Theme Of Trauma In Rebecca West's 'Return Of The Soldier'

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Throughout the novel The Return of the Soldier by Rebecca West, Kitty Baldry experiences trauma that is constantly controlled by characters who perpetrate patriarchal ideas. Since the death of her son Oliver, Kitty continues to return to his nursery, the symbolic space of this tragedy, in order to repress her trauma and attempt to find new purposes for the room since her husband Chris will not let her change it permanently. Chris’ cousin Jenny also functions as the narrator of the novel and she controls Kitty’s trauma by mocking it and creating a biased characterization. Chris and Jenny take control of Kitty’s trauma by ignoring her experiences and not allowing her to have control over Baldry Court. Kitty’s failure to repress the trauma of …show more content…
During the first scene of the novel, Kitty mentions how Chris refuses to change the nursery room. She says, “I wish Chris wouldn’t have it kept as nursery when there’s no chance —” (West 4). By cutting off her line, West emphasizes how Kitty cannot finish her sentence because she does not want to allow herself to think about how Oliver can never live in this room again. Since Kitty is in no position to argue with her husband or change the state of his house, she is forced to repress her trauma. Since Baldry Court is Chris’ childhood home, Kitty’s duty as a wife is to make her husband happy and she cannot go against his wishes and take down the room. In the essay “Reading Kitty’s Trauma in Rebecca West’s The Return of the Soldier,” Rebecah Pulsifer argues that Chris’ refusal to take down the nursery contributes to his control over his wife because it denies her the opportunity to deal with her grief. Pulsifer mentions, “Because of Chris’ implicit control over the home, Kitty cannot choose how to negotiate her traumatic memories. Unlike Chris, who elects that communion with Margaret will be the method of his cure, Kitty cannot make this choice — in fact, she cannot even insist that the nursery be removed” (Pulsifer 47). While Chris gets to choose Margaret as his coping mechanism for the war, Kitty has no choice but to hold on to the nursery — the place that symbolizes her son’s death and holds her only remaining connection with her husband. Chris’ refusal to change the nursery contributes to the power he has over Kitty and how she is able to deal with her

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