Anna’s Op Ed: Lena and the Past

Lena, still uninfected with the deliria, breaks the fourth wall* to tell us about the past and how it will only hinder future decisions.

I’ll tell you another secret, this one for your own good. You may think the past has something to tell you. You may think that you should listen, should strain to make out its whispers, should bend over backward, stoop down low to hear its voice breathed up from the ground, from the dead places. You may think there’s something in it for you, something to understand or make sense of. But I know the truth: I know from the nights of Coldness. I know the past will drag you backward and down, have you snatching at whispers of wind and the gibberish of trees rubbing together, trying to decipher some code, trying to piece together what was broken. It’s hopeless. The past is nothing but a weight. It will build inside of you like a stone. Take it from me: If you hear the past speaking to you, feel it tugging at your back and running its fingers up your spine, the best thing to do—the only thing—is run.

Oliver, Lauren (2011-08-02). Delirium: The Special Edition (pp. 157-158). Harper Collins, Inc.. Kindle Edition.

In this quote, Lena is adamant that dwelling on the past will only hurt you and your future. At this point in the novel, she has just learned that Alex is an Invalid, an uncured from the Wilds. Lena tells the reader that “the past is nothing but a weight” because she doesn’t want to follow in her mother’s uncured footsteps.

Is Lena right? Does the past just bog you down? More after the jump.

Lena’s past is ridden with dark secrets: her mother’s forbidden love, her father’s death, her sister’s deliria, and her aunt’s sympathies with the resistance. So it is natural that Lena would offer advice to the reader urging them to resist the past’s influence and focus solely on the present and the future. But George Orwell, author of the famed 1984, another dystopian novel, makes an excellent point:

Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past.

George Orwell

What I understand from Orwell’s quote is that in order to be really in control of yourself, you must be in control of your present and your past. Only then can you ascertain the future you desire. Is Lena in full control of her life?

I think not.

To run away from something (her past) is not to control it. By avoiding dealing with the implications of her dark past and the actions of those around her, Lena gives up that control. She tries to run away from it. She even urges us that “the best thing to do—the only thing—is run.” Thus, instead of harnessing the past in light of a better future, Lena decides that the escapist’s route is the better one to take.

How does this factor into the bigger picture of Delirium? By reverse property of Orwell’s quote, if Lena does not control her past, she does not control her future nor her present. Essentially, she is handing off her fate into unknown hands. And who happens to be on the receiving end of her offer? Why, none other than Alex Sheathes. Lena’s story (for the majority of Delirium) is a happy one, a tale of love and discovery. But what would have happened had Alex not miraculously come along? Surely, Lena would have undergone the cure and spent the rest of her days silently haunted by the darkness she never conquered.

I don’t think that Lena’s avoidance of her past makes her weak, however. I think it is natural, something that each of us has done at one point or another. And it is important to remember that by the end of Delirium, and clearly throughout Pandemonium, Lena does take control of her past. She goes to the Crypts and accepts her mother for who she really was. When she is caught at 37 Brooks and brought back to her aunt Carol, she recognizes Carol and her sister for the lifeless drones they have really become under the cure. Once she does this, she accepts her past and chooses her own future: a future in the Wilds, a future of freedom and of love.

Discussing how Lena’s past affects her in Pandemonium would be a whole other article, perhaps one I will write in the near future. Or perhaps you will draw your own conclusions. But one thing we can all agree on is this: Lena has a colorful past filled with valleys and crevices of hopes and dreams and reality. What comes in Requiem will be a manifestation of her past, indeed.

*breaking the fourth wall: to address the reader/viewer directly, thus shattering her suspension of disbelief

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