“The Geography of Pain” essay by Genevieve Barrons

The Geography of Pain

Exploring the relationship between places and people in Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway and Ernest Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises.

essay by Genevieve Barrons


.       The phrase “lost generation”—as used by Ernest Hemingway in the epigraph to The Sun Also Rises—refers to a state of political and spiritual crisis. However, at its root to be lost is, of course, a geographical condition (Tall 338). It is perhaps the supreme irony of this novel—like many other post war modernist novels, including Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway—that at almost any point in the text one can plot on a map the precise location of Jake Barnes and his companions. Whatever their spiritual state may be, no one in either The Sun Also Rises or Mrs. Dalloway is ever geographically lost. The city itself, whether London or Paris, becomes “the most real of the characters” (Wellek 221). It is a presence and structuring force within the narrative. In spite of their vastly different narrative modes, points of view, plot structures and gender politics, both novels reflect a similar occupation with geography. Hemingway and Woolf use geography as a means to explore both the relationships between their characters and the long-term affects of the war on those characters.

.       Turning first to Hemingway, I will examine how he uses the lifestyle of the expatriate—untethered to any specific home—to explore the so-called “lost generation.” His characters espouse an understanding of geography which suggests that different locations are unconnected and discrete. In their attempts to cope with their wartime experiences, the characters in The Sun Also Rises seem unwilling or incapable of understanding the world as connected and complete. By contrast, Woolf’s characters embrace a worldview of unity and connectedness; although as we will see, they do not always live up to the responsibilities that this perception requires. In Mrs. Dalloway, physical proximity within the city of London suggests a degree of emotional closeness, even between complete strangers. The novels reflect how the history of war, through the act of memorialization, becomes a part of the landscape of the city itself. Ultimately, both Hemingway and Woolf raise questions about responsibility—both to the dead and to those still living. The trauma of the war is reflected in their use of place.

The Sun Also Rises: An exploration of place in expatriate Paris and beyond

.       Hemingway’s novel is famously set within the expatriate community of 1920s Paris—a community that he was himself a part of during his lifetime. Prior to WWI there had been a number of American expatriates in Paris, but their numbers soared in the wake of the war (Méral 136). As in The Sun Also Rises, many of these individuals were writers or artists. Paris became the subject and setting of much of their work. Their position, as expatriates, made them both insiders and outsiders. Hemingway’s characters do not see themselves as mere tourists or visitors to Europe. For example, in response to a sign Pamplona that reads “Hurray for wine! Hurray for foreigners!”, Robert Cohn asks, “Where are the foreigners?” Bill has to remind him, “We’re the foreigners” (Hemingway 154). They are familiar enough with their setting that they know their way around town without the help of a map. However, in Paris, they stick mostly to the Left Bank, and it is worth noting that while every place in The Sun Also Rises is real, as John Leland notes “most of them appear in twenties’ tourist guidebooks that warn the reader that these are tourist traps rather than la France profonde” (Leland xvi). The characters themselves seem to be aware of the contradictions of their situation. As Bill tells Jake: “You’re an expatriate. You’ve lost touch with the soil. You get precious. Fake European standards have ruined you. You drink yourself to death. You become obsessed with sex. You spend all your time talking not working. You are an expatriate, see? You hang around cafés” (Hemingway 115). The novel both confirms and questions these stereotypes.

.       As a result of this lifestyle, the characters exist in a state of transition. To be “one of us” (32) as Brett calls the Count, is to dwell in a foreign place without plans or hope of returning home, and yet without making one’s home in that foreign place. The Count is “one of us” because he knows, as Leland writes, that there can be no home “in the sense of a place where one can feel civic and emotional allegiance to a rational community” (Leland viii). According to Leland, “to dwell in Paris, therefore, is to inhabit by choice and conviction a stage setting, clean and well-lighted, in which the senses may be indulged and attention diverted and kept amused” (viii) This sense of detachment is even expressed in the narrative style; Jake often seems to see himself merely as “a recording eye or detached observer” (Strychaz 79), somehow separate from the action of the story.

.       Despite existing in this state of liminality, the community of expatriates in Paris attribute an added sense of importance to their own origins and the origins of those they encounter. Everyone is coming and going. None of the main characters are native Parisians or Pamplonés. Even Georgette Hobin, the prostitute that Jake picks up, is not French—she is from Brussels, Belgium. Similarly, Pedro Romero, the matador in Pamplona, is originally from the opposite end of Spain. The first question everyone asks upon meeting someone new is where that person is from. Nationality and hometown become indicators of identity and allegiance. The answer to that question determines the possibility of future relationships. When Georgette meets Jake, she asks if his name is Flemish, claiming, “I detest Flamands” (Hemingway 16). Later, Mike tells Edna “ I hope you’re not English? I’m Scotch. I hate the English” (180). Even personality is related to nationality: speaking of Mrs. Braddocks, Jake remarks “she was a Canadian and had all their easy social graces” (17). There is also a legal, bureaucratic element to this system of identification. Crossing the border into Spain, Jake sees the old Basque man turned away at the border because “he hasn’t got any passport” (92). While today a commonplace article, in the 1920s this sort of legal paperwork was just becoming widespread. According to John Torpey, the growing importance of national belonging, both before and after the Great War, led to “a profusion of bureaucratic techniques for administering the boundaries of the nation, in both territorial and membership terms” (122). For the expatriates, a passport became not just a tool for travel, but a badge of membership.

.       It is not only a character’s point of origin, but also their current location that dictates their appropriate course of action. In The Sun Also Rises, action and emotion become closely tied to specific geographic locations. There is a sense of discreteness between places in the novel. What is appropriate in one city is not in another. Bill tells Jake, “you’re a hell of a good guy, and I’m fonder of you than anybody on earth. I couldn’t tell you that in New York. It’d mean I was a faggot” (Hemingway 116). Location dictates suitability. As Debra Moddelmogg puts it, “outside the geographic and psychological boundaries of New York and its taxonomy of deviance, Bill’s feelings are platonic; inside those boundaries, they are homosexual” (97). Similarly, Brett and Cohn’s affair—while apparently acceptable in San Sebastian—become intolerable in Pamplona. Mike remarks, “Brett’s gone off with men. But they weren’t ever Jews, and they didn’t come and hang about afterward” (143). Cohn, as with so many other things, fails to understand the unwritten rules that govern his relationship with Brett; and he fails again in this instance when he is unable to recognize the invisible borders that the other characters have constructed between Paris and Pamplona, Spain and the States.

.       Ultimately, while Jake seems to recognize the futility of the idea that one can just leave town to escape one’s problems, other characters are constantly trying to do just that. As her relationship with Cohn disintegrates, Frances is sent to England to “visit friends… that [do not] want [her]” (49). Brett is constantly leaving town to escape her problems—and her lovers—so much so that when the Count asks her to go away with him she tells him that she cannot, since she now “[knows] too many people in Biarritz… Cannes… Monte Carlo… everywhere” (33). Cohn wants to leave on a trip to South America, in the hopes of getting away from his failing relationship and writers block. However, Jake counsels him: “listen, Robert, going to another country doesn’t make any difference. I’ve tried all that. You can’t get away from yourself by moving from one place to another. There’s nothing to that” (11). While Jake does initially ask Brett to run away to San Sebastian with him—an offer she turns down (56)—at the very end of the novel, when she hypothesizes that “[they] could have had such a damned good time together,” he responds, “Yes… isn’t it pretty to think so” (247). He has come to recognize the impossibility of escaping from the self.

.       Jake’s growing awareness of this fact, even as the other characters remain ignorant, is perhaps due to the fact that there is no possibility of escape from his own demon—his war wound. No matter how far he flees his pain constantly accompanies him, made visible by the mark on his body. Like Septimus Smith in Mrs. Dalloway, his pain is unspeakable, incommunicable, inexorable. The cause and extent of his injury are left entirely to the imagination of the reader. He says only “of all the ways to be wounded… it was a rotten way to be wounded and flying on a joke front like the Italian” (31). His friends are careful not to mention the subject, worried that it will upset him. Bill teases him about his expatriate lifestyle, but fears he has gone too far when he remarks:

“… Another group claims you’re impotent.”
“No,” I said. “I just had an accident.”
“Never mention that,” Bill said. “That’s the sort of thing that can’t be spoken of…”
He had been going splendidly, but he stopped. I was afraid he thought he had hurt me with the crack about being impotent. (115)

Out of uniform and the context of the war, Jake’s wound has become empty of reference (Scarry 118). His friends are unsure of how to discuss it, and so it becomes an unmentionable presence. Elaine Scarry suggest that this pain destroys language and through it the world (23). She quotes Woolf who points out that: “English, which can express the thoughts of Hamlet and the tragedy of Lear has no words for the shiver or the headache… the merest schoolgirl when she falls in love has Shakespeare or Keats to speak her mind for her, but let a sufferer try to describe a pain in his head to a doctor and language runs dry” (Woolf 4). We have no language for pain, and so Jake cannot verbally share what has happened to him, emotionally or physically. Scarry further claims that “when one hears about another person’s physical pain, the events happening within the interior of that person’s body may seem to have the remote character of some deep subterranean fact, belonging to an invisible geography that, however portentous, has no reality because it has not yet manifested itself on the visible surface of the earth” (Scarry 3).

.       In The Sun Also Rises, however, Hemingway makes that invisible geography, as it pertains to Jake’s war wounds, visible in the landscape surrounding the character. Immediately prior to the first direct mention of his wound, Jake walks past a statue of French military commander, Marshall Ney. He remembers:

.I passed Ney’s statue standing among the new-leaved chestnut-trees in the arc-light. There was a faded purple wreath leaning against the base. I stopped and read the inscription: from the Bonapartist Group, some date; I forget. He looked very fine Marshall Ney in his top-boots gesturing with his sword among the green new horse-chestnut leaves. (Hemingway 29)

Ney is, of course, a symbol of the masculine and martial. With his sword, he is a sort of meter stick against which Jake’s own disabled masculinity is found wanting. Strikingly, Ney was also injured as a young man in the upper thigh at the battler of Winterthur—a wound that would continue to trouble him for the rest of his life (Horricks 30). It is possible that this is just coincidence, but its mention, just two paragraphs before the introduction of the wound, seems purposeful. Jake’s wound—although unspeakable—is mirrored in the statue outside of his flat.

.       This is not the only example within the novel of how references to the war are hidden in the Parisian and European landscape. In general, the Great War is rarely mentioned within the narrative. The word “war” is used only fifteen times in the entire novel. On the rare occasion that it is mentioned, the characters in the novel express a general tedium towards it. When Jake has dinner with Georgette, the prostitute, they speak about the war briefly:

“… What’s the matter with you, anyway?”
“I got hurt in the war.”
“Oh, that dirty war.”
We would probably have gone on and discussed the war and agreed that it was a real calamity for civilization, and perhaps would have been better avoided. I was bored enough. (Hemingway 17)

There is a sense that it is ancient history, long over—even though the year of the novel is only 1924—and better left alone. Except when in emotional duress—mainly when they are drunk or arguing about Brett—the characters never mention their own involvement in the conflict directly or seriously. As William Adair points out, however, “in this novel…the pre-story past, what has already happened to this generation… is never far from narrator Jake Barnes’s mind” (“The Sun Also Rises” 73). World War One haunts the city despite the characters’ refusal to speak about it. The novel is literally full of hidden references to the war, found mostly in place names. A full exploration of these references would take up the entirety of this essay, but a few examples will suffice. In the very first scene, in the Café Versailles, Jake names places that he and Cohn could go on a walking tour: Strasbourg, St. Odile, Bruges, Ardennes. While today the word Versailles is perhaps more closely connected to the palace than the treaty, Adair suggests that for a contemporary audience the reference would be unmistakable (73). Similarly, according to Adair, each of the locations that Jake suggests to Cohn were the site of military action during the war, and after 1918 many of these spots had become the sites of pilgrimages for former soldiers (“Cafés and Food” 128). Making plans for a simple holiday reveals an unspoken obsession with the war. The city of Paris and its surrounding areas both within the novel, and in real life, bear witness to the history of conflict. Scarry suggests that after violence has ended, a record of war survives within injured bodies as a sort of act of memorialization (Scarry 11). Hemingway—subconsciously or purposefully—reflects this memorialization within both the Jake’s body and the landscape of Paris.

     . Despite this subtext of war references, the characters in The Sun Also Rises never come to terms with their experiences of the war. There is no emotional climax in which they finally realize the truth of their lostness. The novel ends in a taxi, a liminal space, suspended between the point of origin and destination. The characters have learned nothing and changed nothing. No one has plans to abandon the expatriate lifestyle and return home. One suspects that they will continue to drift across the face of Europe indefinitely. They continue to be “a lost generation.” As Ecclesiastes—which Hemingway quotes in the epigraph—suggests: “One generation passeth away and another generation cometh, but the earth abideth forever… the sun also ariseth and the sun goeth down, and hasteth to the place where he arose” (Hemingway epigraph). There is no possibility of resolution or conclusion to their situation.

Mrs. Dalloway: An analysis of location in interwar London

            The epigraph to The Sun Also Rises continues, “the wind goeth toward the south, and turneth about unto north; it whirleth about continuall, and the wind returneth again according to his circuits” (epigraph). There is a certain irony to this interconnected idea of nature, as the characters in that novel seem to see the world in much more discrete and disconnected terms. This vision of the world is in many ways much more in synch with Mrs. Dalloway, where—rather like the wind—every hour the city of London is united by the tolling of the clock: “Big Ben strikes. There! Out it boomed, First in warning, musical; then the hour, irrevocable. The leaden circles dissolved into the air” (Woolf 4). The sound of the clock connects strangers across the city. It unites them in a sort of aural community.

            This sense of unity between disparate parts is one of the main themes of the novel. It is interesting to note that Mrs. Dalloway was, for many years, not considered a “war” novel, due to the perception of Woolf as a mere civilian who played no active part in the Great War, and experienced it mainly from London and the village of Asherham (Levenbeck 10). As a confirmed pacifist, she was not involved in the war effort in any way. In the context of her contemporary authors, many of whom had experienced the war at the front—like Hemingway, who drove an ambulance in Italy—her life on the home front was seen by many as somehow separate and distinct from the war. In Mrs. Dalloway, she attacks this binary between home and the front, soldier and civilian. Septimus, as a veteran, is not the only character to have experienced war. While one does not wish to diminish his experiences—he is obviously suffering to the greatest degree—it is worth noting the specific affects of the war on other characters: Rezia in Milan experienced food shortages and bombing, Clarissa suffered from influenza, and Mrs. Kilman was caught between her allegiance to Germany and Britain. As in The Sun Also Rises, the war has had effects far beyond the soldiers at the front line.

       . Woolf’s characters are not displaced in the same way Hemingway’s are. While some of them are not native Londoners, they all call London home within the story. They are connected to the land. There is a sense throughout Mrs. Dalloway that one’s character is not fully internal. It is only through the external influence of the city of London and the characters’ responses to that city that we begin to understand them. As well, it is through London that Woolf connects these otherwise unconnected strangers. She uses their physical proximity and also their oftentimes similar reflections on the city as the narrative means through which to join their stories. As Clarissa once told Peter, many years ago:

But she said, sitting on the bus going up Shaftesbury Avenue, she felt herself everywhere; not ‘here, here, here’; and she tapped the back of the seat; but everywhere. She waved her hand, going up Shaftesbury Avenue. She was all that. So that to know her, or any one, one must seek out the people who completed them; even the places… (Woolf 130)

The novel affirms her theory; neither Clarissa nor Peter nor Richard nor Elizabeth ever meet Septimus or Rezia. Yet there is a sense that they are connected, not only by their geographical proximity in Bond Street or Regent Park, but also by something more abstract. Both Septimus and Clarissa feel a deep connection to the city of London, and through London to each other. Unknown to them, at times their thoughts seem to echo each other. Early in the novel Clarissa reflects:

Did it matter then, she asked herself, walking towards Bond Street, did it matter that she must inevitably cease completely; all this must go on without her; did she resent it; or did it not become consoling to believe that death ended absolutely? but that somehow in the streets of London, on the ebb and flow of things, here, there, she survived, Peter survived, lived in each other, she being part, she was positive, of the trees at home; of the house there, ugly, rambling all to bits and pieces as it was; part of people she had never met; being laid out like a mist between the people she knew best, who lifted her on their branches as she had seen the trees lift the mist, but it spread ever so far, her life, herself. (emphasis added; 8 )

Clarissa sees herself as a part of nature, and the city. Later, when sitting in Regent Garden, Septimus has a remarkably similar thought: “But they beckoned; leaves were alive; trees were alive. And the leaves being connected by millions of fibres with his own body, there on the seat, fanned it up and down; when the branch stretched he, too, made that statement” (19). They see themselves as literally a part of the world around them. Lady Bruton visualizes this sense of connectedness as Hugh Whitbread and Richard Dalloway depart from her house: “And they went further and further from her, being attached to her by a thin thread (since they had lunched with her) which would stretch and stretch, get thinner and thinner as they walked across London; as if one’s friends were attached to one’s body…” (95).

.      As in The Sun Also Rises, the actual city itself becomes an unspoken memorial to war. Many of the landmarks mentioned in the book are war monuments. Susan Kent notes that after the Great War:

Britons were faced with the overwhelming task of mourning their dead, work that was often obstructed by spoken and unspoken injunctions against expressions of grief and by the very public memorials and national rituals that were intended to assuage it, forcing the feelings of sadness, pain, rage, abandonment, and disorientation that grief entails to find outlets elsewhere. (Kent 14)

The building of war memorials became a socially sanctioned manner of grieving. Walking down Whitehall, Peter Walsh sees:

Boys in uniform, carrying guns, marched with their eyes ahead of them, marched, their arms stiff, and on their faces an expression like the letters of a legend written round the base of a statue, praising duty, gratitude, fidelity, love of England… Now they wore on them unmixed with sensual pleasure or daily preoccupations the solemnity of the wreath which they had fetched from Finsbury Pavement to the empty tomb. (Woolf 43)

These young men are presumably laying wreaths on the recently erected Cenotaph. Later as he walks through Trafalgar square he thinks: “There they go… pausing at the edge of the pavement; and all the exalted statues, Nelson, Gordon, Havelock, the black, the spectacular mages of great soldiers stood looking ahead of them” (44). Each of the men mentioned are noted British war heroes, all of whom have statues erected to them in Trafalgar square. Mrs. Killman also notices another memorial as she wanders through Westminster Abbey: “New worshippers came in from the street to replace the strollers, and still, as people gazed round and shuffled past the tomb of the Unknown Warrior, still she barred her eyes with her fingers and tried in this double darkness, for the light in the Abbey was bodiless, to aspire above the vanities, the desires, the commodities, to rid herself both of hatred and of love” (113). War has become a part of the landscape itself.

       . The presence of memorials within the novel contrasts with the existence of Septimus Smith—a living, breathing veteran. While boys may go to lay wreaths on the grave of the dead, no one is willing or able to reach out to Septimus and save him from his trauma. Every imagined soldier in the novel is a dead soldier. Walking home, Richard imagines the men at the front: “Really it was a miracle thinking of the war, and thousands of poor chaps, with all their lives before them, shoveled together, already half forgotten; it was a miracle” (98). Despite the sense of interconnectedness created by the structure of the novel and the geographical proximity, various characters express a sense of intolerance towards the plight of Septimus. Kent notes that, “Returning from the war brought its own pain, especially for those who had found in the trenches a camaraderie they could find nowhere else. Bonded to one another through a literal ordeal of fire, these men shared emotions and experiences that no one who had not been through the war could understand, they believed” (Kent 30). Septimus certainly experiences this: “So he was deserted. The whole world was clamoring: Kill yourself, kill yourself, for our sakes. But why should he kill himself for their sakes?” (Woolf 78). Septimus attempts to reestablish a connection with society, but he cannot. He knows that “communication is health, communication is happiness” (79). Despite his best attempts, however, he is ultimately incapable—rather like the characters in The Sun Also Rises—of establishing meaningful ties to his community. Instead, his final act of communication is his suicide. Like so many of his actions throughout the day, this too is connected to Clarissa, who reflects: “death was defiance. Death was an attempt to communicate, people feeling the impossibility of reaching the centre which, mystically, evaded them; closeness drew apart; rupture faced; one was alone” (156).It is as if through death the web spanning across London collapses into a single point, finally uniting Septimus and Clarissa directly.

Responsibility and Relationship

     . Ultimately, through their emphasis on geography, both novels focus the reader’s attention on the precariousness of relationships between people. Hemingway, with his transient and emotionally disconnected characters, and Woolf, with her mystically connected strangers and overwhelming sense of unity, both raise questions about the responsibility we owe to one another—especially in the wake of violent conflict. Judith Butler in Frames of War suggests that the body’s “very persistence depends upon social conditions and institutions, which means in order to “be,” in the sense of “persist,” it must rely on what is outside itself… (33).” She continues, “After all, if my survivability depends on a relation to others, to a “you” or a set of “yours” without whom I cannot exist, then my existence is not mine alone, but is to be found outside myself, in this set of relations that precede and exceed the boundaries of who I am” (44). She claims

each of us is constituted politically in part by virtue of the social vulnerability of our bodies—as a site of desire and physical vulnerability… Loss and vulnerability seem to follow from our being socially constituted bodies, attached to others, at risk of losing those attachments, exposed to others, at risk of violence by virtue of that exposure. (Precarious Life 20)

This interconnected idea of personhood leads Butler to a set of questions: “Am I responsible only to myself? Are there others for whom I am responsible? And how do I, in general, determine the scope of my responsibility? Am I responsible for all others, or only to some, and on what basis would I draw that line?” (20). In their own ways, both Hemingway and Woolf address these questions, exploring the relationships between their characters.

.        The characters in The Sun Also Rises attempt to minimize this exposure, by reducing their reliance on what is outside themselves. Leland writes that they are “resolute in their determination to deny any involvement in a world that they did not make and could not understand—either that or, like Robert Cohn, they are not allowed to remain members in good standing” (ix). Despite these attempts, their relationship to Brett and each other leads them into conflict in Pamplona. Instead of dealing with these emotions, they scatter geographically—cutting ties from one another. Yet, Jake continues to feel a sense of responsibility towards Brett—so much so that he is willing to travel to Madrid to fetch her. He notes to himself rather bitterly: “That was it. Send a girl off with one man. Introduce her to another to go off with him. Now go and bring her back” (Hemingway 238). Regardless of the sense of separateness between places that many characters espouse, her telegraph is still able to find him. Geography cannot divide them and he is not able to fully limit his sense of connectedness to Brett, or indeed any of the other characters in the novel. Despite what he may wish, he still feels a sense of responsibility towards those around him.

.        Mrs. Dalloway suggests a much stronger sense of unity between characters throughout the novel. Even this unity, however, cannot save Septimus. His presence within the city of London is not enough to tie him to a community—in fact, in some sense it further allienates him. The novel draws to a close with Clarissa reflecting on the death of this young man she has never met. She feels for and with him, imagining her own death: “her dress flamed, her body burnt” (Woolf 156). The juxtaposition of the two characters—the civilian and the soldier—raises questions about the responsibility society owes to its veterans. It is easy enough to mourn the dead, but how does one deal with those that are still living? After Septimus’ death, Rezia thinks to herself, “She had once seen a flag slowly rippling out from a mast when she stayed with her aunt in Venice. Men killed in battle were thus saluted, and Septimus had been through the War” (127). She knows how to grieve for those killed on the battlefield, but not for her own husband. His suicide makes him into a coward: “And it was cowardly for a man to say he would kill himself, but Septimus had fought; he was brave; he was not Septimus now” (20). Butler suggests, “We might think of war as dividing populations into those who are grievable and those who are not” (Frames of War 38). In committing suicide, Septimus becomes an ungrievable. His metaphysical connection to London, and through the city to other characters, cannot redeem him. There will never be a public monument built to honour him.

      . The characters in both novels see the Great War as over, complete, in the past. Mrs. Dalloway remarks to herself, “The War was over… it was over; thank heaven—over” (Woolf 4). However, for many of the characters, the war is not over. The trauma of what has happened to them is played out over and over again—whether in Brett repeating the toxic relationship she had with the obviously shell-shocked Lord Ashley, or Septimus seeing the ghost of Evans in 1924 London. That trauma manifests itself not only in their conscience and actions but in the landscape of the cities around them. Everywhere there are reminders of what has been, in the form of public memorials. The city becomes a memorialization of conflict and the characters cope with their trauma by re-envisioning their relationship to the world around them as either connected or disconnected. Butler suggests

It is not as if an “I” exists independently over here and then simply loses a “you” over there, especially if the attachment to “you” is part of what composes who “I” am. If I lose you, under these conditions, then I not only mourn the loss, but I become inscrutable to myself. Who “am” I, without you? When we lose some of these ties by which we are constitute, we do not know who we are or what to do… (Precarious Life 22)

Unable to determine their responsibility to and relationship with each other, the characters become incapable of mourning. They cannot find closure in the public monuments and communal grieving. Ultimately, the novels themselves become a form of memorialization—mourning that which city planners and society-at-large seem incapable of recognizing and remembering. The novels become memorials to the ungrievable, and through geography offer voice to unspeakable pain.


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