Branded in his Mind: Trauma, Violence and Memory in E. L. Doctorow’s The Book of Daniel

María Ferrández


E. L. Doctorow’s The Book of Daniel (1971) is unequivocally what has been termed a “trauma novel.” This paper examines the protagonist’s traumatic condition, concentrating on its causes and on the determining circumstances that contribute to aggravating it. The analysis of Daniel’s narrative reveals that he suffers from many of the symptoms associated to PTSD and anhedonia, a psychological condition which frequently co-occurs with PTSD as a consequence of infantile psychic trauma. The paper, then, explores the relationship between the protagonist’s traumatic condition and his violent and oppressive treatment of the three main female characters of the novel. Finally, this paper concentrates on the status of Daniel’s memories of his traumatic past. As a conclusion, it is contended that the novel’s concern with trauma and memory points to the author’s preoccupation with remembrance, which he seems to consider the best and only tool to build a better world. Doctorow seeks to highlight the importance of listening to the fragmented voices of those who suffer the effects of trauma in order to develop new social and political perspectives that will guarantee a better future.


E.L. Doctorow; The Book of Daniel; Trauma studies; Traumatic memories; Victim-Perpetrator

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