The concept of involuntary memory has been illustrated in Proust’s Overture by a number of figurative writing styles in the novel. The beginning of the novel is marked by a depiction of involuntary memory. The author ushers in the reader by stating that “For a long time I used to go bed Early” (Proust, 2008). This is a depiction of the past memory in the life of the narrator who is not immediately revealed.
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Involuntary memory is also illustrated when Marcel recounts the times he visited his grandmother’s house and the intrigues that surrounded his inability to fall asleep in his bedroom. To make sleep, he would be given a “magic lantern” that had the capacity to project children’s stories on his walls. One of the major motivating factors for the writing of this novel revolves around the relationship between time and memory. According to Mann (2007) “Proust believed that time was not necessarily a linear, clock-like, measure of fixed and unchangeable moments; instead, he believed that time, or duration, as he liked to call it, involved a flowing together of different moments and experiences so that one individual point in time was indistinguishable from any other.”
An illustration of this involved the Madeleine scene where an older Marcel is brought back in the present Combray by simply having a taste of cake dipped in tea. The working of involuntary memory is thus demonstrated when Marcel tries to move back the memory lane when he last had a madeleine; which he succeeds. A clear memory of this is evoked only when he thinks about the taste of cake dipped in tea. The theme of involuntary memory is also illustrated by Mann (2007) in stating that “this involuntary and seemingly random power of the memory to carry a person back in time forms the stylistic and thematic foundation of Overture”.
In addition to the above, Marcel takes the memory journey back to the times through the interaction between routine and memory. The images projected by the magic lantern on the walls of his bedroom at Cambray make him unable to recognize his own room. This portrays Marcel as one who is lost in the time and as such must reorganize his mind to know exactly where he is. The theme of memory from this scene is also illustrated by Mann (2007) who states that “in this instance, breaking with the habit (changing the habitual appearance of his room) causes Marcel anguish, but in the episode of the madeleine, breaking with his usual routine by having tea causes his pleasurable reminiscences of Combray to resurface”.
Overture is different from a more realistic novel because whereas Marcel Proust is the narrator, it is hidden from the reader. In addition to the above, the parallels in the novel are too great, and the writings are over-personalized. The third factor that differentiates it from a normal novel is that its details are too overlapping. For example, by the time the author is writing the first paragraph of the Overture, the narrator is asleep. This is demonstrated by the extract “it seemed to me that I myself was the immediate subject of my book” (Proust, 2008). When the narrator wakes narrator wakes up, he says “As he comes more fully awake, he says” (Proust, 2008). This demonstrates the relationship between the narrator and the novel. The narrator is Proust who observes his reflection in a mirror or a dream as projected in the wall by the magic lantern.
Mann, M. (2007). Swann’s Way~Overture. Web.
Proust, M. (2008). Overture. New York: BiblioBazaar, LLC.
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