As a prerequisite for AP Psychology, we were asked to watch three movies and read one book. I chose to read Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes and I watched Girl, Interrupted as well as One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and Awakenings. All four works stress the ignorance that plagues and changes people’s lives. The creators of various works about abnormal psychology all displayed the presence of blindness to ignorance which could have a significant positive or negative effect on characters.
Flowers for Algernon is a book about Charlie Gordon, a mentally impaired man with an IQ of 68 who dreams of being intelligent and increasing his cognitive abilities. Charlie is chosen to be the first human subject of an experimental procedure that has the potential to make his dreams come true. Charlie is shown a mouse named Algernon who previously underwent the same surgery Charlie is about to have. Algernon is able to solve mazes and Charlie races against him. Charlie soon becomes angry as Algernon has beaten him every time, and now Charlie feels inadequate in comparison to a mouse. After Charlie’s procedure, he begins to learn and gain insight into what is happening around him. Charlie works at a bakery downtown and eventually realizes that his co-workers and people he thought were his friends were really constantly “poking fun” at Charlie and harassing him. This greatly troubles Charlie and soon after this, he is fired because his coworkers are afraid of his new intelligence. Charlie’s IQ and all around intelligence continues to climb and all the while he becomes happier and happier with his new life. But this happiness is put on hold when suddenly the mouse Algernon’s intelligence begins to fade away and he eventually regresses back to his original state and dies.
Charlie quickly realizes that his intelligence is temporary as well. He begins to experiment to try to find a cure, but his mental agility regresses back to its natural state. Charlie soon states that he plans to “go away” to New York and his last wish is for someone to put flowers on Algernon’s grave. In this book, the theme of ignorance is stressed when Charlie begins to gain intelligence and awareness of the interactions of others around him. The men working at the bakery he worked at he had considered friends, but once Charlie changed and was no longer foolish enough to be toyed with, the men left Charlie. He also realized that the men had been treating him with disrespect for years and he was disturbed to figure this out. Charlie also realizes that his childhood was less than pleasant and had a very negative impact on his mental state.
Girl, Interrupted depicts a girl named Susanna Kaysen struggling with depression and an attempted suicide. She is sent to live at a psychiatric hospital where she quickly finds herself fitting in. Shortly after she arrives Susanna meets Lisa, who is has a harmful influence on Susanna. Lisa convinces Susanna to stop taking her medication and to resist therapy offered at the hospital. Susanna’s recovery is put on hold for many months as she becomes better friends with Lisa. The pair later escape from the ward and visit ex-patient Daisy at her new home.
Lisa verbally harasses Daisy and in the morning Susanna walks into the bathroom to discover that Daisy had hanged herself. Shaken to the core, Susanna returns to the psychiatric ward without Lisa where she embraces the recovery methods and quickly recuperates and is released, but only after a less than pleasant run-in with Lisa. Susanna’s story emphasizes the theme of ignorance when she denies that she tried to commit suicide and resists treatment. Susanna believed that she was mentally stable and that she just had a headache and proceeded to take an entire bottle of aspirin and wash it down with vodka. She also realizes that Lisa has been a harmful influence and that if she keeps resisting treatment, she will recover and be released, much like Lisa who has been stuck there for eight years. Once Susanna overcomes her ignorance and begins to embrace the therapy being offered and the fact that she did attempt suicide, she finally begins to recover and is quickly discharged.
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest details the life of Randle Patrick McMurphy after he has been released from a prison farm to a psychiatric ward. In actuality, he is not mentally ill, yet he is looking for a place to relax rather than to do hard labor during his sentence for criminal behavior. At the ward, he begins gambling with other patients and often resists the authority of Nurse Ratched, who believes the mental institution could help McMurphy recover from his criminal ways. McMurphy, however, becomes increasingly violent and unpredictable, going so far as to steal a bus and a boat to take other patients fishing. After a fight between patients and staff, McMurphy and two other inhabitants of the ward are taken to a different ward to receive electroshock therapy, which ultimately does nothing but hurt the patients. McMurphy goes on to throw a wild, unauthorized party which destroys the ward. Nurse Ratched is furious when she finds out and removes McMurphy from the ward, where he returns later. McMurphy had been given a lobotomy and was physically and mentally unresponsive.
One patient is furious about this discovery and will not let Murphy live like this and smothers him with a pillow. This work relates to the central theme because Murphy refuses to accept treatment, much like Susanna in Girl, Interrupted. At the mental institution, Murphy is offered medications and group therapies to correct his destructive tendencies which he vehemently denies. Due to his disregard of treatment, he was administered a lobotomy, which left him severely disabled. Murphy was ultimately killed due to his ignorance of treatments.
Awakenings shows the work of Dr. Malcolm Sayer who is hired as a “doctor doctor” at a psychiatric hospital where he quickly finds many catatonic patients who all show similar diagnoses. They are all post encephalitis patients and can all catch a ball despite being otherwise unresponsive. Dr. Sayer also finds that their brains are also active in this state and if “reanimated” they could live with full mental capacity. Dr. Sayer attends a speech about a drug called L-Dopa used to treat patients with Parkinson’s disease. Sayer has a theory that this catatonic state can be reversed by this drug and is given permission to test his theory on one patient. Sayer chooses Leonard Lowe and gives him a very high dosage of the drug, and within hours Leonard “awakens” from his catatonic state to be able to walk, talk, and move. The results from Lowe are very promising and Dr. Sayer is given grants and permission to administer this drug to the other patients with symptoms like Leonards.
The catatonic patients quickly wake from their comatose state and are able to live like normal people, however, Leonard’s health begins to regress and he begins to show signs of tics and uncontrollable movements. After his dosage is continually increased, Leonard eventually returns to his previous catatonic state, as do the other patients in the ward. In this work, ignorance was highlighted by the catatonic patients once they were administered treatment. The patients, especially Leonard, who continuously mentioned how ignorant normal people are about how lucky they are. He speaks about how regular day people take for granted everything they do, be it going to work or even just choosing which way to turn when going for a walk.
In conclusion, these works are all related to the general theme of ignorance and the impact it has on lives. These were all well crafted and thought out scientifically and all show a recurring theme that without the works would have no purpose or backbone. Ignorance is a powerful thing and it can have significant impacts on people’s lives as highlighted by creators of various works that display the disregard characters display towards themselves others, or have it projected unto them.