Memory in Writing
The use of memory in writing has been lauded over the years by literary greats for its power in giving rise to narratives that feed on the strength of human imagination. Authors are examples of creative artists who decide to reach back into the past and relate experiences that shaped them. It is as though their brains are hard-wired to return to these moments of sheer inspiration which then compel them to retell incidents that took place in the past. In writing, memories are essential due to the modicum of individuality that each author has. Each has a unique experience that shapes the stories as they bring forth an assortment of perspectives. Memory is an integral part of being human as it creates a string of recollections that are always dear to an individual. Some writers have indeed acknowledged the importance of memory as an asset that they can harness to their advantage in the literary world. Scientific research has revealed that neural pathways are strengthened by experiences of a profound magnitude to the subjects which also explains why most of these stories are quite compelling. Racitatif by Toni Morrison, Disabled by Wilfred Owens The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien are all works of literature that exploit the use of memory in offering one of a kind perspectives to communicate specific messages. In this essay, I will discuss these three works and how the use of memory has played an integral role in their development.
Ractatif is a short story that relates a moving story about two young women, Twyla and Roberta, who strike off a friendship after landing in a shelter. These events occurred when they were in their youth and when their friendship was haunted by the “black-white” notion that was prevalent during their time: You know how it was in those days: black–white. You know how everything was” (Morrison 225).The historical context of race relations forms the basis of the story and is responsible for various tense situations throughout the story. The author uses a memory perspective to write a story that does not make race relations among women explicit and removes any cues that would force the reader top use racial markers. Moreover, through a series of recollections, we learn that the two girls while in St. Bonaventure. It is at this point that we learn of the prejudice that had consumed Twyla. Her mother had advised her earlier to avoid sharing her room with individuals such as Roberta as they typically had a different odor. Her efforts do not bear any fruits and now has to cope with co-existing with someone who she had early repulsed is also at this very shelter that Twyla realizes that the depiction that her mother had given her for individuals such as Roberta differs significantly in reality, and this is when the two become close acquaintances. The story also fully exploits Twyla’s perspective as she reminisces in the onset about an orchard that was in the shelter even she only has fragments of this particular memory. She then remembers Maggie who was a mute lady working in the kitchen area. Memories of a specific occasion when Maggie lost control and fell while at the orchard streams back into her mind and how no one came to her help, with the other girls wearing. In retrospect, she now acknowledges that she was wrong and feels ashamed that she never aided Maggie (Gale 12. Through a series of memories focusing on events that took place in the two women’s lives, we can view their story from a different scope that introduces the racial tension that surrounded the lives of these two women. Through recalling events that took place in the past, Roberta and Twyla are soon able to rekindle their friendship offering them a chance to embrace each other in forgiveness.
“Disabled” by Owens is a disturbing poem that poignantly offers the realities of war.He wrote it after admission in hospital owing to his continual suffering from convulsions originating from injuries while on active duty. Through the author’s memory, we can create a mental picture of the experience as a young soldier in a state of isolation after losing his limbs in battle. His present condition profoundly troubles him as his life changed dramatically. He can hear the fading voices off boys echoing in the darkness and soon gets memories of his life as a young lad.
“He sat in a wheeled chair, waiting for dark
And shivered in his ghastly suit of grey,
Legless, sewn short at elbow. Through the park
Voices of boys rang saddening like a hymn,
Voices of play and pleasure after day,
Till gathering sleep had mothered them from him.” (“Disabled by Wilfred Owen”)
He remembers life before the war when he could partake in dances with beautiful girls and even get an opportunity to hold them. He feels emasculated by this tragedy and by the women who view him in horror as though a malady had afflicted him. By the third stanza, he is musing about his heydays as a handsome young soldier who had captured the attention of an artist keen on drawing his face. Presently, his youth is lost and contends that this might be the reason why the artist is no longer showing interest in painting his face. Through the memories, we also learn of his prowess in the football arena during his formative years and how drawing blood during a game served as an honorable badge. It is now apparent that there is as a stark contrast between his former life and the one his is currently leading courtesy of the wounds. He is somewhat casual about the primary reasons why he signed up for war and even remembers that he might have been drunk when enlisting. A compliment by a girl by the name Meg also served as a reason for him to join the war blames his impulsive behavior to naivety. Moreover, the soldier describes how he was obsessed with thoughts of “esprit de corps” and how his young mind was only preoccupied with wearing the uniform and glory. Through the young soldier’s story, the reader now understands the horrendous experience of war and the dangers of inadequate worldly wisdom in making decisions.
The Things They Carriedby Tim O’Brien is a collection of tales, interrelated using a sophisticated approach in the use of memory to bring forth his literary tradition. He uses this technique to give the readers a preview into his memoir and further complicates the narration by introducing a protagonist who shares the same name as him. He retells history using historical accounts to remember the past using the memories of his service while in Vietnam. He illuminates on the characters with whom he served with while in battle while meditating on the close relationship that the men developed. One soldier, in particular, Lt. Jimmy Cross, is remembered for his inexperience and his inability to lead Alpha Company successfully during his stint as commander. The author reminisces through his introductory vignette of the physical items they carried into war, their emotional state and the love that they had for their country. The memories give descriptions of personal stories that the author had never divulged to anyone since joining the war effort. Furthermore, we can understand the author’s plan as a young individual when he considers evading the draft and fleeing to Canada. Through his memories, we can understand the battle that was raging in him and the fact that he was about to participate in a conflict that he did not believe in completely. The author also describes the trauma of losing his friend Curt Lemon and even uses his unique opportunity to represent the stories of other soldiers in Vietnam (O’Brien). He has recurring memories of a soft-spoken Native American by the name Kiowa who he was quite fond of and uses his coda as a direct indictment on the right lives that war wastes. In “Speaking of Courage” he describes then difficulty that veterans go through while trying to adjust to the civilian lifestyle that they led before the war. Through this particular tale, the readers can learn of the “survivor’s guilt” and how Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) becomes a reality to these men of valor.
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