Book Analysis: Diary of a Madman

Author: Nikolai Gogol

Long before I started studying psychology, I read Gogol’s story ‘Diary of a Madman’, which draws attention even with its name. Years later, I picked it up again, read it again, and then I said that I must see this piece on stage and watched the play. And I saw that in this work, Gogol can neither easily lead the reader through the paths of the mind, the delusions, hallucinations, thought ruptures, and that unreal world, which are alien to most people, suddenly become clear as if they were ordinary.

The story actually presents us at the very beginning that there is a ‘strangeness’ in Ivanovic, but we do not want to reveal it. Also, when he hears dogs talking, he says things like that, with self-control. On the other hand, he cannot reason that dogs cannot speak and write, and this reasoning weakness drags him into the house where one of the talking dogs lives. In fact, scattered and disconnected thoughts produce such results, the person almost forgets where and why he went, is amnesic to the before and after and does not feel any hesitation that the path he follows at that moment is perfectly normal.

And Ivanovich’s Sofia. However classic the theme of impossible love is for us. The 7th degree officer falls in love with the general’s daughter. There is also ‘being crazy for love’. But is there really a way between impossible love and madness? Being with Sofia is not an unrealistic thought, even if it’s actually a very remote possibility. But for Sofia Ivanovic, it’s not just love. Everything he could not achieve in life until the age of forty-two is a revolt against the rebukes of the smug principals, a rematch of his misery. He has such a great need to keep his shattered ego alive. Sofia means life, did Ivanovich really live?

When the dogs’ letters finally come to light, the reader realizes that his reasoning is broken and that Ivanovich is detached from reality. Ivanovic, on the other hand, is unaware of this, because he has no insight, he does not know that something is wrong. At this point we see our hero’s paranoid delusions, spies, being followed, encrypted messages. But none of this could be more shocking than the news that Sofia is going to marry a general.

Ivanovic suffered a psychotic break as a result of the pressure he placed on his social status. The news that Sofia will marry a high-status person has led her to take a completely irreversible path. Here we witness that Ivanovic began to use grandiose defences. In grandiose thoughts, the person begins to evaluate himself as a much more talented, intelligent, specially-chosen person than he is. Ivanovic says: ‘Today is a holiday! Spain gets its king! The king has been found! I am the king! Everything is clear…I found myself, I found my true identity.’

Another point is the loss of time and place orientation. In a psychotic state, the person confuses concepts such as date and time, and his/her understanding of the place is weakened. We meet both in Gogol’s story. Both the dates in his diary and the mental hospital he thinks is Spain. The most painful experience for the psychotic may actually be the moments when their true radiance shines through. This confrontation gives a feeling of great shock and fear. We realize this at the end of the story, where he expresses himself for a moment as his mother’s sick son. Ivanovich’s cry for “Mother” strikes us as pure pain.

Gogol inserts us into Ivanovich’s mind, we witness his reasoning, and we are thrown into the unreal world with him. We can observe his thoughts, which gradually deteriorate and become more and more difficult to hold on to. We share a kind of psychosis.

Briefly, what is psychosis?

It is a serious mental disorder with the main symptoms of thought disorder (delusion) and perception disorder (hallucination). The person’s adaptation to daily life and function are severely affected. His ability to assess reality is impaired. This is the loss of the individual’s ability to distinguish between what is happening in his own mind and what is happening in the outside world. The person is unaware of their situation (lack of insight) They usually attract attention with their unusual, strange, unconventional appearance and behavior. Their self-interest and care has decreased. There is a marked callousness, indifference, dullness and timid appearance. They are usually introverted. Their social relationships are limited, they prefer solitude. The tone of voice is usually monotonous and does not show emotions. There may be signs of speech disorder, disorganization, acceleration, deceleration, impoverishment, stereotyped repetitions, speech reverberation, infantile speech, or no speech at all. There is limited affect, blunting, inappropriate affect and lack of pleasure (anhedonia). Delusion (delusion / delusion); They are false thoughts and beliefs that are not true to reality. There may be delusions such as persecution, reference, jealousy, grandiosity, love, guilt, religious, somatic, being controlled, reading thoughts, stealing thoughts.

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