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战争创伤与身份危机

发布时间:2019-03-26

  3 War Trauma and Identity Crisis

  War is an action taken by the state in political needs, and war is also the extremeform of political conflict. Roth once said, “The distance from the war is closer thanmost people think, and terror is at hand.” (Philip Roth, 1988) The history of mankindis full of war history. War, in different scales, different purposes, and different forms,embedded in the novel of human history. War is the theme of human history, whichnever fails, unable to stop.

  In the war, human are constantly undergoing hardship and trauma. In Traumaand Recovery (1992), the famous trauma researcher Judith Herman called the historyof trauma research a “forgotten history.” In the contemporary trauma research, wartrauma is undoubtedly a hot topic that scholars pay attention to. In the study, somescholars described in detail the symptoms of war trauma, as well as the hallucinations,insomnia and hysteria caused by veterans. Some concern about the connectionbetween trauma and cruel warfare, the lingering nightmares of killing enemies, thetremendous impact on the deaths of their comrades, and the guilt of living alone.Some emphasize the effect of healing trauma through narration and writing, pointingout that by telling stories and writing stories, soldiers can better face and cure trauma.

  In the study of war traumas, there are not many studies that combine the individualtrauma of soldiers with the entire society and culture. In fact, many veterans feeldifficult to adapt to the life of the domestic society after the war because they areconfused about their identity. From the perspective of cultural anthropology, this partdeeply analyzes the cultural reasons of Lester Farley’s trauma, which is worthy of ourdeep consideration.

  3.1 Lester Farley: War Trauma。

  Lester Farley, a Vietnam War veteran, is a victim with an serious identity crisis.The experience of the Vietnam War often appears in his memory and the fear of deathis entangled in his heart. Thus, it can be seen that the characteristic of trauma is thattraumatic event produces shocking consequences for the individual. It changes theindividual’s understanding of the world and “for the sake of understanding theincident, the individual has again and again return to the event”(Kath Leen LauraMacarthur:2005,9). In Cathy Caruth’s point of view, “for veterans survivors, traumaticevents not only exists in a common sense”.(1995,153)There are many such scenes in the novel. “As if you are flying, as if you arein Vietnam, as if you are going back to your crazy momethe truth of the cruel fact,but also in the way in which the occurrence of the event cannot be understood innt”(63). The shadow of the Vietnam War makes him unable to adapt to normal lifeafter many years of ending the war.
 

战争创伤与身份危机
 

  It is believed that veteran Farley who suffered war trauma is not because of theshocking and impact on the battlefield, but because of the alienation and indifferenceafter he returning home. Therefore, it can be concluded that the war trauma sufferedby American veterans are closely related to their identity crisis. Because of the war,veterans’ pre-war identity is almost completely subverted. Because of the war,veterans find their ugliness and cruelty. Because of the war, veterans discover theselfishness and hypocrisy of the United States. The crisis of identities directly lead towar trauma. In recent years, the idea of combining literary studies with the spiritualtrauma has become a major trend inAmerican literary research. In fact, like all bloodywars in history, the Vietnam War left indelible trauma to both the United States andVietnam. “According to statistics, there are about one million soldiers sacrificed inNorth Vietnam. There were also numerous civilian casualties” (StanleyKarnow:1997,23).

  People want to forget the humiliation and pain as soon as possible.“However, the impact of Vietnam War has not been eliminated. Itsshadow has also shrouded the lives of Americans and alreadypenetrated into politics, history and culture. It has allowed theAmericans to endure endless pain for a long time” (M.PaulHolsinger,1999:360).For many Americans, the failure of the Vietnam War broke the Americanmyth, and hit theAmericans’confidence and dignity.

  Marita Sturken mentioned that “there has no unique history of theVietnam War that can be accepted, partly because of the collapse ofthe standard narration of American imperialism and male symbols. Itis composed of many historical conflicts, but in the opposingnarratives, some specific elements are indisputable. That is, thedivision of American society and the marginalization of the VietnamWar veterans” (2003:123).

  For most of the Vietnam veterans, after participating in such a war that didnot conform to the image of the previous, the American public refused to believe,war influence is not eliminated with their withdrawal from Vietnam. Thenightmare of the Vietnam War haunts their lives like a ghost for a long time. Thekey for Vietnam veterans is that no one cares about them. “They believe that theyfight in a war, and even see their comrades who died tragically on the battlefield,but didn’t get the respect that the country deserved” (Marita Sturken 2003:123).

  Many veterans not only suffers unfair treatment, but also are unable to adapt to anew life after returning home. It has intensified the marginalization of theseveterans. The well-known Vietnamese literary critic Philip D Beidler pointed outthat “one of the most obvious and most unexpected consequences of the VietnamWar is that it led to a writing career for a significant number of Americans whowere involved in the war in person. It was a chaotic and painful time that manypeople try to understand it through literature and explore its significance”(1991,1).

  The difference between the veteran wounds in the Vietnam War and other traumasis that it is not only a kind of stimulation and infringement of the mentallyinvolved individuals, but also a common experience. Unlike other traumatizedgroups, these veterans have a sense of guilt about their actions. In addition, theresults of the war and the public’s attitude towards participating in the war havehave complicated the trauma of veterans. On the battlefield, they felt their fellowcitizens’ lives had been wasted. The defeat of the war made the veterans feel thattheir violence and suffering had no result. In addition, the debates on the value andfairness of Vietnam War in the United States, and the indifference, forgetfulness, orneglect of the entire nation for war, cannot provide any satisfactory solutions fortheir trauma. Cathy Caruth’s definition of trauma is now widely accepted andwidely cited. This definition actually includes two levels: (1) The event itself and(2) The reaction to the event. The latter generally refers to the impact of the event,which often continues to harass individuals after the event, until the event iscompletely calmed down. This shows that individuals often feel a sense of burdenafter being traumatized. The two dimensions contained in the definition of traumamake it clear that knowledge about trauma is made up of two conflicting factors.

  One is a traumatic event that can be recorded rather than experienced. The other isa recollection of the event, which takes a permanent metaphor through spiritual division or separation. This suggests that trauma can be defined by specific eventsor by symptomatic responses to specific events. This suggests that trauma can bedefined by specific events or symptomatic.For American veterans of the Vietnam war, the trauma of the Vietnam wardiffers from other wounds in that it is not simply a condition of innocent victims.

  The facts about the war, the killing of these soldiers against innocent people in thewar, the outcome of defeat, and the attitude of the American people to participatein this war have made the trauma of the Vietnam War veterans particularlycomplicated. The defeat of the war made them feel that their dead comrades hadlost their lives in vain and were “wasted”. After the veterans returned home, thedomestic debate about the value and fairness of the war, and later the country’sindifference and forgetfulness to the war, could not provide any satisfactorysolution to their trauma. In addition, this kind of trauma is not only a violation ofthe individual, it is also a sorrow and fear experience shared by a group of peopleliving and dying.

  War has always been cruel, barbaric, and sweeping everything. The war bringsdamage to mankind is immeasurable. This kind of loss is not only for the individual,but also for the whole society. It involves not only the loss of life, physical disability,but also great psychological trauma. Everyone who joins in the war, whether it is asoldier or a civilian, suffers tremendous mental stress and pain, and their way ofrelieving painful pressure is either oppression or indulgence. Sometimes they suppresstheir emotions, isolate their feelings, and pretend that they are indifferent or evencold-blooded. Although the war ended, the trauma caused by the war could not behealed. Some people can’t stand it and choose to give up their lives. Some peopleseem to healed, but their hearts are still suffering. They are constantly mired in theshadow of war and the cruelty of reality. At same time, the spiritual division seems tobe the inevitable results.

  3.2 Lester Farley: Identity Crisis in Vietnam War。

  As a kind of violence, war is a kind of armed struggle between countries for thebenefit. There is a war, there must be victims. The identification of Vietnam veteransas victims is a problem that can not be ignored.

  The famous culture scholar Stuart Hall pointed out that “dual meaning of culturalidentity: on the one hand, it has stability. It reflects we shared common historicalexperience cultural code. In the continuous replacement and change of real history,cultural identity has the meaning of stability, sustainability”(223). This “oneness” isessential to a nation. On the other hand, identity is constantly changing. Althoughpeople have “the same experience, the same identity”. But, in the historical process,the experience and identity will be destroyed. Therefore, “cultural identity is both“becoming” and “being”, which is both in the past and future. They are not fixedforever in the past, but they are constantly “tricking” of history, culture, andpower”(225) Therefore, identity is “a construction, a process that is never completed,and it is always “in the process”. Due to this, Bowman says that identity “occurs onlyin the future” and is always in the process of creation. (“Who Needs ‘Identity’”2)Lester Farley, is the typical victim of the Vietnam War. When he returned tohome, everybody said that he wasn’t the same person and they didn’t recognize him:“they’re all afraid of him” (64). The narrative goes, “He comes home to them fromjungle warfare and not only is he not appreciated but he is feared, so he might as wellgo back” (64). So, he went back for the second tour, and this time he was “geared up”.

  The first time he was easygoing Les, who didn’t know what it meant to feel hopeless.“The first time he was the boy from the Berkshires who put a lot oftrust in people and had no idea how cheap life could be, didn’t knowwhat medication was, didn’t feel inferior to anyone, happy-go-luckyLes, no threat to society, tons of friends, fast cars, all that stuff”(64-65).

  The emergence of war trauma reflects the split of the identity of VietnamVeterans. On the battlefield, Lester Farley feels the solidarity of the community, thewarmth, and feels that he and his comrades are part of the community. The self hasbeen already integrated into it, and it is difficult to separate from the community.However, after returning home, there is a huge difference between the domesticsociety and the “community”. Therefore, Lester Farley is difficult to identify society.He questions his own identity, and thinks about “who am I”. He questions the identityof himself and the national identity of the United States.

  But at “the second time he goes berserk,” The second time he “fucking wreakshavoc” (65)and the second time in Vietnam War, Lester becomes a door gunner onhelicopter. “Up there above the action, and everything looks small from above, and hejust guns down huge. Death and destruction, that is what door gunning is all about”(65, emphasis added). There is no doubt that Lester witnessed the horror of theexplosion and the cruelty of the war in Vietnam. He doesn’t know who he is now andwhere he belongs. He attempts to seek help from the VA (Veteran Administration) andthe government, but what he gets is merely some money or some sleeping bills, aboutwhich Lester rages so that he utters frantically “fuck the government” (66). When thegovernment cannot give him a hand, he helps himself, yet “it isn’t easy after two toursto come back and get settled all on his own. He’s not calm. He’s agitated. He’s restless.

  He’s drinking. It doesn’t take much to put him into a rage” (66). First, before joiningthe war, Farley believes that he is a brave hero, but the dream is instantly crushed onthe brutal battlefield, and he could not identify himself as a hero because of thegovernment’s indifference and people’s wire attitude. Second, he believes that even ifhe cannot become a hero, but he is still at least an ordinary good person. However, inthe war, he shot the enemy and the civilians, which made people have prejudice tohim. The series of identity confusion brings deep trauma to him.

  On the battlefield, there repeated the death of companion. Alive is the desire forevery soldier. The pain does not end with the war. He becomes paranoid, jealous. Thebloody scene of the battlefield always appears in his dream. The brutality and crueltyon the battlefield destroy his family. Serious violence and mistrust to others let himcompletely insane and loneliness. He loses his friends, beats his ex-wife and sets fireto his son. The reason why he is so mad is that the war endows him a very differentmeaning to life. For some people, they experience the war, and their life becomeextremely valuable. People who struggled on the death line before, now cherishedpeace and stability than anyone. But for more people, the cruelty of the battlefieldgives them a hint that life is not a god gift, and that is mean, weak, or even ugly.

  People hold opinion that they couldn’t return to heaven from hell. But, they becomeunfamiliar with what they once knew, and they are separated from those who haveknown. They are full of doubt, and they doubt the faith, the beauty of human nature,the beauty of life, the purpose and meaning of life.

  Farley has to face a cruel reality: he losses the human nature of goodness, andbecomes a killing machine, even can’t deserve “human”. He could no longer live aseasily as he once did, and thus continue to suffer from war trauma.