"The wild apple tree" and narrative time and the war novel
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This thesis consists of two distinct but related parts: a creative component, “The Wild Apple Tree” and an exegetical essay. Both will attempt to answer the question: How can narrative strategies of time enable the representation of war neurosis in fiction?“The Wild Apple Tree” is narrated by a seventy-seven year-old man who returns to England after almost fifty years in Australia. The purpose of his visit is to return to certain places from his early life in an attempt to regain his missing memory. It is apparent that the narrator has no memory (or unreliable memory) concerning certain parts of his life due to war neurosis or Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). The traumatic events are revealed to the reader as they are recalled by the narrator (sometimes in dream sequences and sometimes prompted by his visit to familiar places) and therefore the structure of the novella is not chronological.“The Wild Apple Tree” takes place in several timeframes and the writing employs several temporal narrative strategies. In addition to the non-chronological order, certain scenes are repeated or elided or postponed to a later stage of the narration. While certain passages of his life are recalled and narrated with clarity, others are less clear and related over several chapters. Present tense and past tense are used mainly to differentiate the time of the narration but also to provide immediacy for the reader in certain passages.The essay discusses the relationship between trauma, memory and identity as well as the importance of narrative in the establishment of memory and identity. I then examine the various temporal narrative strategies used in fiction: order, duration, repetition, and tense. These two themes (memory/identity and narrative strategies of time) are then used in a review of seven novels related to war neurosis. The novels discussed are: Pat Barker’s Regeneration Trilogy; Regeneration, The Eye in the Door and The Ghost Road; her later novel Another World; Sebastian Faulks’ Charlotte Gray; Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five; and Joseph Heller’s Catch-22. This close reading of the texts provides examples of the use of temporal narrative strategies in the representation of war neurosis or shell-shock and attempts to provide reasons for their inclusion in the texts and the possible outcomes of their use in these contexts.Finally in an exegetical chapter I discuss the application of temporal narrative strategies in the writing of “The Wild Apple Tree”, and the benefits and difficulties of employing such techniques in the representation of disrupted identity in PTSD. This thesis illustrates the link between the theory of temporal narrative strategy and the representation of war neurosis and will have use in the creative construction of fictional texts which seek to represent trauma-induced distorted memory and identity.
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