Worn Out Faces, Uncanny Spaces: The Mad World of Traumatic Experience in Great Expectations

Benjamin Benson, Georgia College & State University


Trauma studies has undergone a shift in focus over the past decades. What began as a study of an individual’s fragmentation of self due to a singular violent event developed into a study of an individual’s response to a singular personal event. It is now being developed into a study in how cultural expectations create circumstances in which trauma is an almost predetermined outcome for marginalized people. This has led researchers to ask the questions: Can trauma be passed onto new generations? How is trauma passed from generation to generation? How are specific groups of people affected by cultural expectations? And how is trauma communicated within a population? This paper analyzes how Dickens’ Great Expectations uses uncanny gendered space to communicate trauma between the women of the novel. By using a trauma lens, it becomes clear that Dickens’ novel uses gendered space and trauma to critique the lack of healing places that exist for women within 19th Century England and lead to a vicious cycle of trauma being imputed onto others. This should lead readers to understand the importance of specific spaces within a culture that allow individuals of similar cultural backgrounds to find belonging and process personal or collective trauma in order to heal.