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Surrealism Explained: Persistence of Memory

Updated on March 6, 2012

Giving Reason to Surealism...

When at first glance of the "Persistence of Memory", by Salvador Dali, I cannot help but to notice an overpowering theme; human nature versus Mother Nature. The Clocks, of course, are the main abstract component and main focus of the piece, but they are also representatives on the side of human nature. In contrast, Mother Nature is portrayed by a dreadful and desolate scene.

These opposites, human nature and mother nature, create a plethora of tension. The clocks are complex and cluttered by creation. Their inter machinations are closely working and precise to allow it to continuously "tick" along a linear path of time. Clocks are the very essence of how mankind attempts to mimic the regularities of the universe. In addition, clocks are extremely ambiguous; they act in such a way to simultaneously represent and conflict against Mother Nature. Mother Nature, on the other hand, appears desolate and simple. This is key because it represents nature’s tendencies to function in such a simple and insensible fashion. Mother Nature, as simple as it appears to the keenest eyes, actually functions. Opposed to Clocks, as they are complex and cluttered, only attempt to understand and match Mother Nature’s functions. Thus being said, it is imperative to recognize the strain between human nature and Mother Nature when analyzing this piece.

Also, I must not over look the abstract quality applied to the clocks; the action of melting. Coincidentally, or perhaps not, the action of melting is very much a result of Mother Nature’s tendencies. This is interesting because Salvador Dali places human nature inferior to Mother Nature, hence why the clock is ultimately defeated by a result of nature. The irony of the man-made object created to mimic nature and in the end unable to overcome it is amusing to say the least.

Perhaps Salvador Dali's whole message of this piece was to suggest that machines, regardless of how complex and accurate they may be, they will never be able to fully match and persist with Mother Nature. Instead, our human nature will slowly be melted away, like an aging man's memories decay; hence the title of this work, "Persistence of Memory".


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