Narrative Tools and Strategies: Representation of Trauma in The Mahabharata

Dharmapada Jena, Kalyani Samantray


The understanding and interpretation of traumatic experiences and the issues of their representation in narratives have always been the major focus of trauma studies. The inherent nature of traumatic experiences, that “fragment consciousness and prevent direct linguistic representation” (Caruth 4), makes trauma studies more challenging as well as demanding. Researchers such as Tal (1995), Caruth (1996), Rogers (2004), Ward (2008), Whitehead (2011) and Heidarizadeh (2015), amongst others, have discussed the difficulties involved in the representation of traumatic experiences in narratives. They have also explored different ways and means for the representation of traumatic experiences. But such exploration could not fully help achieve the accurate representation of trauma, thus calls for further exploration to bring about certain tools and strategies to fill the inadequacy. This paper tends to offer certain narrative features and techniques, that The Mahabharata employs in its narrative for the representation of psychological trauma of the characters, to tackle the inherent difficulties in representing trauma, and thereby contributes to the enrichment of trauma studies. Drawing on narrative theory, the paper analyses how the narrative components like plot (event), character and theme and the narrative techniques like flashbacks, flashforward, frame story, events in parallel, narrative shift, multi-perspectivity, repetitive designation, epiphany, amplification, imagery, tone, use of repetitive sentence structure, hamartia, peripetia and comparison, embedded in the narrative of the epic, help represent the psychological trauma of the characters. All the narrative components and techniques have been utilized together for the same purpose. The character-event relationship has been discussed to explore how the theme of trauma has been represented in the narrative of the epic.


Psychological Trauma, Narrative Features, Narrative Techniques, Representation of Trauma, The Mahabharata

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