A Gesture Life as Traumatic Heteroglossia

  • Julie Klinke Department of English, Aarhus University
Keywords: trauma, adoption, heteroglossia, unreliable narrator, Chang-rae Lee, fiction, A Gesture Life, Literature in English 3: Conflict and Identities


Traumatic narratives differ from traditional ones by defying chronological structure. Often, victims of trauma are unable to recall their trauma, and it is then present in their narratives only symptomatically. This article argues that the structure of A Gesture Life lends itself to an interpretation based on trauma theory. The narrator, Hata, is revealed as traumatized through an analysis of his evasive voice, the counter-narratives presented by other characters, and the novel’s disjointed chronology. It is concluded that like victims of trauma, Hata seeks to make up for the absence of the events that caused him to become traumatized through a fictional narrative. However, through the intrusion of his trauma and through the voices of K and Sunny, who both oppose the narrative he attempts to confine them in, his narrative is ultimately revealed as a method of repression to both himself and the reader.

How to Cite
Klinke, J. (2018). A Gesture Life as Traumatic Heteroglossia. Leviathan: Interdisciplinary Journal in English, (3), 30-39. https://doi.org/10.7146/lev.v0i3.107778