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The Broken Doll: Looking for Memories and Making Sense of Memories

By Ruth Bridgens


The polio epidemics of the 1940s and 1950s created a well-known cultural\ud story of ‘triumph over adversity’ and lesser known private memories, but both\ud were forgotten after the vaccine was discovered. Children were encouraged to\ud get on with it, and not talk about polio or their disabilities. In my research on\ud the narratives of people who had polio and are now looking back at the\ud experience because they have new symptoms, childhood memories are being\ud re-explored. In this paper, I will compare the early memories of two women:\ud one who was searching for a memory which would explain a feeling she was\ud left with from her polio experience, and another who told a story of a broken\ud doll which she came to understand long after our interview. Both women are\ud trying to express the feeling that they were not understood or listened to as\ud children. Kirmayer (1996) suggests the term ‘landscapes of memory’ to\ud describe the different social and personal influences that shape the memories of\ud different types of trauma such as, in his study, the Holocaust and child abuse.\ud Polio experiences were influenced by the cultural and rehabilitation ethic of\ud hard work, silent stoicism, and achievement, but personal memories were often\ud of children isolated from their families, whose stories no one wanted to hear

Topics: HQ, R1, HV
Publisher: University of Huddersfield
Year: 2006
OAI identifier:

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