Do you agree that in order to fully comprehend the themes of a novel, one must have a complete understanding of the issues within its specific time and place? Please respond to this question by referring closely to one or more novels you have studied. In the novel ‘The Memory Keeper’s Daughter’ by Kim Edwards, we encounter themes that address issues closely tied to the unique setting and time period.
All elements of the extended written text work together to support the writer’s purpose in an integrated way. The setting, characters, relationships, and style all fully support my agreement that as a reader living in the 21st century, we cannot understand the important themes of family relationships and society’s attitudes without a full grasp of the issues that unfold and develop in the plot. The plot takes place in 1964 in Lexington, Kentucky, America. The novel ‘The Memory Keeper’s Daughter’ is set in this specific time period and unfolds over a span of 25 years.
The story is connected to the plot and themes as it reflects society’s attitude towards the mentally challenged in 1964. At that time, it was believed that integrating them into society was not the best approach and they were often sent to institutions. Discrimination and injustice towards people with mental and physical disabilities were prevalent in society during the 1960s. Although the setting of Lexington in Kentucky is not crucial to the story, the year when it begins holds significance due to these social issues.
David, the main character, decided to send his daughter away due to his medical training and personal experiences growing up with a sibling who faced numerous medical challenges. This decision holds significance in relation to the novel’s theme of family.
David wanted to protect his wife Norah from the same pain that his sister June had caused his mother. Despite the depth of his mother’s grief and her daily visits to the grave, she faced harsh weather with her arms crossed. In 1964, people had narrow-minded and unaccepting attitudes towards disabilities, including delayed growth and mental development, possible heart complications, and early death. However, Caroline refused to conform to societal perceptions and fought for Phoebe’s enrollment in a public school in Pittsburgh. She also took a stand for those facing health issues and women’s rights. Many women in similar situations to Caroline faced this common issue.
The themes and implications of secrets explored by Kim Edwards in her debut novel are still relevant to society today. Understanding these themes requires a full grasp of the complicated situations that are interwoven within the setting of the particular time and place. The novel focuses on the important theme of relationships, which helps readers understand the issues that arise from David’s actions within the surrounding settings of the 1960s era. These two decisions are at the heart of Kim Edwards’ novel.
In the text, the complex internal issues arising from the decision to give away his daughter with Down’s syndrome are explored. This decision is rooted in the belief that her future will be full of suffering, reflecting society’s misperceptions during the time and setting of the story. Throughout the novel, relationships unfold and evolve in a spiral structure, allowing readers to delve deeper into the inner world of each character. From the birth of his twins and onwards, Doctor Henry feels that his achievements are now shallow.
At the heart of his life, his relationships with the most important people are destined to fail, causing his once perfect marriage to unravel and his beloved son to become estranged. Due to the societal norms in 1964 and Norah’s dependency on her husband, she had to suppress her grief. “The space of a breath opened and deepened.” This poetic phrase conveys the immense pain caused by her husband’s clandestine actions, which resulted in the loss of their daughter and eventually also cost him himself. Within the overarching theme of family, we observe a connection between the suffering and happiness that can arise from relationships.
Caroline, the character in the novel, has the most challenging task of raising a child with Down’s syndrome. Surprisingly, she emerges as the happiest character by the end of the story. “You missed a lot of heartache, sure. But David, you missed a lot of joy.” The heartfelt language employed shapes the reader’s perception of Caroline and portrays her as a loving and caring mother. This reinforces the notion that comprehending the relationships formed in the novel requires understanding of the time and setting in which it unfolds.
The novel is set in two primary locations: Lexington, Kentucky, and Pittsburgh. These settings play a crucial role in highlighting the themes and issues explored in the novel. In the first chapter, which occurs in Lexington, David’s wife goes into labor, but their surgeon is unable to make it due to a snowstorm. The storm is described as an uncommon occurrence in Lexington. As a result, David, who is an orthopaedic doctor, finds himself in the challenging position of delivering his own child. This unexpected storm may have influenced David’s subsequent decisions.
If this coincidence had not happened, the outcome of the novel could have been entirely different, which highlights the importance of understanding the novel’s themes in relation to its specific time and place. Another setting in which the novel unfolds is Pittsburgh, where Caroline seeks refuge. Surprisingly, her belongings were limited to a couple of suitcases that conveniently fit in the trunk and backseat of the Fairlane.
Caroline’s potential to leave for various countries like China, Burma, or Korea at any time delighted her. The employment of lively vocabulary suggests the reader’s initial misjudgment of her as a reserved and anxious woman secretly enamored with Doctor David. We unconsciously assigned her a particular persona, but later learned about her aspirations of exploring extraordinary destinations. These aspirations becoming a tangible possibility for her is the reason behind her joy in the idea of relocating without prior notice.
The author’s study of Pittsburgh as a setting brought forward the idea that it embodies both extremes, with its industrial landscape serving as a metaphor for Caroline’s determination to fight for Phoebe, while the pleasant and orderly neighborhood reflects her joyful and fulfilling life with Phoebe and Al. David Henry, on the other hand, had vowed never to return to Pittsburgh due to the painful childhood memories it evoked. To gain a better understanding of this concept, the author found it helpful to consult other critical articles.
This place holds significance in comprehending the novel’s theme, although it is incapable of fully capturing the complexities within the setting at that specific time and location. In her extended written text ‘The Memory Keeper’s Daughter’, author Kim Edwards explores various themes that give rise to numerous challenges faced by the main characters. These themes encompass the weight of concealed truths, the isolation experienced within a deteriorating marriage and family, the joys and sorrows of raising children, and above all, the imperative requirement for society to embrace developmentally disabled children.
The central theme of “The Memory Keeper’s Daughter” is the powerful bond of family, which is exemplified in challenging circumstances. This theme is especially significant considering the novel’s historical context, taking place in Lexington, Kentucky, America in 1964. Hence, a proper understanding of the relationships and societal attitudes depicted in the novel is contingent upon comprehending the unique challenges faced by individuals during this specific time period. Achievement with Merit
Develop a strong critical response to specific aspects of written texts using supporting evidence. Ensure that you:
- Respond to all parts of the question equally and provide a comprehensive discussion or argument about the texts and the question.
- Analyze the texts by closely reading important parts in order to draw valid conclusions about the writer’s purpose and technique.
- Show how the writer’s style relates to their purpose, target audience, and the genre’s qualities and characteristics.
- Support your analysis by reading other critical academic articles about the texts to help clarify your ideas.
- Distinguish and/or evaluate how specific effects, ideas, and elements are presented and explain the reasons for presenting them in that particular manner.
- Incorporate evidence and quotations to demonstrate an understanding of the broader texts.
- Examine how language has been used to shape the reader’s perspective.
- Draw relevant and insightful conclusions based on personal response and understanding, showcasing the relevance of the issues raised by the texts and making value judgments.
- Think beyond the texts themselves, reflecting on society, the implications for characters, and displaying an appreciation for literary craftsmanship.
- Articulate your ideas and thoughts in a mature manner throughout your essay.
Achievement with Excellence * Develop an integrated and perceptive critical response to specified aspect(s) of written text(s) using supporting evidence. Make sure you: * achieve Achievement with Merit by understanding and deconstructing a question and producing answers that demonstrate a deep and full understanding of the text * choose relevant material to develop a critical argument that explains how all elements of the text(s) (plot, setting, character, and style) work together in an integrated way to support the writer’s purpose * consistently assess the effectiveness of language techniques used to convey a message * select a main theme or character and thoroughly discuss it, connecting it to other themes in the text to further your argument * demonstrate accurate and confident use of appropriate terminology when explaining your ideas related to the writer’s purpose * use insightful analysis to make mature and valid observations and personally evaluate the implications of the text in a broader context * incorporate conclusions and judgments throughout the essay regarding the author’s purpose and use of language, providing a balanced and insightful response * write a succinct discussion or argument using accurate and sophisticated language, consisting of over 500 words.