Memories serve important decision-making and attitudinal roles. Childhood memories can shape the entire lives of individuals. Moreover, simply learning about the history of one’s family and country can trigger many of the same effects of one’s own memories. Philip Dick’s “The Man in the High Castle” presents an extraordinary look into how memories and histories have major influences on our thoughts and decisions. While the beginning of the novel is heavily focused on the establishment of a new history, the last several chapters of the novel are focused much more heavily on the role of memories on the thoughts and behaviors of individuals. Just as history affects the direction of a country, memories affect the direction of an individual in the novel.
In the novel and in real life, memories form the bases of our characters and personalities. If an individual loses a memory, from amnesia, repression, or otherwise, the individual is changed in some important way. Likewise, when an individual forgets, even if only temporarily, the individual may be particularly troubled. Dick (117) writes of Juliana, “Afterwards she had ordered a sandwich and a Coke, and was sitting smoking a cigarette. Resting, she realized with a rush of unbelievable horror that she said nothing to Mrs. Abendson about the Gestapo man or whatever he was, that Joe Cinadella she had left in the hotel room in Denver. She simply couldn’t believe it. I forgot! she had said to herself. It dropped completely out of my mind. How could it be? I must be nuts; I must be terribly sick and stupid and nuts.” Here, Julianna challenges her own sanity. She is distraught that she did not remember something that she thought she would never forget. This suggests that there was a sort of disconnection between Julianna at this point in the novel and Julianna earlier in the novel. This parallels how history impacts the decisions made by the leaders of countries, given the changes in history.
Later in the novel, Mr. Tagomi realizes the massive effect that the memories of his actions have on himself and the rest of his memories. In fact, his worst memories seem to haunt him, altering his attitudes and behaviors. Dick (128) writes, “Have I then lost my delighted attitude? [Mr. Tagomi] asked himself. Is all instinct perverted from the memory of what I did? All collecting damaged, not merely attitude toward this one item? Mainstay of my life . . . area, alas, where I dwelt with such relish.” Mr. Tagomi is a very round character. In other words, he transforms massively from the beginning of the novel to the end. In many ways, his character progresses or improves learning much from his experiences, which are preserved in memory. In fact, it is through his experiences and his memories that Mr. Tagomi is transformed. This indicates the massive impact that memories have on individuals, again paralleling the massive impact of history on countries.
“The Man in the High Castle” presents a strong fictionalized account of the impact of history on society. Meanwhile, near the end of the novel, there are many meaningful references to memories. Throughout the novel, the recorded and often amended histories of countries shape the decisions of the leaders of such countries. The same can be said of the remnants of the U.S. In a similar fashion, the memories of individuals have major impacts on the decisions and attitudes of such individuals. This is demonstrated prominently near the end of the novel when it becomes quite obvious that Mr. Tagomi and Juliana have been impacted strongly by their memories.
- Dick, P. K. (1992). The Man in the High Castle. 1962. New York: Vintage.