Synonyms: crazy eccentric lunatic strange regular acceptable human emotional irrational unpredictable dangerous mental illness complex balanced uncontrollable

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crazy eccentric lunatic strange regular acceptable human

emotional irrational unpredictable dangerous mental illness complex balanced

uncontrollable rational delusional madness conformity average natural

ordinary extraordinary unreasonable unbalanced abnormal stable reasonable

different unstable conventional unnatural senseless

  • Characters

    • Lewis’ experiences and character development reveal that humanity does exist within these neglected people of society. His interaction with them shows that their status as ‘crazy’ is exaggerated and that they have great potential as people and for society. Lewis represents normality by exiting society and entering the patients’ world. He is the bridge between insanity and normality. This is because he is an individual who stood out against conformity and gave the ‘insane’ patients a chance without subsiding to the prejudice views of his girlfriend and best friend.

    • Nick/Lucy represent the social perspective on those branded as ‘insane’. It gives a clear picture about society during the 1970s and the perspective and attitude to those in asylums.

    • Henry and Roy are two patients who indeed suffer from severe mental illnesses, but have shown to be able to operate and express ‘normal’ characteristics. Roy represents insanity because he believes that by asserting his authority in the play it can become one of the greatest plays ever produced. This shows how delusional he is.

    • Zac and Julie can be perceived as the most ‘normal’. Julie is an addict but is rational; Zac’s eccentricity is a strength in his musical creativity which provides entertainment for other people. Even though Julie is within the asylum, she is perceived as normal as she has an addictive personality, not a delusional view of reality.

    • Doug is a pyromaniac who can’t control his urges to light up.

    • Justin believes that the mentally ill are just as human or normal as everybody else in society


    • “A madman is somebody who arrives at a fancy dress party dressed in the Emperor’s new clothes” p. 6

    • “I’m not from the ward. I’m the director” p.2

    • “Mad actors are bad enough, but mad men…” p.1

    • “They’re coming to take me away, ha ha ha.” p.41 & p.77

    • “They are normal people who have done extraordinary things, thought extraordinary thoughts. You are getting a good bunch. They’ll be no real trouble.” p.5

    • “Asylums are the most inefficient places on this earth.”

    • “I prefer this to the ward.”

    • “They are just normal people, well, not quite normal, or else they wouldn’t be in here.” p. 4

    • “You know the problem with pyromaniac? It’s the only crime where you have to be at the scene to make it a perfect crime, to give yourself full satisfaction.”

    • “I used to have a boyfriend who tied me up and put me in a wardrobe”

    • [To Lewis] And what ward are you from?

    I’m not from a ward. I’m the director” p.2

    • Are you a social worker?

    No I’m a patient” p.2

    • “I knew she had gone mad but she was still my grandmother” pg 32

    • It’s only a fling. It doesn’t mean anything” p.71

    • “You’re screwing a mental patient?” p.72

    • “What if someone forgets to take their medicine” p.5

    • “You’re always the last to know things in an asylum.” p.47

  • Characters

    • Nick and Lucy represent mainstream society and their attitudes towards the patients reflect a general ignorance


    • ‘I can handle something being an illusion or real but not at the same time’ p.26

    • ‘You’re doing a fine job of messing with my head’ p.29

    • ‘I have sex with him and sleep with you’ p.71

    • ‘This is my dream, Jerry. My dream’ p.3

Nowra’s challenge, contention, intention

  • That there is only a fine line which separates normality from insanity.

  • That society and the government must change its attitude towards these people in order to truly help the forgotten people of society.

  • Those asylum patients are still humans and should be treated as such.

  • That sanity does not exist, only madness.

  • The madness of the war is symbolic of the madness of the patients.

  • That all mad people have a history where they have managed to interact/function “normally” with society.

  • That it is experience (often outside their personal control) that is made the patients mad and no longer able to deal with the reality they face in normal society.

  • That mental illness is relevant and serious issue in today’s (1990’s) Australian society, yet the public disregards them as individuals due to their psychologically superior status.

  • That the patients are in fact normal people who have “thought extraordinary thoughts” and are undeserving of the treatment they receive from society, whether it be intentional or a sub-conscious response.

  • That mental patients are not that different from normal people, they are sometimes mistaken and that insanity is not too different from normality.

  • That through the unique perspectives of the patients, it is made clear that the ‘insane’ people in society and the ‘normal’ people in society are not so different.

  • That the superficial preconceptions that are represented by Nick and Lucy should be dismissed

  • That people should not be judged by the label they have as these are limiting.

  • That we as readers need to take action against the mistreatment of the mentally ill

  • Nowra questions the way in which society treats insanity. In the 1970’s people who were mentally ill were simply locked away, this is what Nowa is questioning, did locking the insane away from society fix the issue or did it just add to it. In the same era Australia was seen as mad when getting involved in the Vietnam War. Questioning our fixing abilities?

  • That important values have been discarded in society, but are kept close to heart by those society sees as being abnormal or dissimilar

  • That the insane are not as different to the ‘normal’ people in society

  • That normal behaviour accepted in society is far beyond what should be accepted as respectable behaviour

  • That the opera give the patients the opportunity to develop a sense of normality

  • That the idea of ‘madness’ is not always a simple physiological or psychiatric diagnosis, but is sometimes a matter of perspective and judgement. It embodies a holistic view of human behaviour rather than an attitude of diagnostics and labelling.

  • Nowra refuses to define madness objectively as he does not formally define the psychological or psychiatric conditions of patients. Instead, they are presented as people who indulge in extremities of ‘normal’ behaviour.

  • Nowra illustrates the idea that mental stability is not a black and white issue.

  • Nowra portrays society as seeing kinds of difference as threatening and deals with fears by stigmatising or judgementally labelling the individual.

  • Nowra creates characters that cross boundaries between the so called binary opposition which contrast the positions of sanity and insanity.

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