The Diving Bell and the Butterfly Essay

1714 Words Oct 23rd, 2009 7 Pages
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly is written from the point of view of Jean-Dominique Bauby, a French journalist and former editor-in-chief of ELLE magazine, in Paris. Bauby suffered a severe stroke on December 8, 2005, leaving him with a rare condition known as locked-in syndrome, in which the brain continues to function normally, but the body is completely paralyzed. Jean-Do retained some movement in his head and left eye, and wrote his memoir through a tedious method of blinking. An interlocutor would read aloud a special alphabet, ordered by their frequency of use in French language, and Bauby would blink whenever the person reached the correct letter (Wikipedia). Through this method, the reader is offered a glimpse into the mind …show more content…
Throughout the memoir, Bauby describes the difficulties of living with locked-in syndrome: his ambivalence to being bathed, the pain of receiving phone calls with loved ones in which he can only listen, the frustration of not being able to remove a fly that has landed on his nose, among other things. The title, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, comes from Bauby's idea that while his body was weighed down and unable to move, like a diving bell, his imagination and memories still had the lightness and freedom of a butterfly. Bauby states, "My cocoon becomes less oppressive, and my mind takes flight like a butterfly. There is so much to do. You can wander off in space or in time, set out for Tierra del Fuego or for King Midas's court.” There are many other symbols prevalent in the book. Jean-Do sees the lighthouse outside the hospital as a symbol of hope for his future and a light in dark times. When dressed in his old student clothes, instead of becoming upset by the poignant memories they brought back, Bauby says he views the clothes as a symbol of continuing life and proof that he still wants to be himself. His daughter Celeste’s drawing of a fish, that resembled the mathematical symbol for infinity, could also represent continuing life and the perseverance of spirit. Given the nature of his condition, the author is, understandably, concise in his use of words. Jean-Do wrote the entire book by blinking his left eyelid, in July and August of 1996. A

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