People have a tendency to hold on to the past for many reasons, but sometimes people need to let things go and move on with their lives. No matter how hard you try to hold on to the past, it’s best to let things be because sometimes those memories can consume you. After reading Jeff Lemire’s newest graphic novel, The Underwater Welder, I began to think of how my own life relates to the theme of holding on to the past. As a graduating senior, this semester in particular I have struggled with trying to hold on to my childhood out of fearing the future. But I’ve learned to let go of my childhood but know it will never leave me because it is apart of who I’ve become today.
In The Underwater Welder we learn the main character, Jack Joseph an oil rig welder, is haunted by a memory of his past and struggles to leave it behind him. Halloween night is the one day of the year Jack hates due the reminder of his father’s death in a diving accident when he was just a boy. He claims to his pregnant wife Susie that he wanted to move home to work as an oil rig welder because the income will help support their growing family. Being an English major is not enough. Gee, thanks, Lemire for calling out English Majors!
Jack begins to experience flashbacks from the tragic day while working on an oil rig. However, reliving these flashbacks take a toll on his life, marriage, and work. He becomes so obsessed with trying to remember what caused his father to drown. Jack neglects Susie by not being by her side at one of her parenting classes with the midwife, saying if he could only figure out what happened then things will be back to normal. The only way for Jack to become a father is if he learns to accept his past and move forward with his life.
Things only take a turn for the worse when Jack slowly becomes his father, physically and mentally. Jack’s obsession leads him to discover that the pocket watch he threw into the water all those years ago was what his father was after. He feels guilty for being the cause of his father’s death, and now must race against the clock to find the watch and witness the birth of his son. While searching for the watch he sees his father and the two embrace one another, making amends of the past.
As we go through life, many events take place: good, bad, and some you wish never happened or will ever happen again. No matter how hard we try to suppress the bad memories, in some way they always come back to haunt us. A certain scent in the air, a song on the radio, or even an article of clothing depending on the event that occurred. It can be hard to let go of these memories; there is the fear that you won’t ever be able to remember those memories and the people with it. But as Jack learned letting go wasn’t such a bad thing, he was able to find the watch, and can now be the perfect father to his newborn son that his father never was.