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Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac by Gabrielle Zevin

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Naomi Porter fell down the stairs and lost her memory. In the novel, Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac, the author, Gabrielle Zevin, occasionally uses similes, metaphors, and symbolism to portray Naomi’s struggle with finding herself. One example is, “Sisters were something other people had, like mono or ponies”. This shows that Naomi is used to being an only child. A sister is something she thought she would never have. Another instance is where Naomi is shown her father’s new house. She sees some artifacts from their previous house, but this is what she says about them, “They all looked awkward and out of place, like orphans”. In this scene Naomi identifies with those old artifacts because she feels like an orphan again; out of place. Another case is when Naomi is hurt and she has to look in the mirror. She says, “In my opinion, wounds are like water set to boil-they heal best left unwatched”. This metaphor shows how Naomi has an aversion to dealing with her problems; she prefers to not face her troubles and waits for them to go away, which they rarely do. A fourth example is: “the knocker on the door was an enormous iron lion’s head. Its nose and eye were badly dented. It reminded me of myself”. The knocker symbolizes how Naomi feels, and partly how she looks, beat up. And of course, there is the famous scene where Naomi cuts off all of her hair. In that scene, her hair represents everyone’s expectations of her; as her hair is cut, so are their expectations. Naomi describes her relationship with her friend Will as, “He made me feel transparent when I was still opaque to myself”. This quote basically means that Will knows things about Naomi that she did not even know about herself. It is at the heart of what her mind is repressing. Also, when Naomi is meeting her father at the airport, she says, “I felt like the sole of a very old shoe”. This metaphor tells us that Naomi feels elderly and beaten down, or worn thin. In the end, James is inadvertently helping Naomi deal with her struggles of finding herself, but she is almost back at the beginning of her struggles when James says this, “But now, at this moment, you can’t hook your boat to mine, ‘cause I’m liable to sink us both”. Naomi does not realize this, but the person that is helping her, is also hurting her. And the last time Naomi still has her struggles she says, “One orphaning after the next. They should tell you when you’re born: have a suitcase heart, be ready to travel”. Naomi feels like every person that she loves eventually leaves her. She even leaves herself for a time.

The cameras in the story represent snapshots of Naomi’s life. Her mother has a lot of pictures of Naomi’s childhood, but not any recent ones. From this we deduce that her mother is not an influential part of her life anymore. Naomi’s photography project is crucial to the plot. She has to basically choose moments in her life that tell a story of her life, but she doesn’t remember her life, so she cannot come up with a project: By first avoiding the project she tries to protect herself from facing her own truth. When Naomi asks her mother for help with her photography project, she is letting her mother back in her life. The camera she saves represents her. When she and James are throwing cameras down the stairs, Naomi is in a reckless and rebellious stage in her life. At that time, she does not care about other people and she essentially does not care about herself. This scene compares to the end of the book, where Naomi remembers that she dove for the camera. Her dive represents that Naomi cares very much about herself before the accident, but maybe a little too much. She cares so much about her life, or camera, that the camera is the most important thing in her life. Her focus on the yearbook also shows this idea.

Section one is called ‘I was’. True to its name, in this section Naomi is focusing on the person that she used to be. She is only thinking about everyone else’s expectations to be the same person that she was. Section two is named ‘I am’. This is the section where Naomi becomes an entirely new person. This Naomi is very different from the old Naomi, and not necessarily in a good or bad way. The third and last section is called ‘I will’. In this section, Naomi is becoming a better person. She realizes that the old Naomi and the new Naomi were both wrong; she then develops into Naomi 3.0. This Naomi recognizes her mistakes, and turns into her new and better self.

When Naomi says, “I was crying for gravity. It had sent me down the stairs and I thought that had meant something, but maybe it was just the direction that all things tend to flow.” In this quote, all things represent life. When Naomi says that it flows, she is saying that life is like a river; it keeps on moving until something blocks it. Another double meaning is: “No, looking isn’t the right word. Seeing. I wasn’t comfortable with how much Will saw.” When Naomi is saying this, people start to think that maybe looking and seeing are not syllables, but very different things. In this quote, the author is trying to convey that a person looks at something, but sees through someone. And another example, “My father is one of those people who believe that anything can be accomplished, the ills of the world cured, so long as it’s written down and assigned a number.” ‘the ills of the world cured’ does not necessarily just mean diseases. If the author had used sickness, then readers would think that she means diseases; by the use of the word ‘ills’, readers will think of all problems with the world, not just infections. When Naomi calls the nurses ‘A rotating coven’ people think of witches. Coven is a good word to convey what Naomi thinks of them as. In this quote, “The idea was to move James in positive directions; the dangerous thing, in my mind, was inertia.” This quote is a bit ironic because in the beginning of the book, Naomi’s lack of inertia causes her injury. The use of the term inertia could also be comparing Naomi and James. Like her teacher says, she is a physics experiment, and in a way, so is James with his inertia.



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