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Dec 22, 2014

Former President, Prudence Gourguechon, interviews author Thomas E. Allen about his article “Life of Pi and the Moral Wound” published in the December 2014 issue of Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association.



The “moral wound,” rendered symbolically in the form of the tiger in Life of Pi, is a complex trauma in which the victim, in order to survive in life-threatening circumstances, commits an ethical transgression against his or her deeply held values. Pi experiences such a trauma and deals with it by dissociating it in the form of the tiger and then has to simultaneously both preserve the tiger and wish it to disappear. Jonathan Shay’s work relating the experiences of returning Vietnam veterans to Homer’s Odyssey is used to further an understanding of both Life of Pi and American soldiers returning from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Reasons are considered for the possible delayed effect of trauma as a factor in the increased suicide rate of older veterans. Finally, the concept of the “moral wound” is discussed, with an eye to its treatment.


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