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"The Refugees" by Viet Thanh Nguyen

Categories: RefugeesSigmund Freud

The Refugees by Viet Thanh Nguyen, is a book of short collection which consists of eight chapters such as Black Eyed Women, The Other Man, War Years, The Transplant, I’d Love you to want me, The Americans, Someone else besides you and Fatherland. The Refugees revolve around the short stories of an unnamed writer who gathers history of Vietnam War, one of which is a Vietnam refugeeVictor, who is a survivor guilt; a young Vietnam refugee, Liem who agonies enormous culture shock in San Francisco when he has to live with gays, an unnamed school boy who opens a store in San Jose and struggle his family in running the store, a middle-aged Mexican-American man, Arthur Arellano(lives in Orange Country) who had underwent liver transplant and seeking for the donor to repay something in return, another American man, Louis takes advantage of Arellano’s situation; Mrs.

Khan whose husband is suffering from Alzheimer and due to that Mr. Khan confuses his wife for a former lover, a retired African-American man, Carver who was USAF pilot during the Vietnam War and his attitude towards Vietnam and this became a major clash between his daughter and himself, Thomas who lacks courage due to loss of his wife, Sam because of not having a child with her and struggle he faces to join Sam, Phuong, a young woman who stays in Ho Chi Minh City whose older half-sister of the same name comes back to her fatherland from America experienced everything she never will in her life.

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These stories are captivating testament to the dreams and hardships of immigrants from Vietnam.

The term Trauma is derived from the ancient Greek which refers to wound’. In the Mid Seventeenth century, the word Trauma was first used in the field of Medicine which refers to a bodily injury caused by an external force. Later the usage of the word was extended to various fields especially in Medicine and Psychiatric literature. Sigmund Freud was one of the first major figures to explore the field of Psychology and Psychoanalysis. In the end of the nineteenth century Freud’s research on Trauma, discovered that a psychological trauma serves at the basis of women so-called Hysteria. Freud’s Project for a Scientific Psychology (1895) deals with the trauma faced by women who were abused sexually at their young age. In Freud’s texts, the word Trauma’ plays significant role on depicting how wounds are caused not upon the body but upon the mind.

Freud says Trauma occurs through two possible ways such as: The Flashbacks /with the mystery of his or her own survival. The mystery of one’s near death experience. Trauma occurs not only of having survived but survived without really being aware of it, which is a logical consequence of the inherent latency. Earlier Trauma according to Sigmund Freud ‘consists of two scenes (i) the earlier (in childhood) having sexual content but no meaning, the later (in puberty) having no sexual content but sexual meaning’.

According to Freud, trauma is caused by the dialectic relation between the two events and the moment of latency between the two moments, when we remain unaware of the trauma’. Freud’s research also portrays the trauma of child abuse and the importance of the temporal delay, which seems to be inherent to trauma and which Freud calls Belatedness’ (Codde). The Trauma Studies in literary criticism gained attention in 1996 with the publication of Cathy Caruth’s ‘Unclaimed Experience: Trauma, Narrative, and History and Kali Tal’s Worlds of Hurt: Reading the Literatures of Trauma.’ Caruth who was pioneered in Psychoanalytic post structural approach that suggests trauma is an unsolvable problem of the unconscious that illuminates the inherent contradictions of experience and language. The evolution of Trauma theory in literary criticism explained in terms of the changing psychological definitions of trauma as well as the semiotic, rhetorical, and social concerns that are part of the study of trauma in literature and society. Cathy Caruth’s contribution to the field largely flourished cultural trauma theory in the early 1990’s in her collections of essays named Trauma, Narrative and History (1996) Caruth gives general definition for Trauma, ‘Trauma describes an overwhelming experience of sudden or catastrophic events in which the response to the event occurs in the often delayed, uncontrolled repetitive appearance of hallucinations and other intrusive phenomena’ (Caruth).

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"The Refugees" by Viet Thanh Nguyen. (2020, May 21). Retrieved from

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