Medical students have used the (currently common) term “closure” to express what they desire but find lacking in texts. While they do not always demand a “happy” ending, they at least want to feel that the text is “complete.” The graphic text, I will argue, has several advantages over traditional prose texts in resisting closure and demanding that the reader “work through” the events. One edge results from the need for the reader to fill in the spaces of the “gutter” (a sort of working though how the characters have moved from one frame to the next); another is that narrative text and illustrations may convey different or contradictory meanings; finally, a graphic text may end with an illustrated frame that asks the reader to work through the meaning of the representation in the absence of narrative. These sorts of engagement with a text can be particularly salient for medical students as they work toward accepting the inevitable ambiguities and lack of closure in patient care.
Linda Raphael is the author of Narrative Scepticism: Moral Agency and Representations of Consciousness in Fiction (Associated University Presses, 2001); When Night Fell, Anthology of Holocaust Short Fiction (Rutgers University Press, 1999); articles in books and journals on Medicine and literature, Henry James, Charles Dickens, and Jewish American literature.