“It is better not to be different from one’s fellows. The ugly and the stupid have the best of it in this world. They can sit at their ease and gape at the play. If they know nothing of victory, they are at least spared the knowledge of defeat. They live as we all should live, undisturbed, indifferent, and without disquiet. They neither bring ruin upon others, nor receive it from alien hands.”
The Picture of Dorian Gray, Oscar Wilde
“You know what I’ve discovered. Ignorance is bliss.”
The Matrix, Warner Brothers
We find the character Lennie in Steinbeck’s novel Of Mice and Men. We find the same character in the Nolan brothers’ film Memento. Lennie and Lenny have a lot in common. In Steinbeck’s novel Of Mice and Men, the story ends with Lennie’s best friend shooting him in the back of the head. In Memento, the story is told backward and it begins with Lenny shooting his best friend in the back of the head. He doesn’t remember it. Lenny has a memory problem. He suffers from anterograde amnesia. His head injury prevents his brain from forming new memories. Lennie also has a memory problem in Steinbeck’s novel. His constant refrain is, “I forgot.” These characters share one last tragic flaw. They kill what they desire. Every Lenny kills what he desires. Lennie kills the field mice in Of Mice and Men. He keeps them as pets in his pocket, but his clumsy thick hands unintentionally kill them. He also unintentionally kills his pet puppy, and finally, he unintentionally kills a young woman while stroking her hair. Lenny also kills the woman he desires in Memento. He unintentionally kills his wife. The film Memento is the novel Of Mice and Men, played backward at high speed. The same character plays forward and backward in both stories in great detail. Two men with the same name, suffering from memory problems, unintentionally kill the women they desire. You don’t need a degree in statistics to realize that the random probability of these stories having so many similarities is off the charts. The Nolan brothers aren’t copying Steinbeck. In fact, the brothers aren’t aware of the parallels between their story and Steinbeck’s story. This isn’t cryptomnesia. A forgotten memory can surface without you recognizing it is a memory. That doesn’t explain why the Nolan brothers incorporate elements of the waking hero you don’t find in Of Mice and Men. They do this when they break the mirror in Memento. Lenny spends a lot of time in front of the mirror. It reflects the world he wants to see. When the mirror breaks—he falls asleep. A vampire cannot look at a cross, and the hero who refuses to wake, cannot look in a broken mirror. The Waking Hero can look in a broken mirror. Neo does this when he wakes in The Matrix. John Murdock looks in a broken mirror when he wakes in Dark City. Bulcsú looks in a broken mirror when he wakes in Kontrol. David Aames looks in a broken mirror when he wakes in Vanilla Sky. You get the idea—the waking hero looks in a broken mirror. How do the Nolan brothers know that? That detail doesn’t appear in Steinbeck’s story. It seems something else is influencing the brothers.
This influence appears in The Matrix. The characters Neo and Cypher are in love with Trinity. Neo doesn’t try to kill her. However, Cypher does try to kill Trinity. Cypher says, “You know what I’ve discovered. Ignorance is bliss.” He goes on, “They’re going to reinsert my body. I’ll go back to sleep…” Cypher refuses to wake. And this puts desire at risk. You have to face your fear to reach the object of your desire.
Lenny will never face his fear. He will never have a new idea. He cannot grow, or evolve, or change. His current state is permanent. He is the personification of the sleeping masses. Just like Lenny, the sleeping masses know who they are, but they will never change, or have a new thought.