Jane Eyre and the Invisible Man: Comparing and Contrasting the Treatment of Insanity Between Then and Now

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Beth Taylor DE Survey of English Literature Summer Reading Project Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte, The Invisible Man by H.G. Wells Insanity is defined as “A mental illness of such a severe nature that a person cannot distinguish fantasy from reality, cannot conduct his or her affairs due to psychosis, or is subject to uncontrollable behavior.” (psychologytoday.com) Both Jane Eyre authored by Charlotte Bronte and The Invisible Man authored by H.G. Wells exhibit instances of mental illnesses. However, in contrast with today’s society, they are perceived and handled in different ways. Contrary to that, there are also multiple similarities between their societal behaviors involving mental illnesses and ours. In Jane Eyre, there can be many arguments made on characters that can be considered ‘mentally incompetent’ or ‘insane’. One example would be Aunt Reed, who found it impossible to care for Jane as her own child simply because she did not like the child’s mother. Today, Aunt Reed would be designated as having Avoidant Attachment Disorder. This mental illness would be diagnosed based upon her hostility, her criticism, her self-important image and her lack of empathy towards Jane. In fact, Aunt Reed was a candidate for mental insanity just by being herself. Studies by the American Psychological Association show that internal mindsets of an individual, such as hereditary disposition, has an influence on the development of insanity. Aunt Reed was born into a high class family, and when her brother married ‘beneath himself’, it disabled her to love Jane. Even in today’s society, children are judged based on the amount of money and the social status of their parents. That is one thing that has not changed since the 1800s, and because of the fact that money and social status are a very important part in today’s society, it more than likely never will. Another
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