Memento (2000)

Brief Intro

“Memento,” directed by Christopher Nolan, is a psychological thriller that follows Leonard Shelby, a man with short-term memory loss, as he tries to piece together clues to find his wife’s killer. The film’s unique non-linear narrative structure mirrors Leonard’s fragmented memory, creating a gripping and thought-provoking experience.

Literary Devices Used in Memento

Here are 10 literary devices used in “Memento,” with specific examples from the movie:


Movie SceneDevice Example
Leonard remembering his wife’s attackThis flashback reveals Leonard’s motivation.
Leonard’s memories of Sammy JankisUsed to explain Leonard’s condition and the theme of memory.


Movie SceneDevice Example
Leonard’s tattoosThey hint at his quest for revenge and clues he’s gathered.
Conversations with TeddySubtle hints about Teddy’s true intentions and identity.


Movie SceneDevice Example
Leonard’s Polaroid photosSymbolize memory and the impermanence of his knowledge.
The use of mirrorsReflects Leonard’s fractured identity and self-awareness.


Movie SceneDevice Example
Leonard’s quest for truthIronic because his memory issues make the truth elusive.
Trusting tattoosIronic as tattoos are permanent, but his memory is not.


Movie SceneDevice Example
Leonard’s tattoosRepeatedly shown to emphasize his reliance on them.
Sammy Jankis storyRecurs to highlight themes of memory and guilt.

Non-linear Narrative

Movie SceneDevice Example
Opening scene played backwardsEstablishes the film’s unique narrative style.
Intercutting between color and black-and-white sequencesRepresents different timelines and Leonard’s state of mind.

Unreliable Narrator

Movie SceneDevice Example
Leonard’s voiceoversHis own accounts are questionable due to his condition.
Teddy’s revelationsCast doubt on Leonard’s perspective and motivations.

Symbolic Colors

Movie SceneDevice Example
Black-and-white sequencesRepresent Leonard’s objective reality.
Color sequencesIndicate subjective, present experiences.


Movie SceneDevice Example
Leonard’s conditionHe forgets everything but remembers he has a condition.
Seeking revengeHis quest relies on memory, yet he has none.


Movie SceneDevice Example
References to “Sammy Jankis”Alludes to Leonard’s own condition and guilt.
Dialogue about memory and identityEchoes philosophical debates on these topics.

Character Analysis Through Literary Devices

Leonard Shelby

Literary DeviceExplanation
Unreliable NarratorLeonard’s memory loss makes him an unreliable source of information, creating suspense and ambiguity.
FlashbacksProvide insight into his motivations and past, shaping the audience’s understanding of his character.

Teddy (John Edward Gammell)

Literary DeviceExplanation
IronyTeddy’s true identity and motives are hidden, creating dramatic irony as the audience learns more than Leonard.
ForeshadowingEarly hints and clues about Teddy’s duplicity are scattered throughout the film.


Literary DeviceExplanation
MotifHer manipulative behavior is a recurring element, highlighting themes of trust and deception.
SymbolismHer actions symbolize the moral ambiguity present in Leonard’s world.

Character Dynamics

Literary DeviceExplanation
IronyRelationships are built on lies and half-truths, reflecting the theme of unreliable memory.
SymbolismInteractions between characters often symbolize broader themes of truth and deception.

Thematic Analysis

Memory and Identity

Non-linear NarrativeReflects the fragmented nature of Leonard’s memory and identity.
FlashbacksProvide pieces of Leonard’s past, highlighting the theme of memory’s role in shaping identity.

Truth and Deception

Unreliable NarratorLeonard’s condition makes it difficult to discern the truth.
IronyCharacters’ deceptive actions underscore the elusive nature of truth.

Revenge and Justice

MotifLeonard’s tattoos and notes repeatedly emphasize his quest for revenge.
ForeshadowingEarly hints suggest the moral complexities of Leonard’s pursuit of justice.

Cinematic Techniques That Enhance Literary Devices

Visual and Sound Techniques

Literary DeviceTechniqueExplanation
FlashbacksNon-linear editingMimics Leonard’s disjointed memory, enhancing the narrative structure.
Symbolic ColorsColor gradingDistinguishes between timelines and states of mind, aiding audience comprehension.
Unreliable NarratorVoiceoverLeonard’s voiceovers provide insight into his thoughts, but also introduce doubt.

Key Scene Analysis

Scene Selection

Scene 1: Opening Sequence Watch on YouTube

  • Breakdown: The scene plays in reverse, immediately disorienting the viewer and setting the tone for the film’s narrative style. It establishes Leonard’s condition and his obsession with his wife’s murder.

Scene 2: Leonard’s Encounter with Teddy Watch on YouTube

  • Breakdown: This scene reveals the twist about Teddy’s identity and intentions. It uses dialogue and character interaction to underscore themes of deception and truth.

Scene 3: Leonard and Natalie’s Confrontation Watch on YouTube

  • Breakdown: This scene highlights the manipulative dynamics between Leonard and Natalie, using symbolism and irony to enhance the thematic exploration of trust and betrayal.


Interactive Quiz

  1. What literary device is primarily used in the opening sequence of “Memento”?
  2. How does the film’s non-linear narrative structure relate to Leonard’s condition?
    • A) It represents his disjointed memory.
    • B) It highlights his obsession with revenge.
    • C) It symbolizes his guilt.
    • D) It creates suspense.
  3. Which character is revealed to have a hidden agenda towards the end of the film?
    • A) Natalie
    • B) Teddy
    • C) Sammy Jankis
    • D) Leonard
  4. What do Leonard’s tattoos symbolize?
    • A) His quest for knowledge
    • B) His memories
    • C) His guilt
    • D) His revenge
  5. Which literary device is used to create ambiguity about the truth in Leonard’s narrative?

Answer Key: 1-B, 2-A, 3-B, 4-D, 5-C