Roll no: 35
April 20, 2018.
The Origins and Impacts in Charlie Davis’ Excruciating Encounters:
The Feminist study of Kathleen Glasgow’s Girl in Pieces
This study aims to identify the impact of traumatic encounters in the life of a female character and to explain how a female herself alone makes constant and strenuous effort to cope her psychological trauma just to survive in the world. This research paper has been intended to explore Kathleen Glasgow’s Girl in Pieces in the background of what has been aforementioned. Charlie Davis, the protagonist of the novel, has to bear many psychological as well as physical pains in her teenage. Charlie bears the death of her father and best friend, she has to face her mother’s hatred. It was Charlie who was raped by a stranger which leaves strong impact on her psychology. These are the reasons which drive her put scars on her body. Charlie was sent to therapy center which actually appears a prison for her. Once out of that center, it is Charlie herself who has to figure out how to start a new life. Glasgow gives the picture of a teenager who struggles to survive while using art as a therapy.
Art therapy is a very strong theme of the novel as the girl uses art to cope herself but the purpose of my paper is to analyse the feminist perspective in the novel as the female protagonist tries to overcome her physical as well as emotional pain . To explore this theme, feminism theory by Simone de Beauvoir which is taken from The Second Sex has been applied on this paper.
Young Adult Literature has been written since 1942 and many writers have incorporated in this genre while writing various novels for Young Adults. There exists two school of thoughts related to this YA Literature. This literature is substantially appreciated by one school of thought whereas the other school of thought balances while denouncing it as Traw and Tanner mentioned it in the paper that YA literature is “criticized for promoting the aspect of fear for young adults through the portrayal of gory images, bloodshed, suspense, and horror” (Traw 7; Tanner 5).
As this genre is specially written for teens and adults (from 13 years to 19 years) and the protagonists of the YA novels are also adults or teenagers, Cruz has written in his essay that this literature “has been defined by certain characteristics more than an umbrella explanation. Usually protagonists are teenagers, plots revolve around the protagonist’s inner and external conflicts involve but they are not guaranteed a happy ending” ( Cruz, 2017).
This research paper is intended to explore Kathleen glasgow’s Girl in Pieces which is actually a YA fiction. This novel was written in August, 2016. It is a fact that very little work has been done on this novel but right after its publication this text got widespread praise throughout the whole world. Almost all the aforementioned themes are present in this novel such as rape, sexual harassment, trauma, physical or psychological issues.
Kathleen Glasgow is a female character and she has written the story of a girl who has to suffer a lot of excrucciating encounters in this world as Audrey Slater asserts that this novel is an “unflinching look at the life of a young girl and the numerous issues she faces as a teen, both with others and herself. Although, she is seventeen years old, Charlotte Davis has faced her share and probably a whole town’s share of trauma” (Slater, 2016).
Either it is a Western culture or Easter society, the abuse of sexual harassment is vernacular throughout the whole world. Most of the times, girls and childern have to face this abuse of sexual harassment. And because of this harassment, victims have to suffer traumatic stress as well as depression. This topic is considered cliche or a cultural taboo and the victims do not speak up, so they have to strangle their mouths. Victims remain silent most of the time and they do not express what has happened to them. But this is not a right way to remain dumb and not to express their feelings.
This topic has been widely discussed almost in every country of the world. Different works have been conducted by different writers or filmmakers to highlight this social issue to give awareness to the readers. And through these works, the solution to get relief from these traumatic stress is also provided in different ways. But this issue leaves long lasting, fatalistic effects on the sufferer “it has drawn attention and become a sensitive issue due to its negative and harmful impact on the mental, physical and social health of the victims” (Pandansari, 2014).
Kathleen Glasgow wrote an autobiographical novel Girl in Pieces, in a diary format as she herself talks about this novel while saying that “I gave Charlie my scars, and some of emotional feelings, but her story is a fiction”(Zeid, 2017). She highlights the negative impact of traumatic experiences and sexual assault, at the same time Glasgow also teaches to survive after sexual harassment while using art as a tool of transcending trauma for a teenage female character “Charlie is that her talents as an artist saved her” (Coats, 2016).
Girl in Pieces is a book which constitutes human life and also elevates different complications which young adults and women have to face in their lives. When the novel opens, Charlie Davis, the protagonist of the novel, is found in a therapeutic center. Actually she was bleeding severely when she was brought to hospital as she had cut herself too badly. There are other girls too in the hospital who had faced traumatic and excrucciating encounters in their lives and then they used to write their pains and agony on their bodies while cutting or burning themselves.
The story moves on but Charlotte Davise keeps herself compeletly silent. The other girls unlike Charlie share their own past crucial incidents just to remove their burden. Many days have passed since the arrival of Charlie and she has not spoken even a single word. The other ones start to call her “silent sue.” Now she could not cut herself because all the girls were under proper care and protection. So, she started to find solace in art. She used to paint and draw different sketches on her sketchbook and surprisingly she started to gain voice through art.
The resons behind her physical as well as psychological wounds are not minor actually she has to suffer alot in her life. It was Charlie who had to face the strong hatred of her mother, death of her dear and near father, loss of best friend as she also had cut herself too much. The main reason behind her trauma is her sexual assault. She was raped by a stranger and it is a fact that sexual harassment leaves long lasting as well as negative impacts on the memory of victim. So, these were the reasons which led her to therapeutic center after cutting herself too badly.
Charlie’s mother was unable to pay the bills of hospital and Charlie had also started to speak and recover. It was actually a good news that Charlie had started to speak but for Charlie it was a shocking news because the faculty was going to discharge her and she didn’t want to join her mother again. But her mother sent her to Tucson where Charlie’s boyfriend, Mikey, lived. There Charlie was once again in trauma when she found out that Mikey oly wanted to be friend with her but this time she followed the instructions of her doctor and kept herself busy in drawing different sketches instead of putting scars on her body. She used to write her agony on her body just to come out of the shell of pain and trauma.
Almost all the characters are like Charlie whom we meet in the novel. Riley, a semi rockstar, who is Charlie’s fellow in the resturant where she worked was also like her. Both of them fell in love with eachother but they had to get seperated because of Riley. Later on, Charlie leaves to draw soothing effects from others and remain busy in finding consolation through art which actually sooth her. At the end, Charie has found her voice through art and speak up about her crucial past. We can say, this is a story of a female character who was exploited by society but still she got her voice after a great struggle.
The main part of this paper “findings and discussion” is actually based upon three questions in which these questions are to be answered. The three main questions related to this novel Girl in Pieces are as follows:
1. What are the origins and causes of traumatic experiences which women have to suffer in Kathleen Glasgow’s novel Girl in Pieces?
2. How does Charlie Davis’ harrowing encounters infect her psychological as well as physical development?
3. How does the female protagonist of the novel try to cope her physical and emotional pain while using art as a tool for transcendece trauma?
The main intentions of this study are to answer the aforementioned questions or problems. And from this point, the first objective of this paper is to explore the causes and origins of traumatic occurences which Charlie Davis, the protagonist of the novel, has to brook in her life.
Whereas the second objective of this research is to show the impact of excrucciating encounters on the psychological, psychosocial and physical development of Charlie Davis, the female character.
As the main objectives of this research is to deal with the research questions, so the third goal is to point out the struggle of Charlie to survive in this world. As, she tries to cope her inner or emotional wounds through art therapy.
This novel is about the girl who is exploited, she has to suffer a lot of traumas and we still see her trying to survive in this world. For this purpose, I’ll be analysing all these objectives under Simone de Beauvoir’s critical theory of feminism.
As the purpose of this paper is to unveil the origins and effects of traumatic experiences such as sexual harassment, mother’s hatred, loss of dear father as well as the death of best friend, so this will help the reader to pick up the pre-eminent impacts of these encounters on the psyche of the person. I hope this research would be helpful for the readers and specially for female readers to have better understanding of how to cope mental as well as physical pains in their lives after facing different problems. It would also enhance the perception among readers about different issues which are considered cliches and cultural taboos in society.
This paper is a feminist analysis of Kathleen Glasgow’s novel Girl in Pieces that actually belongs to the genre of YA fiction and most of the novels that belong to the genre of YA gyrates to the similar themes “they often deal with the subjects of life and death, gender issues, race, sexuality” (Haig, 2014). “YA fiction appears to be better suited to the representation of trauma” (Markland, 2013).
While talking about the key concepts of YA fiction in Explore the Themes and Genres of Young Adult Books, Gibbons argued that “books aimed at this age group often deal with mental conditions such as depression, Asperger’s, and eating disorders as well as physical health conditions ranging from disability to terminal illness. They are often helpful for readers who know somebody that has been suffering from these conditions, offering an insightful and emphatic perspective” (Gibbons; Carter; Spalding; Schrag, 2016).
Excrucciating encounters are also the major element in YA literature, as we find that protagonists have to face traumatic experiences “trauma narratives for young readers have produced protagonists who not only suffer, but are explicitly wounded by their suffering” (Markland, 2013).
When extreme criticism began against YA literature, it was the objection that “like the railroad accidents, the victim is presented with an event too sudden, shocking and destructive to comprehend, which causes the psychological trauma or wound” (Markland, 2013).
A lot of narratives have been written on these specific themes which are aforementioned. As, I have discussed that traumatic encounters are prominently present in YA literature and “traumatic experiences often involve the threat to life or safety, but any situation that leaves you feeling overwhelmed and isolated can be traumatic, even if it does not involve physical harm” (Lawrence, 2018). This is what we can find most of the time in YA literature and fiction.
This research paper has been intended to evaluate Kathleen Glasgow’s Girl in Pieces which is also YA narrative and in this novel the protagonist has to encounter a lot of traumas as a Kiber has claimed that “a deeply moving portrait of a girl in a world that owes her nothing, and has taken so much, and the journey she undergoes to put herself back together. Kathleen Glasgow’s debut is heartbreakingly real and unflinchingly honest” (Kiber, 2017).
This novel was published in 2016 and right after its publication, this novel achieved widespread praise through the whole world and various critics gave their different views on this novel. Although, it is a fact that some people have given their views against this novel but actually this novel provides the message of survival and to speak up as Gilmartin proclaims that “Glasgow mines the darkness and ultimately, offers the glimmer of recovery” (Gilmartin, 2016).
Megan Daley has argued in his paper that “Girl in Pieces is a deeply moving portrait of pain and survival. And it is one of the most affecting YA novels I’ve ever read in a long time… raw, unnerving and breathtaking beautiful. Such a haunting and very hard read” (Daley, 2016).
This novel also gives us the glimpse of the element of hope through which the protagonist constantly struggles to survive “Girl in Pieces is not just another tale of teenage woe, but rather a raw story edged in hope” (Mihulka, 2017).
This novel is a bona fide fiction narrated by the author, “Kathleen Glasgow has an original character in Charlie Davis, a 17-year old cutter with a fierce instinct for survival. Glasgow laces this difficult story with flashes of black humor and clear-eyed view of her characters” (Collopy, 2016). Gilmartin mentions in her excerpt that Glasgow’s “aim was to write an uplifting personal story that would inspire hope in anyone affected by self-harm. And she has without a doubt achieved this” (Gilmartin, 2016).
As, this novel tells the story of a girl who tries her best to survive and this constant struggle to cope is the major point of discussion in YA literature “the story is thought provoking and provides great discussion points around the empathy for people struggling with serious issues and the concept of enabling” (Cosola, 2016).
Charlie is on the road of survival and for this purpose she uses art to cope her physical as well as emotional pain after having a lot of excruciating encounters in the life, this novel is “intimate and gritty, a crossover novel steeped in misery but with the momentum of recovery. Damaged as she is, Charlie is an astute voice” (Gilmartin, 2016).
While talking about Kathleen Glasgow’s writing style, one of the critics argues “Glasgow tells the story in short bursts, just enough to thread us through Charlie’s trauma, enough that we can catch our breath, and keep going. And there are those jabs of dark humor” (Collopy, 2016).
Traumatic events leave long lasting impact on the psyche of the sufferer and it is not easy for them to get rid of traumatic pain or psychological wounds “traumatic events can lead to number of disparate psychological responses” (Fowler, 2016).
Kathleen Glasgow has written this novel in a clearcut style and everybody is able to understand this YA fiction Girl in Pieces. Teresa Cooper says that “the book takes you directly inside the mind of Charlie, who suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder due to traumatic events from her past” (Cooper, 2017).
As a lot of aforementioned criticism gives us the detailed overview of the novel but there are a few critics who consider that this novel has a negative impact on the readers as Jahanath has said that “the premise of Girl in Pieces doesn’t sound that exciting. After all, would you want to read about a girl who self-harms? It’s not the kind of young adult book you’d want to recommend to anyone. Girl in Pieces is a very difficult book to read.” (Jahanath, 2017).
Although, it is a fact that there is open sexual imagery and a few bold scenes but it doesn’t mean that readers should not read this book. This is actually a beautiful novel with the beautiful narration “most of the characters except Charlie we were not given enough about any of them” (Whitter, 2017). This is a fact but through the character sketch of Charlie Davis, we are told alot about the psyche and the sufferings of teenagers.
A lot of views have been given through various perspectives but the purpose of this paper is to explore the origins and impacts in Charlie Davis’ excruciating encounters through the feminist perspective. My purpose here is to open up the feminist discussion on Girl in Pieces so that future scolarship can continue in this direction. And to fulfill my purpose, I am using The Second Sex by Simone de Beauvoir as a model for this paper.
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