John D Agata's Formal Experience Of Confusion

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“Memoir, in some regard, became the voice of national policy,” so states John D’Agata in Joan Didion’s Formal Experience Of Confusion. He thus proclaims that memoirs and memories exist not only as personal experiences but that they can be remolded for public use. D’Agata’s essay supports the concept that memories are powerful tools which connect and inspire communities. Along with this, he warns that though memories and memorials can be helpful for the remembrance of people and events, they can also manipulate people’s perspectives and even erase certain memories from a narrative.
D’Agata depicts memories, specifically through memoirs, as powerful and able to connect and inspire communities. He speaks of writing memoirs as an “impulsive exploration[s]”
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Though memoirs existed as one of the first forms of American literature, “they were rarely the most authenticated.” Through this statement, D’Agata points out the ability to manipulate and distort memories through memoirs. If memoirs are generally regarded as truthful, yet they are very rarely “authenticated”, this means that it is simple to fabricate a collection of memories without much backlash from their audience. This makes it much easier for memoirs to distort memories for the purpose of propaganda. The main example that D’Agata uses throughout the essay is that of Mary Rowlandson’s story of captivity within a Native American community. Though her story is believed as true, many captivity narratives that followed manipulated their portrayal of events in order to “emphasiz[e] a more publicly relevant political concern: Manifest Destiny.” The removal of the “private redemptive experiences” of the authors in place of a more factual, and thus manipulated, memoir works to push forward a public political issue rather than describe a personal revelation. Thus though memoirs may contain true facts it cannot always be provided that their presentation of events is factual, but instead arranged so as to support a certain…show more content…
Though captivity narratives in the 18th and 19th centuries had great “popularity and prevalence”, many “represented no truth at all.” This reaffirms the notion that such memoirs were no longer produced to tell of personal triumphs but instead to promote political ideas throughout a large community. Yet while these narratives predominated, D’Agata quotes Alice Wright of the Smithsonian Institute as saying that these types of memoirs “‘probably represent the minority of actual Indian captivities.’” However, the majority of captivity stories were not successful owing to the fact that they didn’t excite, scare, or entice the reader. Since the perspective where captivity wasn’t horrible did not play into the notion perpetuated by many other popular writers, it disappeared into the background. This in turn allowed the minority narrative to emerge as the one “true” perspective regarding captivity. Similar situations occur on a much smaller scale as well. For example, when I was younger there was a night where many kids went to a local theme park. That night there was a very high chance for tornadoes and before my father, brothers, and I were able to enter the park the sirens went off and we found ourselves having to drive around to find shelter. Yet the next day it was not my narrative of driving away from the tornadoes on the highway, nor that of the kids who were stuck in their
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