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Mental Illness in Short Stories

            In many of the stories we have read in class, the theme of mental illness has been present. We see a man who kills another man for seemingly no reason, a victim of depression becoming infatuated and obsessed over a supposed woman in a wall, and we witness an elderly woman having a mental break from reality. Mental illnesses, at the times of these stories being published, were not very well understood and made them fascinating and disturbing to the readers. .
             In Edgar Allen Poe's The Cask of Amontillado, the narrator, Montressor, lures a man named Fortunado down into his family's crypt to kill him. The reason for this is never but we are told from Montressor, "The thousand injuries of Fortunato I had borne as I best could, but when he ventured upon insult I vowed revenge" (Poe, Paragraph 1). This character could certainly be considered mentally unstable, but at the same time he is very composed during the whole ordeal. He knows exactly how to lure Fortunado down into the crypt and strokes his ego in order to keep him moving on. Fortunado seems to be very happy when he first sees Montressor and greets him as a friend. This is further proof that Montressor must be delusional, possibly even a psychopath, when he believes that Fortunado has insulted him many times over. .
             The last paragraph of the story lends more credence to the fact that he is a psychopath in which he tells us "[his] heart grew sick – on account of the dampness of the catacombs." Even when telling us that he feels ill immediately after leaving a man to die, he is quick to let us know it has nothing to do with that. He seems to relish in the fact that even 50 years later, no one is any the wiser to what happened. While mental illness may be a little subtler in Montressor's case, it is a prominent theme in Charlotte Gilman's The Yellow Wallpaper. Our nameless narrator is depressed, possibly suffering from post-partum depression since we know that she has recently had a baby as well as exhibiting typical symptoms (paranoia, anxiety, emptiness).

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