrator that the sudden interiors of houses that had lost a wall through shelling belong to the people who had plaster and rubber in their gardens and sometimes in the streets . The precision and attention to detail is distorted not even by shocking reports, such as the report of the cholera which had caused only seven thousand deaths in the army. The use of the word only is not intented to belittle the cruel reality of death, instead it implies that the number of deaths caused by warfare is significantly higher than seven thousand. Even though the narration is constructed upon the inner thoughts of the narrator, the accounts are always free from judgmental or even personal expression of opinions, hence it is the responsibility of the reader to be the judge of war. By exposing the experience of war in prevalent terms of physical action and meager sentimental and affectionate accounts of the characters, the author impels the reader to ponder upon the morality and virtue of the novel, hence the reader is intrisically further encouraged to view the horrors of war and its repercussions on people in a critical manner. 3.2 Hemingway’s heroPhilip Young’s critical study Ernest Hemingway: A Reconsideration (1966) offers a comprehensive understanding of the code hero. The traits of the code hero are not the embodiment of Hemingway’s persona, they are the only rational guidelines in a world of war governed by no logical system. The term code hero, coined and defined by Young, deciphers the hero as a man who possesses the honor and courage which in a life of tension and pain make a man a man and distinguish him from the people who follow random impulses, let down their hair, and are generally messy, perhaps cowardly. The concept of the code hero, grounded in the existential be-ing in the world , represents a means of facing the irrationality of life as well as a means of eventually evading established social limitations which dictate the seemingly rational human conduct. Young further dissects the model of the code hero and divides it into two interdependent types: the code hero and the Hemingway hero.