The Power of Memory
Memories are all powerful in Boom and have a significant influence on how character behaves, what motivates them and how they have developed. It is linked in a wider sense with Jean Tay’s interest in the loss of memories – memories of the past, such as personal memories, but also of shared common space, like HDB flats and popular national monuments like the National Library or the National Stadium.

What are the significant memories in Boom?

l Boon being tied to the tree as a child by his father
l Boon dressing up in red underwear and pretending to be Superman
l Mother’s memory of the tree & being given the house by her husband
l Jeremiah’s memory of his mother’s funeral & speaking to the corpse
l Jeremiah’s memory of being punished on the school basketball court
l The corpse has no memories.

What influence do these memories have?

l They give the characters motivation to do things in the present day e.g. Boon wants to leave the flat, Jeremiah’s concern for the corpse
l They help us to understand the character’s motivation and personal qualities e.g. why Boon hates his father and does not want to become like him.
l The lack of a memory (in the case of the corpse) means that you can be forgotten and become unimportant.
l There is a danger of becoming too involved in your memories and losing touch of the present e.g. Mother does not appreciate the present because she is lost in the past.
l Memories inhabit more than a physical space, so in the case of the flat, even when Boon leaves it, he is still heavily influenced by what happened there and cannot escape from his memories.

A sample essay on the topic of memories
How are memories important for characters in the play?
Memories are important all of us – they shape the person we become, how we view our past and what our motivation is for the future. This is seen throughout Boom, but particularly in the characters of Boon, Mother and Jeremiah, for whom memory plays a hugely important role. For some character, such as Jeremiah and Boon, memories can be very negative things which shape their entire behaviour and character. For Mother, her memories are both negative and positive, so play a more confusing role.

For Boon, memories are important to reading his character and behaviour. His memory of being tied to a tree by his father, and left all night, has become something which affects his whole life. We do not learn of the specifics of the memory until the end of Act One, but when we do, we understand why Boon is so determined to leave the flat. In his monologue in Act One, Scene 5 he talks about ‘Residue’ and ‘Stains’ which ‘cling’ to the flat and cannot be removed, despite his mother’s scrubbing. Even when he eventually leaves his mother in Act One, Scene 19 and moves into the showflat, he still cannot get away from his father, who ‘appears’ and reminds him of his inadequacies, ‘You don’t belong in a place like this.’ His entire character and behaviour is shaped by what has happened to him and it is only at the end of the play that we see Boon happy and perhaps beginning to be free of his past memories where ‘a transcendental smile lights up his face’.

Similar to Boon, Jeremiah memories’ are also important to his character. After ‘speaking’ to the Corpse in Act One, Scene 6, Jeremiah confides in a colleague that since his mother’s death when he was eight, he has been able to speak to corpses. He is traumatized by what happened to them, and as a result of this, it leads him to help to corpse find out who he is to try and avoid him being relocated. He tells the corpse, ‘please, you’ve got to tell me […] about dying’, showing that he does not just help the corpse out of his own will, but out of a desire to put to rest the deaths of his parents. Also, he speaks of being punished in a school basketball court, showing that he has always been a victim and bullied, like he is with the Director throughout the play.

For Mother, memories become something which help her to survive, and cope in the increasingly modern world she is inhabiting. She seems to live entirely in the past and resists all attempts to try and change this. We see very early on, in Act One, Scene Two, that memories are important to Mother, as the flat is filled with statues which remind her of things like her honeymoon. Also, she constantly refers to the memory of Boon running around the flat dressed as Superman, something he claims not to remember (although we realize quickly that he does), which is something which gives her pleasure and makes her smile. We see her memories as a young woman, being shown around her first flat by her new husband and being introduced to her tree, a symbol of the past which she cannot forget and move away from, as they remind her of happier times which she no longer experiences. However, there is a part of Mother which is preventing her from experiencing happier times now, which is her abandonment by her husband and how things went wrong with him. So although she loves her tree because it reminds her of happier times, it also reminds her of sadness in the past, which she has not recovered from. She does not know what happened to her husband until the end of the play and will not allow herself to move on, perhaps in the expectation that he will return and she will be able to get on with her life or scold him.

Clearly memory is a very difficult force in Boom. Although it can be a positive thing for characters like Mother, remembering good times with her son and husband, it seems generally to be a negative force which prevents characters from moving or and controls their present day actions. Mother certainly does not seem happy even at the end of the play, as she cannot let go of her memories. It is only by letting go of the past – chopping down the tree or helping the corpse to be re-located – that characters can move on and be happy.