History and Memory Essay

Submitted By shashathegod
Words: 1335
Pages: 6

Compare how the texts you have studied emphasise the complexities evident in the interplay of history and memory.In your response refer to your prescribed text and at least ONE other related text of your own choosing. There is a general perception that memory cannot be trusted, but history has the status of truth. However, just like memory, history is a construction, established through individual and collective memories, which by nature are subjective and coloured by circumstance. Mark Baker’s autobiographical/biographical novel “The Fiftieth Gate” and Josh Neufeld’s graphic novel “a.d New Orleans After the Deluge” exhibit contrasting ideas on how both history and memory can be essential to any construction of the past, through the Holocaust and the post Hurricane Katrina tragedy, respectively. The democratization of history has allowed individual memory to become a verifiable source of information, used to construct history, thus showing how the interplay of history and memory can therefore result in new representations of events and people, ones which are now reshaped and coloured by individual and collective memories. Baker explores this idea in his novel “The Fiftieth Gate” by delving into his parent’s memory, Yossl and Genia, showing how history and individuals are reshaped by individual memory. Through the use of the ironic simile in imaginative account of Hinda’s experience at the death camp in Belzec “we move silently through the doors toward the shed like brides headed for ritual purification”, Baker evocatively conveys the unique and mixed emotions attached to her experience, which cannot be conveyed through documents or words. Furthermore, Baker is also able to represent the impact that personal recollections have on an individual, particularly Genia, through the use of low modality in “Nightfall to me is sadness and darkness and I just can’t disconnect my past” Baker conveys the extent to which memories haunt her to the present day. Baker’s use of an SS officer’s testimony along with accented dialogue in “found something at last… it’s really true”, allow responders to perceive the significance of history and memory by showing how the ability to add a third dimension of individual emotion and experience can simultaneously correspond and enrich history. Baker thus reveals the representation of recollections as valuable as not only to history but also to a personal dimension. Although history can be constructed through memory, memory is often tainted by emotions and personal experiences, thus contradicting history. Through Baker’s journey to validate the experiences of his parents in the Holocaust with factual evidence, he represents personal recollections as often tainted by emotion and time, remaining unreliable, fragile, highly subjective and fallible. Through the exploration of Yossl’s memory, the use of pathetic fallacy by Yossl as he described his day as “cold, winter” although historical records show that it was “warm. Autumn”, displays how Yossl uses the whether to convey his emotions, contradicting historical records. Likewise, the accumulation of Yossl’s birthdates ranging from “1926” to “1929” also contradicts history as Yossl altered his historical records, acting as a survival mechanism due to the particular circumstances he was in. The idea that memory is often tainted by emotion and personal experiences is also shown through Genia’s memory as she believed that she was kept in the dark during the holocaust displayed through the dark imagery and hyperbole, “In a cellar all day, underground and closed, and nothing, in the darkness, all the time.”, despite the fact that Genia recounts her experience of the Holocaust as being dark, Baker discovers from the other people that she was residing with that “they do not remember the blackness. They recall a little girl staring endlessly out of a window”, the use of high modality shows that it was Genia’s perception of this event