History can be defined as “the methodical record of public events” where memory is defined as “the faculty by which events are recalled or kept in mind”. Thus history and memory interrelate as history can be seen as the contextual justification for memory. “The Fiftieth Gate” is a poignant interweaving of history and memory. The text follows protagonist, Mark Baker an historian, son of Holocaust survivors Genia and Yossl (Joe), on an historical journey through memory, to uncover the origins of his past and act as a catalyst for future generations to also connect with their history.
Mark Baker’s journey through history and memory is also executed through his conventional ideas that memory is biased and less valid than history. There are numerous references to the discrepancies between the personal memories of his parents and the documented history Mark as an historian believes. In this way it is apparent that Mark is on a quest for verification, “my facts from the past are different”. This displays the flaw Mark traditionally notes in memory and his need for historical evidence. As responders accompany Mark on his journey, they also encounter the complexity of simultaneously being a son and an historian.
This attested via the following when Mark collates his parent’s memories with documented historical evidence “His was a past written on a page…mother couldn’t point to anyone”. This quote represents the way Mark requires documented evidence, history. This is because he believed his father’s memories only when had had evidence and didn’t believe his mother as she was the sole survivor in the town and could not provide documented evidence to verify her memories.
As the text progresses, Mark does discover testimony of an SS soldier that justified her account, “found something at last… it’s really true”. Through his quote, responders perceive the significance of history and memory. Responders also decipher memory’s ability to add a third dimension of individual emotion and experience to documented history as the supportive historical evidence corresponds with individual memory and allows such emotion to be expressed as this third dimension. This quote also highlights evidence of post modernity. Mark begins to question and challenge his original ides about history, memory and their significance. He challenges the nature to believe that only history is valid as he explores personal accounts – memory, into the discourse of history.
Baker utilises various literary techniques that emulsify the underlying ideas present in the text. Mark adapts a non – linear chronology using time techniques to create fragmentation, he includes flashbacks of memory, to replicate the nature of memory and it’s incoherent fragments. This is evident when Genia flashes back in Gate VIII to her remembrance of the church “ I use to play there on the hills with a sleigh” The text is structured in fifty gates. Each gate represents a new door, which when opened grows closer and closer to unlocking the past using a combination of history