Isolation as a Cause of Mental Illness
Mental illness is a serious problem. Mental illness is a term used for a group of
disorders causing severe disturbances in thinking, feeling and relating. The result is a
diminished capacity for coping with ordinary demands of life. Mental illnesses can affect
persons of any age, children, adolescents, adults and the elderly. In the short stories
The Bet, Pauls Case, Silent Snow, Secret Snow the authors use isolation as a cause
for mental illness.
Not only is the lawyers hate for society caused by isolation in The
Bet but it is also the cause of Pauls suicide in Pauls Case. Finally in Silent Snow,
Secret Snow Pauls schizophrenia is the product of his personal isolation. The authors of
these short stories succeed in portraying isolation as a cause for mental illness.
In The Bet by Anton Chekhov the lawyers isolation causes his hate for society.
Over the course of the lawyers fifteen year sentence he goes through many different
phases. He studies a large amount of literature over the years.
This is the only way he
can connect with society without violating the terms of the bet. The lawyers confinement
is different from the usual prison. Normally an inmate would be able to interact with other people, but while serving his sentence under the banker, but he did not have this
luxury. This extreme removal from all human interaction is the modern equivalent of
solitary confinement. This confinement made a strong impression in the first few years
of his sentence, where he experiences loneliness, boredom and bouts of severe
depression. A perfect example of this is when the banker explains what happenedduring
the years of the lawyers imprisonment, .
..the lawyer, as far as it was possible to judge
from his short notes, suffered terribly from loneliness and boredom. (Chekhov, 171).
The effects of lawyers ordeal were evident in the note that the banker discovered the
day before his release. The note reflected the amount of wisdom the lawyer had
acquired as well as the effects the years of isolation had on him mentally.
had a disturbing influence on the lawyers state of mind and the note revealed this bitter
hatred for society. The lawyers bitter hatred for society is shown when he writes, And I
despise your books, despise all worldly blessings and wisdom… yet will death wipe you
from the face of the earth like mice underground; (Chekhov, 175). To add to the effects
the fifteen year term had upon the lawyer mentally the isolation also took a severe toll
physically on the lawyer.
The years of prison life had aged the lawyer significantly and
In Pauls Case by Willa Cather Pauls isolation is the cause for his suicide. Pauls
separation from society first becomes apparent at school where he shows that he has a
strained relationship with his teachers. Later on at school Pauls isolation becomes even
more distinct after looking at his lack of acceptance among his peers. This absence of friends may also be attributed to Pauls interest in art, opera and theater. Many of these
characteristics are perceived as feminine, so it is quite conceivable that his peers might
have thought Paul to be a homosexual. Pauls isolation goes even further while
indulging himself in one of his many interests.
Many references are made in regards to
the extent that Paul becomes consumed when in the presence of art, opera or
theater.An example of this is when Cather writes, When the symphony began Paul
sank into one of the rear seats with a long sigh of relief, and lost himself as he had done
before the Rico… the instruments seemed to free some hilarious spirit within him;
(Cather, 150). Pauls desire to leave Cordelia St.
and isolate himself is compounded
when he goes to New York. After Paul arrives in New York it becomes clear that he has
no intent of going back home or being found, thereby removing himself even further from
society. Finally Paul realizes the extent of his actions and feels trapped. These feelings
are illustrated when Cather writes, His mind, unable to cope with the vital matters near
It was a losing game in the end, it seemed, this revolt against the homilies by
which the world is run. (Cather, 166). So he assumes the ultimate form of isolation, he
In Silent Snow, Secret Snow by Conrad Aiken Pauls schizophrenia is .