Individual Blog Post Written By Zachary Gebben
The Memory of Love, written by Aminatta Forna, illustrates many different variations of symbolism, structure, and foreshadowing. One of the most unique findings that I have come across in this book is the difference in motivation between Adrian and Kai. Both men are in similar lines of work; Kai is a surgeon, Adrian is a psychologist. Keeping in mind that they come from different backgrounds and cultures, I find it alarmingly ironic how different their motivations are.
For starters, Kai is a noble man. He is originally from Africa which makes him extremely comfortable with the surrounding culture in Sierra Leone. Kai, as stated previously, is a surgeon. His passion for what he does for a living is undeniable. Forna illustrates a scene where both Kai and Seligmann, two surgeons, possess similar interests in what they do in a descriptive manner, “Opposites on the surface, the same beneath the skin, both men thrive only in the theatre, a scalpel in their hand, a human body on the table” (Forna, pg. 243). Clearly exemplified here, Kai truly enjoys his line of work. He wanted to help the lives of others through the utilization of the pedestal his job provides him.
Not only does Kai love being a surgeon, but he wants to be the best at what he does. In the scene where Kai is at the bar sharing dialogue with Adrian he states, “To be the best, I guess. Just that. Me and Tejani, he was my friend back then. We never imagined it any other way” (Forna, pg. 105). Tejani had gone off to America and pursued his dreams as a surgeon. In an indirect manner, the author seems to paint an illustration for the reader where it seems as if Kai, too, wants to pursue his dreams outside of Sierra Leone. Excellence and passion are Kai’s two underlying motives as a surgeon.
On the other hand, Adrian is a bit difference. Unlike Kai, Adrian has not lived in Africa his entire life. Originally Adrian was from Britain but wanted to pursue work elsewhere as a psychologist. He left his wife behind in Britain and went to Sierra Leone on his own. In contrast to Kai, Adrian isn’t so sure if he loves what he does as a psychologist. He is ‘okay’ as a psychologist, at best. The motivation behind why Adrian does what he does is the need to find some sort of purpose in this world. His entire life, up until Sierra Leone, he could not find this sense of purpose. “The truth is that since arriving here his life has seemed more charged with meaning than it ever had in London. Here the boundaries are limitless, no horizon, no sky. He can feel his emotions, solid and weighty, like stones in the palm of his hands. Everything matters more” (Forna, pg. 228). It seems as if Adrian has found the purpose he’s been looking for which was presumably his underlying motive.
Agnes comes around somewhere throughout The Memory of Love and as a reader we quickly see that there is some sort of obsession that motivates Adrian beyond his need to find a purpose. It seems that Adrian found a purpose in life through his career, but he wasn’t completed satisfied with being a psychologist quite yet; he needed more motivation. Adrian’s unfulfillment in finding a pure motive to work led to his obsession with Agnes. Not only did Adrian love to observe Agnes in the mental ward, but at one point in the book, chapter 23, Adrian sees Agnes in public and follows her to her house. As a result, Agnes’ son-in-law “walks him home” but really beats the snot out of him. It becomes quite obvious that Adrian cannot help but be motivated by obsession, specifically his obsession with Agnes.
In conclusion, the motivation within each individual throughout life can vary. What stood out to me was the contrast between these two close friends who happen to be within similar fields of work; it is a bit astounding. Kai is motivated by his passion for being a surgeon and the idea of becoming successful like his friend Tajani. On the other hand, Adrian is originally motivated to find some sort of purpose as a psychologist, but once he achieves this, obsession takes over and controls his well-being. Motivation is everywhere, but isn’t it ironic how the motivation within an individual leads them in a completely different path of life than if their motivation were something different? Motivation is the vehicle that drives our lives. Kai is being driven towards success and love for his career. Adrian is being driven towards lack of fulfillment and an obsession that will ultimately hurt himself and those around him.