[DWJ] characters losing their memories

Nicholas Jackson nicholas at makyo.org.uk
Tue Jan 15 07:53:02 EST 2008

Minnow wrote  ...
>It could be worse, even so.  It could be a narrative in which the 
>first-person narrator character loses her memory, which leaves one to 
>wonder *who wrote it* and how *she* knew.  I have encountered that.
>'After twenty years alone in my fastness, I died.  I buried myself.  
>Reader, can you say the same?'

I think the first time I encountered this was in an English lesson at
the age of eight or nine.  One of my classmates was reading out a story
he'd written, which ended climactically but problematically with
something like "... but he shot me and I fell to the floor, dead."

I think he (and most of the rest of us) realised, as he was saying it
out loud, what the problem was.

The "and it was all a dream" device was employed to particularly infamous
effect in the television series Dallas, where a major character was
killed off, and then reintroduced a year or so later (when the actor
decided he'd like to come back) by making the intervening series a dream.

I saw an interview with the actor a few years ago, and he said that he
didn't realise until a little while after they'd brought his character
back, that several people lost their jobs because of him: actors (and
possibly a writer as well) who had been introduced after his character's
original demise, whose characters and subplots had to be summarily binned.

A better instance of this, I think, was the hospital drama St Elsewhere,
whose final series ended with a long view of the hospital in a snowstorm,
which then merged into a close-up shot of a snow globe held, and being
intently watched, by an autistic child.  The child's grandfather remarks
to his father (both played by the same actors as two of the doctors in
the series) "He's been very quiet all day.  I don't know what he sees
in there."


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