After the incident which caused Leonard's condition in Memento, he cannot remember anything more than a few minutes old, other than the events before that incident. Yet, he remembers his condition?

  • 2
    It's probably a plot hole. If his hippocampus was as bad straight after the incident as it is contemporaneously, he should have no recollection of his condition.
    – James
    Commented Dec 3, 2012 at 3:12

4 Answers 4


Leonard cannot remember his condition. Sometimes he even forgets what he is doing at the moment. Remember the scenes when he is running because he is being chased or when he drinks the beer with spit in it. He just suddenly loses any clue why is he doing something. After the accident, he said he cannot store recent memories, but he can remember everything before the accident. He has to be reminded of the incident (he does it by viewing his tattoos, notebook, etc). His tattoos reminds him of everything - about the condition. Look carefully:

Left Hand (0:06:50) "remember Sammy Jankis"

He remembered Sammy Jankis, who had a special condition.

Left Forearm (0:11:30) "THE FACTS" Circling his neck in mirror image: "JOHN G. RAPED AND MURDERED MY WIFE"

He remembers the accidents.


By remembering Sammy Jenkins, he remembers he has a similar condition.

Upper Abdomen (Upside-down): "condition yourself" Lower Left Ribcage (Upside-down): "DON'T TRUST" and "HIDE YOUR WEAKNESS"

He now confirms his weakness.

13-17) Lower Right Ribcage (Upside-down): "buy film" {Tattoo is in script}, "CAMERA DOESN'T LIE", "NOTES CAN BE LOST", "HABIT & ROUTINE", and "LEARN BY REPETITION".

He reminds himself how he can try to remember things.

This is the way he reminds himself about his condition and the other facts he is looking for. Sam Jankis is a fictional character through which he remembers he has the condition. Sammy is a character from Leonard's memory where the memory of Leonard and Sammy is mixed.

The movie seems to suggest that the "Sammy story" that Leonard tells is a mixture of real Sammy memories from Leonard, recollections of Leonard about things that happened to him as well as Sammy, projections of things that happened to Leonard but did not happen to Sammy, and some confabulation (common among people with memory problems) of things that Leonard makes up to fill in the gaps.

  • None of the those messages you mention say anything along the lines of I have so and so condition. He does not even question why he has all these messages. That is, it is as if he already knows about his condition.
    – tshepang
    Commented Dec 3, 2012 at 8:40
  • 3
    Not directly. You have to understand how. Editing the ans to make it more clear.
    – Mistu4u
    Commented Dec 3, 2012 at 8:58

All the tattoos listed by Mistu4u help Leonard in guiding himself to cope with his conditions.

However even in this condition he never forgets daily chores like driving, eating, shaving etc. He is also able to use English language comfortably. Through his subconscious he knows about his condition too.

  • am aware that he remember the events before the incident; sorry for not making that clear
    – tshepang
    Commented Dec 5, 2012 at 8:05
  • How does through his subconscious work? Am not psychologist enough to understand that one.
    – tshepang
    Commented Dec 5, 2012 at 8:07
  • Once taught we never forget cycling, driving, changing cloths and other mundane activities as our subconscious gets used to them. I think you can relate yourself to one of these activities. For example in the movie Sammy could easily administer the drug injection with precision. Hence being used to his condition Leonard is able to identify his short term memory loss.
    – Qrious
    Commented Dec 5, 2012 at 8:27
  • Does not sound like the same thing to me. Those other things are skills, not just memories.
    – tshepang
    Commented Dec 5, 2012 at 10:34

he doesn't remember his condition but every time that he forgets things and he feels like he has just woken up, he first looks around (so he sees his left hand at the very first moment) and the tatoo "remember Sammy Jankis" makes him realize about his condition at the time.


Actually Leonard killed his wife and he knows it in his subconscious. He is full of guilt that he killed his wife. He does not want to accept the fact that he killed his wife. So he has created/imagined his short term memory condition and sammy jankin so that he can hide behind it. In order to prove to himself that his short term memory condition is real he acts all weird and keeps killing people.

As the condition happened after the "incident", he couldn't have remembered that he has the condition. Also he has not tattooed about his condition. Even if he figured he had that condition from the tattoos, he would forget again about the condition and life runs faster that he could figure out it again and again.

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