Memory is Imperfect: Edgar Lee Master and Anna Quindlen

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The poem “Richard Bone” by Edgar Lee Masters and the short story “Cats” by Anna Quindlen share a theme of how memory is imperfect. Both use a similar plot of having to deal with something that the protagonists don't enjoy yet are helplessly doing what they are told to do. Both Masters and Quindlen teach readers that though memories are neither perfect nor can be touched or seen, it is possible to replace them or fill in the gaps ourselves. Both texts explore a theme of how loneliness is at the core of memories through the examples of Richard Bone, the woman next door, and the essence of people’s personal lives. In Masters’ poem, the main character Richard Bone works as an epitaph. As a result of working alone, nobody exactly knows him. Everyone looks gratefully upon him for what he does in his work: “He was a consistent Christian” (670). In response, Richard simply thinks: “I chiseled for them whatever they wished” (670). As he is ordered to create positive epitaphs for those grieving their deceased loved ones, Bone feels guilt from writing what he feels are “false chronicles”. Bone is depressed and unsatisfied with what he is doing - he is confused. Masters points out the significance of how memories of a person are often recorded with false information, preventing everyone from knowing the truth of who a person truly was at his or her core. Knowing this, Bone is upset because no one knows the real Bone, thus when he dies, he will be remembered by a false inscription. This is similar to the woman next door in Quindlen’s story. The woman’s only interests are the cats and narrator’s son, Bop Bop. Quindlen writes of the woman next door’s relationship with her son as: “Some summer nights she and my little boy would sit together companionably on the front stoop, watching cars go by” (690). But when the woman next door passes away, the narrator wonders and worries how long he will remember her, and what she will mean to him, “When he looks at the picture and...
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