I actually struggled with this archetype for quite some time. I felt like The Writer to describe Terese Marie Mailhot in her memoir Heart Berries was just too basic. Describing a memoirist as The Writer, how boring! But I also struggled to come up with another archetype. In the end, The Writer just seemed to be the most accurate archetype to describe Mailhot.
My Story was Maltreated
Unlike every other book we’ve looked at on this blog, Heart Berries is not fictional. It’s because of this that I had so much trouble coming up with an archetype. I worried about removing agency from Mailhot, that I would be treating her as if she were fictional if I talked about what archetypal tropes she falls into or subverts throughout the book. Mailhot begins her book by saying that her story had been maltreated. I did not want to add anything to that maltreatment by treating Mailhot as a work of fiction.
Eventually, I came back around to The Writer. It may be basic, but it is also a perfect description of Mailhot. I see this as an updated version of The Storyteller. For Mailhot, it is not just the act of telling her story that is so important, it is the act of writing it down. She writes when she is in the hospital. It is her way of processing, both her traumatic childhood and her relationship with Casey. From an interview with Mailhot:
“Once you start writing, you can look at your life in a way you never did before.”
The process of writing this memoir was seemingly linked with Mailhot’s own process of acknowledging and coping with her past trauma, and in turn coping with the ways her past trauma affected her current relationship.
When Mailhot began writing, it was with the intention to then fictionalize it. Instead, she took the fictionalized version, stripped away everything that hadn’t actually happened to her, and completed it as a memoir. I wonder if Mailhot’s story would have had the same effect on readers if it had been a fictionalized version? Personally, I’m glad it ended up as a memoir. I feel the emotional punch, the rawness, may have been tamped down if Mailhot had fictionalized it. Telling stories is cathartic, but there’s a special kind of catharsis writers get from telling their own, personal story.
One Last Thought
Is that a picture of Emma Watson holding a copy of Heart Berries up there? It sure is. I found out that she had once selected this book for her online book club, and I just had to use that picture. I am a Harry Potter fan first, and a human being second.