Madness Essay, Research Paper

Before the module began I had a fixed idea of what madness was. I had underestimated the complexity of the portrayal of madness and as a result of this, I was surprised by the range of texts that we explored from that particular perspective.

Reading Sylvia Plath s, The Bell Jar seemed to me initially, an easy read. However, after discussing the text in the seminar with relation to the language diagram of paradigmatic and syntagmatic axis, I re read Plath and found it more and more complex. On my first encounter with The Bell Jar I found that I had only scratched the surface of an otherwise complex novel, that operates on many levels.

On closer reading of the text I found that I could explore Plath s issues of madness through the imagery in the language that she adopts. Plath brings together the normal and the abnormal in her descriptions. One example of this that struck me in the text is this;

I felt as though I were carrying that cadaver s head around with me on a string, like some black, noseless balloon stinking of vinegar.

Without exploring this use of language in the seminar I probably would have gone away still unsure about the exploration of madness in the text. I might have thought about the way Plath presented the psychiatric wards and pitied those who had been sectioned. However, on discovering this bizarre use of language, I wanted to understand it and make some sense out of it. It didn t occur to me until a later date that perhaps trying to make sense of it all was where I was going wrong, because surely it wouldn t be madness if it were understandable?

I found it interesting that Sylvia Plath had a rooted need to speak the unconscious, to explain the unexplainable and present the psyche on the page. Her insanity becomes evident on the page when I considered that this might be her aim in the text. An example of this need to present the psyche in words can be seen throughout the whole novel. The impossibility of her task and her ultimate failing to present her own inner reality as she sees it or perceives it.

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