“To Wipe Out The Past”: Generational Trauma In Song Of Solomon And Housekeeping

ASU Author/Contributor (non-ASU co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Emily Kane (Creator)
Appalachian State University (ASU )
Web Site: https://library.appstate.edu/
Kristina Groover

Abstract: In this project, I explore how generational trauma affects families as a whole, as well as the individual members. In order to accomplish this goal, I compare Toni Morrison’s Song of Solomon (1977) and Marilynne Robinson’s Housekeeping (1980), two novels about traumas that pass through three generations by means of parenting and naming. These generational traumas culminate in third-generation protagonists who, in turn, have complicated relationships with their families and discordance between what is expected of them and what they want for themselves. Both novels explore the ways that storytelling works as a form of bearing witness, and the repercussions that the failure to bear witness to one’s trauma may have. Ultimately, I explore the process that the protagonists -- Milkman in Song of Solomon and Ruthie in Housekeeping -- go through to finally bear witness and begin the process of releasing themselves from their traumas. I focus on three main issues throughout the course of this thesis: how the families perpetuate these traumas, how various characters use transience and homelessness as a form of coping, and the effects of both the literal and metaphorical hauntings in order to show the similarities between the families across novels.

Additional Information

Kane, E. (2020). “To Wipe Out The Past”: Generational Trauma In Song Of Solomon And Housekeeping. Unpublished Master’s Thesis. Appalachian State University, Boone, NC.
Language: English
Date: 2020
Trauma, Song of Solomon, Housekeeping, Haunting, Bearing witness

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