Power of Memories

[Sharon’s voice suddenly simulates the sound of something large braking, a deep phlegm-filled rumble from the bottom of her throat.] ‘They’re coming in! Shoot ‘em, shoot ‘em!’ [She makes the sound of gunfire then…] ‘I won’t let them get you, I won’t let them get you.’ [Sharon suddenly looks away, over my shoulder to something that isn’t there.] ‘The children! Don’t let them get the children!’ That was Mrs. Cormode. ‘Save the children! Save the children!’ [Sharon makes more gunshots. She balls her hands into a large double fist, bringing it down hard on an invisible form.] Now the kids started crying. (75).

In the passage, Sharon, a woman who now lives in a rehabilitation center for “feral children,” recalls the story of her encounter with the living dead. Initially described as a person of rudimentary language and thinking, Sharon recounts her story with great ease.

The passage is marked by a dichotomy of tone between Sharon’s recounting of dialogue and the narrator’s clinical, explanatory tone. This juxtaposition further emphasizes Sharon’s frantic dialogue as she recalls the horrific events she has witnessed. Both methods of storytelling are connected in their use of simple syntax. Sharon’s simple syntax is also coupled with her repetition of phrases (“Shoot ‘em! Shoot ‘em!… Save the children! Save the children!”) as well as simpler, colloquial diction. There is no definitive reason why Sharon’s recalling of dialogue utilizes these – it could be a reflection of her limited cognitive ability, an accurate recalling of dialogue in a terrifying time, or a mixture of the two.

Sharon’s limited cognitive abilities bring into question a variety of other issues, such as: How reliable is she as a narrator? What brought about these injuries to her language and thought processes? Did she sustain such injuries before the Zombie War or because of her experiences during that time?

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Sharon’s possible trauma from past events haunts her to this day, trapping her in the mind of a 4-year old.

Initially introduced in a dismissive manner, Sharon recalls her experience with seemingly impressive ability. She describes the episode in an almost possessed sense, taken out of the moment. The narrator notes that she looks, “over [his] shoulder to something that isn’t there.” Sharon has a remarkable narrative talent to bring the reader back to the past as she retells her story. Furthermore, she has an almost unsettling ability to imitate a variety of voices with supposedly impressive accuracy, and create noises based on the setting she describes, with “a deep, phlegm-filled rumble from the bottom of her throat.”

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Similar to the use of the pensieve in Harry Potter, Sharon allows the reader to be transported back in time as she vividly recalls events.

Her talents do not make sense in light of her supposed cognitive deficiencies. Sharon is supposed to have a rudimentary sense of language, yet she is able to weave a detailed image of her experience. What she is not able to communicate through language, she is able to shrewdly supplement with imitations of accents and sounds. Such noises give off the impression to the reader that the event itself has possessed her.

Sharon’s purpose as a whole is to allow for the narrator to break his/her typical structure of the book, which has been thus far to have those he/she interviews recall and reflect on past events. Sharon’s vivid descriptions, however accurate, are the closest that the narrator can get in his/her oral history structure to a more “typical” narration of events, wherein the reader is transported back to the time of the scene.

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2 thoughts on “Power of Memories

  1. I also think Sharon’s role in the novel is quite interesting. I think that the author uses Sharon as a tool for basic recall of an event, rather than deeper analysis as we see with other characters such as the former Iranian Revolutionary Guards commander. So to some extent I do agree that she has lost cognitive capacity. Her description in the novel reminded me of historical cases of feral children, specifically a case that we discussed in psychology: Genie. Genie was a child who grew up abused and neglected. It appears that not only does abuse affect development but neglect does as well. Neglect could be failure to teach a child language or basic skills, resulting in developmental deficiencies. There are many studies that indicate improvements in development in children with more mentorship from an adult. It may not be that Sharon inherited these deficiencies; feral children tend to show deficiencies due to neglect.

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  2. I think that your ideas about the way Sharon narrates in a very rudimentary way, and its effect on her reliability as a narrator are very important considerations. You made an interesting point saying that the detailed way in which she narrates and the fact that she is cognitively impaired are contradictory, demonstrating that this narration perhaps gives a more accurate account of what actually happened. When I was reading this passage, I had a another take on the effect Sharon has on the reader. I believe that one of Sharon’s greatest impacts on readers comes from the fact that her cognitive impairment demonstrates the effect of the war on humans for the readers. Sharon is one of the important characters who fully demonstrates the huge psychological impact that encountering one of these events with zombies can have on people. Her account reminds me of the main narrator’s motive in the introduction: he compiles these oral histories to fight against the passage of time that could lead to many of the people who are psychologically impaired, like Sharon, to forget their most impactful experiences.

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