The study examined the depiction of alcohol addiction and its traumatic effects on the psychological state of the victims. Through the findings in the previous chapters, the study identified two distinct instances which could lead to alcohol addiction from the perspectives of the texts under review: Paula Hawkin’s The Girl on the Train and Binyanvanga Wainaina’s One Day I Will Write about this Place.
The study reveals how marital issues such as childlessness, divorce, domestic violence could lead to a vast traumatic experience from either of the spouses and consequently resulting to alcohol addiction. This is captured through Hawkin’s character, Sarah, the protagonist of the novel who was inflicted with this psychological trauma because of her inability to give birth to a child.
Secondly, the study also identified another cause of traumatic experience as the fear is becoming successful in life. This is captured in Binyanvanga Wainaina’s One Day I Will Write about this Place, a memoir which reflects the traumatic experience of the writer which was caused by his failure to accomplish certain feats in life based on his assumption.
Using Sigmund Freud’s Psycho-analysis theory, the study has also succeeded in identifying and distinguishing among the key components of the mental compartments: ego (conscious mind), id (unconscious mind) and the super-ego.
The study revealed that: Alcohol addiction is a manifestation of an uncontrolled traumatic experience which keeps revisiting the mind. There are certain measures that could be taken to help victims of alcohol addiction heal their mental and psychological illness.
The study concluded that the issue of mental trauma is typical of different social fragments depending in the aspects which one finds himself and the justification of Freud’s psychoanalytical components are sacrosanct. The study further recommends that; Every member of the society should do away with things that would damage their emotions, feelings and consequently leading psychological trauma; Every member of the society should be courageous and put up bold fronts in times of hardship and trauma; Every member of the society should note that alcohol addiction is not an escape route from psychological trauma, rather is worsens it. Every member of the society should try to show love to those who are psychologically or mentally disabled and alcohol addiction victims as this could help them heal their emotional wounds and pains.
1.1 Background to the Study
Many life-bordering issues have been discussed by literary writers in the course of their productive writing. This is not far-fetched from the fact that literary writers see literature as a viable means of reflecting various life experiences (Ritaman, 2014). The beauty of literature is that passionate writers adopt this form to convey rational thoughts and ideas to the general public. It is also a viable means of exposing different mysteries about life proffering ways of combating such allusion. Lately, literary writers have been notable for their patronages in reflecting the state of hopelessness and helplessness which many people find themselves due to trauma. The concept of trauma is an aspect of life endeavor that needs urgent attention because it is regarded as one of those numerous causes of suicidal act in the world recently (Peichl, 2007).
Different psychoanalysts have attempted the definition of trauma. Spiegel (2008) defines trauma as one’s inability to control one’s body. According to him, a frightening experience which keeps reoccurring in one’s mental imprint amounts to a loss of control over parts of one’s mind. According to him, this parts as the mind are identity, memory, and consciousness.
Peichl (2007) views trauma as a poisonous condition which controls one’s conscious tendency towards rationality. He sees trauma as a mixture of extreme anxiety, absolute helplessness and a total loss of control over one self. According to Corsini (2002) trauma is the end product of a painful event which could be physical or mental. It therefore causes instant damage to the body or cause a psychological injury to the mind. According to him, the commonest and deadliest form of trauma is psychological trauma. It is the deadliest because it involves emotional shocks that have a lasting or persistent effect on the personality of the victim. Corsini (2002) identifies specific causes of psychological trauma to be stereotypical rejection, divorce, combat experiences, civilian catastrophes, and racial or religious discrimination. Heidarizadeh (2015) opines that traumatic memories affect the mind of individuals who have one time or the other become victims of psychoanalysis trauma such as sexual abuse, employment discrimination, police brutality, bullying, domestic violence, and particularly childhood experiences.
According to Scaer (2005) cited in Levine (2005), the effect of trauma to the brain is grievous. Levine (2005) puts it thus:
In the brain of the trauma victim, the synapses, neurons, and neurochemicals have been substantially and indefinitely altered by the effects of a unique life experience. Not surprisingly, the perceptual experience that constitutes the mind has been equally altered ...Trauma thus represents a time-based corruption of learning. The brain in trauma has lost its ability to distinguish past from present, and as a result it cannot adapt to the future. This confusion of time further immobilizes the trauma victim, who still remains immobilized by a thwarted freeze discharge. Procedural memory is bombarded by environmental and internal cues that represent old, unresolved threat (48).
From the submissions above, it is pertinent to state that trauma is an socio-cognitive aspect of human experience that requires urgent attention. Based on its description, it is a product of depression and hopeless which could be due to certain life occurrences or social rejection in once society.
Sequel to the above, most literary writers have written exhaustively to illuminate the failure in certain junctures or aspects of human life that often leads to traumatic experience. It is identified that some individuals become victims of traumatic experience due to their inability to fix into the right social and dominating class in the society. Therefore, the inexplicable display of poverty and wretchedness unavoidably leads to depression and trauma. Also, feminist writers like Alice Walker, Buchi Emecheta, Chimamanda Adichie, and Paula Hawkins as exemplified in her novel, The Girl on the Train, which is under review in this study, have identified that most women are victims of traumatic experiences due to the kind of ominous treatment they are given in their husbands’ house, especially when they fail in the aspect of child-bearing.
Many victims of trauma have inescapably resulted into committing suicide while others who are scared embarking on such callous event seek remedy to overcome trauma and depression. This has made many become victims of drug and alcohol addiction. Psychological trauma can lead to emotional distress and affect alcohol consumption.
Alcohol, in a layman English, is a chemical substance whose intake causes a rise in the adrenaline secretion. According to Optima Global Health (2014) alcohol is made of ethanol, which has several effects on the brain’s neural activity, such as increasing the release of dopamine in the brain, also known as the happy hormone – and stimulating endorphin production – a natural morphine produced by the brain – creating its relaxing effect. As a result, it is considered to be a depressant. Kalema and Vanderplasschen (2015) claim that the existence of alcoholic beverages in most countries of the world across the continent has been for ages. However, recent studies have identified that it has been constantly abused by majority of its drinkers (Kalema and Vanderplasschen (2015). Studies have discovered that alcohol intake is injurious to specific organs in human body system.
Alcohol addiction is one salient issue that needs to be addressed in the course of this study. It is also known as alcoholism. It is a gradual process of getting one self-used to the constant intake of alcohol which often times leads to high level of intoxication and intemperance. It is on record that 10% out of the 75% of the world’s population who drinks alcohol experience addiction and trauma. Optima Global Health (2014) reveals that someone who deals with alcohol addiction will show more or less apparent signs of distress. In order to overcome such an addiction, one needs a lot of motivation and a strong will to regain control over one’s life, which is a huge effort when compared to the devastating effects these problems can bring (Optima Global Health, 2014). According to Stevens (2013) alcohol abusers typically have the capability to restrict their intake of alcohol, but due to whatever external stimuli (trauma) are driving them to drink, they typically are locked in a self-destructive cycle that can frequently lead to full-fledged alcoholism (6).
The concern of this study is the depiction of alcohol addiction trauma in literature. Based on the above assumption, literary writers have written to condemn the abuse of alcohol as remedy for psychological trauma. Although these writers acknowledge the state of hopelessness and emotional helplessness which many people might find themselves based on one traumatic experience of the other, they are of the opinion that alcohol intake will only provide a temporary solution with huge consequences. Literary writers have voiced critically through their writings that the negative impact of alcohol addiction which many seem to indulge as requisite for trauma is even more grievous than the traumatic experience.
Against the background above, the present study aims at examining the depiction of alcohol addiction trauma in Paula Hawkins’ The Girl on the Train and Binyanvanga Wainaina’s One Day I Will Write about this Place. Both novels treat relevant aspects of alcohol addiction and its effect on the victims. This study is hinged at explicating how literary writers portray alcohol addiction in response to traumatic experiences in the society.
1.2 Statement of the Problem
Several researches have been conducted on the psychological effects of trauma in literature. Most of these studies concentrated on how literary writers have been able to identify and criticize events which leads to traumatic experiences in the society. While existing studies have identified that most literary writers are concerned peculiar psychoanalysis trauma such as sexual abuse, employment discrimination, police brutality, bullying, and domestic violence in the society, this study intends to examine how alcohol addiction has been a huge contribution to traumatic experience in the society. In the course of explicating this, concentration would be on the Western and the African literature through Paula Hawkins’ The Girl on the Train and Binyanvanga Wainaina’s One Day I Will Write About This Place respectively.
1.3 Aim and Objectives of the Study
The general aim of this study is to examine the depiction of alcohol addiction trauma in Paula Hawkins’ The Girl on the Train and Binyanvanga Wainaina’s One Day, I Will Write About This Place. The specific objectives are to:
- Identify characters and scenarios of alcohol addiction trauma in the selected texts;
- Examine the effects of alcohol addiction trauma on the various characters and settings as depicted in the selected texts; and
- Highlight the coping strategies and solutions to the alcohol addiction trauma as explicated in the selected texts.
1.4 Research Questions
The following questions have been formulated as guide to the steps of the researcher in the course of the study.
- What characters and scenarios of alcohol addiction trauma can be identified from the selected texts?
- How has alcohol addiction trauma affected the characters and settings in the selected texts??
- What solutions and coping strategies have been preferred by the writers in the selected texts?
1.5 Scope of the Study
This focus of this study will be on socio-psychological aspects of life which is trauma and alcohol addiction. These issues are not examined out of context, as concentration would be on how literary writers’ perceptions on alcohol addiction trauma. This issue would be examined by focusing on two works of prose: Paula Hawkins’ The Girl on the Train and Binyanvanga Wainaina’s One Day I Will Write About This Place. The study focuses on novel because it is the most viable form of literature which reflects typical human experience. Both texts selected as the corpus of date would be analyzed using Sigmund Feud’s Psychoanalytical theory of literary criticism.
Also, this study is designed to capture two societies: European society and the African society. While Paula Hawkins’ The Girl on the Train will serve as a typical reflection of the European experience, Binyanvanga Wainaina’s One Day I Will Write About This Place will serve as a typical reflection of the African experience.
1.6 Significance of the Study
This study will be beneficial to eminent scholars in different disciplines namely, literature, psychology and psycholinguistics. It will also be beneficial to undergraduate students who are under tutelage in the above disciplines. To literary critics, this study will serve an insightful means investigating how psycho-analytical criticism is done on literary works. The study will be beneficial to psychologists because it will help them to understand the effect of alcohol addiction and traumatic experience on human’s physical and psychological state. To psycholinguists, this study is useful because it will give them possible insights about the linguistic choice of literary writers in conveying psychological issues relating to trauma and alcohol addiction.
Finally, to a layman on the street, this study will serve as an eye opener on the disaster and evil inherent in alcohol addiction.
This study will be adopting a descriptive qualitative analysis for the analysis of data. A purposive sampling method is used to select the two novels (Paula Hawkins’ The Girl on the Train and Binyanvanga Wainaina’s One Day I Will Write About This Place) emerging from the European and the Western societies. The criterion for the selection is based on the thematic preoccupation of the novelists as they treat socio-psychological issues which deal with trauma and alcohol addiction. social and political criticism as exemplified in the texts. In the course of the analysis, content analysis would be used to validate the data via Sigmund Feud’s psychoanalytical theory of literary criticism.
1.8 Theoretical Framework: Psychoanalysis Theory
This study adopts the psychoanalysis literary criticism theory as its theoretical model. Psychoanalysis is one of the most viable modern theories that are used in literature. It is often referred as the theory of personality organization and the dynamics of personality that guides psychoanalysis (Hossain, 2017). The closet connection between literature and psychoanalysis has always been deployed by the academic field of literary criticism or literary theory. Among the critical approaches to literature, the psychoanalysis has been one of the most controversial and for critical readers the most appreciated. Since trauma has attracted a great deal of interest in literary studies, and it represents one of the basic concerns of psychology. Therefore, the necessity for psychoanalysis literary theory is unquestionable in this study.
Freud's theories are either directly or indirectly concerned with the nature of the unconscious mind. Freud, then, powerfully developed an old idea: that the human mind is essentially dual in nature. He called the predominantly passionate, irrational, unknown, and unconscious part of the psyche the ‘id’ or ‘it’. He referred to the rational, logical, orderly, conscious part of the mind as the ‘ego’ or ‘I’ (Freud, 1991). Another aspect of the psyche, which he called the superego, is really a projection of the ego. The superego almost seems to be outside of the self, making moral judgments, telling us to make sacrifices for good causes even though self-sacrifice may not be quite logical or rational. And, in a sense, the superego is "outside," since much of what it tells us to do or think we have learned from our parents, our schools, or our religious institutions (Freud, 1991).
The concept of trauma theory is an emergent aspect of psychoanalysis. Although, most academics in most third-world countries are yet to discern the trend of trauma theory in literature, it is still treated as a part of psychoanalytic criticism (Devardhi, 2009). There are certain psychoanalytic concepts expressed by Sigmund Freud that influenced the psychoanalysis of writers and their writings (Devardhi, 2009)
In the course of this study, both texts under study: Paula Hawkin’s The Girl on the Train and Binyanvanga Wainaina’s One Day I Will writer about this Place would be examined to depict where the underlying concept of Freudian psychoanalysis theory sets in.
The reason for the selection of this theory is because the study captures alcohol addiction trauma. This study would explore how the writers depict the effects of alcohol addiction and its traumatic effects as it is capable of affecting the subconscious mind (id) against the ego. This theory is also capable of revealing how the subconscious minds of the characters are driven by the effects of alcohol to expose their feelings, intentions and emotions. As a reflection of the psychoanalysis principle, the ego, which is the conscious mind is often not seemed to be functioning at one’s early stage of one’s traumatic experience. Therefore, control over one’s unconscious mind (id) would be difficult (Devardhi, 2009). With respect to this assertion, the study intends to use this theory to ascertain how characters in the texts who are victims of alcohol addiction and trauma have been able to overcome their traumatic ordeals despite its difficulty.
1.9 Background of the Authors
The biography of Paula Hawkins and Binyanvanga Wainaina are presented in the sections below in order to have a more comprehensive knowledge about their backgrounds and experiences as it is capable of influencing their writings.
1.9.1 Background of Paula Hawkins
Paula Hawkins is British novelist born in Salisbury, Rhodesia in 1972. She is the daughter of an economics professor and she and her family moved back from Rhodesia to London in 1989 when she was 17 years old. She attended the University of Oxford and graduated with a degree in philosophy, politics and economics. She worked for The Times as a business journalist and then worked as a freelance journalist for various different publications. In 2009, Hawkins turned her attention from reporting factual stories to writing fiction. She used the pen name Amy Silver and wrote four romantic comedy novels; the most memorable of which being Confessions of a Reluctant Recessionista. These first novels did not become successful and were not at all critically acclaimed. It was not until she wrote a much darker story, her thriller The Girl on the Train, that she became a bestselling author.
Paula Hawkins has reported that the novel took her 6 months of writing full time to complete. It is a much more serious book than her previous four novels and deals with issues of drug abuse, alcoholism and domestic violence among others. The novel was a bestseller in hardback and the publisher pushed back the publication of the paperback edition several times in order to capitalize on its success for as long as possible. Only a year after its initial release, The Girl on the Train had been published in more than forty different languages, had been optioned for adaptation for film by Dreamworks and had become a bestseller worldwide.
1.9.2 Background of Synopsis of Binyanvanga Wainaina
Binyavanga Wainaina, a Kenyan nationale, was born on the 18th of January 1971in Nakuru in Rift Valley Province, Kenya. He attended Moi Primary School in Nakuru, Mangu High School in Thika, and Lenana School in Nairobi. Later, He studied commerce at the University of Transkei in South Africa, where he lived in 1991. He completed an MPhil in Creative Writing at the University of East Anglia in 2010.
Binyavanga Wainaina was a Kenyan author and journalist. He was a winner of the 2002 Caine Prize for African Writing. He published his debut book, a memoir entitled One Day I Will Write About This Place, in 2011. In April 2014, Time magazine included Wainaina in its annual TIME 100 as one of the "Most Influential People in the World.
In January 2014, in response to a wave of anti-gay laws passed in Africa, Binyavanga Wainaina publicly announced that he was gay. This was confirmed by his first writing an essay that he described as a "lost chapter" of his 2011 memoir entitled "I am a Homosexual, Mum".
1.10 Synopsis of the Texts
In this section, brief discussion about Paula Hawkins’ and Binyavanga Wainaina’s novels: The Girl on the Train and One Day I Will Write About This Place respectively would be made with focus on the thematic concerns of the novelists in line with the content of this study.
1.10.1 Synopsis of Paula Hawkins’ The Girl on the Train
This novel is a first person narrative told by a young lady named Rachel. Her failed marriage to Tom led to her addiction to alcohol. She abandoned her home when Tom was entangled with Anna, a new woman who eventually gave him what she (Rachel) could not give: Evie, a female child. Her traumatic experience based on her childlessness made her become an alcohol addict. Rachel’s drinking has made her lose her job and importantly her memory. She takes a train every day observing a house which was not far from where Tom lives. Rachel cannot wait to see this house each day she passes. She names the people in it, Jess and Jason. She loves this house because it reminds her of her past, perfect life, five years ago before she and Tom divorced. While Rachel names this couple Jess and Jason, Jess’s real name is Megan Hipwell and Jason’s name is Scott. Rachel thought this couple lives a perfect live not knowing that Megan (the wife) also has her troubled past as she finds her life boring and constantly escapes from her troubles by engaging with a series of secret lovers. Megan visits a therapists named Kamal Abdic and shares her darkest secret she has never shared with anyone in her life.
One day, Rachel sees Jess (Megan) kissing a man. To Rachel, the man wasn’t Jason (Scott). The next day, she hears the news that Megan was missing. Rachel could not keep this to herself, so she decides to get in contact with Jason, to narrate what she saw. She also visits the police station to narrate her side of the story if it could help, but they end up refusing her evidence because she was drunk the night that Megan was missing. Rachel contacts Kamal. Lying to him, she books a therapy appointment with him to see if he could help her recall the event that took place the night Megan was missing. Gradually, Rachel begins to gain insights from the therapy she receives from Kamal which helps her to avoid drinking from days. Eventually, Megan’s body was found and it was discovered that she was pregnant. This incidence makes Scot suspects Rachel’s lies and lashes her out. Rachel’s memory becomes conscious; she recovers her entire memory of Saturday night when she was in the tunnel. She recollects Tom hitting her (Rachel), causing her head injury, and taking Megan (Jess) away in his car. Rachel decides to inform Anna despite their relationship. Meanwhile, Tom finds a secret mobile phone and discovers that Tom is having an affair with Megan. Coincidentally, as they are about to head to the police, Tom arrives and locks them in the house.
Rachel discloses everything she saw, and he at first denies it but then admits that he was having an affair with Megan. He says he was trying to end it; on Saturday night, she kept calling and threatening him. She said that if he didn't meet her somewhere she would come to his house and tell Anna everything. Tom confessed to killing Megan after her constant shouts. He also confessed to burying her and run away. Knowing that his secret his leaked, Tom tries to kill Rachel. In self-defense, Rachel retaliates by killing him. Anna calls the ambulance and narrates everything to the police defending Rachel. Rachel decides to leave the area till everything is over.
1.10.2 Synopsis of Binyanvanga Wainaina’s One Day I Will Write About This Place
One Day I Will Write About This Place, Wainaina’s memoir, tells the story of his search for his place in the world. He describes his struggles as the one which goes in tandem with his desire to write and overcome his fear that he will not succeed. Along with a discussion of his own life, Wainaina includes information about the political and cultural state of Africa, sister, Ciru. Ciru, the favorite child of Wainaina’s family, always does well in school. For Wainaina, although he wasn’t always attentive in classes, he scored well in exams, and he preferred to read novels.
While he was young, Kenyetta, a leader who was considered to be the father of Kenya, died and was replaced by Moi. This development was not favorable to Wainaina and Ciru because even though they perform excellently among the top students, neither of them were accepted to any of the top high schools due to ethnic discrimination. Wainaina writes that the confidentiality of the testing system was breeched and all children from the Gikuyu tribe were disqualified from going to good schools.
While in college, Wainaina fell into a deep depression or traumatic experience. He was able to attend only a few classes as he began a habit of drinking and partying. He became an alcoholic due to his traumatic experience. Ultimately, Wainaina became so emotionally and physically weary. And his addiction to alcohol could not make him leave his rented room. Wainaina did not fare any better. He swore he would not return home until he had made something of himself.
Years later, Wainaina sent to his mother that he had finally had a piece of his writing about to be published. Unfortunately for him, his mother had died that day. Wainaina continued writing, and he won the Cain Prize for African Writing. This prize helped to accelerate his career. Wainaina was privileged for the European Union but refused the offer when he got an information that the government would be censoring his writing.
1.11 Operational Definition of Terms
Specific terms, which are central to this study are defined, as to eradicate ambiguity in the further understanding of this research; hence the presentation of the following definition of terms.
- Literature: Literature is defined as the mirror of life. It is a written or oral composition which mirrors a society and historical experience of that society and its people. Its three genres are drama, prose and poetry.
For the purpose of this study, literature will be exposed as contemporary writing which helps to reform or correct certain ills in the society.
- Prose: Prose is an important genre of literature which tells the fictional tale or story about an imagination. The most popular and well-patronized sub-genre of prose is the novel, and that is the focus for our selection in this study
- iii. Alcohol
Alcohol is a chemical liquid or ingredient found in beer, wine and spirits that causes drunkenness. It contains ethanol or ethyl alcohol. Alcohol is formed when yeast ferments (breaks down without oxygen) the sugars in different food.
- iv. Alcohol Addiction
Alcohol addiction is also known as alcoholism. It is a gradual process of making oneself vulnerable to larger percentage of alcohol intake therefore causing intoxication. It is a disease that affects people of all walks of life mostly caused by traumatic experience.
- v. Alcoholism
Alcoholism is a state of being addicted to alcohol.
- vi. Trauma
Trauma is the response to a deeply distressing or disturbing event that overwhelms an individual's ability to cope, causes feelings of helplessness, diminishes their sense of self and their ability to feel the full range of emotions and experiences. It does not discriminate and it is pervasive throughout the world.