If It Helps, Count Backward: “Black Box” and Trauma

To me, “Black Box” is not a story about strong women. It is not about gender roles, or sexism. Indeed, it has nothing to do with feminism whatsoever. “Black Box” is about sexual trauma, and the many ways in which it destroys lives.

In the saltwater, our main character is cleansed, but she still doesn’t feel at home in her body. Her body is not hers; it is property of the government, and it exists to fulfill their mission. She floats above herself, conceptualizes herself as a series of tools used to complete a goal.

This dissociation is common among victims of abuse, especially sexual abuse. It’s a coping method. She feels as though she is separate from her body, as though her body is not her own, separating herself from the physical form touched and changed by people in power.

This story is told in sections, presented in black boxes. It separates you from the action, like she is separated from herself. The language itself is very matter-of-fact; it’s emotional without actually expressing much emotion.

And maybe all of this is just my point of view because I know what it’s like to feel like your body is separate from yourself. I know what it’s like to feel as though you are merely piloting your body like a great machine.

What do you think? What is “Black Box” really about?

2 thoughts on “If It Helps, Count Backward: “Black Box” and Trauma

  1. jenna kochendorfer

    Wow, very compelling post. After reading this, it helps connect everything. I can see the relation between the story and the concept of trauma. Also, I see how the narrator doesn’t own her own body and that she has been “trained,” told how to cope and function in a specific way, to be a pawn in a larger scheme. Overall, this opened my eyes to think of the story in a different way and I liked it.


  2. AlexisS

    Such an interesting take on “Black Box.” I really like the idea that it could just be a way to help cope with sexual trauma. Honestly, while reading the story, that thought did not even cross my mind. Like you mentioned, the purpose of writing in boxes makes the main character thoughts seem seperate from her actions which is good reasoning on how this could be all just a coping mechanism. Besides the point you made, I did not really get any other big messages from the stroy, it kind of just ended, so I like this post, it kind of gives me slight closure about the ending.


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