The memory keeper s daughter
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The Memory Keeper’s Daughter. By: Kim Edwards. Presentation by: Michelle Scavuzzo. Kim Edwards. Was born on May 4, 1958 Graduated from Colgate University Wrote first short story in college called “Cords” which later became called “The Way It Felt to be Falling”

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The Memory Keeper’s Daughter

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The memory keeper s daughter

The Memory Keeper’s Daughter

By: Kim Edwards

Presentation by: Michelle Scavuzzo

Kim edwards

Kim Edwards

  • Was born on May 4, 1958

  • Graduated from Colgate University

  • Wrote first short story in college called “Cords” which later became called “The Way It Felt to be Falling”

  • Wrote a collection of shorts stories called, “The Secrets of a Fire King

  • Currently teaches writing at University of Kentucky

  • The Memory Keeper’s Daughter was her first novel

    • It spent 122 weeks on the New York Time Best Sellers List

    • 20 of those weeks as #1

    • Won the Kentucky Literary Award and the British Book Award

Context and setting

Context and Setting

  • Setting

    • There are two stories in this novel linked through a lie.

    • The story of David Henry and his family takes place in Lexington, Kentucky.

    • The story of Caroline Gill and her family takes place in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

  • Context

    • The novel starts in March1964 and ends in September1989.

    • A major part of the novel is about down syndrome and this illness was very misunderstood at that time.

    • Lack of knowledge about the disease caused children to be sent to institutions at the first sign of the mental disability.

Plot synopsis

Plot Synopsis

  • The novel begins when Norah Henry goes into labor and unexpectedly delivers twins. A perfect little boy named Paul and a smaller little girl named Phoebe. In a panic David Henry, Norah Henry’s husband, gives his daughter away to Caroline Gill, the nurse there helping the delivery. After seeing his younger sister, June died of a heart defect caused by downs syndrome, David makes this decision in the hope of protecting his family. Caroline Gill takes the young girl in as her own child and raises her in Pittsburgh. Phoebe grows up and so does Paul. Phoebe is slow but learns at her own pace and Paul blooms into a wonderful musician. Both children know nothing of one another and David and Norah’s marriage crumbles under the weight of this lie. After David’s unexpected death Caroline Gill returns to Kentucky to share the secret to Norah and Paul.

Character tree

Character Tree

Norah Henry

David Henry

Phoebe “Henry” Gill

Paul Henry

Caroline Gill

Caroline becomes Phoebe’s “adoptive” mother.

Character analysis david henry

Character Analysis: David Henry

  • David Henry is a made up identity. David tries to run from his childhood by not correcting a typo on a college acceptance letter. Instead David takes this new name as an opportunity to start over and to “change the world”. Ironically David spends the rest of his life trying to heal the affects of all the lies he tells. David Henry is very protective of his family. He tries to shelter Norah from the pain he saw his parents go through as his sister June died from down syndrome. However hard David tires to protect Norah, he ends up hurting her, when he tells her that her baby girl died. David then tries to run from his own guilt of giving away their daughter by withdrawing into photography. David’s character uses photography as an outlet; trying to capture and freeze a moment that could out weigh the moment when he handed Caroline his daughter. David sees the pain the lie causes Norah and because of the guilt he feels over the lie he turns a blind eye to Norah’s affairs. David tells the secret only to a girl named Rosemary whom he finds when he wanders back to his childhood home. A weight is lifted from his heart upon that confession and shortly after David dies of a heart attack. David blames himself for everything bad that happens to his family.

Character analysis norah henry

Character Analysis: Norah Henry

  • Norah Henry starts the novel out as a young woman that lives in a bubble of happiness, however when that bubble pops and her daughter dies she turns into an overly emotional woman who sees her son as a ticking time bomb. She tries so desperately to hold time into place and protect herself from an unpredictable world. She drifts into a depression that forever puts up an icy wall between her and her husband. She resents David, saying that he doesn’t care. The distance between her and David begins to affect her relationship with her son, Paul. She deals with the emptiness she feels inside by having countless affairs and by becoming a work-a-holic. When Caroline reappears and explains that Phoebe is in fact alive and well this almost drives her insane. She begins to hate David for dying and leaving her to deal with this burden on her own, however she then realizes the reason for her failed marriage, her strained relationship with Paul, and much more.

Character analysis caroline gill

Character Analysis: Caroline Gill

  • Caroline Gill is a young woman who lives a simple life. She follows the rules that are set into place for her by society. She secretly is in love with David but she is too shy to reveal this even when he is not married. The night that David hands Phoebe to her, she is shocked and does as she is told, taking the baby to the institution. However when Caroline takes Phoebe and decides to raise her as her own, this choice changes Caroline. She becomes an outspoken, opinionated woman who will fight for what she wants. She fights for Phoebe’s education and medical care, she lives a life of uncertainty and trials, and she marries a man she meets on the road; all of this is not in the cards society gave her to play. After David dies, Caroline realizes that she is not the heroic individual that she makes herself out to be and that in taking Phoebe she is partly at fault for the secret that tears Norah apart.

Character analysis paul henry

Character Analysis: Paul Henry

  • Paul is a typical boy who is adventurous, rebellious, and witty. He grows up with his mother and father together, yes, but sees that their marriage is anything but perfect. He resents his father for going against his musical dreams and he hates his mother for cheating on his father. He blames himself for his sister’s death and always thinks that there was something that he could have done to save her. He drifts from his parents and begins traveling abroad to study music where he is told that his father has died of a heart attack. Grief stricken, Paul returns to the states only to find that his sister is alive and that she is mentally retarded. This idea horrifies David. He believes that by meeting her she will become his burden.

Character analysis phoebe henry

Character Analysis: Phoebe “Henry”

  • Phoebe is a happy, carefree girl who learns early in life that she is different. She learns at a slow pace but doesn’t let her disabilities get in the way. As Phoebe gets older she learns how to hold a job at a copy place where she thrives and makes new friends. She meets Robert there, the man she tells her mother that she wants to marry. Phoebe does not see the sadness that the world offers people, yet she is very good at sensing when other people are upset. Phoebe tries to be independent by riding the bus to work alone and taking care of her cat, Rain; however her naïve outlook on the world jeopardizes her safety. Phoebe feels that everyone is good a heart.

Analysis of minor characters

Analysis of Minor Characters

  • Bree: is Norah’s sister. She is Norah’s foil character. She lets life do what it will without fear, in other words she is a hippy. She helps Norah try to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

  • Al: is Caroline’s husband. He is never hurt by the lie that Phoebe is not Caroline’s daughter. His love for Phoebe helps her become the person that she is, down syndrome or not.

  • Rosemary: is a young girl whom David finds living in his old, abandoned childhood home. He brings Rosemary home after he discovers that she is alone, scared , and pregnant. Rosemary is the only person outside the original lie with whom he shares the secret. He flat out tells her that he gave away his daughter and by doing so somehow frees himself of most of the guilt.

  • Michelle: makes an appearance very briefly in the novel. She is Paul’s girlfriend. She pushes away Paul’s wish for marriage and children. In a way she is a mixture of Caroline’s strength of will and Norah’s stubbornness.

Motifs and themes

Motifs and Themes

  • The need for society to accept developmentally disabled children.

  • The joys and trials of raising a child.

  • The weight of secrets.

  • The sorrow of a crumbling marriage.

  • Photography

  • Freezing Time

Major literary and rhetorical devices

Major Literary and Rhetorical Devices

  • The way in which the author narrates the novel by shifting back and forth from David’s life with Paul and Caroline’s life with Phoebe. By putting their lives parallel to one another the reader is shown just how much the lie affects all of their lives.

  • The sections of the book divided by the date.

  • The foil characters of Norah and Caroline who find out in the end that they are not that different.

  • Flashbacks are used to show regret.

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