Narratives of Childhood Sexual Abuse: Healing Through Music in Ian McEwan’s On Chesil Beach

Article Summary by Neha Hejaz and Rajni Singh

This article is an attempt to acknowledge the clinical uses of fictional narratives of Childhood Sexual Abuse (CSA) within health care. The purpose of studying fiction lies in exploring the lives of individuals in an imaginative manner, offering a deeper existential understanding of problems, and developing of skills in ethical reflection and empathy. In a way, they also provide companionship to other victims of abuse (here CSA) through shared experiences. Additionally, the article also foreshadows how expressive art forms like music can act as a form of therapy leading to empathic communication. One such fictional narrative of CSA evaluated in this paper is Ian McEwan’s novel On Chesil Beach. Out of a diverse range of CSA narratives in contemporary fiction, only some like On Chesil Beach focus on the growth and recovery of the victim which in turn offer conflict resolutions that are considered important for meaning-making. So, the present article wishes to describe the recovery and growth of Florence (as a victim of CSA which later scars her marriage too) through music. As a therapeutic element, music helps her to seek subjectivity and find meaning in her life. There are various ways to use novels in the discourse of medical humanities, out of which a literary representation is studied alongside an empirical case study in this paper. Through this analysis, two of the key findings were that music offers a way out of silence and also provides a space for pleasurable experiences (with no sexual connection) for Florence. The second section of the paper studies the effect of positive psychology combined with music therapy in the case of Florence. It focuses on the fact how Florence finds ‘joy’, ‘interest’, and ‘contentment’ by positively imbibing the psychological effects of music. Such an interdisciplinary endeavor also goes hand in hand with the ideals of critical health humanities. Finally, the article concludes by realizing the importance of therapeutic stories such as that of Florence for the mental upheaval and well-being of survivors of abuse.


Read the full article on the Medical Humanities journal website.


Neha Hejaz is an Adhoc Assistant Professor of English in the Department of Humanities and Social Sciences at National Institute of Technology, Rourkela (India). Her research interest includes literature and medicine, narrative medicine, expressive art therapies, and critical health humanities. She has completed her Ph.D. from Indian Institute of Technology (Indian School of Mines),Dhanbad (India) under the supervision of Dr. Rajni Singh. Her thesis primarily focused on analyzing the novels of Ian McEwan from the perspective of Medical Humanities. Her previous two articles have been published in Journal of Poetry Therapy.

Rajni Singh is a Professor of English in the Department of Humanities and Social Sciences at Indian Institute of Technology (Indian School of Mines), Dhanbad (India). Her areas of interest include Victorian and Modern Poetry, Indian Feminist Theatre, Gender Studies, Indian English Writing, Literary Theory, English Language Teaching, and Communication Skills. Her articles have appeared in journals including Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature and Environment (ISLE), Asian Journal of Women’s Studies, South Asian Popular Culture, Asian Theatre Journal, Trames: A Journal of the Humanities and Social Sciences among others.

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