In Paycheck, Jennings is willing to sacrifice two years of his life to get a job and ultimately trades his 50,000 credits for his bag of trinkets. What is the author suggesting about the value of memory?

In Paycheck, author Philip K. Dick suggests that memory is of limited value because it is relative to a fixed point in time. He also implies that humans depend too much on a concept that is inherently unreliable. As Jennings uses the supposedly random items to spark his memory, he is repeatedly thwarted because the recollections are fragmentary and misleading.

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In Paycheck, Philip K. Dick presents the case of a man who errs in dismissing the value of memory but also in depending too much on its value. When he accepted the assignment with Rethrick, Jennings expected that he would not miss the two years that he was pledging to have wiped out of his mind. He assumed that the substantial financial gain would adequately compensate for the memories that he would lose. Jennings failed to anticipate that things that would occur during those two years would have a significant impact on what would happen to him later. Because he agreed to the memory wipe, the useful information he acquired during that period is no longer available to him.

The future changes are so drastic and all-encompassing that Jennings could not have foreseen them. This limitation suggests the associated limits of memory: what he remembered so far formed an inadequate basis for future projections. He was thinking in narrow terms of events that would have personal meaning for him, not of catastrophic political developments with a global reach. However, the experiences he had during the period that would be wiped from memory prompted him to think ahead to the need for particular items. In this regard, it is not memory, or the ability to look backward, that served him well but his ability to look forward.

Jennings also failed to anticipate that each item would only take him so far. He could not assemble an entire puzzle, but only retain apparently random pieces. Ultimately, it is not his own memory of the objects’ uses that helps him the most. Instead, each object stimulates the memories of other people, who in turn help or hinder his quest.

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