*WINNER* The Mirrored Self: Fragmented Narrative in Tim O’Brien’s In the Lake of the Woods


  • Lalonie McCarter


My paper explores Tim O’Brien’s In the Lake of the Woods as a text that divulges the effects of trauma on personal narratives. Rather than simply telling the story of a man broken by the tragedy of the Vietnam war, O’Brien crafts a text that reveals one man’s creation of self and how various traumas work to untether him from that self and reality at large. O’Brien employees the use of mirrors and narrativization to underscore the importance of narrative in creating our identities. I argue that O’Brien shows how such narration, made unstable by trauma, can collapse and leave a traumatized individual with no way to discern between fiction and reality. Furthermore, I explore how the failure to integrate stories of trauma into an individual’s narrative creates fractures in their identity and stunts recovery. This type of reading envisions a new way of interpreting the impact of trauma on affected individuals by offering a fresh perspective on how the self is created and maintained through narrative.
I wrote this paper for my undergraduate Topics in American Literature: Trauma and the Nation class. I presented this paper at the 30th Annual Mardi Gras Conference at Louisiana State University in February 2020. I received a CAS Graduate Student Travel Fund grant to attend this conference.