The cycle of change is an inevitable process which all entities must undergo to achieve growth. Without change individuals will remain in a fixed, stagnate space, with the inability to develop, ultimately petrifying over time. This concept is the focal point for plot development by composer Penny Marshall, exhibited by two characters specifically in the film ‘Awakenings’ – Leonard and Dr Sayor; the patient Leonard, who must accept and overcome his physiological progression from child to adult (despite his advanced physical condition, shown by his habit of name-writing, a trait which returns as he ‘awakens,’ but not as an adult, as a child) followed by a fight for mental stability as he begins to return to his coma-like state, symbolising the powerful force of change; and Dr Sayor, whose social attitude is questioned by Leonard’s renewed perspective on life. A direct example of Leonard’s regressive state is when he is viewed walking down a series of steps, while a young girl is seen walking up, the scene symbolising the difference in growth and mental development between the two. This scene exemplifies on the unavoidable nature of change, representing the need to recede before one can grow. As the illness continues and the drug becomes less effective, Leonard finds it increasingly difficult to retain his state of mental awareness, which awakens Leonard’s innate desire to remain sapient, to be part of the world rather than to live out his life in a catatonic state. Leonard’s emotional outburst in response to being denied a simple walk alone (understood by Leonard as being denied a normal life) is an example of Leonard’s need for his change, showcasing his fear of returning to his inert state.
Dr Sayor similarly experiences the powerful effects of change, as a result of his time with Leonard. While treating (and consequently befriending) the patient Leonard, Dr Sayor begins to question his existence, seemingly wasted when viewed through the awakened eyes of Leonard, triggering Dr Sayor’s innate desire for change. Dr Sayor is originally adverse to the notion of change, as he explains by using the analogy of the human race. He claims to dislike the unpredictability of people, much preferring the elements of the periodic table, ‘unchanging, unwavering,’ in their properties and effects on the world around them, as he reveals to Leonard when he invites him into his home. It is suggested through the text however that Dr Sayor secretly yearns for change, although he has withdrawn too far into his shell of facts and specifics to emerge and socially interact with those around him. This is similarly shown in the scene inside Dr Sayor’s home – he replies quickly and dismissively to Leonard’s query of Dr Sayor interacting with others, as though he has not thought about Leonard’s question, without considering its implications, suggesting not an inability to change, but rather that he does not believe that he is capable of such change.
Dr Sayor does not experience such change until later in the text, with Leonard’s return to a catatonic state, his ‘brain death’ having a profound impact upon the doctor, displayed later when he asks the nurse Eleanor out, a feat which he had been