The sickness of insanity stems from external forces and stimuli, ever-present in our world, weighing heavily on the psychological, neurological, and cognitive parts of our mind. It can drive one to madness through its relentless, biased, and poisoned view of the world, creating a dichotomy between what is real and imagined. It is a defense mechanism that allows one to suffer the harms of injustice, prejudice, and discrimination, all at the expense of one’s physical and mental faculties.
Through the use of insanity as a metaphor, William Shakespeare, Edgar Allen Poe, William Blake, and Charlotte Perkins Gilman, introduced us to characters and stories that illustrate the path to insanity from the creation of a weakened psychological state that renders the victim susceptible to bouts of madness, the internalization of stimuli that has permeated the human psyche resulting in the chasm between rational and irrational thought, and the consequences of the effects of the psychological stress of external stimuli demonstrated through the actions of their characters.
The creation of a stressful psychological state of mind is prevalent in the story “The Yellow Wall-Paper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, as well as, Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Tell-Tale Heart”, Ophelia’s struggles in William Shakespeare’s “Hamlet”, and the self-inflicted sickness seen in William Blake’s “Mad Song”. All the characters, in these stories and poems, are subjected to external forces that plant the seed of irrationality into their minds; thus, creating an adverse intellectual reaction, that from an outsider’s point of view, could be misconstrued as being in an altered state due to the introduction of a drug, prescribed or otherwise, furthering the perception of true insanity or mental illness.
Gilman’s character began her journey the moment she entered the room with the yellow wallpaper. She quickly began to sink deeper into depression as the association of her life and current situation slowly appeared to mirror her dilapidated surroundings, which displayed years of gross neglect, and summoned from within her involuntary feelings of repugnance and sickening angst. Her husband has added to her fragile psychological state, as a physician himself and her caregiver, who does not believe in her sickness and attributes her ‘condition’ to a "temporary nervous depression." (Gilman 39) As time passes she perseverates more about her condition, continues to feels worse, and exhibits a rapid decline in her emotional health.
On the other end of the spectrum, Poe’s “Tell-Tale Heart” immediately begins in a psychological frenzy, a la, in the mind of a serial killer procedurally mapping out his thought processes in premeditation of committing a murder. You can visualize how insane he really is just from the opening line of the story. “True – nervous – very, very dreadfully nervous I had been and am; but why will you say that I am mad?” (Poe 555)
Arrogance and selfish desires exude from Poe’s...