WARNING: THIS NODE MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS.
Reading the past nodes, I noticed that no one has gone into detail about the Sammy Jankis sub-story. It seems to be quite important seeing as how the monochrome
scenes mostly deal with who Sammy was and why Leonard feels the need to remember him.
To give background
on Sammy: Leonard met Sammy through the company Leonard worked for which was an insurance company. Leonard was a claims investigator. After being in an accident, Sammy developed the same condition that Leonard is paralyzed with. Because Leonard detected a hint of recognition when he went to visit Sammy, he decided that Sammy needed to do more tests to figure out if he was faking. According to research done by Leonard, a person may forget short-term memories
, but through repetition and conditioning
, he/she may be able to learn something new. The section of the brain
dealing with conditioning and acting on instinct
is separate from the section that controls the formation of new memories
Sammy was given a test. He was told to pick up three objects on a table. Some of those objects were electrified. Based on Leonard's findings, Sammy should have, after many trials, learned to not pick up the objects that would shock him. But he never did. Sammy continued to pick up the same objects and continued to get shocked over and over again. The insurance company denied Sammy and his wife their claim on the basis that his disability to form new memories was a psychological
condition and not a physical one. Psychological conditions weren't covered under the Jankis's insurance plan.
Upon hearing that her husband's condition was thought to be psychological, Mrs. Jankis conducted her own little tests on him. For example, she would have him hide food around the house. Her thinking was that when he was hungry enough, he would suddenly start to remember short-term and be able to find the food. He couldn't. Mrs. Jankis tried desperately to get Sammy to "snap out of it
." She thought he was the same Sammy now that he was then. If she thought that his condition was physical, something she knew he couldn't control, then she could learn to let go of the old Sammy and start loving the new Sammy (according to Leonard). As a last attempt, she went to see Leonard to get his opinion. She asked him what he really thought about Sammy's illness. Leonard, thinking she just wanted an answer regardless of what was said, told Mrs. Jankis that he thought Sammy's condition was psychological and not physical.
Ecstatic that there was still hope
, she went home to her husband to conduct one final test. Mrs. Jankis was diabetic
. Her husband administered her insulin
. He knew how to do this because he learned before his accident. One day, she looked at him and said, "Honey, it's time for my shot." He smiled at her, got her syringe
s and insulin ready and proceeding to inject it into her arm. He put the stuff up and sat back down on the chair. She turned her watch back, looked at him and said, "Honey, it's time for my shot." He smiled at her, got her stuff ready and injected the insulin into her stomach. He put the stuff up and sat back down. She repeated this one or two more times (I can't remember, no pun
intended). Finally, Mrs. Jankis went into an insulin-induced coma
and never came out of it. Sammy was placed in either a home or a mental asylum
. He was, as Leonard called him, a dog waiting to be pat on the head. He didn't even realize his wife was dead.
The reason Leonard feels the need to remember Sammy is because Leonard was wrong when he made his "diagnosis" of Sammy. Sammy wasn't a con man
. His brain just didn't respond to conditioning. The recognition Leonard thought he saw in Sammy's eyes was a bluff. "If you think you're supposed to recognize somebody, you pretend to, you bluff it."
However, this is not the end of Sammy. Sammy goes much much further into the depths of Leonard's psyche. Leonard is Sammy, in some respects. As Teddy later explains in the movie, Sammy never had a wife. Leonard's wife survived the assault. Leonard's wife was diabetic
. AND Leonard's wife died of an insulin-induced coma.
There are some scenes that point to this conclusion. In the scene where Sammy is shown sitting in a chair in a home, for a split second, Leonard is shown in the place of Sammy. I didn't even notice it the first two times I watched the movie. The other scene that seems to indicate the same is the scene where Leonard is having a flashback
of his wife. She's brushing her hair and you see her say ow and look down at her thigh. Leonard is giving her an insulin shot. We see the same scene immediately after this one, but when his wife looks down at her thigh, Leonard is just playfully pinching her (this scene was also shown earlier in the movie). The only thing that doesn't make sense about this theory is that, if Leonard's story of Sammy is really a tangled, half made-up, half truth of his own life, then how would Leonard remember Sammy's (Leonard's) wife dying of an overdose of insulin? This happened after the incident where Leonard lost his ability to form new memories.
The only point in this node was to shed some light on the Sammy Jankis story. Basically, Leonard lives in his own reality
and distorts the truth to believe what he wants to believe. One example is when Teddy tells him that the police file Leonard has was complete when Teddy gave it to him. But there are twelve pages missing. Leonard doesn't know who took them out, but Teddy tells him that Leonard did it ("to create a puzzle he couldn't solve). Another clear example of this is when kills Jimmy. Teddy tells him the truth, which Leonard does remember for a little bit, until he's distracted by some other thought ("Can I just let myself forget what you've told me?"). To fool himself into thinking that Teddy did not tell him the truth, he writes on the back of Teddy's photograph "Do not believe his lies." He knows he'll forget his motive behind why he wrote this, but he also knows that he'll believe his own handwriting, not questioning the motive.
Leonard manipulates the truth, knowing full well he won't know he's done it. So he goes on, believing what he wants to believe, but not the truth, which he thinks is the truth because photographs and notes = facts.