It's Kind of a Funny Story Analysis
It’s Kind of a Funny Story is told in the casual first-person narration of Craig Gilner, a fifteen-year-old boy. The title of the book reflects the novel’s conversational tone, and indeed, throughout the novel the reader feels as though Craig is telling them his story extemporaneously.
Craig uses informal language throughout his narration. When relaying dialogue, for example, he often uses the word “like” rather than “says.” The first-person narration gives the reader access to all of Craig’s thoughts. This helps develop Craig’s character, but also helps portray the experience of depression for the reader. For example, when Craig is first admitted to the hospital, the nurse asks him to stop and notice how he feels, so that he will remember that feeling the next time he wants to stop taking his medication. Craig follows her instructions, narrating that he feels “dead, wasted, awful, broken, and useless.” This gives the reader a personal, internal perspective of depression.
The structure of the novel positions Craig’s potential suicide as the crux of the plot. Craig begins his story in a state of deep depression, opening the novel with the words “It’s so hard to talk when you want to kill yourself.” The novel does not unfold in chronological order; the title of the sections help guide the reader to understand which part of his story Craig is focusing on. By beginning with Craig’s thoughts of suicide, then retracing the two years that led up to them, author Ned Vizzini offers key context as he moves the narrative back to that critical point. This builds reader interest and also highlights the importance of Craig’s choice between life and death.
Although the narrative is focused on the fictional Craig Gilner, the novel also educates the reader about depression. Repeatedly, Vizzini puts information about suicide and suicide prevention in the dialogue of his characters. When he looks at a book about grief, Craig is guided to reach out to a suicide hotline number. The woman he speaks to convinces him to go to the emergency room, clarifying that suicidal thoughts are considered a medical emergency. During his treatment, doctors and nurses give Craig important information about depression and suicide. Craig’s principal tells him that he is familiar with the psychiatric hospital, as depression “is a very common problem among young people.” At different points in the novel, Craig himself shares facts and statistics that he has learned about mental illness. At one point, he tells Noelle about his research:
I look at what the doctors hand out, and there are studies that show like, one fifth of Americans suffer from a mental illness, and suicide is the number-two killer among teenagers and all this crap.
Facts about suicide and depression, particularly among American teenagers, are woven throughout the story, informing the reader and helping to normalize depression.
More than simply educating the reader about depression in general, It’s Kind of a Funny Story seems to focus on the experience of depression among youths and to destigmatize adolescent depression. Repeatedly, the novel makes the point that everyone faces different problems; there is no shame in mental illness, and there is no “perfect” life....
(The entire section is 824 words.)