JAC: A Journal of Composition Theory, Volume 24, Number 2, 2004 Page: 304
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the trauma of being sole witness to Santi's death, with its concomitant
ethical burden to reveal and bring the perpetrator to justice, but he lives
with the "humiliated memory" of not having acted heroically, by rescuing
Santi.'5 That is the secret he carries along with his knowledge and silence
about Jacinto's crime, creating a tissue of isolation from the other boys.
Those who were his peers emerge, through the lens of guilt, as those he
is capable of betraying, again, by not being able to save them (as happens
to Dr. Casares too when he watches his fellow republicans lined up before
a firing squad). His felt diminishment, like Jacinto's, results in decidedly
non-heroic threats toward those smaller and weaker than he is. Thus,
Jaim6 taunts and jeers and gestures at cutting Carlos across the cheek with
a knife, should Carlos say anything about their being in the cellar (which
is "off-limits"), just before Jacinto actually does cut Carlos's cheek and
threatens to "cut him in half"' for being in that forbidden place. Jaim6
becomes a young Jacinto, the bully/leader the other boys must submit to
in order to escape his retribution. Jaim6 mirrors Jacinto's hypermasculinity,
his hierarchical/authoritarian mode of relating to others, and his culti-
vated individualism, a doubling that is most evident in his direct reitera-
tion of Jacinto's statement "I don't need anyone," at the moment when
Carlos, in a friendly gesture, proposes an artistic collaboration (Jaim6
would draw the comics, Carlos write the text). The Devil's Backbone
limns how a survivor/witness of traumatic history can seek power over
others as a means of survival, to ward off further vulnerability to disaster.
Just as Jaime's "fascist" response to trauma represents a grave
psychic compromise rather than any sort of renewal, so do the boys'
actions when they bond together to seek a kind of primitive justice,
murdering Jacinto for Santi's death and the deaths of other boys in the
explosion. While this cathartic violence offers release, a definite psycho-
logical pleasure for the boys and for the viewing audience, the film avoids
suggesting that it represents some kind of wish-fulfillment, a fantasmatic
republican triumph.16 Nor does the boys' egalitarian banding together to
commit the retaliatory murder represent a more just and preferable mode
of interrelating, an alternative to Jacinto's individualistic mode. In
harnessing their collective will and strength, they ultimately embody a
new kind ofbrutality, the obvious victory of those who simply outnumber
their enemy. Fratricidal violence replicates itself within the boys' com-
munity, leading to social fragmentation: verbal abuse and intimidation,
physical threats escalating to murder-these are the traumas that impinge
upon these children's world. In acting out a version of the civil war
amongst themselves, these boys are driven to commit murder to ensure
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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/m1/50/: accessed October 19, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; .