Depictions Of Mental Illness In Literature

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Depictions of Mental Illness in Literature
The depiction of mental illness in literature has been written in several different forms, including short stories. The various types of mental illness described in these stories affect each character differently depending on the theme, setting, and social situation they are in. Short story literature such as, The Yellow Wallpaper, by Charlotte Perkins Gilman (1892), and The Masque of the Red Death, by Edgar Allen Poe (1842), depicts characters that can be interpreted by readers as displaying serious mental illness (Gilman, 1892; Poe, 1842).
In the United States in 2014, 4.1 percent, or an estimated 9.8 million adults, had a serious mental illness (SMI). A serious mental illness is defined by Administration
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The narrator’s husband in The Yellow Wallpaper (1892) is constantly looking after his wife as she descents into her mental illness and by the end of the tale, he faints from shock after witnessing her shear madness (Gilman, 1892). The Masque of the Red Death (1842) depicts Prince Prospero, a man who has his own version of reality, who doesn 't seem to care about his poor, dying subjects (Poe, 1842). Instead, Prospero decides to let the kingdom fend for itself during a terrible epidemic and have a thousand of his favorite friends over for a party. Prospero chooses to lock them all in the castle to have one six-month party as all of his subjects die in the kingdom. Initially, Prospero just seems self-centered, but as the story evolves, his mental illness is obvious. Through his altered version of reality, Prospero seals the fate of all invited guests, welding the door to the castle where they will never …show more content…
The stories allow readers that are not effected by mental illness a peak into the thought processes and actions of those with a SMI. Through literary analysis, a reader can interpret how many different types of SMI there are, and how each person is affected differently, even when similarly diagnosed. Prince Prospero made grand plans to lock himself away to party with friends and be artistically fantastic until the end. Prospero spends endless hours decorating a suite of seven rooms, each one dressed up in a different color: blue, purple, green, orange, white, violet, and black. The colors of the rooms symbolize progression towards death, as the black room, or the room that represents death, is the final suite decorated. When relating the colors to the progression of color in a prism, the order is twisted, perhaps symbolic of Prospero’s mental illness or twisted thoughts. Prospero’s illness encouraged him to be social and long to be locked away. Diversely, The narrator was consumed by her illness when her husband locked her away, providing her rest, an antiquated treatment when suffering symptoms of post-partum depression. The narrator detests the house and the horrid yellow wallpaper in the room she was held with the barred window. Her detest is apparent when she states, "The color is repellent, almost revolting: a smoldering unclean yellow, strangely faded by the slow-turning sunlight.

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