What are the conflicts in "The Rememberer" by Aimee Bender?

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carol-davis eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In the story, "The Rememberer," by Aimee Bender, the author employs a genre entitled "Magic Realism." This type of story takes a bizarre set of circumstances and places them in a realistic setting, thus enabling the unusual to seem ordinary.

The characters in the story are ordinary people with daily routines--or at least they were.  When Annie's husband Ben begins to devolve into an ape, the protagonist knew something was not right. 

Annie narrates the story and relates the events surrounding Ben's reverse evolution.  She even asks a biology teacher about evolution. He relates that if a man were to reverse his evolution, it might take about a year. Unfortunately, science was wrong.  Ben was losing about a milion years per day.


What conflicts does the protagonist face? First, she has to come to terms within herself.  She is losing her lover, her friend, her companion. Ben told Annie that she over thought everything.  For this situation, it was probably a good thing.  Looking at the process with less emotion, enables Annie to survive without having a breakdown.

To further help her inward struggles, Annie continues to work.  She only faces the evolutionary process when she comes home from work to find it has already happened.  Acceptance comes after the fact.

Now I come home from work and look for his regular-size shape walking and worrying and realize, that he is gone. When I go to the kitchen, I peer in the pan and see he's some kind of salamander now.  He's small. 'Ben,' I whisper,'do you remember me? Do you remember?'

Obviously, man versus nature comes into play.  Ben is returning to his most natural being as he is evolving.  Annie's sidebar observances makes the story seem more realistic since she does not burden the reader when the actual rendering of hair, skin, and so forth.  Nature takes its course. 

What comes from the story are three important lessons. 

(1) Someone must remember for the one who is losing his memory.  The "rememberer" must hold tight to the memories so that the person will never be lost even when he is no longer mentally or physically there. 

(2) The person who is the companion must become the caregiver for the other person.  That person provides whatever is needed to help the person maintain the best quality of life available to him. For Annie that meant a baking pan filled with saltwater; rubbing his big furry hand; a dribble of honey in his water. 

(3) Never over think the important things in life. Take happiness as it comes, and then want more of it by dreaming about it.  Intellectualizing everything means that a person might miss that special sunrise, the breathe in the ear of a loved one, or sitting in the grass pulling up the weeds.

Those are the conflicts that Annie faced.  She came out on the other side of her trauma hoping that some day her man would walk out of the ocean "re-evolutionized."

Read the study guide:
The Rememberer

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