When assigned to read the short stories in class to summarize and learn to paraphrase, there was one story in particular that emotionally touched me. This short story was “And of Clay Are We Created” by Isabell Allende. I found many great points that could be discussed about the story, and that is why I chose it to be a part of this research paper. This story is a touching momentum of a man’s penetrating awakening that he no longer has to suffer from the emotional torment that was inflicted upon him during his childhood.
Rolf, “like a flower sinking into the mud” (367) has sank into himself; a self that is magnetized with cataclysmic devastation and desolation. The volcano has erupted to bring an avalanche of despair, so does this same volcano explode, bursting to eventually bring calm and equanimity. Isabell Allende has Rolf Carle, a news reporter fly out to the devastating scene where you are introduced to Azucena, a young girl, stuck in the mud. Rolfe Carle stays with Azucena in hopes of saving her from this catastrophe but in the meantime, he journeys through his repressed childhood memories.
It is important to investigate repressed memories so you could courageously move forward to live a fuller life, instead of blocking these memories and living in the past. This paper will slightly take you through Rolf Carle’s emotions, the effects these memories can have, and how to overcome them. I found it ironic how Rolf Carle is close to many people’s histories when investigating the incident being a reporter but he is so distant with his own and we see this when he is telling his stories to Azucena.
Rolf connected with Azucena at a level of experience, whether it was physical or emotional, they became one and shared things with each other, some things being on a different level. This connection occurred because Rolf saw himself like Azucena “trapped in a pit without escape, buried in life, his head barely above ground” (Allende, 363). It is apparent that Rolf, like the buried and trapped girl, has submerged his own suppressed and hidden visceral terror; terror concealed from reality, that when it is unearthed, it is “intact and precise as if it had lain always in his mind, waiting” (Allende, 362).
Like the deceased relatives who weigh down Azucena by clinging on her legs, so too is Rolf weighed down, incapacitated and paralyzed by the hauntingly vivid repressed memories. Rolf seemed to be trapped in pain as Azucena was in the mud, and confronting the thoughts of the girl dying was tough. Azucena taught him to pray, and eventhough it might have been consolation for herself, she later provides support for Rolfe when he was suffering through his past memories.
This moment with Azucena, showed Rolf how to confront his own pains and memories, memories filled with humiliation, shame, fear, and regret. Rolf’s emotional break down, as displayed with Azucena, resulted in him rising above the vultures and helicopters… [flying] above the vast swamp and corruption” (366). The question of importance and focus is not how this took place. In other words, it is not the line of successive actions and conversations, told and untold, that led to his decisive moment of freedom that is important.
It is the cognitive and emotional process of a child who has been abused and chooses to either suppress or repression those traumatic painful memories. Indeed Rolf goes through a transformative change. But for 30 years he has “lived” or choose to forget certain events that took place in his life. The reader is never told in full detail the abuse that was inflicted upon Rolf. We are given the illusion of a being beat with a belt then put in a closet.
Such a painful event indeed was resulted in the present moment of physical pain, as well as, the present and future psychological damage done to Rolf, not mentioning the effects that it had on his sister. We are reminded time and again by survivors of abuse that emotional abuse is far worse because “the body is meant for recovering and healing physical wounds, the evidence is in scars, but the mind has a difficult time reacting to emotional abuse because it is counterproductive and counter intuitive in an unhealthy and unnatural way” (abused victim who chooses to remain anonymous).
When dealing with painful events, especially when occurring during childhood, a child often times chooses to either repress or suppress the memories hoping that he or she will never have to relive that moment. “A repressed memory, according to some theories of psychology, is a memory (often of a traumatic nature) of an event or environment, which is stored by the unconscious mind but outside the awareness of the conscious mind” (pyshowiki), whereas, suppressed memories are those memories that are forgotten by choice.
The question now becomes did Rolf’s unconscious mind repress the memory or was it by choice that he suppressed his childhood experience? The answer first comes with an understanding that “memories stay in the brain for life” (Martin Dak). It is important to understand that “repressed memories do not disappear” (changingminds. org). “We can only bury memories for so long before they resurface” (Effect on the Mind). A person tends to “forget memories” because the fear of facing reality has invaded his or her life and he or she no longer has the fortitude to properly be engaged in the present moment.
Like an earthquake that shatters glass into millions of pieces and demolishes massive infrastructures into complete and utter ruin; so too can the effects of repressed memories play in a person’s life. If repressed memories are not received, accepted, and properly discussed, a lifetime of tortured reality can unfold in a person’s life. We don’t have to look any farther than the 30 years of life that Rolf lived. The reader is never given a glimpse into his life after the abuse. We are told he has a relationship with a girl and that he is a reporter.
Only with extremely caution, lest we stereotype that all reporters and journalists have been through emotional hazards during their childhood, but one has to conclude that his job does keep him moving from one situation to the next, avoiding having to ever think about his own issues and life. People that have repressed memories could possibly have disorders like post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, and depression. “Dwelling on such emotions… is overwhelmed by extreme mental trauma (Novella). One could also experience traumatic amnesia, “this involves the loss of memories of traumatic experiences” (Kolk).