Childhood is a time of innocence. Children should be flooded with love, affection, and attention. Safety and security should not be concerns a child deals with. However, this is not the case for a lot of children. Thousands of children are faced with unimaginable problems that results in trauma. Trauma taking place in a person’s childhood can cause long term damage on the child. Many children are robbed of their childhood because of sexual abuse and emotional abuse particularly abandonment and neglect. Sometimes these traumatic events lead to an individual questioning who they are.
According to Kathleen J. Moroz, in The Effects of Psychological Trauma on Children and Adolescents, she defines trauma as “a physical or psychological threat or assault to a child’s physical integrity, sense of self, safety of survival or to the physical safety of another person significant to the child”(4). When a child has a traumatic event that is gone untreated it has effects on a child’s decision making. Most traumatic events that effect children are due to the mistreatment or abuse of an authority figure, such as a patent or a caregiver.
Nearly 3.3 million allegations of child abuse and neglect where made to CPS in 2006 (Whisnant 8). Maryse Conde demonstrates many examples of how a trauma like sexual abuse, in your childhood can affect the choices you make later in life. In her novel, Desirada, we see how Nina is affected by sexual abuse. Nina was raped by her cousin when she was younger resulting in her daughter, Reynalda. Nina never showed she loved her daughter. I believe it was because every time she looked at her daughter it reminded her of what happened. Her mother’s trauma had a lifelong effect on Reynalda. We see how her mother was never able to show love so, in return Reynalda was never able to show love to her daughter. Nina’s sexual abuse show’s how her trauma as an adolescent affected her future. Conde also shows how a traumatic event like sexual abuse can cause dissociation or isolation. In her book she also mentions that Reynalda was raped by her mother’s employer. She portrays Reynalda as being detached and disconnected from her family, always in the back of the room on her type writer. Isolation is common in sexual abuse victims (Taking back Ourselves). Conde implies in her book that Nina did not do anything about the rape and she even say’s that Reynalda is lying. I believe Reynalda’s isolation stems from not having anyone to talk to.
A form of emotional trauma is abandonment and neglect. Abandonment occurs when a parent or caregiver leaves a child emotionally or physically (“Child Maltreatment”). Maryse Conde also portrays this in her books. In Desirada, Reynalda abandons and neglects Marie-Noelle. She leaves her when she was a baby with Renalise and does not tell her why. This causes trauma for Marie-Noelle because she wondered why her mother left her and why her father was not around. Then, when Marie-Noelle is 10 she comes back and takes her to live with her just to neglect her. Conde says she came and got Marie-Noelle out of responsibility and not because she missed or loved her. We also see abandonment in another novel of Conde, Crossing the Mangrove. Mira felt abandoned because her mother died while giving birth to her. She say’s “”Like Rosalie Sorane, my mother, who abandoned me to solitude from the first day I came into the world” (192). Marie-Noelle and Mira share similar characteristics like isolation, Mira would go to the Gullies to be by herself. She says “I hate the loud”(367) and “solitude is my companion”(368).They also where abandoned in their childhood. Also, they sought out their identity in other people.
Experiencing trauma early can disrupt a child’s sense of identity. According to Moroz “Early trauma, particularly trauma at the hands of a caregiver, can markedly alter a child’s perception of self, trust in others and perception of the world” (6). This is a common theme in Maryse Conde Novels. The characters in her books struggle with who they are because of the trauma they experience so early on in life, so they go on identity quest. We see this with Mira, she does not know who she is as a person, so she seeks comfort in Francis. We also see Maire-Noelle struggle with her identity throughout the book. She believes her mother has the answers to who she is, she knows why she tried to kill herself, why she left her, and who her father is. So, she seeks for answers about her family through people who knew her mother and her grandmother, Nina. They both struggle with who they are because their mothers abandoned them, so they look for answers elsewhere. Moroz also says that children who are exposed to trauma early believe something is wrong with them, they are unlovable, and unworthy of love (4). Marie-Noelle calls herself a monster because she is unable to connect with people. She believes she’s the problem.
The mother-daughter dynamic is also a common theme in Maryse Conde books. She shows how trauma can originate in one generation and be passed on to another. As stated, most traumatic events are because of parents and caregivers. We see how the lack of a mothers love and affection can damage a person. In Deseriada, we first see it in Nina. She resented Reyanlda because of what happened to her. She was unable to give Reyanlda love and that caused emotional trauma for her. Reyndala was unable to show affection because she was never taught how to show it so, she neglected Marie-Noelle causing emotional trauma. Moroz states “Traumatic stress may be transmitted by parents to their children. Parents who suffer from untreated trauma often have difficulty establishing a secure attachment with their children…” (4). It’s a rippling effect that keeps getting passed down to generation to generation. It causes resentment and hatred among their relationships.
Maryse Conde demonstrates how childhood trauma can have powerful effects on a person’s identity and relationships in her books. She demonstrates how unresolved trauma from your childhood can cause problems in your current life. We see how lost Mira and Mari-Noelle are as adults because they experienced trauma in their childhood. The failure of a parent or caregiver to provide a child with security and to protect them from trauma has many effects on a child.