Aimee Bender writes about the reverse concept of evolution (devolution) in her story “The Rememberer.” What happens when a human being begins to reverse the evolution process is the idea behind the author’s story. Bender portrays the feelings of loss of a loved one in her main character through the following style choices.
The author chooses her main character, Annie, to narrate. Annie watches her husband Ben devolve into simpler life forms: Annie’s role is to give the account of this evolution and to share her feelings of loss, grief, and acceptance. Annie does not just sit back and do nothing. She consults with science to try to understand why this would happen and how long it would take.
Annie explains, “One day he was my lover and the next he was some kind of ape. It’s been a month and now he’s a sea turtle.”
Bender uses what is referred to as “Magical realism.” The writer places unusual, surreal events in a realistic setting and treats the bizarre circumstances as though they were really happening. Ben has a job and friends until he begins to shed “a million years a day.” These changes are grounded in the conventional routine of the main character. Annie continues to work and come home each day to find her husband is no longer human but is working backwards in the evolutionary chain.
Through Annie, the author’s voice is unique and compassionate. The use of the present tense gives the reader the feeling that the story is real and is happening as the story progresses. Since the changes take place as the story is read, the story has a feeling of immediacy.
The tone of the story is somewhat matter-of–fact because the narrator attempts to step back and relate the events without emotion. This does not carry through, though, as Annie appoints herself as the “rememberer.” As Annie describes the last time that they make love, she realizes that this is not her husband. He can no longer verbally communicate and further separates himself from her by choosing to sleep outside. Her tone evolves into a nostalgic recollection of events.
Sentences and figurative language
Bender's ability to combine her bizarre and sometimes comic events with deeply felt emotion cannot help but pass along some visualizations that are comical.
I looked out to the patio and there was an ape sprawled on the cement. I knew it was him. I hugged those enormous shoulders...When he reached for me, I said No, loudly...I have my limits here.
The reader wants to cry for the protagonist, but visually the concept is funny. Her metaphorical pronouncement that her lover is now “the one-cell wonder” [although extremely poignant] gives an amusing visual.
Bender’s word choice is precise and does not give many details. One her best sentences describes the final change that her husband goes through. Her alliteration and simile are perfect for the explanation:
[Her husband] bloated and blind, brainless, benign, heading clear and small, like an eye-floater into nothingness.
Even Ben’s name choice symbolizes what has “been” as he returns to the earlier life form.
Ben tells Annie that she overthinks her life. The author uses an “emotional oxymoron” to describe the first time the couple made love: she had to concentrate really hard on letting go. Sadly, Annie has to let Ben go… and in the end, she returns him to the sea as “Ben the salamander.”