I am looking for three or more major 20th-century plays, in English,
in which a character "represses" the memory of a traumatic event (such
as, for example, childhood abuse, death of a loved one, etc.) such
that the character is literally unable to remember the event after it
has happened, and where that character "recovers" the memory of that
traumatic event at a later point in the plot. Please briefly explain
what happens in the play in question (the character who "represses"
the memory, what traumatic experience is "repressed," and how and when
the character "recovers" the memory during the course of the plot).
This query is a variant on one that I posed earlier on Google answers,
looking for cases of "repressed" and "recovered" memory appearing
before 1800, and it is a sister to another post going on
simultaneously looking for cases in 20th century novels. It has
proven extremely difficult for people to find cases before 1800, but I
suspect that it will be quite easy to find cases in the 20th century.
Below, I reproduce the text of my earlier Google question, because it
specifies the exact criteria for a case of "repressed" and "recovered"
memory, and provides an example of a qualifying case from a novel just
prior to the 20th-century (Kipling's Captains Courageous). Please
read the text of my earlier question below to satisfy yourself that
any cases that you found meet my criteria.
I have only one other requirement: the play cannot be a story that was
written exclusively as a screenplay for a Hollywood movie, but rather
a theatrical work. Obviously, there are many Hollywood movies in
which individuals "recover supposedly "repressed" memories, such as,
for example, Batman Forever, Prince of Tides, the Butterfly Effect,
etc. The screenplays for such movies do not qualify. However, I am
happy to accept a play that was ultimately made into a Hollywood
movie, divided that it was not written specifically as a screenplay
for a movie in the first place.
Please do not hesitate to get in touch with me if you would like any
To qualify as a bona fide case, the individual described in the work must:
1) Experience a severe trauma (abuse, sexual assault, a near-death
experience, witnessing the death of a loved one, etc.).
2) Develop amnesia for that trauma for a period of months or years
afterwards (i.e. be clearly unable to remember the traumatic event as
opposed to merely trying not to think about the event, or trying to
keep the event out of one's mind).
3) Experience amnesia that cannot be accounted for by biological
factors such as a) early childhood amnesia -- in which the individual
was under the age of five at the time that trauma occurred, or b)
brain impairment -- such as an individual who was knocked unconscious,
or was drunk with alcohol, at the time of the trauma.
4) Recover the lost memory of the event at some later time in the
individual's life, even though the individual has previously been
unable to access the memory.
For a little more detail, the idea of "repressed memory" or
"dissociative amnesia," as it is sometimes also known, refers to the
theory that an individual could experience a serious traumatic event
-- a trauma so serious that it would normally seem unforgettable --
and then develop amnesia for that event (i.e. be literally unable to
remember the event) for months or years afterwards, only to ultimately
recover the lost memory at some point later in life. For example, in
modern novels or screenplays, an individual may experience childhood
abuse, or an assault, or a rape, and then have amnesia for the event
for years afterwards -- almost as if the mind were attempting to
protect the individual against the traumatic memory. Then, the
individual may "recover" the "repressed memory" years later, perhaps
at a moment fraught with considerable emotion.
A literary example that fulfills all of the above criteria is Penn, in
Rudyard Kipling's novel, Captains Courageous, who develops complete
amnesia or for having lost his entire family in a tragic flood. He
later goes to work as a fisherman on a Grand Banks schooner. On one
occasion, after a tragic collision between an ocean liner and another
schooner at sea, Penn suddenly recovers his lost memory of the flood
and the death of his family, and recounts the story to other members
of the crew.