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The Happy Memories Club

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Elizabeth Freeman

on 7 October 2014

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Transcript of The Happy Memories Club

"The Happy Memories Club"
Lee Smith

"I may be old, but I'm not dead"

Stationary life vs. Rebellious Spirit
Setting & Irony
Stream of Consciousness
Discussion Questions
1. What is the significance of Alice mentioning the plight of the leaf?
Theme: Identity
Memory Lane
Alice Scully
Stream of Consciousness- a person's thoughts and conscious reactions to events, perceived as a continuous flow.
Mrs. Scully's story is comprised of a continuous flow of her thoughts and memories, giving us a clear path with which to follow her line of thinking, and therefore her character as a whole
Works Cited
"...I was flooded by memories---overwhelmed, engulfed, as I sat in my chair by the picture window...."
Works Cited
Social Criticism
Elderly should be able to express their sexuality just as much as young people
Desire for sex does not diminish with age
Any experience that arouses any type of sexual contact counts as a sexual encounter to the elderly according to studies
Nursing home employees need to be taught how to respond to these needs of their patients
"Sexuality for young & old"
Identity not lost with old age (or even disease)
Evident by the descriptions of those attending The Happy Memories Club
Each has own personality even in old age
Ex: Martha Louise is “the type who tries to run everything" (595)
Person’s strengths and passions make up his identity
Ex: Alice loves teaching and writing; Solomon remembers even after a stroke that sex gave him a rush
“I myself as I was then, that headstrong girl longing to leave her home in East Virginia and walk in the world at large” (599)
Alice still headstrong; she is the one who thinks of using Xerox machine in the manager's office and uses her free will to leave the Health Center
Experiences (the good, bad and ugly) strong part of who we are
Alice tells her story as is; does not try to euphamize her life experiences
Story begins in 2nd person POV to destroy preconceived ideas about the elderly
Preconceived ideas
: Old folk not entitled to passionate love affairs, do not have fresh insight, their passion should diminish with age
Book club counters these notions
“Perhaps you are surprised …not uncommon here” (595)
Age Criticism
created by gender gaps
few stories told from elderly person’s POV
Preconceived ideas
: Seniors happy when unable to remember bad chapters of their lives, old folk not observant at all and very forgetful
Juxtaposed by numerous facts and details Alice still remembers from her life
More preconceived ideas
: Old people should “become children again, forgoing intelligence” (598)
Euphemisms should be used around the elderly (598) to avoid topics of discomfort (especially) death)
Ironic setting - nursing home not viewed as vibrant/passion-filled, innovative place
Nursing home atmosphere usually seems dormant and even life-draining
The nursing home treats the patients as if they are children, trying to control how they behave; "a "total" retirement community, they want us to become children again, forgoing intelligence"(598)
Alice Scully contradicts the presumed nature of an elderly woman confined to a retirement home
Sharp and vigorous mentality (Alice) v. mental deterioration (ex. Solomon Marx, etc.)
Alice gives a basis for her youthfulness by saying "Pacemakers cannot regulate the wild, unbridled yearnings of the heart" (595)
Too many things left to do in life and too little time; Alice makes the best of her situations and learns that love is universal, and her passionate encounters seem to revitalize and counteract her aging body
Alice's writing gives her a newfound sense of freedom, paradoxical to the motor chair she is confined to
Picture window: not very thought-provoking, but Alice's mind is nevertheless flooded with memories to write about
Danielle C., Craig R., Eunice G., Elizabeth F.
Name "Health Center" is ironic because in reality it is a place of decay and death, representing the final fight for life
According to Alice "you never leave the Health Center" (598)
The fact that Alice is sent there but does leave shows her triumph over lifelessness and lethargy
Library ironically contains worn paperbacks (the most fragile books)
Alice is confined to a wheelchair yet she feels free in mind and spirit
"I felt better than I had in years, full of new life and freedom (a paradox, since I am more and more confined to this chair)" (599)
Alice is the main character from whose POV the story is told
She is the only one of the group who seems to have/ know her voice
Words that describe the elderly woman: vigorous, adventurous, witty
Alice is shown as being stationary throughout most of her life.
Throughout her stories, she always has to stay home instead of doing what she wants to
She does not enjoy this at all: "Yet inside I was starving, starving for love and life"(604).
She even foreshadows that she will remain at home for most of her life:" I was bound to stay at home, as Rose was bound to go" (602).
Once she gets older, she becomes less stationary, and adheres less to what others think.
After her mother dies, she leaves college
Continuing to write stories that others see as sad, even after being criticized for it
Leaving the Health Center, even though she is not supposed to
Playing the game with Solomon, even when his nurse tries to stop her

Wild Card
2. What is the purpose of having Alice's personal life story embedded in the story as a whole?
Alice seems to be the only one who tests boundaries
Young Alice and her sister lie in the middle of the road
Old Alice bribes her way out of the Health Center
Images used:
From the archives on
Universal Uclick. Retirement Homes' 'pill Fight'. McPherson, John, 26 Sept. 2011. Web. 07 Oct. 2014.)
Universal Uclick. "Pill-a-Pult." To Make Taking Their Daily Array of Medicines More Fun, Many Seniors Are Using the New Pill-A-Pult. McPherson, John, 09 Sept. 2013. Web. 07 Oct. 2014.
3. Why are memories so important to Alice?
4. Why does Alice criticize the works of the other members of her group?
5. What is the meaning of the punctuation metaphor (605-606)?
Alice's life story is structured into the story
she tells her fond and not so fond memories
According to Alice "memories are all she's got." They are very important to her
she loves reflecting on her life
Article: Sexuality for the young and old (EBSCOhost)
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