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The Memory Keeper's Daughter

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Rosemary Barber

on 4 March 2014

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Transcript of The Memory Keeper's Daughter

The Memory Keeper's Daughter

Plot Summary
On a snowy night in the 1960’s a man named Dr. David Henry rushes his pregnant wife Norah to the hospital where he and a nurse Caroline Gills help her deliver his son Paul. She starts going through contractions again and out comes another baby, Phoebe. Shortly after birth David notices that Phoebe was born with Down’s syndrome and he hands his baby to the nurse so she will take it to a home. David gives Caroline his baby because when he was growing up he had a sister who was born with a heart defect and when she died at age 12 his parents fell apart. He thinks that his daughter will die at a young age and he didn’t want that for his wife and his son. Caroline takes the baby to a place for that mentally ill and realizes that state that the other patients are in is not suitable for a new baby. After stopping on the way to get formula and diapers, when she came back outside she found that her car was dead. With the help of a truck driver named Al she gets home and raises the baby as her own, while Dr. Henry occupies himself with work and taking pictures with his new Memory Keeper’s camera that Norah gives him.
Main Characters
David Henry- At the beginning of the story, David Henry had established his medical career and was very much in love. He was serious and devoted to both his job and his wife. After he delivered his twins and gave away his daughter, he became different. He was suddenly overcome with guilt and for the first time, he completely veered from his moral compass. From then on, he let the secret of Phoebe control his life. The man who already hid his feelings to an extent became a stranger to his own wife. The longer the secret stayed with him, the more passive and distant he became. When his wife bought him a nice camera, he became obsessed with capturing moments that he created, objectifying Norah and the human form, in order to restore his idea of having a perfect life. Even after Norah cheated on him, he distanced himself more. At one point, he returned to his roots, visiting his childhood home, where he found someone residing. This event was a catalyst to a new life. While the guilt of his decision ate at him literally until he died of a heart attack, he had begun to find some peace within himself. He had someone to tell his secret to but more importantly, someone for him to care about. He was able to leave Norah and build a bridge between himself and his son. Throughout the book, he was a good man, troubled permanently by one terrible decision.
The beginning of the story is set in 1964 during a rare Kentucky blizzard.
Caroline later moves to Pittsburgh to have a fresh start with Phoebe
Paul and Norah are frequently in France (this is where Norah meets her new husband, and Paul is studying music there).
Memorable Quotes
"It's not about numbers, it's about children. I have a daughter who is six years old. It takes her more time, its' true, to master knew things. But she has learned to do what any other child has learned to do: to crawl and walk and talk and use the bathroom, to dress herself, which she did this morning. What I see is a little girl who wants to learn, and who loves everyone she sees. And I see a room full of men who appear to have forgotten that in this country we promise an education to every child--regardless of ability."-Caroline Simpson (Speech to School Board)
Deception: Dr. David Henry originally deceives Norah by sending Phoebe away, but later on Norah deceives David through her own methods.
Freedom: Caroline searches for freedom from her life in Kentucky, Norah frequently searches for freedom from David.
Justice: Through out the story there is an intangible search for justice for David's actions. Caroline also relentlessly fights for justice for Phoebe.
Music- Throughout this story, music was an important symbol, tying certain characters together. It represented the power of genetic relations. Paul, Phoebe, and David’s sister never knew each other, and yet they all had a passion and a gift for music. This symbol was also incredibly important for David, who knew all three of them. It perhaps gave insight into why David acted the way he did, like his disconnect with Paul. In the very last scene, Paul and Phoebe united this mutual interest at David’s grave, which was ultra symbolic of family ties as well as a beautiful way to end the story.
Author: Kim Edwards
"Our lives will never be the same"-Norah Henry
"He imagined her heart, the size of a plum and very possibly defective, and he thought of the nursery, so carefully painted with its soft animals and single crib. He thought of his wife standing on the sidewalk before their brightly veiled home."-David Henry
Norah Henry- Norah Henry was first a timid, appropriate wife. She devoted her time to being a stay at home wife and then mom. After her son was born and her daughter “died,” she whirled into a depression and developed a problem with alcohol, coping simultaneously with the distance her husband had forged between them. Her loneliness and drinking tendencies continued until she got a job at a travel agency, forcing her to be independent and distracting her from the loss of Phoebe. Now a strong woman, Norah found herself tired of David’s aloofness and unhealthy obsession with photography; she justified herself cheating on him multiple times. As Paul grew older, her personality shifted into the quintessence of 1980s female power. She made her own money and a name for herself while maintaining the position of the favorite parent. On the outside, she seemed a bit cold and invulnerable, but on the inside, she was really just as sensitive as she had been ever since the twins were born. This side of her became apparent when David died, and she became distraught. For her, this was the end of an important chapter of her life. When the secret came out, she let out all of her despair and anger on David’s photographs. By the end of the story, she was finally a good balance of independent and sentimental.
Caroline Gill- Caroline Gill is the scandalous nurse who disappeared after helping David to deliver his twins. At the time of the birth, she was feeling stuck in her life. She had all these ideas and dreams growing up which had little to do with her nursing position, no family or friends, and no prospects for the future. As soon as she decided to take over the raising of Phoebe, her life was never the same again, in a good way. She ran away and started over, just as she had wanted to do all along. Her adventure was this baby. She took on a huge responsibility, and her gentle nature helped her to be a mother. She fought for Down syndrome rights all throughout Phoebe’s childhood and adolescence, giving her a sense of pride and accomplishment. She fell in love and got married, and after all this, she realized that what she truly wanted was a home and a family all along, but she had substituted this with the idea that she needed adventure to be fulfilled.
Photography- David had a fascination with living a perfect life. This caused him to change his name at a young age, and marry the “perfect” woman, all while committing himself to his practice in hopes to be set forever. When Norah bought him a camera, he translated this perfectionism into the world of photography. For him, still images were the key to capturing ideal moments so that they last forever, regardless of the truth behind the images. If you can create a perfect memory, then you are, from behind the lens, living a perfect life.
Burning of the Photos- When Norah discovered the secret that David had kept from her for over 20 years, she went bat crazy and set his photos on fire. For her, this was symbolic of erasing him from her life. To kill all of his perfect memories is to leave nothing but his dark truth. She was out to destroy any evidence of her ex-husband’s excellent reputation. Of course, she only got through one box of pictures before calming down, but the symbolism still exists.
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