Literature or short term depending upon the catastrophic

Literature has allowed us to explore beyond the limits of this
world and also the human psyche. Among that are certain literary works which is
capable of posing a social challenge by setting out to explore the pain,
suffering and trauma through self narratives, testimonies and flashbacks. My
thesis will throw sufficient light on the self narrated traumatic experiences
of children under various oppressing situations.

Trauma is an emotional shock caused by a deeply distressing or
disturbing experience, it involves feelings and emotions. The consequences of a
trauma may be long term or short term depending upon the catastrophic effects
it left on the victim.  Trauma caused by
discrimination, sexual abuse, insecurity, domestic violence and particularly
experiences may affect the minds of characters. Trauma and trauma theories can
be very well related to history, war, politics, psychology, sociology and particularly

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It can be evidently said that both Trauma theory and Testmonio
narratives have a very close relation. Testimonial writings prove themselves as
a classic expression of trauma as the writers can retrieve themselves as active
participants and witnesses of the history they went through. Moreover
Testimonial narratives make the reader to get acknowledged of the prevailing
social challenges, injustices and the need to render a helping hand to those
who suffer.

A new literary method that considered traumatized children was
developed in American literature towards the end of 19th century. A keen
study on those traumatized children paralleled the research on child
development studies, child psychology, PTSD and many other theories. This new
tradition gained its significance when children started to narrate their own traumatic
experiences through testimonials and self narratives.

Danielle Bernock,
an American
author has famously quoted that:  “Trauma is personal.               It does not disappear if it is
not validated. When it is ignored or invalidated the silent screams continue
internally heard only by the one held captive. When someone enters the pain and
hears the screams healing can begin” (Danielle
Bernock, Emerging with Wings: A True Story of
Lies, Pain, and the Love That Heals).

It can be obviously said that any traumatic condition is the
result of being continuously tortured. Unless or until someone is willing to
hear their screaming in silence, their trauma will remain personal. Both body
and voice are recognized as opposites in trauma. This is because of situations
like; insecurity, confusion, betrayal and brutality that make the victim to
remain dumb in spite of the unbearable pain the body is subjected to.

 “Trauma therapy, at least the best trauma
theory, aims to turn trauma into voice, so that the traumatized person can
speak, and finally transform his or her trauma into narrative.  The broken
fragments of experience are made whole” (Alford, Trauma and Forgiveness).

that is how trauma is stringed with testimonials and narratives to voice out
their silenced sufferings and unheard cries, thus giving birth to a new
literary technique. Most of the Trauma theories are concerned with the
traumatic experiences of authors and how it has affected their literary works. Testimonials
or narratives can also be conceivably recognized as a representation of
traumatic experiences. It’s essential to remember Freud, who wrote that
childhood traumas were the source of most neuroses and psychoses. And so this dissertation
will present a detailed study of traumatized children in narratives and testimonials
by the application of various trauma theories.

            In my thesis, children testimonials are broadly
classified into five different categories and trauma in that particular aspect
is studied using theories that connect the study as a whole. As for War
Testimonials, Dear World: A Syrian Girl’s story of War and Plea for Peace by
Bana Allabed and Tamil Tigress by Niromi de Soyza discuss the brutality and
terror that engulfed the young minds. It is vividly expressed in their words which
resonates their plea against the stupidity of war and the trauma caused by
merciless deaths and destructions. The characters of these novels are in a search
to find a let out or an escape out of the traumatic events that tangled their
lives. Also, it discloses the innocence of a child trying to explain the plain
truth by simply placing hope and peace as their requests. Both these novels expose
the dark reality of wars and the stirring traumatic impressions it leaves upon
the victims.

            Aboriginal Testimonials or Testimonies of Australia’s
stolen Generations survivors is about children who were born of mixed race. My place
by Sally Morgan is often specified as a milestone in Aboriginal literature and Is that
you Ruthie? By Ruth Hegarty is a black Australian testimony that accounts
the lives of aboriginal girls in a dormitory at a notorious aboriginal
institution. Sally Morgan as an indigenous writer, historian and activist
speaks about her bitter childhood experiences, erased identities, falsely
framed heritage and the trauma it conceived in every aspects of her life. Ruth Hegarty
illustrates her experience in a dormitory with other girls of the same age
group.  She registers her resentment on the
harsh government policy that broke family bonds and friendships by consequently
putting them in an incessant search for relations they lost.

As the Healing Foundation noted:                                                                                                                      
“The trauma experienced by Indigenous people as a result of colonisation
and subsequent policies, such as the forced removal of children, has had
devastating consequences. The disruption of our culture and the negative
impacts on the cultural identity of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander
peoples has had lasting negative effects, passed from generation to generation.
The cumulative effect of historical and intergenerational trauma severely
reduces the capacity of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to fully
and positively participate in their lives and communities, thereby leading to
widespread disadvantage” (Healing Foundation).

            Holocaust Testimonial novels affords in providing a
detailed historical account of what the witnesses personally experienced and
also it contributes a speculative account of everything that happened so long
before. I am a Star: Child of the Holocaust by Inge Auerbacher elucidates
her wistful childhood that intervened at the age of seven and how her death was
defied at the concentration camp for three years. Upon the Head of a Goat: A
Childhood in Hungary 1939-1944 by Aranka Seigel covers the five years of life
from the perspective of a Jewish girl up to being delivered to the
concentration camp at Auschwitz. These novels provide a gripping account of
trials the Jewish families had to undergo at the concentration camps held at Czechoslovakia
and Hungary. The girls in the novels portrays the aftermath of the world wars
and also about the ghettos where the Jewish families were thrown in to a
confined quarters to await an unknown fate. Both these novels detail the
plethora of emotions and how they handled it as children going through this
traumatic ordeal.  

            Child abuse or child maltreatment is a universal problem
and children who have been sexually abused are always at the risk of developing
a whole lot of symptoms like insomnia, inferiority complex, depression which at
extreme conditions may lead to trauma. Testimonials written on Child abuse is
really heart breaking and reveals many awful truths that are secluded by closed
doors. Two such Testimonial writings are Sickened: The Memoir of a Munchausen by
Proxy Childhood, written by Julie Gregory and Street Kid: One Child’s Desperate
Fight for Survival by Judy Westwater. Sickened unfolds a young
girl’s messed childhood dealing with Munchausen (MPB or induced illness) at the
hands of her mother. This can be regarded as an invisible kind of child abuse
as she suffers invariably at the hands of both her father and mother, enduring countless
physical and mental abuses. It shocks the reader as she gets battered psychologically
and gets nudged into a state of irretrievable trauma. On the other hand,                     Street Kid: One Child’s Desperate
Fight for Survival is truly a moving constructive story of a girl who
is made to suffer under the inhuman treatment of nuns. This thought provoking testimony
is truly an eye opener in making the readers to be get aware of the social
evils that is happening around us and the society.

            The development of Slave narratives or Testimonials from autobiographical
accounts made it to be accepted as one of the widely read literary genre that is
made up of the written account of enslaved Africans and West Indians belonging
to British Colonies. At the beginning of 18th and 19th
centuries, these narratives were published in pamphlets and some were recorded
as oral histories. Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl by Harriet Jacobs
addresses those who weren’t completely aware of the evils of slavery. She also
explores the physical abuses and sufferings faced by her and the other female
slaves at the plantations. Harriet Jacobs renders a heart breaking picture of
the traumatic events she underwent to save her children from the cruel clutches
of slavery. History of Mary Prince, a West Indian slave, Related by Herself is
a                   firsthand description
of the barbarism of enslavement. She reveals her anguish and pain as she talks
about the incessant and painful labor they were forced into without any rest. The
book also makes a candid reference to the political scenario that existed
during their period of slavery and the harsh laws which spilled hatred and discrimination
on the slaves.

thesis would analyse the select novels of these Testimonial writers using the
following theories as a diagnostic mechanism.

1. Survival and Victim
Theory by Margaret Atwood would explore the central image of a trauma victim
and also would analyse and compare the four ‘Victim Positions’ as stated by

2. The Theory of Logotherapy
and Existentialism by Viktor Emil Frankl would do ‘ a special existential
analysis’ on the traumatized child thus elucidating the primary motivational
force of the individual to find a meaning in life in spite of the brutalities  they were subjected to.

3. The theory of
Trauma: Exploration in memory by Cathy Caruth, affirms that memory play a significant
role in trauma as it holds within unbearable horror and intensity. It brings
back those dark remembrances, which are usually considered as unrecognized
truths. This includes trauma caused by wars, historical barbarism, child
abuses, discrimination, etc… And also she claims literature to be a window
for traumatic experiences as it guides and teaches readers in surprising and
indirect ways.

4. The Limits of
Autobiography Trauma and Testimony by Leigh Gilmore studies the limitations of
autobiographies in which trauma takes a major role. It compares and contradicts
a testimonial writing as it differs within itself in testifying and also in
providing a sufficient amount of literary knowledge. And also it demonstrates
how and why the author deflects from the necessities of an autobiography when
trauma coincides with self representation.        

            This dissertation would further explore the psychological
and physical trauma a testimony can discover. And also this would definitely be
a great leap in the literary field, offered for those children who voices are
silenced by trauma and torture. It can be possibly regarded as a pioneer step
in analyzing the psyche of children not only to kindle their dreadful memories
but also to provide them the courage to hike and a reason to exist.