JAC: A Journal of Composition Theory, Volume 24, Number 2, 2004 Page: 296
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orphanage, his stigmatized past] to the ground." When he realizes that
Carmen and Dr. Casares, for safety reasons, are leaving with the children
and the gold as the nationalists approach, he demands that gold. When she
doesn't turn it over, he sabotages their flight by using the gasoline from
their truck to trigger an explosion at the orphanage. Countless children
die, as does Carmen; Dr. Casares is fatally injured, and other children
survive with different degrees of injury. When Jacinto comes to ransack
the safe and claim the gold, the boys seek revenge in the name of Santi.
With the supernatural presence of the deceased Dr. Casares assisting
them, they are able to lure Jacinto into the cellar where they disarm him,
wound him, and push him into the pool where Santi locks him in a fatal
embrace. This oedipal story merges with the ghost's/boys' story. To-
gether, they trope the violent, dysfunctional social relations that unleash
the Spanish Civil War and its traumatic effects upon the younger
generation. The orphanage is a microcosm of Spanish civil society
leading up to and during the war.
The Gothic Uncanny
Theorists have articulated trauma's symbolization as a kind of "double
telling": an oscillation between a death crisis and the crisis of a life lived
afterwards (Caruth, Unclaimed 7).6 This "double telling"-the frighten-
ing proximity of death and life-evokes Freud's theorization of the
uncanny. In his essay "The Uncanny," he traces that feeling to those
experiences, persons, or things, among others, that blur the distinction
between the animate and the inanimate, and to those where dead bodies
appear to come back to life. Children, he notes, are particularly suscep-
tible to feelings of the uncanny (140). The Devil's Backbone generates a
number of recurrent uncanny images that efface the difference between
death and life/survival, similar to the operations of traumatic memory.
Within a narrative moving toward an end, these images are inessential to
plot-to narrative causality and resolution. Yet, their extraneousness to
narrative telos is compensated for by the quasi-hallucinatory, psychically
dangerous power they radiate. Harrowing images "haunt" the viewer.
Insofar as the film privileges these images over a narrative given to
understanding, it testifies to the limits of language and to what remains
inexplicably real (in a Lacanian sense) about intranational violence.7
Among the film's uncanny images are the slugs, the bomb, the pool, and
the ghost. One could say that they function as part of the film's traumatic
core: the returns to them never result in an easing of traumatophobia (a
return to the trauma in order to reach mastery, to successfully rewrite the
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Association of Teachers of Advanced Composition (U.S.). JAC: A Journal of Composition Theory, Volume 24, Number 2, 2004, periodical, 2004; (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc28644/m1/42/: accessed February 24, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; .