Mental Health In Literature, Part 2:

The previous article briefly discussed how the power of literature was a deadly weapon through newspapers, radio, and other media outlets, used in antisemitic propaganda by Adolf Hitler to dehumanise and vilify his enemies, primarily the Jews he called parasites. 

But also additional groups such as communists and non-Aryans, the word was used in Germany to describe a future genius race and then later labelled by philosophers as Social Darwinism to justify their despicable acts. [cited: Mein Kampf]


Germany’s economic collapse in 1918 was attributed to a combination of factors. First, the military defeat in World War I played a significant role in Germany’s failure. The country had suffered heavy casualties, and the Allies imposed severe terms on Germany through the Treaty of Versailles, which included massive reparations payments and territorial losses. 

Hitler portrayed himself as a charismatic and assertive leader who could lead Germany back to victory and prosperity. His speeches were carefully crafted to instil loyalty and Idolatry among his followers—manipulation of the Media. They spread misinformation through newspapers, radio, and other media outlets, creating a distorted reality that further reinforced their narrative.

Hitler recognised the importance of indoctrinating youth to ensure the longevity of his ideology. Nazi propaganda infiltrated the education system, influencing textbooks and curricula to shape young minds following the regime’s beliefs.

Joseph Goebbels: The mastermind behind Hitler’s propaganda machine, before finally observing the demonisation and dehumanisation of Jews and scapegoating by portraying them as the cause of Germany’s problems. - hence the Holocaust. 

As the war drew to a close Germany faced defeat, Magda Goebbels and her children joined Hitler in Berlin. They moved into the underground bunker, on 22 April 1945. Hitler then committed suicide on 30 April 1945.

In accordance with Hitler's will, Paul Joseph Goebbels succeeded him as Chancellor of Germany; he served one day in this post. The following day, he and his wife Magda Goebbels committed suicide, after having poisoned their six children with a cyanide compound. (Wikipedia)

Charlotte Brontë novel: Jane Eyre

The second part of the previous article, Charlotte Brontë novel, Jane Eyre, which offers readers a captivating book that explores complex themes of love through the unconventional romance between Jane and Mr Rochester and challenges traditional notions of love and marriage—her choice of independence and emotional ambivalence only highlights the struggles by women’s in Victorian society.

Charlotte Brontë came from a strong religious background and incorporated biblical allusions and moral dilemmas into the narrative. You are left with many questions and points of reflection. It is not explicitly stated that Mr. Rochester married Bertha Mason for her money.

Mr. Rochester’s family arranged their marriage for financial gain, as Bertha came from a wealthy family in the West Indies. However, it is essential to note that Mr. Rochester was unaware of Bertha’s mental illness during their marriage. Once he discovered her condition, he felt trapped in their marriage and could not divorce her due to societal and legal constraints.

The discussion of Mr. Rochester’s motivation for marrying Bertha is open to interpretation, as the novel focuses more on Jane Eyre’s personal growth and journey.

Did Jane Eyre exhibit codependency traits, as she constantly seeks approval and validation from others and often sacrifices her own needs and desires to serve others, particularly Mr. Rochester?

On the other hand, Mr Rochester displays narcissistic tendencies with his inflated sense of ego, manipulating and controlling those around him, specifically Jane, for his own gratification. Whereas did Mr Rochester also display characteristics of the patriarchal system during this period, and such behaviour was considered the norm?

The power dynamics and toxic relationship between Jane and Rochester can reflect either echoism or codependency, allowing Mr Rochester’s narcissism to thrive as she enables his selfish behaviour and sacrifices her personal needs and desires. Thereby highlighting the complexities and challenges of their relationship.

Controversial treatment of Bertha Mason, the first wife of Mr. Rochester. Charlotte Brontë portrays Bertha as a mad and violent woman imprisoned in the attic of Thornfield Hall. This portrayal has been criticised for its racial stereotypes depicted as a vengeful and irrational figure, representing the dangers of female sexuality and the “madwoman in the attic” trope.

However, some argue that Brontë’s portrayal of Bertha reflects the social and cultural attitudes of the time, where mental illness was often stigmatised and racial othering was prevalent.  Overall, the treatment of Bertha Mason raises fundamental questions about representation, gender, and race in Victorian literature.

Mr. Rochester’s adultery also raises questions about his commitment to his marital vows and the moral implications of his actions. His infidelity challenges the ethical values of the Victorian society in which the novel is set, and tests the boundaries of Jane’s own sense of morality and her understanding of devotion and fidelity.

Mr Rochester’s betrayal of his wife highlights the complexities of human behaviour and how decency can be tested and compromised in the face of passion and desire. The novel invites readers to question societal expectations and the complexities of human relationships.

However, Brontë also presents this infidelity as morally ambiguous, leading to the suffering and confinement of Bertha, who is portrayed as the innocent victim of Mr. Rochester’s actions. Bertha’s suicide can be seen as a desperate and final act to escape the torment and confinement she experienced throughout her life.

It also serves as a turning point in the plot, ultimately revealing Bertha’s true identity as Mr. Rochester’s wife, hidden away in the attic. Bertha’s suicide underscores the themes of mental illness, isolation, and the consequences of societal expectations prevalent throughout the novel when you consider that hysteria was first conceptualised around that period as an affliction impacting women.

It’s not that uncommon for the spouse of a seriously ill person to commit adultery, said Anthony DeLorenzo, The healthy partner often feels guilty, lonely and helpless about the illness, and that combination can make a spouse more vulnerable to having an affair.

The act of adultery in mental health relationships can profoundly impact both individuals involved and cause significant emotional distress. Cheating entails a breach of trust and can lead to feelings of betrayal, hurt, and anger.  For individuals with mental health issues, such as depression or anxiety, the impact of adultery can be even more detrimental.

It can exacerbate symptoms, worsen self-esteem, and trigger feelings of worthlessness or inadequacy. Additionally, recovering from an affair within a mental health relationship may require therapy or counselling to address the emotional trauma and rebuild trust, adding a layer of difficulty to the healing process.

Adultery can severely affect mental health relationships and necessitates careful attention and support to navigate the aftermath. 

This isn't the first time Charlotte Brontë had addressed issues concerning societal expectations and human emotions, highlighting the tumultuous nature of desire and longing in her 1853 novel Villette.  She continues to touch upon themes such as isolation and loneliness due to cultural differences and language barriers.

However, there is still plenty to ponder on during that era, it is now time to view a current classic. In this 1990 book, misery again delves into the complex realm of mental illness and relationships in books and film.


The psychological horror film “Misery” was directed by Rob Reiner. Based on Stephen King’s 1987 novel of the same name. While travelling to his home in New York City, Paul Sheldon is caught in a blizzard and crashes his car, rendering him unconscious. A nurse named Annie Wilkes finds him and brings him to her remote home.

The story follows Paul Sheldon, a successful author who becomes trapped in a twisted and abusive relationship with his biggest fan, Annie Wilkes.  She has an intense infatuation on her favourite author, Paul Sheldon, and the novel explores themes of obsession and control, shedding light on their detrimental effects on an individual’s mental well-being.

During this period, Paul learns more about Annie’s past as a neonatal nurse and suspicious infant mortality at her hospital. Unfortunately, 30 years later, we still read about such incidences in today’s news.

As Paul’s situation deteriorates under Annie’s increasingly violent and manipulative behaviour, viewers are confronted with the dark reality of how toxic relationships can exacerbate existing mental health issues.

The film also tackles the topic of isolation and its impact on mental health.

In Misery, Annie Wilkes, played by Kathy Bates, is a disturbed and unstable nurse who saves Paul after a car accident and holds him captive in her isolated home. It becomes clear that Annie's love for her famous author, Paul Sheldon, is not a normal or healthy admiration, but rather an intense and dangerous obsession. 

Paul is confined to Annie’s remote cabin, which is cut off from the outside world. This seclusion intensifies his helplessness and despair, effectively holding him prisoner, further fuelling his deteriorating physical and mental state.

Annie is portrayed as a deeply disturbed and mentally unstable individual who becomes obsessed with the protagonist, Paul Sheldon. Her actions throughout the film, such as holding Paul captive, inflicting physical harm on him, and exhibiting extreme mood swings, reflect her severe mental illness. 

Furthermore, “Misery” examines the power dynamics between the creator and the audience. Annie’s possessive nature as a devoted fan manifests into controlling Paul’s creative output.  

Forcing Paul to continue writing a novel to her liking, she goes to great lengths to ensure that he stays with her and continues writing the story the way she wants.

Annie's obsession is fuelled by her idealised fantasy of Paul, and any deviation from this romanticised version of them triggers her violent and unpredictable behaviour. In her delusional belief, she now has complete control and ownership over the novelist’s life and work.

Annie Wilkes, exhibits characteristics of a psychological illness known as obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). Annie's intense infatuation and obsession with the character, Paul Sheldon, can be seen as a manifestation of her obsession. 

Her need for control is also evident in her meticulous and ritualistic cleaning habits, such as sterilizing objects and organizing her home.

She also exhibits other compulsive behaviours, such as meticulously arranging and organizing her collection of porcelain figurines, as well as her strict adherence to a specific routine.  Additionally, Annie displays signs of cognitive distortions, specifically a sense of entitlement and distorted thinking, which are common features of OCD. 

Her erratic and volatile emotions, impulsivity, and violent outbursts further support the portrayal of OCD in the character of Annie Wilkes. Overall, the depiction of Annie Wilkes in Misery provides a chilling example of the complexity and destructive nature of an obsessive-compulsive disorder.

On the other hand, Annie's extreme mood swings, impulsivity, and difficulty maintaining stable relationships indicate Borderline Personality Disorder. She exhibits intense emotions and reacts impulsively, often resorting to violence when things do not go as she desires. Her unstable sense of self and her fear of abandonment are also consistent with this disorder.

This fanaticism and obsession can be seen as idolatry, where the fan idolises and worships the novelist, establishing their entire identity and happiness in his work. However, idolatry extends beyond worshipping idols, images, and false gods- it is a matter of the heart in this case.

Then again, consider erotomania, also known as “de Clérambault’s Syndrome,” a disorder between delusional and obsessive love disturbances.

Let’s take some examples: a 2012 story in Psychology Today discusses the case of Robert Hoskins. In 1995, Hoskins obsessively pursued the famous singer Madonna, thinking that she was destined to be his wife. He clambered over a wall outside of her home several times. He also violently threatened her before he was sentenced to ten years in prison.

On the other hand, in 2016, a woman in her 50s, who was married, was admitted to a psychiatric clinic. She thought her former boss was in love with her and that her husband was stopping her from being with him.

Fanaticism occurs when a person becomes excessively obsessed with a celebrity, often to the point where it becomes detrimental to their own well-being and relationships. This can lead to irrational behaviour, such as stalking or harassment, and can even affect one's mental health.

While being a fan of a celebrity is not inherently problematic, it is crucial to maintain a healthy balance. It is important to remember that celebrities are human beings who deserve privacy and respect. They may provide entertainment and inspiration, but they should not be idolised to an unhealthy extent.

Many celebrities, such as Taylor Swift and Justin Bieber, have had fans invade their privacy or threaten their lives. But the most famous and one of the most extreme examples is John Lennon when he was shot dead by Mark Chapman in December 1980.

As a Christian, Mark Chapman was angered by Lennon's new lifestyle since marrying Yoko Ono and his comments about the Beatles being bigger than Jesus. 

In conclusion, The film explores the dark and twisted consequences of an obsessive love disorder, which often coincides with other mental health conditions. Consequently, it highlights the potential dangers and destructive nature of worshipping someone or something.

“Misery” is a chilling portrayal of mental health struggles within an abusive relationship. Through examining obsession, isolation, and power dynamics, this film offers viewers a disturbing yet necessary reflection on how these factors can profoundly impact one’s well-being.

The distinction between idolatry and erotomania lies in the objects of their obsession. With idolatry being external and related to revered entities, while erotomania is focused on a specific individual and revolves around romantic delusions.

Misery is a cautionary tale that reminds us of the importance of maintaining healthy boundaries and seeking help when facing challenging circumstances.

Erotomania is a psychological disorder and is an uncommon form of paranoid delusion characterized by an individual's delusional belief that another person, usually of higher social status, is deeply in love with them. This belief is typically unfounded and resistant to rational reasoning or evidence to the contrary.

Behaviour linked to erotomania includes persistent efforts to make contact through stalking, written communication, and other harassing behaviours.   An individual may believe this person is communicating with them and affirming their love using secret messages. Mixed messages - Paradoxically, this belief can be triggered by the targeted person making it known that the attention is unwelcome.

Erotomania may be a symptom of a psychiatric illness, including schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, major depressive disorder with psychotic features, bipolar disorder, or Alzheimer’s disease.

The condition is rare, and erotomania affects women more often than men.

Treating delusional disorders can be tricky because those affected are not likely, or even able, to see that their beliefs are unsubstantiated.  Caution: They can pose a threat to their object of affection.

Fatal Attraction

Misery is not the only film delving into the complex realm of toxic relationships. Another notable example is the 1987 psychosexual thriller Fatal Attraction, directed by Adrian Lyne from a screenplay and short film, Diversion, in 1979.

This gripping film follows a married man named Dan Gallagher, who embarks on a weekend of infidelity with a woman named Alex Forrest, only to find himself entangled in a dangerous and obsessive relationship.

In Fatal Attraction, the character Alex Forrest played by Glenn Close becomes obsessed with Michael Douglas's character Dan, her former lover, and goes to extreme measures to maintain their relationship. This kind of obsession is also seen in Obsessive Love Disorder, where individuals become fixated on a specific person and engage in persistent and intrusive behaviour. 

“Fatal Attraction” tackles obsession, jealousy, trust and the consequences of adultery. Jilted by Dan, Alex becomes unstable, her obsession with Dan escalates, and viewers are taken on a suspenseful journey that explores the darker side of human emotions and the potential for psychological harm.  

She harms herself, kidnaps his daughter, and boils the little girl’s poor pet bunny—all for his attention. Helping to coin the phrase “bunny-boiler” this phrase is now commonly used to describe someone who is excessively possessive, jealous, and often exhibits stalking or manipulative behaviour in relationships.  

The film also sheds light on manipulation and its impact on mental well-being. As Alex’s actions become increasingly erratic and violent, Dan is forced to confront the terrifying reality of being trapped in an abusive situation.

Through its intense portrayal of manipulation and control, “Fatal Attraction” highlights how such toxic dynamics can profoundly affect an individual’s mental health.

Alex displays symptoms of Borderline Personality Disorder. This is characterized by intense and unstable interpersonal relationships, impulsivity, a pattern of unstable self-image, and emotional dysregulation. 

Alex exhibits these symptoms through her obsession with Dan, her extreme mood swings, and her manipulative and destructive behaviour is portrayed as a monster who deserves her fate.

It is important to note that this portrayal is a fictional representation and should not be seen as a definitive diagnosis of any real-life individual, that's your job!

Furthermore, “Fatal Attraction” examines societal attitudes towards mental illness. As Alex’s behaviour becomes more extreme, she is portrayed as mentally unstable and dangerous.

This depiction raises questions about the stigmatisation and misunderstanding surrounding mental health issues, reminding viewers of the importance of empathy and support for those struggling with mental health.

Glenn Close, AKA bunny boiler Alex Forrest, in a BBC interview, now aged 71, promoting her latest film, The Wife, said it would be "fascinating" to retell the 1980s thriller from Alex's perspective. 

Claiming her character was wrongly portrayed as a demon because mental illness was misunderstood at the time. Alex Forrest would be viewed in a very different light today.

Her character was lonely and in crisis, searching for love and support. It's not surprising that the biggest cheer the film got in the previews was when Dan's wife called and said,

If you ever come near my family again, I'll kill you

It then ends with Alex being shot dead by her lover's wife.

Time for reflection

To conclude, “Fatal Attraction” serves as a chilling reminder of how unchecked emotions and misunderstanding can lead to devastating consequences for one’s mental health.

This film examines the fragile line between love and madness by exploring obsession, manipulation, and societal attitudes towards mental illness. I was trying to avoid the old cliché “Madly in Love”.

Today, we have reflected upon the film Fatal Attraction and Charlotte Brontë novel Jane Eyre, exploring themes of obsession, the consequences of forbidden passion, and then the novel misery with obsessive love. 

In Fatal Attraction, the main character becomes a jilted woman on a one-night stand seeking revenge. She becomes increasingly unstable in crisis as she tries to pursue him, leading to a dangerous and destructive outcome.

Similarly, in Jane Eyre, the leading character falls in love with her employer, Mr Rochester, despite societal barriers and his complicated past. Both narratives delve into the depths of human desires and the repercussions that can arise from such encounters.

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a mental health condition characterised by intrusive thoughts, obsessions, and compulsions that can significantly impact a person's daily life.

Obsessive love, on the other hand, refers to an intense and overwhelming fixation on another person, often leading to unhealthy behaviours and inability to let go.

It is important to remember that movies and other forms of entertainment are created for entertainment purposes and should not be used as a basis for medical diagnosis.

Additionally, diagnosing a specific mental health condition would require a comprehensive evaluation by a qualified healthcare professional.

It is always best to consult with a healthcare professional for a proper diagnosis and treatment plan if you or someone you know is experiencing mental health concerns.

Remember, seeking help is a sign of strength, and there are people who are ready to support and assist you in navigating these challenging experiences.