Table of contents:
- There is a variant of the well-known proverb: "Healthy and smart - there are two lands in it." Right! But in the novel, such an ordinary hero somehow does not “capture”, and the reader’s heart doesn’t jump from his correct behavior in all cases
- Alice's Fairy Adventures
- And the realism of Don Quixote
- "Spider" by Maxim Gorky
- "Little demon" by Fyodor Sologub
- "Black Monk" by Anton Chekhov
Video: Heroes With A Twist - Crazy Characters
There is a variant of the well-known proverb: "Healthy and smart - there are two lands in it." Right! But in the novel, such an ordinary hero somehow does not “capture”, and the reader’s heart doesn’t jump from his correct behavior in all cases
You shouldn't stop people from going crazy
The actions of a mentally healthy subject are usually predictable, and therefore not very interesting. But if the hero is a little strange, eccentric or completely “crazy” - this already arouses curiosity and interest: what is so unusual he can do?
In the new section "Crazy Characters" we talk about heroes of books and films with obvious mental characteristics.
Alice's Fairy Adventures
Alice, the King of Hearts and the Queen. Charlie Robinson illustration
In Lewis Carroll's tale "The Adventures of Alice in Wonderland", the author deliberately described most of the list of neuropsychiatric disorders experienced by a mentally healthy heroine. And with this he killed two birds with one stone: he did not "humiliate" Alice with the presence of a mental disorder and showed what "wonderful" transformations the human psyche can experience. In this respect, the fabulous story untied the author's hands.
But in a realistic work, nothing of the kind can happen. Heroes may suffer from mental illness, but not all at once. Biology imposes its own protective limits, although a combination of two mental disorders is sometimes allowed.
And the realism of Don Quixote
Fyodor Dostoevsky's "Double", "The Strange Story of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" by Stevenson, "The Picture of Dorian Gray" by Oscar Wilde, "Fight Club" by Chuck Palahniuk … could I continue?
Indeed, many heroes of their favorite works of literature suffer from various syndromes of schizophrenia. To this day, patients with schizophrenic symptoms become frequent characters in literature and cinema. By the way, Hamlet, Don Quixote and Schweik were also distinguished by mental disorders. In Dostoevsky and Gogol, almost all characters with one or another mental pathology. Is this why these writers are recognized as literary geniuses?
Monument to Don Quixote in Madrid
"Spider" by Maxim Gorky
Let's turn to the works of the classics of Russian literature and follow the trail of their heroes. In a short story by Maxim Gorky "Spider" 1, a chronically proceeding hallucinatory-delusional psychosis is clearly described. The plot of the story is extremely simple: the author tells the story of a man he once met - Ermolai Makov.
Already at the beginning of the story, Gorky notes the strangeness in the behavior of this "antiquities dealer" who, after bargaining for a long time, tried to sell the "ancient coin", but unexpectedly announced that he would not sell it. And the next day he came and immediately sold it, justifying that yesterday "there was no hunt." These facts resemble the phenomena of volitional ambivalence 2.
Once Yermolai Makov told the author of the story his sad story:
For the twenty-third year I have lived in inescapable fear … And my fear, sir, is special: an alien soul has been instilled in my flesh. … I was with one woman, not otherwise than a witch …
Stretching out his hand to his left, Makov stroked something in the air, at a height of ten vershoks …
… Spider … It was given to me for fear, so that I would not have myself, would not ruin someone else's soul. After all, the soul in me is a stranger, seemingly stolen …
There is a chronic systematized delirium that occurs with visual hallucinations. Believing in God and in the transmigration of souls (metempsychosis), the hero of the story, with the help of his psychopathological disorders, builds a special world inaccessible to others. If he had not disclosed his experiences to the author, then readers would have considered him an eccentric, but hardly a mentally ill person. Schizophrenia is not written on the forehead.
"Little demon" by Fyodor Sologub
This work is an illustration of the development of schizophrenia as a procedural disease. The novel "The Little Devil" is an example of a case when two diseases were combined: schizophrenia was complicated by alcoholism, which brought its own symptoms to the underlying disease.
From the very beginning, the hero of Peredonov's novel is characterized by features that correspond to the symptoms of schizophrenic disorder: he is depressed, sullen, episodically he is seized by attacks of fear and horror, melancholy and apathy, olfactory hallucinations are replaced by "infernal laughter." In full accordance with the traditional concept of the development of schizophrenic psychosis, megalomanic delirium develops:
“Mr. Inspector of the second rank of the Ruban province,” he muttered to himself, “His Highness State Councilor Peredonov. Here's how! Know ours! His Excellency the director of the public schools of the Ruban province, the actual state councilor Peredonov. Hats down! Resign! I'll pull you up! Peredonov's face became arrogant: he has received in his imagination meager share of power 3.
Periodic bouts of binge caused the hero to develop alcoholic psychoses, which manifested themselves in visual and auditory hallucinations. Soon alcoholic delirium began to acquire an increasingly schizophrenic character. Delusional experiences and hallucinations often dictate the pathological type of behavior of such a hero.
"Black Monk" by Anton Chekhov
AP Chekhov's story "The Black Monk" is a classic work, which the writer himself called "a medical story." A psychiatrist can confidently classify the mental disorder depicted in it as a hallucinatory syndrome in schizophrenia.
Chekhov and Gorky in Yalta. 1900
It is interesting that Chekhov himself believed that he was describing "megalomania." The reader will also be interested in the author's attitude to the problem of the relationship between mental disorder and creativity.
The main character, Kovrin, can be regarded as a kind of model of a creative personality experiencing mental disorders. The author highlights a distinct increase in mood and an increase in creative efficiency after the appearance of a hallucinatory image. Gradually, Kovrin develops a hypomanic syndrome (the same “megalomania” that Chekhov wrote about), which often helped talented people achieve creative success.
The epigraph of this sad story could be Chekhov's phrase from his story "Ward No. 6": "You should not prevent people from going crazy."
Chekhov in a fictional form conveys all the main provisions of the theory of "genius and insanity" Lombroso. A healthy, self-critical Master of Philosophy yearns for a disease that would not only set him apart from the “human herd,” but also make his personality more talented.
But for Chekhov the doctor, any illness, including mental illness, requires treatment. And the author builds the plot of his story exactly along this line (the same need for treatment, which stands in the center of "Ward No. 6"). His hero must be healed, he is healed and healed. It would seem - a brilliant medical victory! But what happened as a result of the treatment?
“Kovrin has already recovered, he stopped seeing his black monk” 4. But at the same time, he lost a lot emotionally and creatively.
The characterological changes that have taken place in the hero in the language of psychiatrists are called emotional decline of the personality, a sign of its obvious impoverishment and impoverishment, inherent in the schizophrenic process. Thus, Chekhov unwittingly supports the positive impact of mental illness on the creative process.
- Gorky M. Spider // PSS. Artistic works in 25 volumes. Volume 17. M.: Nauka, 1973. pp. 88–91. ↩
- Endless fluctuations between opposing solutions. ↩
- Sologub F. Small demon. Bely A. Petersburg. Novels / Intro. article by O. A. Kling. Stavropol: Book Publishing House, 1988. ↩
- Chekhov A. P. Black monk // Complete works in 30 volumes. T. 8. Moscow: Nauka, 1986. P. 226–257. ↩