Kicked While Down October 30, 2012
Mental Illnesses a Positive October 28, 2012
Swedish researchers at Karolinska Institute recently completed a study finding a link between creativity and mental illness. More specifically, there is a connection between writing and schizophrenia. Researchers conducted and extensive analysis of people with mental health disorders and what their profession was. They looked at individuals and then their family units. Their study started with a wide range of disorders- schizoaffective disorders, depression, anxiety disorder, alcohol abuse, drug abuse, autism, ADHD, anorexia, and suicide. About 1.2 million people and their relatives were included.
Dancers, researchers, photographers, and authors were the most common profession to show these disorders. Artists and scientists were more common among families where bipolar and schizophrenia disorders were present. Artists and scientists are more common among families where bipolar and schizophrenia disorders are present. Authors specifically showed schizophrenia, depression, anxiety syndrome, and substance abuse symptoms and were 50% more likely to commit suicide than the general population.
Given this research, one would beg the question, do you have to be mentally ill to be a good writer? Or, are you more likely to be a good writer if you demonstrate some mental illness tendencies? Many intuitively believe this to be the case and now there may be some empirical research to support it.
Jack Keroac is said to have had schizophrenia, Virginia Wolf was clinically depressed and wound up hanging herself, Sylvia Plath suffered from bipolar disorder-it seems like the list goes on and on. I wonder if it is the thinking process and the way their minds worked that made them so good at their craft or if the results of their illness was the material that gave them good things to write about. If you are depressed and then you become an alcoholic to cope with your illness and as result, you lose your family, your job and your outlook on life does that then become great writing material and give you a perspective on life that is rich with meaning and symbolism? Or it is your very way of looking at the world-a by-product of your mental illness-the reason you are good at your craft?
Since people with the disorders listed go toward creative professions, researchers feel the results require them to reconsider their approaches to mental illness. Some patient’s illness can be viewed as beneficial, only certain parts need to be treated. The doctor and patient decide what to be treated at what cost. The medical field usually is black and white and the doctor must treat anything seen as negative or harmful to a person. But with this new perspective, people can decide what illnesses they want to keep or treat. This study reminds me of the laws that have been changed to allow marijuana to be used for medical purposes. Marijuana is a drug and that is how most people view it, not as a medical treatment. Bending the rules is a slippery slope because in this case, unstable people may remain untreated by choice but also, ignorant people who may not know that a certain medicine is unnecessary could save money by remaining unmedicated.
I think communities would feel they are in a less safe environment. People might lose trust in their peers because they hear that they have a mental illness but that they are not being treated. I think this is a form of false confidence too. People can be told that they are special and head into the world with a misconstrued sense of reality.
I think some illnesses are real and need to be treated. With such high crime rates due to low intelligence and poor gene pools, some people really are crazy. And I think that is what is wrong with our society, that we are unable to face reality. People want to believe that they’re special but not everyone is; some people are downright crazy. It is dangerous to let the patient have a say in their diagnosis and treatment because someone who shouldn’t be trusted, would perhaps get away with a serious and dangerous mental illness. Creativity may require a person to have an illness but crimes are also done by people with a defect. It is important to distinguish positive and negative within creativity and mental illnesses.
Inner Dialogue vs Narrator’s Perspective October 24, 2012
One might not consider the seriousness of Granny’s condition until we see the contrast of narrations between herself and reality. Just like in a classic horror movie, a scene that seems perfectly normal and placid, sends chills down your body the next moment, once you hear the real story and the terror is revealed(The Yellow Wallpaper!). The Jilting of Granny Weatherall reveals the chasm between our thoughts and our actions-what we say and do and what we mean to say. When Granny is caught at one moment by Cornelia, she seems unable to control her inner thoughts, yet she is truly innocent as this was not intended. “So good and dutiful that I’d like to spank her” and Cornelia’s reply, “what’d you say, Mother” bring the reader to reality. When Granny vocalizes the words within her head, she plays along and doesn’t deny speaking out but gets defensive, probably because she is worried, confused, and angered by her own lack of self constraint. The narrator then goes on to explain Granny’s inner mind workings; she feels an urgency and that there is much to be done but in reality, she is stuck in a hospital bed. And yet, even while she is on the verge of losing herself, she understands that death is near and she accepts it. This set up or scene is very realistic and relatable-someone is unhealthy but everyone is determined to avoid the topic at hand. Granny doesn’t understand this though, as we see in her thoughts, and she perceives the doctor and Cornelia as petty, naive, foolish people. As old age comes on, often times people become more self centered, reflecting on and interpreting events in their present day with things that happened in their past. In Granny’s case, being left at the alter informs all of her psyche and Porter deftly demonstrates the effect this has on Granny’s inner world. Her interpretations, revealed by Porter as inner dialogue, are filtered by this one moment in her life and so on her deathbed, as her children and the “trimmings ad trappings” of dying are present, Porter shows us how they are interpreted by the individual. Granny wants to see George and tell him she has everything he took from her. This imagined scenario is quite powerful because we think we know what someone is thinking/experiencing and then we likely rarely do. On the other hand, Porter uses a lack of dialogue at times as a technique to show her worsening condition and she can no longer understand or make herself understand . Porter uses the lack of dialogue to highlight her isolation; her mind is racing with thoughts and last requests, seeing Hapsy, cleaning the house, yet she can’t express any of it.
Presentation vs Self Defense October 21, 2012
I didn’t watch the first presidential debate but heard a lot of people talking about it so for the second one, I wanted to see for myself. Immediately, I was struck by its SNL like mocking skits-the atmosphere felt corny and as serious as the debate is in reality, it seemed like a joke. I’ve been on a debate team and that was far from how a real debate goes. The whole event felt scattered and unproductive, where Candie Crowley, the moderator, would ask a question and sometimes the candidate would answer it. More often, they would use their time to make a jab at their opponent or continue on a previous question. This debate was targeted for the undecided voters but all Romney and Obama did was fight with each other. Honestly, I think the format and the atmosphere resembled a boxing ring; I thought they were going to get into a fist fight at some points. Is there any civility in our society? Did they feel so threatened that they lost their composure and stooped to the other’s level on national television?
On a different note, I thought the process was too lenient on the candidates, allowing for the debate to go off course. Crowley tried her best to keep the debate moving and to keep everything fair and equal but with the clock counting down 2 minutes right behind them, most times I saw Obama and Romney going over. I don’t understand how that is even remotely acceptable. At times, I felt like there was an unfair advantage and that has to have an influence on all watching. It upsets those whose favorite got less time and could unfairly leave one candidate with an overpowering side. Several times, Romney would outright talk over Obama or the moderator, continuing a rant until he felt finished or had been cut off enough times. A lot is at stake and I understand the pressure the candidates are under but the way they present themselves probably has the biggest impact. The average person is a committed Democrat or Republican and beyond that, it’s really about who they like as a person. I think both of them were disappointing; Romney came off pushy and without any real solutions because all he knew to do was attack Obama and Obama stooped to Romney’s level, lessening the impact of his answers because he felt a need to defend himself against what Romney said.
The Yellow Wallpaper October 18, 2012
This the story of one woman in the 19th century, enduring an illness where the “cure” leads to her demise. Yet, this is a tale rich with sweeping commentary on the plight of women, then and now, where their emotional state and what it will take to support them is devised and controlled by a patriarchal society. Whether meant to be or not, treatment of women’s issues was and always has been focused on silencing the malady-stunting the assertion of need. Understanding the life and times of the author, Charlotte Gilman of The Yellow Wallpaper informs us as to the very nature of the main character’s state of mind.
Women are seen as melodramatic and frail, therefore leading to a treatment of rest and inactivity. Her “illness” is an excuse for the men in her life and society to be even more repressive. A woman’s place was believed to be in the home and this is reflected in the way she is told not to work or write. This is an interesting dilemma because while the author’s husband might be able to control her comings and goings, her level of activity, he cannot control her mind. And in this way, Gilman provides a means for the main character to control her own circumstances, her own destiny. On first pass, you could view this story as simply a woman losing her mind yet it is actually an allegory of success and triumph when fighting the power of a society bent on keeping women under men’s control.
The main character keeps a journal and this is where we discover another presence in her life. Due to her loneliness, she claims she sees a woman in the wallpaper she hates so much. It is ironic that the very thing that is driving her crazy, becomes a friend and form of comfort. The doppelganger in the paper becomes someone the main character identifies herself with and what seems so normal and acceptable from her perspective is in reality the gradual loss of sanity and stability in reality. Our main character struggles between these two worlds for a while-asking for ways to keep her gripe on reality-participating in an upcoming 4th of July celebration, entertaining visitors that she enjoys, seeking her husbands company and validation-yet all of these attempts to connect to her captor and maintain in this mental world are shot down. These are last ditch efforts on her part to stay in the “real” world and when she finally succumbs to insanity, her world is connected to the wallpaper and the 4 walls her world consists of. When she is discovered on all fours, crawling around the room, the symbolism of her debasement and the intensity of her infantizing world is revealed, her husband cannot help but judge the situation as full insanity. However, in her mind and as a symbol of women’s issues, Gilman’s representation of the main character crawling out of the room, over her prostrate husband, is a triumphant ending to a woman seeking to “bust out” of her shell and do that while climbing over the repressive society of husbands and men who control her.
The main character in The Yellow Wallpaper was brought to an island by her husband to heal her, but in reality, to hide her from the public. He rejects her desire to write and her natural tendencies toward analysis and this is the driving force leading to her insanity. Gilman’s portrayal of the husband is quite revealing. While her representation of his intentions and actions may be conventional and may even be considered kind, Gilman’s commentary on 19th century society, in particular men, allows us to have a bird’s eye view at just how miserable and constrained life was. Add in that, the main character had artistic tendencies and Gilman can then really focus on the control and repression women were subjected to at the hands of men. In many ways, representing a woman as having gone insane over such trivial concessions is ludicrous-the husband’s intention to provide good care, give his wife a chance to heal and rest and wouldn’t he be applauded for his caring actions. However, it is the behind the curtains analysis that gives us a chance to understand the inner life of a conventional husband and wife and how women, thoughtful women, must have felt. It would drive you insane and then the response of society and the lack of support for asserting ones needs would drive you doubly insane.
The idea that she talks of herself in the 3rd person is a remarkable and perhaps the ultimate revelation as to the underlying intent of this Gothic story. She has held her true self down and can only see who she is once she is detached from the person she is when sane. We realize that she had to lose herself in order to understand herself and although she did that, she has ruined herself in the process. Now she is “free” of the constraints of her marriage, her society, and her own efforts to repress her mind.
Allegory in The Rocking Horse Winner October 16, 2012
The 19th century was a popular period of Gothic literature; mysterious, dark themes highlighted this time. The Rocking Horse Winner reflects these themes with it’s sardonic tone, its depressing subject matter and the allegory of the rocking horse-a child’s toy-mocking child’s play with the adult themes of materialism and absent parenting.
The mother embeds in Paul’s mind the idea that their family is unlucky, but really, their family is only poor because of the way the parents spend their money and live lavishly. She is beautiful, has a loving husband, a healthy family, etc, but she is too vain to see that the only problem she believes is in her life(not having enough money), is her and her husbands fault. She tells Paul that luck is what causes you to have money and one is born with it. By associating luck with money, she has set Paul up for a materialistic, blinded life.
Despite what his mother tells him, Paul makes it his goal to bring luck into their family. Although uncontrollable, his mother told him that it is better to be born lucky than rich and so Paul was determined to create his own luck. I don’t think he disliked his mother, but rather he acted in spite of what she said. What his mother believed as luck, was really morals and issues it represents. His rocking horse becomes a symbol for his “luck”. It appears as if it tells him which horse will win a race-a rocking horse can resemble the horse racing he’s betting on, the rocking can make his mind work, and it can serve as a distraction from the house whispering, “there must be more money.”
In reality, Paul is just as, if not more, unlucky than his mother. He drives himself insane trying to challenge and defeat his predestined unfortunate future. He is so focused on luck and winning that he doesn’t understand his actions are morally wrong. The rocking horse, which he thought represented his luck and answer to all of his problems, really represents all of his naive view with reality. A rocking horse is a child’s toy, and his belief about its power and what he will gain from it is childish and foolish. Also, the symbolism of rocking horses being stationary, they simply rock in place, allows Lawrence to provide an image that one can see how ludicrous one can be when faced with extreme emotions. Rather than teach their son the values of family, love, and emotional wealth, they have distorted their child’s mind into thinking the only way to be successful and therefore happy is through some arbitrary thing such as luck.
In the end, Paul’s mother might have understood luck more than Paul. She was able to accept that she was born “unlucky” and came to accept it. This represents another symbol of life-rather than change your circumstances through effort and hard work, Paul was taught to expect fortune through some random, unpredictable phenomena, thereby skirting any responsibilities directly. She complained a lot about the family’s lack of money, but didn’t really do anything about it. She set Paul up for an eery future by telling him about their financial issues. Paul was noble for trying to win money for the family and create luck for them but he ultimately kills himself, going crazy with the contradicting ideas. He is trapped in an echo chamber of his parent’s fears and obsessions which then become his fears and obsessions. Paul clearly had problems to begin with(hearing the house talk, riding the rocking horse) but the unintentional pressure from his mother that was put on him sends him over the edge.
Winning? October 15, 2012
Anyone who is successful is somewhat crazy. As perfect as everyone may seem, we all have our quirks. The Rocking Horse Winner demonstrates this; where a toy from a childhood can turn into a symbol for a person growing ups serious problems. Rocking horses are normal for ages around 8 and under and although Paul’s age is never specified, his age that is likely to be older than that makes the image even crazier. A grown man on a rocking horse is outrageous and silly, but a boy just slightly too old, raises a flag and cautions the reader that something is wrong with him. His fixation on luck and the correlation he believes it has with his horse drives him to insanity and ultimately, death. The fact that everything he does is for or with someone, reveals that he has insecurities and doesn’t believe he can do things on his own. I think this is in part due to a materialistic life; he’s constantly had to worry about money but yet his being spoiled and raised lavishly contradicts this. He seems to have no real passion for horse racing or helping his mother but he feels it is his duty to bet on a certain horse. This idea is proved in the fact that he bets even when he is unsure of the horse he’s betting on/knows it will lose. The story is largely ironic; Paul and everyone/everything in his life are actually unlucky and constantly losing, despite the theme of luck and winning.