The Theme of Memory in The Invention of Morel

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            In the novel The Invention of  Morel, Adolfo Bioy Casares presents a story that centers around two characters who are both inventors in their unique ways. Morel is the scientist whose invention creates three-dimensional recordings that appear to preserve what is real rather than copy and anonymous fugitive whose diary is the story presented to the readers. Morel's invention and the fugitive's journal can be likened to different forms of archives whose primary functions is to preserve the real. The designs can also be interpreted as the author's way of presenting the theme of memory to the reader more so on the importance of having a good memory. Apart from that, Casares could be indicating that none of the technological inventions will ever beat the human brain in its function of memory processing and learning. While computers perform almost similar functions as the human brain, it fails when it comes to the remembrance of specific features. For example, machines have been unable to recognize faces of known terrorists at airports (Whitworth and Ryu 2). Therefore the characterization of the fugitive as a person who has difficulties remembering things, the setting in an unknown island, as well as the events of the story all serve to build the theme of memory.

            The novel's setting significantly builds the theme of memory as Casares introduces the story by making the fugitive describe the island including all details that help create a picture of the place in the reader's mind. Casares employs the techniques of descriptive writing by starting with the outside and then moving to the inside to show how bright the fugitive is in his memorization of physical features and their specific locations on the island. Descriptive words and phrases such as "four grassy ravines", the museum, chapel and swimming pool on the hill and "..walls or rose-colored marble"are little details that only an individual whose is keen and who has an excellent memory can recall (Casares 27). However, the Fugitive can only remember them by recording in his journal so that in future he just reads and the brain will bring back those images.  In fact, the author provides a pictorial sketch of the island on page 28 whose function is to show how important memory is to human life.

            Casares's characterization of the fugitive as an individual who is afraid that he could be losing his memory or going insane is another way that the theme of memory is developed. The author connects the fugitive's behavior and setting in that the narrator can present a vivid description of what he sees and experiences in the island but is somehow unsure of the things that happened in the past such as the crime for which he was convicted. Already, the availability of fresh information in the almost full form and the account of previous incidences in patchy format align with the scientific explanation of the brains function of memory storage. Memory is divided into two categories; immediate which is the limited amount of information that the mind can hold when presented with learning materials and the long-term memory which is what can be recalled from the past (Jeneson and Squire 1). When the narrator is sketching down his observations and experiences, he is using the working memory which usually lasts for a short time. By making the Fugitive journal, Casares asserts the point that without recording, the fugitive will not be able to remember all details. Furthermore, through the characterization of the fugitive as a person who questions his sanity over and over in the novel, Casares brings out the hallucinatory and unstable tone that links memory to mental wellbeing (Trivedi 10). For instance, it is not clear whether the events described in the story are real or not when the fugitive refers to the appearance of the other people in the island as "miraculous"and repeats the same word when saying that Faustine's presence "... Began to take on the quality of a miracle"(Casares 38). Here, Casares links the hallucinatory tone and mood to the fugitive's behaviors including his fear that the tourists will turn him into the authorities to present memory as a cognitive deficit associated with a mental health disorder. Indeed the Fugitive's hallucinatory account is central to the story (Hoskins 13). What is more, the use of tone and mood to build the theme of memory still asserts the importance of memory to human life.

            The narrator's point of view and the structure of the narrative as a fantasy fiction also helps to build the idea of the importance of memory in human life. Besides, the journal symbolizes an archive which can be interpreted as memory since it forms the basis upon which the narrator can tell of all the incidents that happen in the island. Alejandra Campoy in an analysis of the novel presents that the first person narration helps to build the ambiguity as to what is real to make the reader learn along with the Fugitive. According to Campoy, "The epistolary structures of the novel, and the fugitive's errors, corrections and edits as he writes his narrative can be compared to his internal process as he attempts to figure out the truth about his experience on the land"(5). That aspect of narrative enables the reader to imagine the creative process in action which is made possible by ideas stored in the mind of the reader about journaling. Moreover, the memory bogging questions that the narrator shares with the reader throughout the novel all lead to the climax of the story where he learns to operate Morel's machine and decides to enter Faustine's consciousness.

            The theme of memory is also presented through the relationship between consciousness and memory. By getting into Faustine's knowledge, the Fugitive exits the unconstrained mental fabrications that kept him in a continuous state of reconfiguration and questioning of reality to experiencing that which he has been imagining. The Fugitive admits that an oppressive consciousness made him appear unnatural during the first days of photographing, but he had overcome that, and if his image had the same thoughts when it was captured, then he will spend eternity happily thinking about Faustine (Casares 121). The author does not only use the connection between consciousness and recalling to advance the theme of memory, but Morel's invention also symbolizes the brain's activities of trying to preserve images especially in its dreaming state. According to Lampros Perogamvros, the integrative, multimodal and simulating capacities of the dreaming mind turn it into an "endogenous"machine which functions in the same way as Morel's machine (1). Based on that, this paper can, therefore, conclude that even the inclusion of all the other characters as images only and the Fugitive's obsession with Faustine also serve to build on the theme of memory and its importance in humans life. That is because it is through the Fugitive's love for Faustine that he decides to become an image and enter her consciousness.

            Another way that Casares develops the theme of memory is by giving the impression of inadequacy and ineffectiveness of the narrator and the machine that Morel invents in representing reality. It is from the Fugitive's limited perspective and often ignorant statements that the reader gets a glimpse of the more profound truths (Snook 46). Casares uses limitations of the fugitive and Morel's machine to send the message that in as much as humans invent ways of storing information for remembrance, the functioning of the human brain surpasses those creations. The brain only needs to get the right stimuli to remember things that a person had long forgotten about, and the trigger can happen through any of the six senses.

            In The Invention of Morel, Casares intentionally creates one real character and several incredible images that appear to be alive but are dead to present the idea of archiving the real. The process of documenting is done explicitly through the journal and Morel's machine. However, both do not function as would the human brain in memory and learning. Apart from that the author 's approach to the first-person narrator and the narration style presents the idea of remembrance and the difficulties that can emerge when an individual's memory does not work correctly. The author also shows that memory represents the human perception of the real and it can be unknowable, fantastic and unpredictable in nature just like the life, love and experience of the Fugitive is in the Island.

Works Cited

Bioy Casares, Adolfo. The Invention Of Morel. 1st ed., NYRB Classics, 2003, pp. 1-130.

          Campoy, Alejandra F. Archiving Simulacra: The Invention Of Reality In Adolfo Bioy Casares’ La                        Invención De Morel. 1st ed., 2018, http://csulb-                                                                                   dspace.calstate.edu/bitstream/handle/10211.14/19/Publish_Campoy.pdf;...1. Accessed 2 May                        2018.

          Hoskins, Andrew. "Archive Me! Media, Memory, Uncertainty". Memory In A Mediated World.,                                2016, pp. 13-35., doi:doi.org/10.1057/9781137470. Accessed 2 May 2018.

          Jeneson, A., and L. R. Squire. "Working Memory, Long-Term Memory, And Medial Temporal Lobe                   Function". Learning & Memory, vol 19, no. 1, 2011, pp. 15-25. Cold Spring Harbor                                Laboratory, doi:10.1101/lm.024018.111.

          Perogamvros, Lampros. "Consciousness And The Invention Of Morel". Frontiers In Human                                 Neuroscience, vol 7, 2013. Frontiers Media SA, doi:10.3389/fnhum.2013.00061.

                      Snook, Margaret L. "The Narrator As Creator And Critic In "The Invention Of Morel"". Latin                    American Literary Review, vol 7, no. 14, 1979, pp. 45-51.,                                                                      https://www.jstor.org/stable/20119173?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents. Accessed 2 May                                     2018.

          Trivedi, JK. "Cognitive Deficits In Psychiatric Disorders: Current Status". Indian Journal Of                            Psychiatry, vol 48, no. 1, 2006, p. 10. Medknow, doi:10.4103/0019-5545.31613.

          Whitworth, Brian, and Hokyoung Ryu. A Comparison Of Human And Computer Information                                    Processing. Massey University, 2007,                                                                                                   https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/4d0d/3cfab58d5e52de9cddbf23bd3038ed17d573.pdf.                          Accessed 2 May 2018.

November 24, 2023
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