Why did Leonard Shelby have a "Remember Sammy Jenkins" tattoo? Why did he need this tattoo?

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Leonard has anterograde amnesia, that means he can have his past memories before the accident but not new memories. So what is the significance of having a tattoo of a person's name which he can remember?

  • How do you know Teddy wasn't lying?
    – user19584
    Mar 12 '15 at 9:27
  • @Chris can be said in reverse too. Mar 12 '15 at 9:31

When he wakes up every morning, he doesn't remember that he has amnesia, and doesn't know that he can't form new memories. The "Remember Sammy Jankis" tattoo is a concise way of telling himself that he has the condition that Sammy Jankis claimed to have.


It was a trigger to condition the false memory. It's true he remembered Sammy, but every time he looked at the tattoo, he wasn't remembering the real story.

Sammy was actually a fraud, but the story that Leonard's tattoo was conditioning him to believe was that Sammy was telling the truth and that he killed his wife, when in reality that was Leonard's own life story.

According to his research while investigating Sammy Jenkins' claim was that amnesia patients should be able to learn new behaviors based upon instinct vs memory; that nesting can be conditioned versus remembered. The electrically charged figure test tried that tendency on Sammy and he failed the test which costed him his claim. Leonard's "remember Sammy Jenkins" tattoo did that for him so he could successfully deceive himself and alter his true past.

  • 1
    Kinda diagree, Its just purely speculation that Leonardo is Sammy. Because Leonardo have anterograde amnesia that means he knows who he is. So doesn't knowing his own self is amnesia not anterograde amnesia. Mar 18 '13 at 19:23
  • He knows who he is, he just doesn't remember what happened after the break-in. He has projected the reality of his past on another person he remembers. I'm not saying he is in fact Sammy Jenkins, just that he's conditioned himself to believe the incidents of his life happened to someone else because it was important material to rember, but he didn't want to remember that he himself killed his own wife. Because he cannot retain hid short term memory, he has to use this tattoo to remind himself the extreme extent of his condition, but he's deceived himself to believe a false truth.
    – Matt
    Mar 18 '13 at 20:18
  • 2
    Teddy reveals this to him in the climax of the film. Pay closer attention to the confrontation that ends with "Sammy Jenkins wasn't married!"
    – Matt
    Mar 18 '13 at 20:19
  • 1
    There is even a filmed scene of Leonard giving his wife the insulin shot on the bed
    – Matt
    Mar 18 '13 at 20:22
  • but teddy is a big fat liar, we can't believe on him and even leonardo said that his wife is not a diabetic. Mar 18 '13 at 20:24

It means take reasonability for your mistakes, and two wrongs don't make a right.. If he remembers Sammy jankis, he'll remember he was the one who killed his own wife and stop blaming John g. And trying to kill him

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