Memento Mori Short Story Review Assignment

Character Descriptions of Earl in “Memento Mori” by Jonathan Nolan

Memento Mori is a short story by Jonathan Nolan. This paper will briefly discuss about the main character Earl and his character traits, detailing briefly about his physical aspects and his emotional and mental state.

About Earl

In the story “Memento Mori,” the character of Earl is well illustrated. Earl has a state of mind called anterograde amnesia, a condition, when someone’s brain is not able to make new memories. The story begins at a mental institution where Earl is confined and the dominating aspect for that is his disease. Earl is not able to make new memories so he leaves some pictures and notes taped around his room. They act to remind him of the things he underwent; his wife’s brutal rape before she was murdered and his personality; brain damage (Watterson, 2012).

Earl is the protagonist of the “Memento Mori” and the only character developed in the story. The story is focused on Earl’s ability to manipulate himself. We see this as the story starts to develop and there are letters written by an “I” and another by a “you” all written by Earl. These letters give us the idea that Earl wants to break away from the hospital and find his wife’s killers. But Earl seems to be less willing to trust himself. Earl is an investigator. Despite his challenges, he develops elaborate ways and stages (use of tattoos and numbers) to try to indentify his wife’s murderers. He is Sammy Jankis (his another alter ego) (Watterson, 2012).

The character of Earl in “Memento Mori” by Jonathan Nolan may be a real context of two works

The story in such way tells us that people are made in different personas that keep on changing. Nolan, however, says that for some minutes each day, every person is a genius. Just like Earl, we all get lose of track sometimes and get a reminder from our past lives. 

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Each time Dame Lettie Colston answers the telephone, the anonymous caller announces “Remember, you must die.” Unnerved by the calls, the old woman contacts the police, but they cannot identify the caller. Lettie’s brother, Godfrey, is too preoccupied with his own problems to be sympathetic. He is exasperated by the mental deterioration his wife, Charmian, has suffered after her stroke.

Miss Jean Taylor, a resident in a nursing home, reflects upon the many years of her work as companion for Charmian, the famous novelist. Now she is trapped in a ward where the other women exhibit signs of memory loss, the staff patronizes the residents, and the head nurse brutalizes and demoralizes the residents.

Godfrey and Dame Lettie attend a memorial service for Lisa Brooke, who has died after suffering a stroke. Godfrey had an affair with Lisa many years before. At the service is an old acquaintance, Guy Leet, whom he is surprised to see. Guy is now an old man severely afflicted with arthritis.

Mrs. Pettigrew, Lisa’s housekeeper, has been named beneficiary of Lisa’s estate. No one knows that Mrs. Pettigrew had blackmailed Lisa for many years because of Lisa’s affair with Godfrey.

Alec Warner, a retired sociologist, is fascinated with the problems of old age. When he turns seventy years old, he begins the immense project of compiling records of old people’s physical condition, routines, attitudes, and tastes. Many years earlier he had loved Jean Taylor, but when he was advised to marry someone of his own class, he ended his relationship with her.

Dame Lettie hires Mrs. Pettigrew to help take care of Charmian. Mrs. Pettigrew planned to blackmail Godfrey just as she had blackmailed Lisa. She is frustrated when she finds out that Leet, who had secretly married Lisa many years ago, will inherit Lisa’s estate.

Jean faces a new challenge in the nursing home. Although the malicious head nurse has been released, her successor admits eight severely demented residents to the ward. Their wails and bizarre behaviors upset Jean and the other longtime residents.


(The entire section is 869 words.)


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