Literature / When Rabbit Howls

When Rabbit Howls is a 1987 autobiography by "The Troops" (the collective name for the author's multiple personalities) writing for Truddi Chase.

From the age of two until the age of eighteen, Truddi endured horrific sexual and physical abuse at the hands of her stepfather and her mother, finally managing to escape to the city, where she becomes a highly successful real estate mogul and a freelance commercial artist with a husband and child of her own. Yet beneath her outward normalcy, the woman who calls herself Truddi is consumed by both intense, unnamed fear and a sense of emptiness. Her explosive anger and unpredictable nature causes her husband to take their daughter and divorce Truddi, and Truddi gives up her jobs and goes into hiding in what amounts to an abandoned building, where she is constantly aware of "voices in my head" that she assumes must be her own. Finally, fearing the worst, she seeks help from a hypnotherapist, who discovers that Truddi is not really a person, but a "shell" created as a unified front for over the ninety-eight personalities who present themselves through her. Together, they reveal a shocking truth: the original personality ceased to exist decades ago. The Troops are all that remain.

The novel details the Troops' therapy as they begin to share their memories with each other and with the outside world in order to reveal the devastating impact of child abuse.

This novel provides examples of:

  • Abusive Parents: The Stepfather, although the Mother dished out a fair share of physical and emotional abuse.
  • Alpha Bitch: Catherine was created to be a strong, dominant personality who could force the Troops into line.
  • Awesome McCool Name: Many of the personalities have these—Ten-Four, Nails, The Seventh Horseman, The Zombie, and Miss Wonderful, among others.
  • Calling the Old Man Out: At the end of the novel, the Troops arrive en masse on the Stepfather's doorstep, in their own bodies, to deal out their revenge. Turns out it was All Just a Dream, though.
  • Creepy Children: The little ones in the Troop formation are very damaged, very angry, and hungry for revenge.
    • One child manifests as an eyeless creature frozen in a block of ice. Another child presents herself to The Woman by slipping up and silently staring at her.
  • Disability Superpower: One of the most controversial aspects of the book is Chase's apparently ability to interfere with electronic devices with her mind, handwaved as the electronic feedback of many minds coming and going at once. She also allegedly displayed mild precognitive and mental domination abilities.
  • Everyone Calls Him "Barkeep": None of the Troops will refer to the stepfather or the mother by name.
  • Eye Color Change: Frequently occurs when a different personality emerges.
  • Fighting Irish: Eon presents himself as the reincarnation of an ancient Irish warrior and is implied to be a remnant of one of Chase's past lives. The less mystically minded interpret Eon as an internalized version of Truddi's beloved Irish grandfather.
  • First Father Wins: In contrast to their feelings toward the stepfather, most of the personalities remember Truddi's biological father as a warm, loving man.
  • Genki Girl: Elvira/The Outrider, a laidback sarcastic personality who loves loud music and partying.
  • Good Bad Girl: Sixteen was created to deal with the normal sexual feelings of adolescence that under the circumstances were horrifying and distasteful to the other Troops. She is described as a teenage girl with "enough sexual knowledge to run a bordello" but who also manages these feelings in a rational, normal way.
  • My Nayme Is: Little Lambchop variously spells her name as Lambchop, Lamb Chop, and Lamchop.
  • One Steve Limit: Subverted. Among the personalities is Catherine, Lady Catherine, Sister Mary Catherine, and Black Katherine.
  • Papa Wolf: Mean Joe.
  • Purity Sue: Played straight. Miss Wonderful is literally incapable of sexual thoughts and has no memory of any sexual experiences.
  • The Ingenue: Twelve is a savvy twelve-year-old genius who is able to comprehend and explain the Troops' internal mechanisms, as well as being artistically and socially gifted.
  • Shark Pool: As a punishment her sadistic stepfather lowers her into a well infested with snakes. The trauma of this single event finally pushes her over the edge and she begins to split off her personalities to deal with her abuse.
  • Sir Swears-a-Lot: The appropriately named Sewer Mouth, who vents her anger through loud, frequent, and extremely creative cursing.
  • Split Personality
  • Split-Personality Merge: The Troops refuse to do so.
  • Social Services Does Not Exist: Justified, as at the time of Chase's abuse (the mid-to-late 1930s through 1950), social services and child welfare agencies as we know them really didn't existed.
  • Spell My Name with a "The": As the "original" personality no longer exists, and since none of the Troops will acknowledge the original child's parents as their own, all of her relatives are referred to as "the" (i.e. the stepfather; the father; the mother).
    • Many of the personalities themselves have this sort of name: The Outrider, The Junkman, The Seventh Horseman, The Weaver, The Collector, etc.
  • Split-Personality Team: Many of the Troops have specific responsibilities.
  • Stern Nun: Sister Mary Catherine seems to have been created both as a response to The Mother's hypocritical Irish-Catholic religion and as a manifestation of the Troops' own guilt and self-blame. She is rarely seen, but "evidences" as the sound of rosary beads clicking.
  • Talking to Themself: The author's various personalities have internal conversations with each other.
  • There Are No Therapists: Subverted twice. Not only is Chase's therapy an important part of the overall narrative, but we learn that The Woman has sought out therapists multiple times over the course of her life, only to either be misdiagnosed or so frightened by what she learned that she quit.
  • The Voiceless: Rabbit only screams in pain and horror.
  • The Watson: The police detective with whom Stanley discusses the case was created for the book as a way to discuss both therapy details and information about child abuse. He did not exist in real life.