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The Power to Forget

James’ explanation of “The Power to Forget” immediately caught my attention considering most people seem to view forgetfulness as neglectful and may even define it as a cowardly characteristic. Conversely, James describes his father’s murder and why the need to forget is essential in maintaining sanity and continuing everyday life. Arguments are made based on the practicality of the difficulties of forgiveness as well as the desire for revenge. James makes references of his opposition to the common public literature theme of killing and revenge. He also demonstrates the minority perspective, an aspect to always have in mind when discussing public life.

While many may expect the tone of this essay to be revengeful due to an unjust killing, James’ tone is not bitter, but optimistic. He is accepting of the fact that hatred cannot be in command of his life. “I have tried my very best to forget him. It was that, or succumb to the hatred that threatened to define my life.” James effectively makes the distinction between the popular literary theme of revenge and his own belief. This tactic is very effective because it expresses the clear strength of having a minority opinion. In the last paragraph James uses a series of questions to create the reader to reflect about his overall healthy perspective on life. “How often have more people had to die because of a fixation on a memory?” He also refrains from using “I” and begins to use “we” in order to see the overall picture and make the reader feel included. “How much better would things be if we could just clean the slate, forget the offenses we've suffered and the ones we've inflicted, and move on?”

Anger is a common response that consumes the lives of those who have suffered, and I believe the power to avert ones self away from those feelings is where James is able to use and completely justify the term the power to forget. I chose this essay because I was able to parallel the importance of being able to forget with the events in my own life. I experienced tragic events as a child that could have impaired my life forever without my ability to forget.


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