The main themes in Enright’s The Gathering are memories, family secrets, relationships, and death. Throughout the novel, the protagonist and narrator, Veronica, is more often caught up in memories than living in the present. The suicide of her brother Liam has forced her to re-live her past. What she cannot possibly remember, she fictionalizes, wanting to have a story for each gap that she discovers. What she does remember, she is not sure she remembers correctly, so she creates several different versions to see which one fits best. All of these memories circle around the secret that she and Liam shared. Veronica, and consequently, the reader, is not even sure that the “secret” event happened, though Veronica tends to believe it is true. Enright continually questions the veracity of memory. As a person grows older and gains more experience, memories change. A child has less to reflect on, and therefore must gather images and make up multiple storylines to match the pictures in her mind.
Enright also explores how a person’s memories affect them in the present. She examines how childhood experiences affect adults, years later. In Veronica’s case, she is left to wonder if the dark secret she and her brother share is responsible for his suicide. Could she, or could anyone, have saved Liam? Veronica suspects that her past may affect her current inability to love. She is tortured by past event that she cannot alter. For instance, Veronica frequently wonders how being sent away to live with her grandmother molded both Liam’s future and her own.
Liam never marries, though he does have a child. Veronica also has children, but she appears to be oddly removed from them. It is not certain if this is her normal life or if she is out of touch with them because of her wracking emotions over her brother’s death. Veronica is married and lives a financially comfortable life. But in many ways, her relationship to money is...
(The entire section is 707 words.)