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Life Against Meat by J. Safran: The Importance of The Ability to Reminisce

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In Jonathan Safran Foer’s essay, “Against Meat”, Foer constantly displays the important role that nostalgia plays in his life. Foer fondly reflects on the time that he spent with his grandmother throughout the essay, and the positive impact that she had on his life. Looking back to the memories of the past with his grandmother, Foer realizes that the stories and experiences that his grandmother shared with him were what crucial in his development as a family man. The nostalgia that Foer feels for his grandmother and the time they shared prove to have had a huge positive influence on Foer’s life.

Nostalgia has gone through major developmental phases throughout it’s history, it first was thought of as a “neurological disease of essentially demonic cause” (Hoffer qtd. in Tierney). It was then thought of as “immigrant psychosis,” “melancholia”, and a “mentally repressive compulsive disorder” (Tierney). In recent years it has taken on a more positive connotation, simply meaning something along the lines of, a positive, or bittersweet remembrance from the past. Nostalgia proves to have evolutionary benefits, in some instances, people experience rising body temperature when thinking about the past (Zhou qtd. In Tierney). This is thought to have been used as motivation to keep going until food or shelter was found in the past (Wildschut qtd. In Tierney). Arguably one of the most important aspects of nostalgia proves to be its ability to aid people when dealing with change. Doctors and researchers look to young adults frequently dealing with the changes of college, adulthood, etc. to find their information. Usually what they discover is that these young adults look back on positive memories such as holidays, family pets, and other good times to get through the stress that they face (Hepper qtd. In Tierney).

In a study done by Xinyue Zhou at the Sun Yat-Sen University, they hypothesized that emotions, more importantly, nostalgia, can affect a person’s body temperature and make them warmer. This becomes important when looking from an evolutionary standpoint, if people can use nostalgia and have it trigger a physical outcome, this means that it could have developed over time to help sustain human beings. Having this thesis the researchers did several studies to prove whether or not triggering nostalgia would actually affect a person’s body temperature. They found that most people who were in a cold room, and “nostalgized” actually had a rise in their body temperatures (Zhou). This proved that feeling nostalgic has the potential to be considered an evolutionary trait, and if this were the case, it could help to explain how people can continue to survive even in the most difficult and harsh conditions.

Relating back to Foer’s essay, these studies help explain his actions from his life, as well as his grandmother’s. Foer mentions several times that he struggles with vegetarianism and how he usually did it to “fit in”. He ultimately makes the decision to raise his family as vegetarian and the motivation can be traced back to his grandmother. For example, when Foer experienced the huge change of having a family, he looked back to a time when he would spend afternoons with his grandmother to get some clarity on how to raise his children, thus relating back to Hepper’s ideas. His grandmother is a great example of Zhou’s study and Wildschut’s hypothesis, both relating to the evolutionary importance of nostalgia. She lived through the Holocaust and had an instance when she was on the brink of death, when a farmer offered her some pork, she refused it because of her beliefs. She looked back on her religious past and its importance to her, using the evidence from Zhou and Wildschut it is possible to see real life ties to the evolutionary argument in her story. His grandmother was able to keep going because she looked upon the past and it helped her get through an extremely tough situation. Regardless of the context, nostalgia proves to be a very crucial factor in the existence of humans, on a mental, emotional, and physical level.

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Life Against Meat By J. Safran: The Importance Of The Ability To Reminisce. (2018, December 11). GradesFixer. Retrieved May 27, 2022, from
“Life Against Meat By J. Safran: The Importance Of The Ability To Reminisce.” GradesFixer, 11 Dec. 2018,
Life Against Meat By J. Safran: The Importance Of The Ability To Reminisce. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 27 May 2022].
Life Against Meat By J. Safran: The Importance Of The Ability To Reminisce [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2018 Dec 11 [cited 2022 May 27]. Available from:
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