Sunday, January 27, 2008

"Everything belongs in the present"

During his visit with his aging mother, Henry’s day is quickly thrown into sharp relief by the relative motionless and stagnate day experienced by Lillian Perowne. His mother’s dementia alters not only her state of mind but her relationship with time, as well. Unlike his mother, Henry constantly deliberates over his past actions and experiences. Whether reflecting on his initial meeting with Rosalind or a family rift between Grammaticus and Daisy, Henry’s thoughts continually wander to the past in order to make a connection with his present.

Lillian’s inability to remember her past life strips her of anything else but the present moment. McEwan presents her as a figure divided into two selfs: the former woman of the past who swam extraordinarily well and raised a son and the old woman sitting at the elderly community like a blank page, desperately waiting for someone to fill in the lines of her life. She remains a nonentity without any memories of her former self and a future offering nothing but a handful of empty moments.

Imprisoned in the present, Lillian offers an understanding to the reader that even though the novel transpires along the course of one Saturday, Henry’s “day” transcends the framework of a limited 24 hours and spills over into his past as well as his ponderings of the future.

1 comment:

Erin Sells said...

Lillian dwells in a very immediate present, but it's also a very immediate past--the past of expecting to see her mother again. Her present is lived almost entirely in the past. It would be an interesting novelistic experiment to write the novel of a day in the life of an Alzheimer's patient...we have already seen so many examples this semester of how much memory is bound up in consciousness. What would happen if memory were all of consciousness instead of just part of it? And what would happen if there was consciousness without any memory at all?