Old Familiar Places

In the scene where Bucky and Marcia make their way back the cabin “hugging and kissing like lovesick teenagers” (200), I couldn’t help but think about how much the song Marcia sings, “I’ll Be Seeing You”, foreshadows Bucky’s terrible fate at the end of the novel.

The song itself was published in 1938 by Sammy Fain and Irving Kahal, and gained a lot of popularity during World War II. To many people during 1944, the song evoked feelings of nostalgia. Families and lovers longed for the soldiers’ return from the war, and everyone yearned for the world to revert back to simpler times. The song was hence often sung in memoriam of those serving in the war.

It was later covered by numerous artists, including Bing Cosby, who released his version in 1944. 

Check out his cover:

The fact that the very song Marcia sings to Bucky was the “anthem” for the American soldiers during World War II is ironic in itself, but it is the lyrics of the song that, in my opinion, really justifies its presence in the novel.

“‘I’ll be seeing you,'” Marcia sang to him softly, “in all the old familiar places -‘” (198)

These “old familiar places” – I suppose it’s plain to see that Marcia’s singing does inherently encapsulate her longing for a simple, polio-free life with Bucky, but perhaps there’s an element of foreshadowing here.

What are Bucky’s old familiar places from boyhood? For Bucky, his past, or his “old familiar places”, is ridden with the burden of his parents’ unfortunate endings and weakness and helplessness that came with his stature and poor eyesight. Isn’t this hopeless state similar to what he reverts to in the end of the novel? The polio left him broken, and he had lost the people that had meant the most to him; this is pretty much analogous to the state he was in at the start of his struggle towards manhood. His failure to reinvent himself set him up for his downfall – the fall of the soldier that never was.

As we wrap up our discussion on Nemesis, it may be worth thinking about the connection between Bucky’s past and his eventual state.

And perhaps, enjoy a great song.

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