Study Guide

Cutting for Stone Memory and the Past

By Abraham Verghese

Memory and the Past

Cutting for Stone is one of those come-full-circle novels: it begins where it ends, and it ends where it begins. It's about a man returning to the exact room where he was born and sitting down a desk there to write the story of his life, even beginning it long before he was actually born. You gotta have mad memory skills to undertake something like that.

The past works like an anchor in the novel. It hangs around everyone's neck so that they can't escape it, wherever they go—though that doesn't stop anyone from trying. Characters are running from their past left and right, but the narrator's memory—along with some help from fate—drags the past right back to the page.

Questions About Memory and the Past

  1. Which images or symbols does the author use to signify the past in Cutting for Stone?
  2. Why does the narrator feel the need to write the story?
  3. How do you think Marion learned so much about things that happened before he was born?

Chew on This

In Cutting for Stone, the past has a tight hold on the present.

The novel shows how our memories can go back beyond our own lives to encompass our parents' lives as well.