It's Kind of a Funny Story Themes
The main themes in It’s Kind of a Funny Story are privilege, the pervasiveness of problems, and sexuality and relationships.
- Privilege: During his time at the hospital, Craig’s interactions with the other patients broaden his perspective and help him realize the various forms of privilege he takes for granted.
- The pervasiveness of problems: Craig initially believes his struggles are unique and even shameful, but over the course of the novel he comes to understand that everyone faces problems of some kind.
- Sexuality and relationships: Craig develops from having a shallow understanding of sexuality and relationships to a more mature one.
A recurring theme in the novel is the influence of privilege in its various forms. During his stay in Six North, Craig comes to recognize his particular areas of privilege. In a conversation with Noelle, Craig articulates the privilege he experiences due to his gender. Craig tells her that boys are arrogant because they often assume that “the world was built for [them].” While Noelle and Craig feel the pressures of “the pretty game” and “the smart game,” respectively, Noelle points out that “the pretty game’s worse… Nobody wants to use you for being smart.”
Throughout the novel, Craig also realizes his economic privilege. When Craig tells Humble that he has eight dollars, Humble says, “Shhh. Don’t go announcing it! . . . People in here don’t have any money. I don’t have two cents to rub together.” Before going to Six North, Craig laments that he lives in “statusless Brooklyn.” When Bobby finds out where Craig lives, however, he declares, “Man, I’d give my one remaining ball to live here, I’ll tell you that.” Suddenly, Craig’s neighborhood is recast as the desired place to live, a privileged place.
Mental health issues, however, span the barriers of privilege. While many of the patients in Six North struggle financially, there are also many middle- and upper-class patients who are admitted. For example, the Professor, an academic by profession, is paralyzed by paranoia.
In some ways, Craig’s privilege frustrates him, as he believes he has no right to be depressed. He reflects that
compared to them I’m… well, I’m a spoiled rich kid. Which is another something to feel bad about. So, who’s worse off?
While Craig’s privilege can be a source of frustration, recognizing it is also a source of healing. When Bobby is accepted into a group home and feels grateful to Craig for loaning him a shirt for the interview, Craig hugs him and thinks,
This guy just got a place to live. Me? I have one. I’ll always have one… My stupid fantasies about ending up homeless are just that—the fact is that my parents will take me in anytime, anywhere. But some people have to get lucky just to live. And I never knew I could make anybody lucky.
By turning his attention away from himself and considering how he can help others, Craig dismantles some of his former thought patterns and arrives at an appreciation for the sources of privilege in his life.
The Pervasiveness of Problems
A key theme of the novel is the reality that everyone faces problems. In the beginning, several characters carry a façade of perfection, at least in Craig’s mind. He sees Nia as a glossy fantasy, and he feels jealous of Aaron’s life, which he perceives as easy. Craig is crippled by social and academic pressure, imagining that his classmates are maintaining perfect academic and extracurricular involvement.
One by one, these perfect façades erode. Nia confesses that she is also on medication for depression. At the end of the novel, Aaron says that every member of his family is medicated in some way. And Craig’s principal is receptive to—and unsurprised by—the news of Craig’s depression, explaining that this is something many students have experienced before.
Craig comes to see that his issues and struggles are not unique to his experience. As he tells...
(The entire section is 1,326 words.)