Themes and Meanings

(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

This novel does not romanticize mental illness, but neither does it show the mental hospital as an unrelieved chamber of horrors. Even Ward D, frightening as it may be with its potentially violent patients and its physical, sometimes painful, restraints, is a kind of sanctuary where at last the pretense of sanity may be dropped. For those who have struggled for years to keep their difference from other people a dark secret, this may come as a welcome relief.

Such patients enjoy a certain honesty and directness of expression not allowed to sane people, especially doctors. They know that they are “crazy” and despise feeble euphemisms. There seems to be some unstated code among the patients that allows them to tolerate one another’s irrational behavior without interference or condemnation.

Moreover, the story suggests that psychosis itself may be a temporarily viable way of coping with the world in a situation of special emotional stress. Unfortunately, the “solution” may itself become a trap, shutting out the joy which the real world offers. Nevertheless, Dr. Fried never tries to destroy Deborah’s private world; rather, she carefully nurtures her free will and insists on her power to explore the nature of her problems and ultimately transcend them.

Although Deborah’s Kingdom of Yr may be intended as a set of archetypal forms patterned on Freudian or Jungian psychology, such an interpretation is not part of the analysis....

(The entire section is 597 words.)


(Novels for Students)


Fear is apparent in almost every scene of Greenberg's I Never Promised You a Rose Garden. There are...

(The entire section is 706 words.)