History and Memory

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“Every man’s memory is his private literature.” As illustrated in this quote from Huxley, individual memory can narrate a story that differs from documented events; it is through a combination of the two that we uncover a more reliable account. Peter Carey’s prose novel True History of the Kelly Gang and Christopher Nolan’s 2000 movie Memento represent history and memory in unique and evocative means by exploring the interplay between one’s individual perspective and the established ‘truth’.

In True History, Carey adopts the persona of Ned Kelly, taken from the Jerilderie letter. Ned’s history is represented in the form of an epistolary account to his daughter, one which creates a view of events that portrays himself in a more sympathetic light from the dehumanised man known to the public. Carey mocks the notion of a single history, through the lack of a definite article in the title, implying there to be more than one true history. The biased view presented within True History claims 'I know what it is to be raised on lies and silences my dear daughter… this history is for you and will contain no single lie may I burn in Hell if I speak false.' Though the events presented in the story may indeed by the truth, as a personal recount of history it is bound to be selective in the content included, such as his exclusion of curses and mature themes, or his exaggeration of events that portray him in a positive light. The biased view shows that personal memory can be incomplete and unreliable.

Credulity is added to the text by the manipulation of textual form -- a series of 'parcels of stained and dog-eared papers' written in the voice of Ned, with recurring use of such colloquialisms as 'bloody', 'mongrels' and 'dinky di' and lacking grammar and punctuation -- and the inclusion of newspaper articles and other hard evidence merges fact with fiction. Upon discovery of a wanted poster, Ned is horrified by the face that stares up at him, claiming it looks nothing...
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