“He picked it up gingerly, as though it would bite. Touching it brought back memories of his mother: how she would say her rosary every night before a statue of the Virgin of Fatima and then read a passage of the Bible before bed. Or maybe she hadn’t. It was getting difficult to separate the imagined from his real memories” (p.166)

“And you can’t know for sure dat what you think you saw dat time was Joseph raping his daugher. Maybe you were confused” (p.188)

The ambiguity and distortion of memory that we saw in Midnight’s Children is again brought up again in Graceland. In Midnight’s Children, Rushdie wrote: “Reality is a question of perspective; the further you get from the past, the more concrete and plausible it seems – but as you approach the present, it inevitably seems more and more incredible” (p.189). To refresh everyone’s memory, Rushdie compared reality in the present day to sitting so close to a movie screen that we do not see the whole picture. However, when looking back on a situation, we see the “big picture”. Abani, on the other hand, discusses how our memories of the past before more distorted as time goes on.

In Graceland, our memory can be influenced in different ways. In the first passage, Elvis’ recollection of his mother seems to be only of her admirable qualities. Because we only have Elvis’ account of his mother, we are in no position to make assumptions that he is lying. However, we also have to remember how memory can be affected. Elvis acknowledges the fact that his memory of his mother is not completely valid. It may be possible that he blocks out particular stories from his memory because he loved his mother so much that he only wanted to remember the best qualities about her. I do not know if this is a legitimate argument of how memory works, but I have found it to be true for my own memories – I always remember the best times of the past and I block out the negative.

When Sunday argues that Elvis’ memory may be distorted, he is either defending his brother, Joseph, or making a point about how witnesses to crimes often can not remember exactly what they saw. Perhaps Elvis’ vision of Joseph raping Efua is the truth, or perhaps he saw Efua being raped by another man and was later convinced by her that the rapist was in fact Joseph. There are often cases where the witness’ memories are inaccurate because they are influenced by other parties.


One thought on “Memory

  1. cmcodd6

    Memory has certainly been a topic in the last few books we’ve read. However, what’s different about Graceland is that there is no first person narrator. Persepolis and Midnight’s Children were both first person so all the insights were coming from the narrator’s mind. The memories were personal and all the factual information in the novel is based off of one person’s recollection of it. As a personal take on a historical subject, the accuracy of information is looked at skeptically.
    Elvis’s memory is a different story. His view is told through the voice and perspective of something else. Like this passage shows, there are parts where the narrator gets inside Elvis’s head, so to say, to recall a situation from his point of view. But since the book isn’t technically in first person, since it comes from an outside source, it would be expected that all historical information would be accurate and from a worldly view, so to say. However, we often experience Elvis’s naiveness when it comes to the his country’s history. He understands social issues in terms of morality, but Elvis is often portrayed as a naive character, during his childhood as well as his time in Lagos, despite his obvious intellectual ability.
    “I don’t know what trade can be more lucrative than drugs. Why the switch?”
    “Do you know if it is airplane we are buying and selling? Enough question. Eat.”
    “But it is illegal no matter what kind of trade, right?”
    While Elvis’s objection to working for the colonel is likely out of moral instinct, he agrees to do it, because Redemption deems it acceptable. He doesn’t know the political consequences of working for the colonel, he didn’t know what the war was like until Innocent gave him a brief description. Nigeria’s history is told through anecdotes that Elvis hears and his own personal experiences and memory. The accuracy of a third person narrator is essentially lost in Graceland.


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