One week into October (AKA Halloween is just around the corner) and two days away from World Mental Health Day, this week's TBT is perfect leading up to both events. In about ten pages, efficiently transition out of summer and into the spooky season.
Imagine what it would be like to be quarantined with some of the worst literary families out there.
Many of us feel trapped these days. For the past several months, it’s been a struggle being unable to interact with our friends and family, and why wouldn’t it? Human are naturally a social animals, interacting with others is integral for our mental heath – even the most introverted of our kind still need to speak with their loved ones every now and again.
In fact, socialization is so paramount to our species that many of the tales we’ve told each other have to do with characters fighting to keep their sanity as they spend months, years, sometimes even decades, separated from human contact. If you’re looking for some cathartic, psychological relief amidst this self-quarantine, here is a list of the top six literary characters that are also trapped.
6. Mark watney – the martian
At least your nearest neighbor isn’t over ninety six million miles away. In The Martian by Andy Weir, the crew of NASA’s Ares 3 mission have arrived at Acidalia Plantia for a planned month-long stay on Mars. After only six sols, an intense dust and wind storm threatens to topple their Mars Ascent Vehicle (MAV), which would trap them on the planet. During the hurried evacuation, an antenna tears loose and impales astronaut Mark Watney, a botanist and engineer, also disabling his spacesuit radio. He is flung out of sight by the wind and is presumed dead.
As the MAV teeters dangerously, mission commander Melissa Lewis has no choice but to take off without completing the search for Watney, but, of course, he survives the storm (It wouldn’t be much a book if he hadn’t) and has to spend the next eighteen months battling both starvation and isolation as NASA hastily devises a way to rescue him.
5. The young woman – The yellow wallpaper
The Yellow Wallpaper is a short story by Charlotte Perkins Gilman and is a collection of journal entries written by an unnamed woman whose physician husband confines her to the upstairs nursery as a cure for her “temporary nervous depression” and “slight hysteric tendencies” after she gives birth to their baby. The story makes striking use of the descriptions of the room to illustrate to the reader just how long the narrator has been imprisoned, and how, slowly but surely, her grasp on what is real unravels. She begins to see the yellow wallpaper mutate, and eventually sees a figure she believes is trapped behind the changing patterns. It’s a story that tells the terrifying tale of what happens to a person when their mind is starved of stimulation.
4. Jessie burlingame – gerald’s game
TW: For sexual assault
Once I tell you the plot of Stephen King’s Gerald’s Game, you’ll probably be wondering why he’d dedicate this book specifically to his wife and daughters. Jessie Burlingame and her husband Gerald have recently incorporated bondage into their lovemaking, a recent edition to their marriage that both parties find exciting. Until one day when Jessie finds herself reluctant and asks Gerald to stop after he handcuffs her to the bedpost, but he ignores her.
Realizing that her husband is planning to assault her, she kicks him in the chest, causing him to have a fatal heart attack. At first, Jessie is only horrified at her husband’s death and fears the embarrassment of being discovered naked and handcuffed, but then realizes that the situation is far more dire. She’s up at their lakehouse, and the usual residents have gone home for the season. As Jessie desperately considers and rejects plans, a combination of panic and thirst causes her to see hallucinations of three characters, who all force her to confront her dark past.
3. the boys – lord of the flies
Spending too much time with your family and resisting to urge to claw their eyes out? In the midst of a wartime evacuation, a British airplane crashes on or near an isolated island in a remote region of the Pacific Ocean. The only survivors of the crash is a group of young boys. In the beginning, the boys work together to survive, even establishing a loose democratic structure, but as the weeks turn to months, order begins to break down. William Golding’s Lord of the Flies allegorically shows us how our impulse toward civilization fights our impulse for power, but also how sometimes the only thing worse than being stuck by yourself is being stuck with people you can’t cooperate with.
2. chief bromden – one flew over the cuckoo’s nest
Ever sometimes feel all alone even when you’re surrounded by people? Ken Kessey, author of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, shares with us how, sometimes, isolation is more of a mindset rather than a location. Set in an Oregon psychiatric hospital, the book is narrated by Chief Bromden, half-Native American man who pretends that he’s deaf and mute. While Bromden may be the main character, his tale mostly focuses on the rebellious actions of Randle McMurphy, who faked insanity to serve his sentence for battery and gambling in luxury rather than at a work camp, but he soon discovers that the hospital is anything but.
Bromden often retreats into the “fog” when he’s too afraid, a place in the deep recesses of his mind where he can escape from the real world, a place he finds comfortable, yet also a place McMurphy tries to pull him and the other patients out of, so they could confront the cruelty of the hospital staff and live their lives again.
1. Jack – room
Jack is a five-year-old boy who lives with his mother in a place he calls “Room”, a secured single-room outbuilding containing a small kitchen, a basic bathroom, a wardrobe, a bed, and a TV set. Because it is all he’s ever known, Jack believes that only Room and the things it contains (including himself and his mother, who he calls “Ma”) are real. Ma, unwilling to disappoint Jack with a life she cannot give him, allows him to believe that the rest of the world exists only on television.
She tries her best to keep Jack healthy and happy via both physical and mental exercises, keeping a healthy diet, limiting TV-watching time, and strict body and oral hygiene. The only other person Jack has ever seen is Old Nick, who visits Room at night while Jack sleeps hidden in a wardrobe. What Jack is unaware of is that Old Nick has kidnapped Ma when she was nineteen years old and has been keeping her imprisoned for the last seven years. This horrifying tale show us how damaging permanent isolation can be, especially to a child.