Grace has abnormal behavior because of childhood sexual abuse. According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (1999), early childhood sexual abuse leads to neurodevelopmental abnormalities in the temporal behavior of the victim. Mediating sexual arousal and erotic discrimination lead towards badly impacting the cognitive aspects of sexual desire and behavior. In this way, if there is sexual abuse or harassment specifically sociopathy and cognitive distortions, very chances are failure to inhibit pedophilic behavior. Grace also experienced above all scenarios that are why she has unstable and abnormal behavior.
“Grace,” her mother says quietly from over his shoulder. She’s standing behind him in a purple velour tracksuit. “You look awful.” I shuffle toward her, every single bone in my body still sore. She hugs me for longer than usual, and I try not to pull away too early, even though all I can think about is finding my sister. “How are you feeling?” my dad says, patting her on the shoulder. She tries to smile reassuringly and then end up shrugging instead. “Still kicking,” she says, and it seems to be enough for them. she turns to my mother. “What exactly did Esme say before she left?” “I already told you. She said she was going to stay with you for a couple of days. You weren’t answering our calls, but there isn’t anything out of the ordinary there,” her mom says, but her heart isn’t really in it. She seems even smaller when she’s frightened. (The Comeback, Berman,2020).”
Why did Grace give up when she was a rising star in Hollywood and one movie away from being an A-List Actress? This is not only a simple question but a matter of contention that shows the abnormal and complex behavior of Grace. From Hollywood fame to living hidden life, cannot be the decision of normal persons. Add to this, the environment Grace has in her parents’ house also gives the reader a graphic description of her behavior. She seems stuck whenever she talks to Able. This can easily be explained through contemporary literary trauma theory. “A central claim of contemporary literary trauma theory asserts that trauma creates a speechless fright that divides or destroys identity” (Balaev, 2008) Place and location have also found their place in the discussion of traumatic experiences and their remembrance in the victim’s scenario. The place can be geographical or metaphorical, as in the case of the protagonist of The Comeback as her traumatic experiences are tied to the place and environment of Hollywood. “The primacy of place in the representations of trauma anchors the individual experience within a larger cultural context, and, organizes the memory and meaning” (Balaev, 2008). The location of Hollywood plays a great role in shaping her experience as Hollywood has received criticism many times before in this regard. Young starlets are launched for haphazard fame showing complete disregard for their mental health. What results are young girls that become celebrities in the eyes of the world but suffer greatly in their personal life? Grace is an epitome of this phenomenon because she faces a similar fate as that of Britney Spears or Lindsay Lohan where she was exploited and then left alone to cope with her issues. The abuser stays glorified while the victim has to face the darkness.
“They hover around him and laugh too loudly, even when he’s not being funny, which is most of the time. I remember how important it felt to remain in his glowing orbit, to do whatever it took not to be cast back into the dark. He controls everyone around him, refusing to acknowledge my presence because he doesn’t have to, even though I know that he’s spotted me from the deliberate way he will look anywhere but at me. I am in Able’s office. I was going to leave, but instead, my body led me here, and I don’t know what I wanted but my heart is racing fast in my chest and I feel sick and scared, and it’s clear to me now that everything is the same as it was back then, that I am the same, and that I always will be.” (The Comeback, Berman,2020).
Grace seems to have a glorious lifestyle in Hollywood, however, underneath that glamour, there is a miserable life. Under the shadow of this glamour, there is darkness. she is alone with her secrets, secrets that have rocked her sense of safety.
“You do know that everyone feels like that? That it’s hard to feel worthy of anyone’s love because we all know how shitty and selfish and fucked up, we are on the inside, but we still work at it” (The Comeback, Berman,2020).
Nonetheless, she tried to leave it all behind and tried to forget what she has left behind but that road is long and leads to many bumps along the way.
Grace Turner’s decision of disappearing and leaving it all behind on the height of her fame as a young and up-coming Hollywood star, shows the complexity of her mind. Though, she is living a luxurious life as a public figure. She has everything which a celebrity could have but still, somewhere she has abnormal behavior.
“I take three pills as soon as I’m home, then I sit on the sofa in the living room, waiting for the morning to come. When it finally does, the sun casting streaks of white gold across the blue sky, I have to close the blinds because everything seems too hopeful with them open. It’s Christmas Eve and this is a city for people who wake up every morning believing that today could be the day their life is transformed, not for people like me. I should have known that everything I touch eventually gets destroyed, like a curse Able handed down to me” (The Comeback, Berman,2020).
Whenever it comes to her mind that incident happened to her, starts behaving abnormal,
unsure, unstable, and terrified. Able abuses her from teenage to adult. After that incident, she lost her trust in herself. She was perplexed about relationships and no one else but Able made her like this. Here we can see that “Freudian Slip” (Barry 2002)is very clear in Grace’s character. She is doing actions and making decisions unintentionally.
“Do you want to know why I left you? I left because you never wanted to see who I was. You had this image of me as this little lost girl who you could rescue with your love, and you panicked when it turned out not to be as simple as that. Your love suffocated me because it was a love for somebody else. You never took the time to get to know who I was, and the one night I tried to tell you, you didn’t want to know. That’s why I fucking left.” (The Comeback, Berman,2020).
A well-known example mechanism is the Freudian slip, which Freud himself called the ‘parapraxis’, whereby repressed material in the unconscious finds an outlet through such everyday phenomena as slips of the tongue, slips of the pen, or unintended actions. (Barry 2002).
It is very clear that Grace is showing ‘parapraxis’ in her behaviour. This thing is evident that her behaviour is not normal. She is fighting with her fears and insecurities and at the same time when she tries to hold things and relations, she ends up with unintended actions and abnormal behaviour.
In the public eye’s Grace has graceful life one can know about her real-life comes out when
Esme asks her: Why are you so scared of everything?
Over time, Able Yorke’s manipulative method gets more worst as the only person she had in the world is Able, so, he leaves no stone untorn. In the start, he was only emotionally abusive and carefully gaslights any chance so that he can get to keep a firm grip on her life. But with time, Able’s motives become more sexual. Grace was blind and unaware of what is happening.
Dark thoughts that spin round and round lead her to the strange behavior as over the next few years Grace relies on drugs and alcohol to numb her mind which is a severe form of pathic behavior. Ella Berman’s created a slow burn character that is full of riddled with emotion.
Grace’s personality can be reflected through Grace’s confusion, anger, and hurt.
“Clearing the fog moments at a time, I take a step and then 10 stops, paralyzed. “Where I am going? And where have I been? Everyone asks, but I do not know. Surely there must be some limit to how many times you’re allowed to hurt another human.” (The Comeback, Berman,2020).
Because of dysfunctional behavior, she failed to interact with her family and didn’t win favor. On the other side, somewhere her behavior is also witty. For example, buried in piles of self-doubt are many droll comments made by Grace. “I think about another type of revenge -the quieter, less explosive kind I could inflict just by living my life despite him” (The Comeback, Berman,2020).
she is verbally, emotionally, and sexually abused by a man who manipulated her to depend only on him. The effects of this abuse are long-term and present-day Grace is not equipped to be a successful adult., it was inevitable that she would crash and burn. She is sexually and emotionally abused by a man because he was the only person whom she could trust.
we see the saddest is that Grace has only a relationship with Able, not with her husband or family. So, throughout the plot, Grace’s character is palpable.
“So, I think this is the part where I introduce Able and thank him for his unending commitment to giving independent films a platform, for his tireless contribution to our industry as a whole, and, most of all, for everything he’s done for me. This is definitely what I’m supposed to do,” I say, my voice shaking. I clear my throat, and the audience is so quiet I wonder if they can hear my heart beating through the microphone. “I have spent years trying to work out what I could have done differently, or maybe what my parents could have done differently. I should have told someone after the first time he made me touch him, or when he told me I was mentally unstable for the hundredth time. Maybe I shouldn’t have waited until every part of my life was already destroyed before I tried to kill myself.” (The Comeback, Berman,2020).
There are sudden changes in Grace when someone talks about Able in front of her which mean which means the mind of Grace is associated with fear and aggression through by the Able.
Grace’s sentiments spark a long-term pattern of dislike because it’s validated by action. Negative feelings toward Able get stronger as bad experiences take repeatedly. Furthermore, these thoughts trigger the intense responses in her mind that cause the abnormal behavior.
“Grace. I think you know what I’m about to ask you. Do you want to tell me about Able Yorke?” I told my hands in my lap and lean toward her, my chest constricting and exploding at the same time. My breath comes short and fast, out, out, out like a horse in labor. I know what she wants from me, but I can’t give it to her because the story isn’t going to be what she thinks it is. It never is.” (The Comeback, Berman,2020).
Thereupon, abnormal behavior can be seen in almost every chapter of the novel. She is confused about everything around her . On the other side, this seems also true that the most vicious demons have always been her own, and she never learn how to protect herself from them. Later, she was exploited to the point where she could trust no one, even including her parents, her friends, her sister, and her husband.
“I watch from the side of the stage as the young actress introduces Able simply, ridiculously, as the man who saved independent cinema. She’s never been in one of his films, and I can’t figure out the connection between them. When her introduction ends soon after that, I realize it’s because there isn’t one, that she’s just one more person desperate for the chance to be somebody else. I’m Grace Turner,” I said scathingly. “I’m Able’s surprise guest.” (The Comeback, Berman,2020).
The development of Grace’s behavior can be figured out from her choices, her relationship with her younger sister, Esme, and her rocky marriage. She failed in all and chose drugs, fake friends, and other self-destructive behavior.
“So, actually, I am here to thank you, Able, in a way.” I turn to look at him, for just a moment, and I can see that he would kill me right now if he could. I take a deep breath. “Thank you, for making me aware that there is an infinite number of ways to get hurt, every day of my life, even when you are nowhere near me.” The room is more than silent—it is frozen in time. I am suspended above them, my words floating and falling around us all like blossoms, settling into the darkest, loneliest crevices of Hollywood. “Because knowing what I know, and still getting up every single day, despite it? That makes me stronger, and braver, and better than you. So, Able, you don’t get to have ruined me. Not even one tiny part of me.” (The Comeback, Berman,2020).
She has nobody to share her emotions with, even her parents were not interested to know what was wrong with her. Grace’s mother in particular take off Grace on her own at a very young age and let her daughter be raised by strangers in the Hollywood industry. Expectedly, Grace becomes the victim of sexual abuse and after that sexual abuse, she had no courage to make up her relations anymore.
“For my family’s part, they don’t question my presence. Awards season came and went, and we all pretended that my eight-year career never existed. Maybe they’re respecting my privacy, or maybe they don’t care why I’m here. Maybe I lost that privilege when I moved away, or that first Christmas I didn’t come home, or maybe it was all the ones after that. When I’m being honest with myself, I understand that I only came back here because I knew it would be like this that as much as I don’t know how to ask for anything, my family also wouldn’t know how to give it to me”(The Comeback, Berman,2020).
She thinks she shares a very important and unique equation with able but he introduces her with his actual face. There is a relation between them but it is only Grace who finds it pure and special, Able abused her mentally and sexually. She is unable to make any equation with anyone after that certain incident.
“I said I needed to go to the bathroom, but he just looked at me with blank eyes as he forced me down onto the floor and put his penis in my mouth. I started to choke. Thick saliva dripped down my chin and my eyes burned with hot, shameful tears. I was staring at a photograph of Able, Emilia, and the twins on the desk behind him the whole time. He didn’t even turn it around. Afterward, I tried to justify what happened. I’d let him believe that we had a special relationship because it had benefited me too. I didn’t want to admit that I hadn’t had a choice in any of it, and even when the disgust eventually flooded every inch of my body, it was an uninvited, complicated disgust after so many years of believing that his attention meant I was special. Every time he accused me of wanting him or needing him, or making him act this way, a tiny part of me believed him. He’d always warned me that I couldn’t trust myself, and deep down I knew I never fought back as hard as I could have.”(The Comeback, Berman,2020).
Edwards et al have summarized an overwhelming amount of scholars’ research performed over 30 years in his 2012 article and all the research results affirm the negative effects of childhood abuse and trauma. Sexual abuse in childhood paves the way for substance abuse and mental health problems like depression, anxiety, panic disorder, dissociative disorders, posttraumatic stress disorder PTSD, and personality disorders. Grace Turner’s character is an amalgam of all these character traits that have been developed out of trauma. Edwards et al have drawn upon Freyd’s 1996 betrayal trauma theory which suggests childhood sexual abuse from a close and emotionally involved person has far more devastating effects on the victim’s personality as compared to the effects of abuse from a non-related abuser.
The mental pressure of Able on Grace is so immense that she is even afraid in dreams.
She dreams of Able in the room with her, but she couldn’t move or call out because his hands are around her neck, pinning her down all over again. she sobbed into her pillow until she can hardly breathe, while the sky lightens around her. She doesn’t know how to be normal, how to stop him from sexual abuse.
“I take three pills as soon as I’m home, then I sit on the sofa in the living room, waiting for the morning to come. When it finally does, the sun casting streaks of white gold across the blue sky,
I have to close the blinds because everything seems too hopeful with them open. It’s Christmas Eve and this is a city for people who wake up every morning believing that today could be the day their life is transformed, not for people like me. I should have known that everything I touch eventually gets destroyed, like a curse Able handed down to me. The man who both created and destroyed me. He stands with his back against the doors that lead onto the deck, telling a story to his crowd of fans. He speaks quietly so that those around him have to lean in toward him to catch each word. People are drawn to him like this.” (The Comeback, Berman,2020).
Although, Grace decides that now time to let the world know what had her walking away from stardom. She plans to do this when she presents Able Yorke with his lifetime achievement award. The man who made her as well as the same man who tore her down. But she could not express herself. Ultimately, she decides to live with her secret. It becomes clear to her that everything is the same as it was back then, she is the same, and that she always will be.
In this study, the theory of Psychoanalysis has been used as a mechanism to find out the hidden meaning of the novel “The Comeback”, particularly with the character of Grace. In the same way, we become familiars with the execution of the Trauma theory. Grace faces trauma in the form of childhood sexual abuse and it impacts the development of her character. So, this Psychoanalytical Study has traced the Traumatic impact on Grace’s character. Grace is manipulated by the Hollywood director Able Yorke. Because of this trauma, she went out of control and she become addicted to drugs to escape her life. Immediately one day she disappears from the public eye when she was nominated for an award. She spends the year quietly. This research work has provided an understanding of the Trauma theory from the novel “The Comeback” protagonist as well as learning the concept of psychoanalysis and how it relates to the literature. In the second place, it explores the execution of the psychoanalysis theory on the literary text of the Grace character by exploring the unknown and hidden perspective of Grace Character employing the trauma theory. The interrogation of this research is the justification of how childhood sexual abuse and its aftereffects impact the development of Grace’s character and more particularly to what extent does the sexual abuse of the protagonist shows her abnormal behavior, So, this dissertation has provided a comprehensive understanding of psychoanalysis as well as trauma theory under the observation of the Berman’s novel The Comeback.
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