It seems easy to tell a sane individual apart from an insane person. If they act crazy or make irrational decisions, theoretically these people are deemed crazy. However, does that mean those who don’t seem crazy are “normal”? How do we exactly define “normal”?
People act in ways acceptable to society. That’s just human nature at work. I quote one of my online friends. “People can mask their true feelings on the inside and maintain a seemingly stable life outside.” You look at certain murder mysteries. You go to work every day with people that seem like the average citizen just doing their job. Of course, the last thing you’d expect is for them to commit a gruesome murder. But as my friend further said,”People are capable of doing evil things. Some can hold it easily, but thoughts are still in mind.” So trust no one.
The case of insanity occurs in literature as well. I remember reading “One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest” in English of my Junior year in high school. The book starts with Chief Bromden’s, A.K.A. Chief Broom’s, narration. He describes the events that happen inside the mental ward, and Randall Patrick McMurphy’s beef with the infamous Nurse Ratchet. This year (My Senior year), we had just finished reading Frankenstein in English class. We also read “Rime of the Ancient Mariner” in our English Anthology textbook. Both literary works have significant similarities within one another. But all three works (Cuckoo’s Nest, “Frankenstein”, and Ancient Mariner) have one thing in common: unreliable narrator.
First off, I will confess. I didn’t even read half of Frankenstein. It is really verbose, and it’s also — in Internet terms — TL;DR. However, regardless whether or not I read it, Mary Shelley did a really good job of writing it out. Now, I know how the general audience portrays the plot of Frankenstein. In the cartoons and other literary works about the “monster”, a mad scientist created this human like thing with green skin which people have come to know as Frankenstein. Wrong, wrong, wrong! First off, Frankenstein is a frame story, which means it’s got multiple (in this case, three) points of views. It starts out with Robert Walton, the first character introduced, narrating about his voyage to the North Pole to try and discover an alternate route around the world through the North Pole. There, he meets a mad scientist named Victor Frankenstein, who then goes on to tell him his tale about his childhood up until the creation of the creature. Yes, the creature. NOT MONSTER. Despite the way the media and popular culture portrays it, the creature is more benevolent than you think. Anyway, the creature then tell its little tale before Victor again takes over. Then finally, Walton tells about what he’s heard from both sides of the spectrum. Think about it. First off, Victor Frankenstein a mad scientist who grave robs for his experiment, runs away from his own creation, and goes after it. His mind is slowly deteriorating from lack of sleep, and he’s gradually driven more and more insane. I know I said the creature is more benevolent than you think, but even so how can we trust the creature? Walton tells what he’s heard from both characters, but who’s really telling the truth?
In Ancient Mariner, the Mariner is telling his story to a guest who just wants to go to this wedding party. According to his tale, he and shipmates are travelling across the Pacific when he ends up killing an albatross for no reason as they stop at Antarctica. However, since the bird represents good luck to his shipmates, they end up with bad luck. Their ship stops. They see a ghost ship. Every crew member except the mariner himself dies. He feels guilty, and starts to appreciate nature. The dead albatross, which he’d been wearing around his neck to represent Jesus Christ, falls off and his shipmates are resurrected by angels. Okay, first of all, how the hell do we know he’s not just making this story up to scare the living crap out of the guest into respecting and appreciating nature? This story has “unreliable narrator” written all over.
We’ve all heard the saying “Don’t judge a book by its cover”. So does that mean a “normal” person has to be sane? No, it doesn’t. There are crazy people are there in this world, even when we least expect it. The most unlikely people now have a possibility of committing murder. Insanity shows itself in literature. So, how do we tell if one is in fact sane or insane? The simple, yet sad, answer is we just don’t know. Life is just web of concepts and mysteries. This is one of them.