Repression vs. Amnesia Essay

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Repression vs. Amnesia
Memory is a dynamic part of everyday life. It helps people function and communicate with each other without a second thought. This communication and function can be hindered if the person experiences a traumatic event. There are two main forms of trauma, physical and emotional, each of which can cause major damage to the victims mind. Both types can cause a person to have flashbacks to the traumatic event or even temporary amnesia. In his novel Remainder, Tom McCarthy uses The Narrator to demonstrate a case of physical trauma where The Narrator has an object fall on his head placing him in a coma. The second type of trauma, emotional trauma, is represented by Grandfather in Jonathan Safran Foer’s novel Everything is Illuminated where grandfather experiences a traumatic situation when he was younger but represses the memory of what happened. Foer uses Grandfather to demonstrate the struggle to overcome the trauma when he chooses to repress his memories, as opposed to McCarthy who uses The Narrator to show the initial success at overcoming trauma when there is no choice to repress the memories or not due to a case of amnesia. The Narrator uses a series of re-enactments in order to try to become more flaccid, due to the loss of memory and need to relearn every movement he makes caused by the traumatic event that he experiences.
As The Narrator recovers from his coma caused by an object falling on him he is attending physiotherapy sessions in order to regain his memory of movement and action. This therapy is causing The Narrator to think out each retraction and relaxation of muscles in a given task. As The Narrator does this it is becoming imprinted on his mind that he has to think out everything he wants to do before he does it. When talking to his friend Greg, The Narrator describes Robert De Niro in a movie saying “He’s natural when he does things. Not artificial, like me. He’s flaccid. I’m plastic.” (McCarthy, 23) The Narrator is using this quote to describe his inability to move freely. He feels his movements are more fake than real because of the need to think them out before they take place, making these movements rigid, or plastic. While at David Simpsons party The Narrator sees a crack in the wall that rehashes an old memory of a building that he lived in. As The Narrator is putting the memory together he realizes that he had felt real as he moved throughout the memory. The feeling caused by the memory combined with the desire to feel real drives The Narrator to form a re-enactment of the memory he has. During the first re-enactment as The Narrator passes the liver lady he explains his movements as, “My body seemed to glide fluently and effortlessly through the atmosphere around it – gracefully, slowly, like a dancer through water.” (144) This description for his movements is showing that by re-enacting a memory that made him feel flaccid or real he can have that feeling again even if just for a...