Memory Filling in the Gaps of Images

It might be difficult to tell, but this is a picture of ice on a windshield from the inside of a car. My car, actually. When I got into my car very early one morning about two days ago, I couldn’t help but notice how much my vision was obstructed by this thin layer of ice, yet there was little I could do to remove it. As I turned the defroster on in my car, I sat back in the driver’s seat and waited for the ice to melt. The manner in which the ice started to melt intrigued me, however. Slowly small patches of ice began to melt away in unpredictable patterns, leaving behind a murky haze before eventually clearing up completely. In the process, the house which was in front of where I was parked slowly began to reveal itself beneath the haze on my windshield. I couldn’t make out many of the details of the house until the ice had almost completely melted, but as I’ve seen this house nearly every day for the past four years of my life, my own memory was filling in the gaps where the ice and haze had yet to reveal.

As I sat and watched this house slowly unveil itself, I thought of Esther describing pictures to Nona. As Esther knew little to no background behind the pictures, she could only describe what she literally saw in the photographs. Nona, however, was very familiar with what the images contained, she just couldn’t see them. This allowed her, however, to question the descriptions Esther provided as she tried to fit the descriptions of the photographs in with her own memory of events. When Esther is describing the wedding photograph, for example, Nona becomes suspicious of the sincerity of happiness painted on the uncle’s face, which Esther describes. Thus, she questions Esther, saying, “Is he really glad, does he really look happy?” (Matalon, 63). Matalon discusses this issues of reconciling memories with images and reveals the difficulty of looking at an image without recalling all of the memories one recalls from the depicted event. This difficulty, I believe, contributes to the fragmented style of Matalon’s writing. The style, however, reminds us of the fragmented nature of memory and the limited nature of photographs without background knowledge.

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