Mara Dyer's Flashbacks

Michelle Hodkins third installment on her Mara Dyer series, The Retribution of Mara Dyer, is a roller coaster of non linear literature. Michelle uses flashbacks which creates a story with many twists and turns. Michelle’s use of flashbacks is to intensify the reader’s understanding of the book by giving them comprehension of a character’s past while also making it non linear. This keeps the reader wondering throughout the book. This style of writing affects the content of the book because it constantly switches back and forth from past and present.

In The Retribution Of Mara Dyer, Michelle Hodkin has flashback chapters that are separated from the regular chapters. These flashback chapters are titled ‘Before’ and appear randomly throughout the book. In the story, readers begin to realize that the flashbacks are being slowly released. Readers think that this is a way to not overwhelm the readers with a huge chapter filled with just one giant flashback. So far in the flashback chapters, readers have read about a young girl who have traveled from India to London to live with her benefactor’s wife. In chapter 20, one of the many ‘before’ chapters, readers see the young girl having a conversation with her benefactors wife, whom the young girl called ‘Aunt’. There’s not much insight on who these people are which keeps the readers curious. One passage from the story that shows this is, “There is power in a name” Sister had said. I did not want to give out the one I’d shared only with her and Uncle, so I’d given anyone else who had asked a different one instead. The name I had given to my doll, before I’d known what it meant/ I decided to give Aunt Sarah the same one. “Mara,” I told her…” - Page 151.  This flashback leaves readers with shock and leaves them engrossed in the book. They are shocked to find out that this girl in the flashbacks is the main character, Mara, but they also want to know how her past correlates with her future. They also want to keep reading. Sure, the author could have released this information in the beginning, and it still would have contained the same information, but it would have taken away from the non linear trend as well as the nagging curiosity it leaves on the readers.

Flashback chapters are not only a way to keep a reader on a non linear roller coaster, but they are also a way to give the reader insight on a character’s past. Little by little, the reader gains more and more insight on who Mara is. Not only do they learn more about her, but with context clues the readers slowly begin to realize that these flashbacks seem to not happen in Mara’s time period. In chapter 43 (before), we read about how Mara has to leave the town she lives in with her professor due to some unexpected occurrences.

“It had been over a century since I fled London with the professor, and yet he still treated me like a child.” - Page 290. Flashbacks like these make the reader realize that maybe the main character has had past lives, or that she might be older than she seems. There could be endless possibilities, but without spoiling it, the two listed above are just a few things that could be possible in this book.

Since the book constantly switches from past and present, readers are always trying to make connections between the two; the readers feel a need to always put two and two together since the book is filled with many mysteries. The readers also begin to realize that all the flashback chapters create their own story within the book seeing as how they pick up where the other flashback is left off.  In chapter 24 (before), we read about Mara’s ‘Aunt’ setting her up with someone so that they could marry.

“But I was presented at court anyway, and engaged six months later. My fiance was sweet and shy, and he loved me. Our engagement lasted three months. He died on our wedding night, just before dawn.” - Page 179. With these flashbacks, readers will constantly try to find out how her past relates with her present. In the present, readers know that Mara has a long term boyfriend named Noah, who she loves very much; but when these chapters appear, readers try to figure out how any of this leads to Mara’s present. Readers also slowly realize that the flashbacks are their own story within the story which adds on to the non linear feel of this book.

In the end, readers acknowledge just how important these flashbacks are. They add onto the story as well as filling in detail. Other readers have noticed the importance of the flashbacks as well; a review from Vilma’s Book Blog shows that. We see past (“before”) and present finally converge, as answers start to peek through the subtext of the story, making connections we never could’ve imagined. Mara’s quest for answers… for a solution… gets bloodier and more gruesome by the day as we inch towards the climactic end.” With flashbacks, readers can slowly find out how the main character became who they are. They can also find out more about other characters as well through flashbacks. Readers also stay hooked on the book through the flashbacks because of their random occurrences and the shock factor that they hold. Those random appearances keep the readers on their toes and they keep them wanting more. The flashbacks also cause the book to have an unusual feel due to it being non linear. Lastly, this writing style is a unique way to give readers insight without just simply stating it. The constant switch from past and present takes its toll on the reader the deeper they read into it.

Comments (3)

Jacob Norman (Student 2017)
Jacob Norman
  1. From this essay I learned how separating flashbacks into different chapters is easier for the reader to understand.
  2. A technique from this essay I would consider borrowing is how character descriptions are clear and at the same time the info given on them does not reveal too much plot.
DuBois Stewart (Student 2017)
DuBois Stewart

1.I learned that flashbacks can be used to enhance the reader's understanding of the story and makes the reader start to look for them when used in a story. 2.The style of writing part of a flashback then coming back to it in a separate chapter is an interesting way to write a book. I feel like this is a technique I don't use enough that I could start utilizing.

Shaina-Nicole Keenan (Student 2017)
Shaina-Nicole Keenan

I learned that this novel is a roller coaster, with twist and turns between the main character's past and present. There is no technique I would take; although, I loved her opening paragraph, but some of her content confused me.