In the social environment, mental illness is a serious condition and with an advancement of technology and modern science, the physiological issue surrounding a mental illness is not well understood. The stigma that place on people suffering from mental illness is so much making people pretending that they are not suffering from the problems. Although, many people were not born with a mental problem, however, the societal burden can make people demonstrating signs of mental disorders such as depression and irrational behaviors.
The objective of this paper explores the concept of mental illness illustrated in different literary books.
Literary Issues on Mental Illness
This study investigates the issue of mental illness in the literary books with a focus on “Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar,” (Ames 1) and “Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper.” (Gilman 1) The study develops personal connection and similarities between the two characters and their mentally unstable characteristics. Based on the biographic aspects of both women, their mental health deteriorating, and they committed suicide despite that their societal effects and literary accomplishment that allowed them living on.
Charlotte Perkins Gilman is best known for her book titled “The Yellow Wallpaper.” “The Norton Introduction to Literature” (Gilman 1). Gilman was known for her contribution to her feminist intellectualism and crusade journalism who pioneered the women rights. Typically, Gilman was concerned about the social injustice, political inequality of women, and the marriage institution during the era. Gilman argued that relegating women to a domestic status were an intention to rob them of their power of intelligence and creativity.
“The Yellow Wallpaper” (Gilman 1) is drawn heavily on the episode of Gilman personal life. In 1886, Gilman’s first marriage was stricken with a severe case of depression making her indulge in ceaseless tears and unbearable inner misery where condition worsened with the presence of her baby and husband. She was later referred to Dr. Mitchel, a leading specialist for the nervous disorder. After Gilman’s diagnosis, Mitchell believed that Gilman was suffering from depression and mental illness brought about by the domestic affairs. Moreover, the case of Gilman showed that she was suffering from the nervous breakdown because she was prevented from working. Afterward, Gilman abandoned Mitchell, and her mental condition improved. Gilman also made a scandalous decision by leaving her child and husband, Charlotte Perkins Stetson took the name Gilman after her second marriage, and she later started a successful career as a lecturer, publisher, and journalist. After moving to California, she wrote a book titled “The Yellow Wallpaper,” which narrated her personal experience. In the book, she made a chilling description of a woman who fell into madness because she was put into the fate of a paternalistic culture.
The literature titled “The Norton Introduction To Literature” (Gilman 1) illustrates the issue of mental illness on different characters used to complete the book. In the literal community, some of the most profound and greatest issues are the result of the depressed mind. Typically, there seems to be a connection between loss and sadness with individuals. For example, Ernest Hemmingway was the greatest writer ever lived who had suffered from depression and inevitable committed suicide, which seem to be a common issue among most famous writers. A better literary story that discussed the issue book titled “The Yellow Wallpaper” (Gilman 1) and written by Perkins Charlotte Gilman. The book is a story of a woman who had a mental confinement in her mind leading to a depression saddened because of her baby. Moreover, the woman is suffering from the post- Partum depression leading to the overall sense of unhappiness. It is evident that the narrator in the book is quite erratic with an evident that she is suffering from psychosis.
In her book, Gilman states, “A colonial mansion, a hereditary estate, I would say a haunted house, and reach the height of romantic felicity-but that would be asking too much of fate!”(Gilman 478). The statement reveals her current circumstances, showing that she was avoiding the issue that made her sad. The view also revealed that she was incredibly eccentric reading into things far too much. As being revealed in the book, Gilman also suffered from continuous and nervous breakdown leading to melancholia that made her consult a doctor. As stated in her except
“Why I Wrote the Yellow Wallpaper,” “The wise man put me to bed and applied the rest cure, to which a still good physique responded so promptly that he concluded that there was nothing much the matter with me, and sent me home with solemn advice to ‘live as domestic a life as possible,’ to ‘have but two hours intelligent life a day;’ and ‘never to touch pen, brush or pencil again as long as I lived.”(Gilman 511).
Sylvia Plath was a gifted poet, who had a moderate childhood. Born in Massachusetts, her father had diabetes, which caused the doctor to amputate his leg. The issue traumatized Path and her mother. Although, Plath did not show a sign of mental illness during this period, however, her father tragic death made her develop a sign of mental disorder. While Path was an adolescent during this period, her personality was similar to the person suffering from mental morbidity. In her personal writing, she often demonstrates a severe emotional instability showing mood swings. Although, Plath had challenging mental and psychological problems, however, the problems did not prevent her from becoming an excellent scholar. She was a high achiever, prizewinner and conformist. The central theme of The Bell Jar written by Plath reveals a parallel life between the main character, and author. In the Plath’s literary career, she employed various measures to develop and revitalize her writing. In the Bell Jar, Plath described her ordeal in the mental institution expressing her feelings in her novel showing the effect of mental condition.
“A Wall of Rising Fire” ( Edwidge 1) is another literary book that discussed the issue of the people dilemma that resulted to a changing faculty of an individual leading to erratic behaviors. The paper expounds and addresses Guy’s dilemma in Haiti. The story is about a poor peasant working man named Guy trying to earn a hearty meal and decent living through a greener pasture. Despite his consistency effort, Guy seemed to be frustrated because of his inability to provide a food security for his family. Moreover, he was constantly embarrassed because of the menial job he was doing that had no wage. Although, Guy’s wife and his little son made effortlessly to please him because his son admires his daddy despite his inability to provide for the family needs. Guy’s wife still made all her best to make ends meet showering loves for her husband. Despite the wife’s true love for the Guy, a desperate need for a change his standard of living led to a drastic change in Guy’s character who became repulsive and remorse towards his wife whose he cherished and loved so much. A desperate intention to earn a better life made him fly with a balloon with the intention to relocate his family to a better life in America. However, the balloon engulfed in a flame leading to a premature death of Guy.
A death of Guy left the family with no source of income, and broke the heart of his son when he remembered the gruesome suicide of his father. The issue made the son shed tears recited a revolution lines that his dad taught him. Guy’s killing himself demonstrates that poverty can lead to mental anguish. Typically, poverty can lead to a depression changing the thinking faculty of an individual. This was the case of Guy who believed that the balloon can take him and his family to America to escape their present ordeal. Since poverty has changed his thinking faculty, he killed himself in desperation to escape his miserable condition.
The Barbie Doll is another literary work demonstrating the method the society expectations can lead to a mental problem for an individual. The Barbie Doll was published in 1971 when the wave of feminism was at its peak, and the poem revealed how the patriarchal society put pressures and expectation on women through a gender role stereotyping. The poem describes the situation of a girl who dies because the society intends her to meet an unrealistic expectation. The poem continues discussing the girl’s life revealing various feminist issues that include sexism, gender stereotypes, and their effects on patriarchal society. The author wrote the poem in the era when women were concerned about their workplace, family and sexuality. Typically, the poem expresses patriarchal influences, sexism, and stereotypes that women confronted in the 1960s. Additionally, the poem displayed the struggle that women faced during the time because of the societal issues. Reflecting the title of the poem, Barbie was a perfect American woman who demonstrated a prominent cultural icon. Based on the stereotype that filled the society at the time, the girl started searching for something that did not actually exist making the girl ended up dying because she wanted to perform the role of Barbie. In the poem, the girl was highly innocent. However, the society she was raised made her be corrupted. While the girl was trying to be perfect, the burden of the society led to her death.
This study demonstrates the issue mental illness in the literary works. The paper discussed the cause of the Gilman’s mental illness because of the burden of the society. Although, Gilman was a gifted writer, however, she was unable to accomplish her dream because of her child and husband, and the matrimonial burden made her be diagnosed with a mental disorder. The study also explores Guy’s dilemma in Haiti who demonstrates an irrational behavior because of poverty. Being unable to fulfill the role of a husband and a father, Guy was always in a state of a depress. In a desperate move to change his life for better, Guy decided to fly a balloon to the America. However, the balloon engulfed in a flame leading to Guy’s untimely death. The paper also explores the Barbie Doll poem revealing how society put an undue expectation on people. The poem revealed how the girl died because she wanted to fulfill the burden that the society put on her.
Ames, Lois. “A Biographical Note.” The Bell Jar. New York: Harper & Row, Publishers, Inc., 1971. Print. 247-264.
Edwidge Danticat, A Wall of Rising Fire. 2005. Penguin.
Gilman, Charlotte Perkins. “The Yellow Wallpaper.” The Norton Introduction to Literature. Ed. Kelly J. Mays. New York: Norton, 2013. 478. Print.
Gilman, Charlotte Perkins. “Why I Wrote the Yellow Wallpaper.” The Norton Introduction to Literature. Ed. Kelly J. Mays. New York: Norton, 2013. 511. Print.
Perrin, Robert “Barbie Doll’ and ‘G.I. Joe’: Exploring Issues of Gender.” The English Journal. 88 (3): 1999. 83 — 85.