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Awakenings - a review

The following represents Arthur's opinions only and not necessarily those of Christie.

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Theory of Personality
 

 

1.   What was Dr Sayer looking for?

During his initial job interview to provide care for a group of patients suffering from encephalitis lethargica, Dr Sayer was surprised when he heard that he was hired.  When asked about his experience working with people, he described a futile scientific endeavor that spanned several years where he experimented in isolation with several tons of earthworms.  It was apparent to me early in this film that Dr Sayer was a man troubled by loneliness and wrought with an intense need to find purpose in his life.  In his case, he engaged himself in a lifelong scientific pursuit to discover a medical scientific breakthrough.  In his eyes, he was simply looking for a medical miracle that would save the lives of many.   He would be considered a good person, a servant of humanity, and one worthy of honor.   This would give him validation from his peers, status as a scientist, and a feeling of great self-worth.  So devoted Dr Sayer was in his quest for validation, that he completely retreated into the solitary world of a single man and his laboratory.  The effects of this were evident in his character; hesitancy, reclusiveness, a lack of confidence, and a predisposition not to engage are observed numerous times throughout the film.  His relentless, solitary quest for purpose and validation had robbed him of the joy of relationships, and the light of life.

 

2.  Why do you think he was so absorbed in his work?

I believe Dr Sayer would tell us that he was working towards a higher purpose, holding onto and working towards a hope that no other scientist was willing to try.  To him, these patients are alive inside, not merely catatonic bodies.  It is a noble endeavor, indeed, to take upon oneself the responsibility for setting free and bringing to bear the life inside his patients.  He would tell us that his work is an honorable work, his pursuits hopeful and revolutionary.  He would encourage us not to lose faith, or give up on science.  Yet having little else to live for, the goal of making a scientific breakthrough became his driving force and single motivation in life.  Having empty rooms to go home to drove him to find purpose in life as a matter of making a singular accomplishment.  The risk in this, of course, is that if he fails to make his long-sought discovery, the quest for purpose fails, and thus Dr. Sayer has, in a sense, his very life at stake.  Because of the high stakes, he pours himself completely into his work ever searching for the one discovery that he believes will give him the life hes always longed for.  Yet as he himself later discovers, the search for purpose simply through science is a futile endeavor.  It may make one a brilliant scientist, but can still leave the heart lonely.  In many ways, I felt sad for Dr. Sayer, wishing that I could extend a hand of friendship to him, which I believe was something he lacked in life.