The short story “Memento Mori” written by Jonathan Nolan is the backdrop for the movie “Memento” by his brother Chirstopher Nolan. The short story is a little confusing because it seems like that it is written backwards. I’ve never seen the movie and this is my first time reading the short story that the movie is based on. The beginning of the story is written in a first person narrative, addressing the reader as “you” as this narrative continues though, it assumes that “you” isn’t the reader, but another person in the story, The story begins with a first person narrator who is addressing a “you. I didn’t know who the “you” was in the first section of this story but its obvious that this person is an important part of the story. As I got deeper into the story I realized that “you” is actually Earl, the main character of the story and he is writing to his future self in order to remember things that have happen, that need to happen and to understand his condition.
Earl’s wife was apparently raped and killed by someone and Earl is set on revenge, it seems in the story that revenge is the only thing driving Earl, even though with his condition(he has no long term memory) his life is set in 10-15 minute intervals, and after that he doesn’t remember, his life is dictated by notes. There is a quote in the story that exemplifies this “ And as for the passage of time, well, that doesn’t really apply to you anymore, does it? Just the same ten minutes, over and over again.
So how can you forgive if you can’t remember to forget? ” Earl’s only fresh memory is the memory of his wife being killed and the person who killed her and being that he can’t form new memories he can never forget or forgive those that have hurt him in the worst way. As the story progresses we see Earl in a variety of settings, first in a hospital wrong, with notes telling him where he is and what to do as he moves around the room. Then in a different room where he wakes up to a note saying “Get up, these people are trying to kill you”.
Then in a tattoo parlor where he is getting “I raped and killed your wife” tattooed on him. The story then places him in a motel room, it is then that we realize that he hasn’t been speaking but writing notes to himself as the story progresses. It also seems like that the order of the story is backwards. The last setting in the story is earl leaving what appears to be the scene of a crime, as the reader you realize that Earl has killed the man that killed his wife, but he doesn’t remember because he didn’t have enough time to find a pen to write down the memory.
I believe that the main essential theme in this movie is time, time is of the essence and the fact that Earl’s life is a constant 10-15 minute interval reiterates that time is precious. Throughout the movie Earl creates a series of mementos as a way of remembering everything before that time disappears forever. He uses the tattoos as a way to remember the most important moments of his experience of time after the loss of his short-term memory. By means of his mementos of these brief and transitory periods, he is able to remember enough to excel in his plan to find the man that killed his wife and kill him.
This short story is beautifully written in that it makes you think about how much we should value time and the precious moments that are made within those times the title of the story loosely translated means “remember to die”. I believe that the author took that remember to die theme and turned it into a remarkable short story. I’ve always felt like everyone is dying to live, that in life every moment is precious, and this story falls right into my belief system, we are indeed dying to live, and every moment is important,