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No one walks alone: An investigation of the veteran and the community in Rodgers and Hammerstein's Carousel

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'If Oklahoma! developed the moral argument for sending American boys overseas, Carousel offered consolation to those wives and mothers whose boys would only return in spirit'. Opening at the close of World War II, Carousel became a voice for the guilt-ridden soldiers coming home to a society in which they no longer knew how to participate. This investigation reads the musical's frequently misunderstood antihero, Billy Bigelow, as a surrogate veteran, whose dramatic through-line parallels the fundamental stages of recovery for veterans afflicted with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Utilizing the work of Judith Herman in Trauma and Recovery: The Aftermath of Violence – from Domestic Abuse to Political Terror (1992), and Elaine Scarry in The Body in Pain: The Making and Unmaking of the World (1985), this deconstruction proposes a richer understanding of the musical as a cultural response to World War II with continued relevancy in the aftermath of the Iraq war.

Keywords: Carousel; Liliom; Rodgers and Hammerstein; You'll Never Walk Alone; pain theory; post traumatic stress disorder

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1386/smt.5.3.287_1

Affiliations: San Diego State University

Publication date: January 20, 2012

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  • Studies in Musical Theatre is a refereed journal which considers areas of live performance that use vocal and instrumental music in conjunction with theatrical performance as a principal part of their expressive language.
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