Levi Ames: Life Interpretation

In reading The Last Words and Dying Speech of Levi Ames, written in 1773, one is quickly placed at the beginning of a cataloguing of the theft and stolen goods. What is most particular about the way in which Ames goes about doing his confession is the fact that he seems to have an incredible sense of memory, including names, locales and exact numbers on many of the items which he stole. This does not seem consistent with the general understanding of memory, as memory is quick to fade. Perhaps the reason which Ames remembers with such clarity his past actions is due largely to conscience and the trauma which it may have instilled in him.

To best understand his last autobiographical act however, it is necessary to place it under its proper context of the last confessions and  repentance of a dying man. It is because of this that I look to the Experience as Interpretation section of Reading Autobiography, by Smith and Watson (p. 32). Through the “process of change”, the narrator, Ames, is now interpreting his experiential history, and so revealing “thus have I given an account of that shocking manner in which I have filled up a short life, and of which I am now ashamed.” In hindsight Ames believes that he has lived a “wicked life”, but through the intense cataloguing of his past misdeeds it seems that Ames may have been contented at least at the time in which his actions brought him booty. His interpretation which at the end even brings about a list of warnings to the reading public is rendered in the face of death. Perhaps because of this his interpretive look upon his life was inevitably one of sorrow.

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