Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/10077/33292
Title: A Vulnerable Heroine?: Trauma and Self-Begetting in William Trevor’s The Story of Lucy Gault
Authors: Monaco, Angelo
Issue Date: 2021
Publisher: EUT Edizioni Università di Trieste
Source: Angelo Monaco, "A Vulnerable Heroine?: Trauma and Self-Begetting in William Trevor’s The Story of Lucy Gault" in: "2021 / 26 Prospero. Rivista di letterature e culture straniere", EUT Edizioni Università di Trieste, Trieste, 2021, pp. 119-143
Journal: Prospero. Rivista di letterature e culture straniere 
Abstract: 
William Trevor’s The Story of Lucy Gault (2002) depicts, in contemporary Bildungsroman fashion, the life and quest for self-identity of the eponymous heroine. The third and last volume of Trevor’s Big House trilogy, including Fools of Fortune (1983) and The Silence in the Garden (1988), The Story of Lucy Gault is set in Trevor’s native Ireland, specifically in Lahardane, a mansion along the coast of County Cork. Irish history impacts adversely on Lucy’s story, as readers follow the heroine from her childhood years during the Troubles in the 1920s to World War II and Ireland’s economic miracle at the dawn of the second millennium. As usual in Trevor’s fiction, The Story of Lucy Gault can be read as a trauma story where individual and collective grief experiences are intertwined. The only child of a Protestant family, Lucy refuses to leave Lahardane in the aftermath of a failed arson attack by three Catholics from the local village. Trevor’s heroine resigns herself to a sort of self- imposed exile from the world. Lahardane, which works as a symbolic site of colonial heritage and religious conflicts, becomes a healing and contemplative place for Lucy. Here, while reading Victorian novels, keeping bees and gardening, the heroine espouses her wounds which turn out to be “paradoxically productive” (Butler 2003). The victim of familial and historical forces she is unable to control, Lucy embraces loss as a position of strength rather than weakness. Like a modern Saint Cecilia, whose martyrdom is metaphorically associated with the heroine’s suffering, Lucy reconciles with one of the arsonists, who has eventually been interned at a mental asylum. Moving from these claims, my paper aims to address Lucy’s painful coming-of-age as trauma and selfbegetting fiction. Following the recent critical debate on the nature of the Bildungsroman (Esty 2012; Golban 2018; Graham 2019), I will first argue that Trevor exploits the conventions of the genre to illuminate the mystery of human mind, juxtaposing realism with other non-realist genres such as the gothic and the elegiac. Then, I will discuss the influence that trauma exercises on the growth of the protagonist. Lucy’s self-quest is conveyed through silences, secrets and temporal disarray, thus showcasing the unspeakable nature of trauma. Unlike the physical journey undertaken by the male protagonists of the classical Bildungsroman, Lucy’s psychological quest is instead predicated upon suffering and contemplation. Finally, I will examine how the wounded heroine’s exile from the world can be read as a deliberate declaration of autonomy. As in a self-begetting novel (Kellman 1980), Lucy’s story begets both a self and itself. Self-reflexivity and retrospectivity are at the core of Trevor’s Bildungsroman, thereby lending a self-begetting quality since the heroine is both the object of the narrative and the producer. In The Story of Lucy Gault, exposure to vulnerability may be then seen in terms of dispossession (Butler and Athanasiou), thus promoting an ethical openness to the self and the other.
Type: Article
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/10077/33292
ISSN: 1123-2684
eISSN: 2283-6438
DOI: 10.13137/2283-6438/33292
Rights: Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 Internazionale
Appears in Collections:2021 / 26 Prospero. Rivista di letterature e culture straniere

Files in This Item:
File Description SizeFormat
08-Monaco.pdf210.2 kBAdobe PDFThumbnail
View/Open
Show full item record


CORE Recommender

Page view(s)

100
checked on May 21, 2022

Download(s)

21
checked on May 21, 2022

Google ScholarTM

Check

Altmetric

Altmetric


This item is licensed under a Creative Commons License Creative Commons