Graphics of Childhood and Depression

I think the most interesting thing about this story as a graphic novel is that it gives somewhat of a history lesson disguised within the Sunday comics. It’s not until the second half of the novel that we get to see Marji as an adult, so the first half documents the experiences of a child growing up among warfare. Being a kid, her view of the world is far more fantastic and magical, as though everything were make believe, and the context being in comic form captures that perfectly. For example, her relationship with God is shown by depicting him as a large bearded man that looks like a cross between Santa and Karl Marx who comes down and speaks to her in an extremely casual and comfortable way. Imagining God as a cartoon in this way, and also putting him at the same level as her, as someone that she can yell at, get mad at, and tell to “Go away” is a great way of representing her child’s mind. In fact, all of the stories of history that she learns from her books and from her parents are depicted in the same way, as though she were using GI Joe’s or Barbie dolls to act out historical events. I think the form of graphic novel for this text does a great job of interpreting the mind of a child understanding “adult” conflicts.

One of my favorite sections in the novel was the chapter titled “The Veil,” in which Marji suffers a dark period of depression, having lost her boyfriend, her money, and a place to live. When she returns home, she feels guilty for being so wrapped up in her own small dramas when the rest of the world, when her home country, when her family were suffering war. She walks through town and feels as though she were “walking through a cemetery…surrounded by the victims of a war I had fled” (251). I couldn’t help comparing this section in the novel to the blog called “Hyperbole and a Half,” whose last post was documenting the writer, Allie Bosh’s, bouts of depression. The blog uses written descriptions and (often hilarious) drawings, much like a graphic novel, to tell stories. In this blog post, titled “Adventures in Depression,” she explains how depression feels, and even illustrates the part of her that scolds herself for being sad for no reason. In fact, it’s a very accurate depiction of feelings of depression. Regardless, the use of graphics helps the narration of her experiences with depression similarly to how it helps Marji’s narration. She depicts her depression with dark images, small self-illustrations, and few words, characterizing a loneliness in the drawings. Not only can the graphics of the novel characterize child-like imaginings, but the visual depiction of feeling depressed.

 

Bosh, Allie. “Hyperbole and a Half.” Hyperbole and a Half. N.p., n.d. Web. <http://hyperboleandahalf.blogspot.com/&gt;

Turner v. Woolf: on PTSD

The first time I was introduced to this book of poetry was in reference to a character in Virginia Woolf’s novel, Mrs. Dalloway. In the story, Septimus Smith is a returned World War I veteran that is clearly experiencing symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. He hallucinates noises and images of war during mundane experiences that are entirely unrelated to warfare, as does the speaker, while in a department store, in Brian Turner’s “At Lowe’s Home Improvement Center.”

In the novel, Septimus hears the echo of gunfire in common noises, such as the cough of an engine, as he walks the park. In the poem, Turner hears gun shells falling when a box of nails spills onto the floor. Septimus frequently has hallucinations of his friend, Evans, who died in the war. He wakes in the middle of the night screaming his name, and sees him walking toward him in combat gear from behind a tree in the park. Turner sees a comrade, Bosch, walking down aisle 16 dressed in “full combat gear,” as Sgt. Rampley emerges from aisle of spilled paint cans (Turner 5).

Throughout the Iraq war, and especially during the presidential race that led to Obama’s election, America was concerned most with how to get the troops home. However, the struggle of war doesn’t end there; it doesn’t end with a tank of soldiers returning to their families in the States. The mental effects that continue post-war for these soldiers are something we don’t often talk about, unless our own families are directly affected.  This is what literature, like Mrs. Dalloway and Phantom Noise discuss.

The effects of PTSD, how to recognize it, and how to treat it are all categorized on the website “National Center for PTSD” via the United Stated Department of Veterans Affairs. According to the site, about 86 to 87 percent of soldiers that were in Iraq relate their symptoms of stress to “knowing someone killed/ seriously injured.” Septimus’ frequent hallucinations of Evans are clearly linked to this type of stress. Also, 94 to 95 percent relate stress to “seeing dead bodies.” (“Mental Health”)

In the novel, Woolf explains that part of the reasons for Septimus’ stress is due to the fact that he felt nothing when Evans was killed, and therefore became terrified of his inability to feel. The relevance of seeing dead bodies as a stressor is that soldiers may become desensitized to death when faced with this stressor too often. Or to gore, for that matter. For example, the speaker of the poem is nonchalantly handed a “blown-off arm” by the hallucination of Sgt. Rampley, who says “Hold this, Turner, / we might find out who it belongs to,” as though they found a lost wallet or key chain (Turner 6).

What I find most interesting about Turner’s book of poetry is that it doesn’t just focus on the experiences he had while in Iraq, but also on the relived experiences, and all too terrifying symptoms of PTSD he has had now that he is home.

Works Cited

Turner, Brian. Phantom Noise. Farmington: Alice James Books, 2010.

Woolf, Virginia. Mrs. Dalloway. London: Hogarth Press, 1963.

“Mental Health Effects of Serving in Afghanistan and Iraq – NATIONAL CENTER for PTSD.” NATIONAL CENTER for PTSD Home. N.p., n.d. Web. <http://www.ptsd.va.gov/public/pages/overview-mental-health-effects.asp&gt;.