Class Notes H M Essay

Submitted By littlebluebird1234
Words: 5820
Pages: 24

1. The structure of the Fiftieth Gate
Fragmented Narrative Structure
In place of a linear narrative style (i.e. a flow through from the beginning to the end), 50th Gate features a fragmented narrative structure, with different intersecting and overlapping scenes. Mark Baker structures the book in this way because ‘he doesn’t not believe in beginnings, nor in endings’. He believes that life is not linear, similarly, the place the book ends is the place it begins; “it always begins in blackness until the first light illuminates a hidden fragment of memory”. Baker does this through incorporating historical documentation based on his research as a historian, narratives of his and his parents’ memories and other forms, such as poetry and prayers. He also reconstructs narratives to provide a story which memory a history can only convey together. Through this, he’s able to question and undermine the question of history (i.e. the history of the Holocaust) and how it is remembered in society. Baker provides a more broad perspective of the Holocaust in an attempt to get closer to the ‘truth’.
50 Chapters and 50 Gates Meaning
Effect of Cyclical Structure

Jewish mysticism
Personal journey of understanding
New level of understanding and empathy with his family
Sustained use of the gates throughout
 Non-linear, non-traditional
 State of being rather than destination
 Feeling of being crafted → link to representation
 Validity of all levels of understanding
 Unresolved study

Significance of 50 Chapters

Non-Fiction Language Style
Mark Baker includes a mixture of biography and oral testimony from his parents, his personal memories, documented facts and uses creative reconstruction of certain events. This structure is unusual in a non-fiction text which is what 50th gate is, however he uses it to support the idea that he’s trying to send to the reader which is the question of which is more reliable- history or memory. These are some example of where Baker’s use of structure shows this idea:
When Historical Evidence contradicts other historical evidence (Chapter XXII)

Birth Certificate states:
Josek had been born at 12pm on 1 June 1927 vs Born in 1927: Schoolteacher in 1938 from Weirzbnik

Born in 1929: Auschwitz Doctor

Born in 1926: Buchenwald Guard

Born in 1928: American military-officer

Born in 1929: International Reugee Organisation

Language techniques:
Poetry/poetic language: is used in chapters like: (III1,XI: Dad can you hear?, XV2, XXIX3, XLII). The poetry is put in the ‘memory’ sections in the book which add more emotion and allows the reader to empathise with the characters. (In this carload, I am Hinda…’)

Oral Testimony: is used to represent memory. At times the characters cannot remember certain events details accurately (fecks, fecks-VII), which highlights Baker’s questioning of the reliability of memory. (XXII4: father’s memory of the weather vs the weather bureau and testimonies of other survivors) (XXXII5)
Historical Evidence: (XX: camp roll call) is used often throughout the book. By including historical evidence in between the stories his parents tell, Baker is assessing the reliability of his parents words. In one chapter Baker questions the accuracy of the documents he has. Overall, Baker is suggesting to the readers that history does not capture the emotion of an event and therefore is not solely adequate in a persons understanding of a past event.
Creative Reconstruction: is used to recreate: Hinda (XLII) and Leibush’s (XV, XVII) fates, scenes from his father’s childhood (XI) and others. In the absence of memory or availability of oral testimony, Baker is forced to recreate these scenes. They are written to follow the information from historical evidence that he has found. In recreating these scenes in his book, Baker is proposing the idea that history is inadequate in grasping the entirety of an event. This idea is emphasised when he states: “What are these papers anyway…”(XXIV)