Memories in the House: In the House & Inception?

First of all, I’d like to say that I’m disappointed that I cannot find a youtube clip that would support this post (the scene where Leonardo DiCaprio walks through the Limbo house in Inception and sees scenes from his life with his wife there), but I’ll press on…

“Memory,” the concept and the word itself, is used very often throughout In the House, and the traumatic events in the book are very apparent – they’re even a little traumatic for the reader – so an analysis through the lens of trauma theory is necessary, but until the scene when the narrator walks through the portion of the house that his wife built and sees events or items from his past, I didn’t have any concrete ideas about what to say about trauma in this book.

When I came to this scene, it struck me that the narrator might be experiencing more anguish (trauma) the second time around (as he relives the events/scenes) than he did the first time (when he “really” lived them). He notes “[h]ow [he] had forgotten even what [he] had forgotten” (102), and now that he has remembered, it’s more painful. Forgetting what one has forgotten goes with the idea of the “crypt,” which Joe explained a couple weeks ago, where a traumatic event seems to get trapped and hidden away, though the effects of that event can still be help. This scene seems to force the narrator to realize that events from his past have been traumatic. He’s been living with the effects of those events (like losing children and killing so many animals), but he doesn’t seem to recognize the extent to which he has experienced trauma until he relives it, in a big house with enough room “to keep things separate, to break them down” (101).  It seems to me that, through this experience, the narrator develops a sense of regret that he didn’t have before: “And how I wished it had been different, that I had not walked away at the beginning of our  marriage, when I thought it would always be so easy to return” (99). With this moment, two things became important to me: (1) the importance of the concept of marriage in this book and in the narrator’s experience; (2) whether or not we know what the narrator is referring to in this statement. Is he talking about something we know that he’s done or something we don’t know? When and from what did he walk away at the beginning of the marriage, exactly?

Finally, whether it’s worthwhile or not, I couldn’t help but connect this scene to a scene towards the end of the movie Inception. The husband in that text is walking through a house that he and his wife built “out of memories” from their actual life in the dream world of “limbo.” As he walks through, he sees scenes and remnants from his life with his wife, such as their children running about. He too has experienced trauma (like the death of his wife, the knowledge that he might have had a hand in her death, and the reality of having left his children behind); he too has struggled in marriage and fatherhood; he too walks through a house he built with his wife reliving scenes from the past; and he too is in an imaginary world where memories play a great role. I think even the phrase “even our bones had memories, and our memories bones” can be applied to Inception, especially if we were to understand the first “bones” as “structures.” In Inception, the structures built in Limbo held and represented his and his wife’s memories. Also, the main character’s “memories [have] bones”, in a way, because the so-called “projections” of his wife continually appear in dreams where they are unwanted. This, too, speaks to trauma theory and the tendency to relive traumatic events.

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