The IUP Journal of English Studies
Trauma and Identity in Tom McCarthy's Remainder: A Cognitive Approach

Article Details
Pub. Date : June, 2021
Product Name : The IUP Journal of English Studies
Product Type : Article
Product Code : IJES70621
Author Name : Mahdi Qasemi Shandiz, Zohreh Taebi, and Roghayeh Farsi
Availability : YES
Subject/Domain : Arts & Humanities
Download Format : PDF Format
No. of Pages : 14



This paper approaches the question of identity in a posttraumatic condition through the lens of schema theory, with reference to Tom McCarthy's novel Remainder (2005). It examines how schema construction provides enough clues for understanding the protagonist's attempt to form his lost identity. The close analysis of the novel is done through Stockwell's (2002) definition of schema theory. Schema theory offers psychological and scientific proofs for the protagonist's behavior, revealing how his mental obsession and motivations for reenactments are directed by cultural forces. This obsessive behavior constantly changes from one state to another. The theory will make these constant changes in behavior trackable by examining the character's changing principles of his schemata, which, according to Stockwell (2002), first develops, then changes, and finally gets refreshed in a posttraumatic situation. Finally, the paper interprets the protagonist's crisis of identity as the modern man's passage from modernism toward postmodernism and the traumatic reaction to this transition. The paper also pinpoints the pros and cons of the schema approach.


Trauma has a drastic influence on an individual's identity so that the victim experiences a crisis of identity in the posttraumatic state. Literary works, especially novels, provide enough space to address this crisis. Therefore, the present study focuses on McCarthy's novel, Remainder (2005), which specifically attends to the crisis of identity its protagonist faces after his traumatic accident.

Caruth (1996) defines trauma as an overwhelming experience of a destructive event which often appears in uncontrolled repetitive hallucinations and other intrusive phenomena. The destructive force of trauma is due to the fact that it criticizes a "world that is gone now" (Pine 2011, 166). Traumatic experience has been studied mainly through psychological and cognitive approaches. It is a concept which relates to mental experience and reflects an external event with particular implications on the individual's mental reality. This destructive side of trauma does not cross the boundaries of the protective shield, but it eliminates the expanse of satisfaction and comfort, so that it leads to a pathological neurosis during its later dominance. The neurotic state challenges the notion of identity the trauma victim has constructed and relied upon. The crisis of identity the trauma victim faces results in a set of disturbed and unjustifiable behaviors.


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