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Memoir Assignment

1618 words - 7 pages

Chloe Hayward 23rd May 2014Literary Documented Argument DeChick 1BDKenneth Waltzer once said, "Any memoir is a reconstruction shaped by purpose and audience rather than a direct statement of memory - and even (Elie) Wiesel's Night is not an exception." I agree with Waltzer in that the construction and telling of a memoir is influenced by many things, including purpose and audience, as well as perception, and the fact that a memoir isn't, and shouldn't be, looked at as an accurate rendition of the past, but rather a personal account of one's fragmented memories. This message is apparent in the memoirs, Night, by Elie Wiesel, A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier, by Ishmael Beah, and ...view middle of the document...

This interpretation is also seen in Emily Dickinson's poem, "Tell all the Truth but tell it slant--." Often times, a memoir is shaped by the author's purpose, as said by Kenneth Waltzer, as well as their perception. When composing or writing a memoir, an author, as they were directly affected by the genocide, is using his or her own experiences to shape and mold the story. One of these molds is the author's purpose, whether it's to discover something about oneself, or to solely provide an accurate rendition of the past to the readers. In both cases, the objective of an author of a memoir is to recreate an unthinkable event into something that is compelling and relatable. In her poem, Emily Dickinson says, "The Truth must dazzle gradually or every man be blind." (Dickinson.) In other words, the reader(s) of a memoir need to be able to enter the author's world in order to truly see and understand the story instead of being pushed away by it, and the truth must be brought to light steadily and constantly. Dickinson also says, "Tell all the Truth but tell it slant-Success in Circuit lies too bright for our infirm delight." (Dickinson.) This statement backs an author in allowing her or himself to put their own interpretation, perception, and sensibility into a work of historical literature, ultimately making it a memoir.Kenneth Waltzer's statement that a memoir is "a reconstruction shaped by purpose and audience rather than a direct statement of memory" proves to be true in Elie Wiesel's memoir, Night, as it "is not an exception." Primarily, Wiesel's interpretation of his experiences was not just influenced upon writing his memoir in the sense that he had something to convince an audience of, but rather his living conditions in concentration camps that mutilated his memory, and in turn shaped who he is as a person. He states, "We were masters of nature, masters of the world. We had forgotten everything--death, fatigue, our natural needs. Stronger than cold or hunger, stronger than the shots and the desire to die, condemned and wandering, mere numbers, we were the only men on earth." (Wiesel.) At the time, it seemed as if the only thing that meant any thing to him, or perhaps the only thing he couldn't really focus on or think about, was his survival, as he states, "Bread, soup - these were my whole life. I was a body. Perhaps less than that even: a starved stomach. The stomach alone was aware of the passage of time." (Wiesel.)Another person whose memory was altered through his experiences, supporting Waltzer's statement, is Ishmael Beah, the author of A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier. Drugs primarily shaped the reconstruction that was Beah's memoir. On page 121, he states, "The first time I took all these drugs at the same time… My body shook, my sight became blurred, and I lost my hearing for several minutes." (Beah, p. 121) This also in part caused the numbness that Beah felt, including during his acts of murder. "My mind had not...

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