Role of Madness in Literature
Roleof Madness in Literature
Theprocess of making meaning and sense from the surrounding inliterature has a lot to do with the creativity of the mind. The mindof any human being is thought to be sober and working without anyinfluences that will affect the person’s speech, behavior oremotions. Literature, as a component of culture in the society, hasexplored the nature of relationships between madness and creativity,especially in art, literature and poetry. Poets from the nineteenthcentury have explored, through literary texts, the relationshipbetween madness and creative works, especially on fictional work.Their aim is to determine the realism and integration of madness toliterature. Thiswork will cover a literary analysis of Caroll’s Alice’sAdventures in Wonderlandand Through the Looking-Glass and Bulgakov’sThe Master and Margaritato to bring out the role of madness inliterature and its contribution to art.
Bulgakov’sTheMaster and Margaritaexplains the battle existing between the material and spiritualworld. Bulgakov uses different stylistic devices of literature,themes, characters and characterization to dissociate madness and itsrole in literary work. The author sets the religious and materialworlds apart to make it easier for the audience to understand theconcept of madness. Bulgakov makes the religious aspect triumph overmaterial aspect in the narrative with the intention of leavingreaders with a positive analogy that, everything will turn out rightas the world is built on that(Bulgakov382).Bulgakov’s statement pioneers the concept of madness in theliterary piece of work because not all things turn out right as thewriter purports. From the statement, Bulgakov adopts a politicaldimension in defining madness in the Soviet Union context(Young 572).According to the author, the government uses madness as a tool foroppression by a false feeling of madness to its citizens.
Bulgakovuses satire in describing the terror that is inflicted on thecitizens by the Soviet government. The author capitalizes on theconcept of fear, which is equated to political coercion. However, theauthor is careful in the equation to note that it originates from thedark practices in government. According to the author, fear iscomparable with mental illness, which has chances of developing todouble identities of a person in the real being and the artisticworld. Human beings end up relying on their material aspect andforsaking spiritual forces. This is evident when one of thecharacters, Ivan, says, “Man governs it himself”(Bulgakov 13).One the contrary, Bulgakov tries to disagree with Ivan`s sentiments.The author argues the contradiction by using the Bible through hisversion of Point Pilate. According to Bulgakov, anyone who tried toignore the spiritual forces became accosted in an uncomfortable way,demonstrating the malleability of his ideologies.
Communistpolicies propagated by the Soviet Union faced a lot of rejection fromartists confined in asylums. The author uses satire in describing thecommunist society. During the 20thcentury, there was a severe stigma associated with mental illness andthe government took advantage of the situation to discredit policeprotesters and intellectuals(Bulgakov 59).According to Bulgakov, most of the characters in TheMaster and Margaritawere equated to be mad due to the strong opposition of the artisticworld. The Master said that he “began to be afraid of the dark"(Young 573).Bulgakov, in short, says that the mental illness had set in and theMaster`s sense of fear indicated the fear experienced by the Sovietcitizens. Bulgakov mentioned mental illness in TheMaster and Margaritato signify the political system(Young, 573).Additionally, the Master in the literary text uses the octopus plantas a metaphor for the Soviet regime.
Onthe other hand, Alice in Wonderland is more than a children’s storybecause of its hidden philosophies and metaphors. The book waswritten in the Victorian age where social norms held great importanceto the high class. The tea party used in the story is arepresentation of chaos and a society of people who ignored rules andoperated beyond the social constraints(Carroll, 37).The concept of madness is once again introduced in the text when thecreature from Wonderland refuses to communicate to Alice, who is newto the place, in a meaningful manner. Although the creatures do notsee their behavior as being odd, Alice notices the behavior asuncivilized and mad as she is from another part of the world.
Alice’sWonderland is philosophically full of madness. The character’simagination brings out the innocent and unmolded part of a child’sbrain and thinking. The Wonderland journey was considered a queer onewith anyone trying to question basic things being labeled as mad. Oneof the characters, the Cheshire Cat, acknowledged that every creaturein Wonderland was mad(Carroll 61).Despite the existing preconditions in Wonderland, Alice at all timestried to manifest her superior reasoning ability to refute the ideathat everyone was mad. For instance, the cat was unwilling to engagein constructive dialogue, which according to Alice, was purring andnot growling(Carroll 58).From the logic, creatures in Wonderland refused to acknowledge toAlice’s personality and logic.
Stereotypesin the upper class of society are believed to fuel Carol’s ideas inthe literary text. The author uses the queens of heart, who has abossy character and has subjects that seem to understand the ongoingmadness. As a manifestation of her bossy character and oppression tothe subjects, the queen orders her subjects to perform some salientacts. These acts are a form of oppression as the subjects executethem out of fear. After witnessing some of the fears of the subjects,Alice thought that she had never seen such a curious croquet-groundin her life.
Carroluses her book to express the levels of oppression to the voiceless.The setting of the story in the Victorian age has a lot ofsignificance in illustrating oppression. Any contrary view to that ofthe ruling elites is seen as madness(Bush 8).Therefore, people of a contrary opinion were seen as being mad.Additionally, the owners and controllers of resources, just like inWonderland, made it difficult for anyone new with a contrary opinionto fit in their society(Bush 12).In Wonderland, the King of Hearts also summed up as the judge. Hemade a new rule to eliminate Alice from the courtroom as she hadexpressed her disagreement and discontentment regarding the case ofthe Knave of Hearts.
Thetwo literary texts, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and The Masterand Margarita have similar approaches in portraying madness. As acommon theme in the two texts, madness is viewed from differentstandpoints and ages. However, the difference of their ages andsetting does not change the way the authors approach madness indescribing the society. Although Carrol uses a tale of animals, herview of oppression is much similar to that of Bulgakov’s who usesthe Soviet society. The two texts also take an artistic approach toexploit their creativity and arouse the urge of the reader to learnmore about oppression. The two articles are similar from the way theyuse metaphors, symbols and figurative language to describe thepolitical class and their oppression practices to subjects.
Bulgakov,Mikhail. TheMaster and Margarita.New York : Penguin Classics, 2012.
Bush,Brady. "A Literary Analysis of Alice’s Adventures inWonderland and Through the Looking Glass." MakingSense of Nonsense(2014): 2-14.
Carroll,Lewis. Alice`sAdventures In Wonderland: Through The Looking Glass.New York : Vintage Books, 2014.
Young,Stuart. ""The Master and Margarita."." TheatreJournal, Vol 65(2013): 572-574.
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Role of Madness in Literature
Rationalists regard madness as the overindulgence in the creativepart of the mind. The nineteenth-century poets and writers haveexplored the relationship between madness and creative imagination intheir literature works (Langer 10). Madness was eithersensationalized or portrayed as a psychological realism in fictionwork. Caroll’s book, “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland”and Bulgakov’s text, “The Master and Margarita” aresimilar in portraying madness as a form of oppressive control.
Similarities in the Portrayal of Madness
In the Master and Margarita story, there is a battle betweenthe material and spiritual world. The book is unadoptable due to theenormity of characters and mixture of tone and style. (Young572-574). The religious sphere triumphs and the readers are left withthe positive statement that “everything will turn out right theworld is built on that” (Bulgakov 382). This is the ultimateabsurdity of madness because not everything turns out right. Madnessis seen as an oppressive tool in the sense that the state (SovietUnion) incites fear and introduces the feeling of madness to itscitizens. In his satire, Bulgakov discussed the terror inflicted onthe citizen by the Soviet government. Fear is articulated in hiswriting, which could be equated to the fear of political coercion.However, in this case, the fear was related to anxiety that comesfrom the dark. It can be compared to mental illness, which sometimesleads to double identities, the real person and the individual in theartistic world. Human beings rely on themselves and choose to ignorethe spiritual forces. Man rules himself this is evident when thehomeless Ivan says that “Man himself governs it" (Bulgakov 9).Bulgakov’s work tries to disagree with the fact that man governsthe world. Yeshua and Woland represent the spiritual world. Satan whowas known as a monster was compared to Stalin. Stalin and his heirstook pride in manipulating others. Anyone who ignored the spiritualforces was accosted in an uncomfortable way. The earthly power wasshort-lived. In the book, Bulgakov challenges the readers’ idea ofreality by changing the Bible through his version of Point Pilate.This demonstrated the fact that ideologies are malleable.
Communist policies were being rejected by many artists who weremostly confined in asylums due to their objections. Bulgakovsatirized the communist society. Political ideas were strongly linkedto the stability of the mind. In the communist state, the stigma thatcame with mental illness was adverse to the extent that the masterhad a fear of existing in the real world. Under the communist rule,most of the characters in the Master and Margarita who areequated to be mad are writers. This was due to the strong oppositionof the artistic world.
Similarly, Alice in Wonderland is not just a child story it hashidden metaphors and philosophies, which are relevant to the readersand writers. Written in the Victorian age where social norms were ofgreat importance to the high class, the tea party in the story was asymbol of chaos. The tea party was a representation of a societywhere people ignored rules and operated beyond social constraints. Atthe center of the chaos and madness, the dormouse was a hallmarkproletariat used by Karl Marx, the wage earners. He is persistentlyabused by the powerful Hatter, which showcases the Royals as dazedand mad, and they can do as they please. The queen of hearts who isbossy has subjects who seem to understand the madness, but do notpossess it. Stereotypes in the upper class are believed to fuel theideas of Caroll. The queen makes his subjects perform some of thesilliest acts due to the fear instilled in them, which is a form ofoppression. The monarchy and its subjects are symbolized by a deck ofcards meaning they belong to the same group just that one takesadvantage over the other. Different social classes do not relate withone another. For example, this is seen through the animals that Alicemeets the clothed animals do not mingle with the unclothed ones. InAlice’s world, the society is ruled by fools who abuse and oppressothers.
Alice’s Wonderland is a place of madness philosophically. Herimagination reveals the unmolded part of a child’s brain. TheWonderland journey was considered queer, and anyone who daredquestion the basic things was labeled as mad. She saw a door andpeeped through the whole to see a beautiful garden, but she could notget her head through. She thought "it would be of very littleuse without my shoulder” (Carrol 3). Her curiosity awakens her puremadness by following the white rabbit in the quest for knowledge. Sheruns after the humanely dressed rabbit curious to know where it wouldlead her. When she fell into the whole, it took her to a Neverlandthat brought loneliness and confusion. She is trapped in solitudethat led her towards the edge of reality.
In contrast, Caroll`s story and that of Bulgakov seem to differregarding some ideas about how madness is a form of oppressivecontrol. The Master and Margarita is a classic example ofprotest literature it is a novel within another novel. The structureof the story engulfs the atheism and human nature. The reaction ofthe atheist’s citizen shows that the Soviet Union was willing toaccept Stalin’s unrealistic policies the same way the residentsreceived the unlikely events. This why the Soviet government couldimpose rules on the members and violate their freedom rights. Alicebrings nothing to the real world it is only a memory. To Alice,proper social upbringing is important as compared to naturaldisposition. It does not matter if she does not get any knowledge.All the animals were educated in Wonderland none was stupid. Theonly common situation was the madness and not ignorance hence, theycould withstand oppression. There is also real justice where thequeen of hearts follows the laws that protect people from criminalprosecution.
Alice in Wonderland focuses on a child trying to rampagethrough the mad adult world. Alice tries to find identity amidst thechaos she is made to identify herself by every creature she meets.The Master and Margarita focuses on madness from a spiritualand communal point of view. Woland who is the devil, together withhis people, scheme their way into the Soviet Union.
Madness is a major theme in Caroll’s and Bulgakov’s literature.The realm of creativity and madness was not only explored in poetrybut also in fiction writing. It is displayed in the works of the twowriters. They explore the artistic and creative part of the reader.It shows similarity in their literature works. This shows similarityin their literature works for example, they displayed how thepolitical class or the in charge oppressed the wage earners.Moreover, they tackled the imaginative world. However, there weresome contrasts in that Carroll’s work was more of a metaphor whilethe Master and Margarita was a representation of what wasactually happening in Russia.
Bulgakov, Mikhail. The Master and Margarita. 1st ed., PenguinClassics, 1967.
Carroll, Lewis, and Lewis Carroll. Alice`s Adventures InWonderland: Through The Looking
Glass 1st ed. Vintage Books, 2007,
Young, Stuart. "The Master And Margarita Adapted By SimonMcburney, Edward Kemp."
Theatre Journal, vol. 65, no. 4, 2013, pp. 572-574.
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