Two literary works are studied for the remarkable way they reveal important dimensions of the relationships between Self and Other. One is the memoir by Jean-Dominique Bauby, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, and the other the novel by Dalton Trumbo, Johnny Got His Gun (recognized as one of the finest antiwar statements).

Bauby suffered a massive brain-stem stroke that left him able to move only one eyelid. Helped by a speech therapist to use this meager movement, he managed both to communicate and to write the memoire, published just two days before he died.

Trumbo developed a character, Joe Bonham, who, massively injured in World War I, is left with almost no sensory contact with the surrounding world—no limbs, lips, ears, nose, or eyes. He discovers that he can bump his head, but then struggles to get others to recognize his Morse code. A nurse does, in a scene that is among the most compelling in modern literature.

How each man, whose embodiment has been severely compromised—one "real," the other "fictional"—manages to contact other people is explored. The phenomenon of embodiment is seen as far more complex than often appreciated. The ways in which each establishes significant relationships with others helps readers understand important dimensions of embodiment and being with others.


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pp. 188-207
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
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