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Dual Interpretataion in Jim Stevens' Schizophrenia

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William Watts

on 23 September 2013

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Transcript of Dual Interpretataion in Jim Stevens' Schizophrenia

Allegory and Personification in Jim Stevens' "Schizophrenia"
Allegorical Interpretation
-"It was the HOUSE that suffered most
We can interpret this similarly to how we did Poe's The Haunted Palace in viewing the house as being the embodiment of a person's mind.
-View the poem as being about a man who has Schizophrenia rather than about a house feeling and experiencing these things.
The house itself is not "slamming doors" or "scuffing feet", it is the man within the house.
-"Greasy stains spreading on the cloth (4)" is referring to the disease that is slowly taking over his mind.
-All throughout the poem we read actions that are taking place within the "house".
"Certain doors were locked at night, feet stood for hours outside them (5-6). Paranoia is commonly found in people with Schizophrenia and so locking doors and waiting outside of them indefinitely just to be sure that nobody was watching the room or waiting to break in is easily associated with Schizophrenic behavior.
"dishes were left unwashed, the cloth disappeared under a hard crust (7-8). Lack of hygiene and concern for one's well-being is a prominent symptom of Schizophrenia (Segal).
Allegorical Interpretation Continued...
-Stanzas four and five focus on the mental deprecation of the person's mind.
"The house came to miss the shouting voices, the threats, the half-apologies, noisy reconciliations, the sobbing that followed". These lines emphasize the mental instability of the person and how he/she has fallen so far into their sickness, that they no longer fight it.
"Then lines were drawn, borders established, some rooms declared their loyalties, Keeping to themselves, keeping out the other. The house divided against itself. That last line in stanza five in very important because we are reading a poem titles "Schizophrenia" which in Latin, literally translates to "to split mind". The title and line 15 go hand in hand with one another.
-Where stanza four and five are the mental aspects, stanza six is the physical.
"There is "cracking paint", "broken windows", "the front door banging in the wind", and "roof tiles flying off, one by one". Each of these aspects of the house can be seen allegorically as unhealthy skin cracking, bloodshot eyes, a babbling mouth, and thinning hair that slowly falls out.
-The last line in stanza five, "the neighbors said it was a madhouse" is describing how other are seeing this person. They say he/she is mad, which is an acceptable opinion considering their physical appearance.

Schizophrenia: (noun); a long-term mental disorder of a type involving a breakdown in the relation between thought, emotion, and behavior, leading to faulty perception, inappropriate actions and feelings, withdrawal from reality and personal relationships into fantasy and delusion, and a sense of mental fragmentation

-Oxford Dictionary
Allegory, Symbolism, & Personification
Allegory: A narration or description usually restricted to a single meaning because its events, actions, characters, settings, and objects represent specific abstractions or ideas.

Symbol: A person, an object, an image, a word, or an event that evokes a range of additional meaning beyond and usually more abstract that its literal significance.

Personification: A form of metaphor in which human characteristics are attributed to nonhuman things....offers the writer a way to give the world life and motion by assigning familiar human behaviors and emotions to animals, inanimate objects, and abstract ideas.
-Poetry: an introduction
Michael Meyer
A Dual Interpretation
-We can see this poems as also being about something different than the mind of the schizophrenic man.
The house can be viewed as a symbol for a couple or a family and the life they are living
Locking each other out of rooms, fighting, slamming doors and dishes, shouting, apologizing, sobbing.
The couple/family reached crossed a threshold and it was too much for them. They created borders, keep each other out, divided against one another.
The house slowly crumbled physically due to the neglect and lack of attention.
It was the family that suffered most
Word Usage
-Stevens uses informal diction, but writes in a sophisticated manner so that the poem is still read as though an educated person wrote it. He uses words like “unwashed” rather than “dirty”, “sobbing” as opposed to “crying”, and “reconciliations” instead of the simply saying “making up”.
-There is no rhyme scheme in this poem and that adds to the seriousness of what is being said. Poems that rhyme generally feel more playful and that is not at all what Stevens was going for when writing a poem like this.
-There is an obvious use of assonance at lines 6 and 8, “hours outside” and “unwashed…disappeared under a hard crust”.
-Alliteration is used even more so throughout the poem in the second, third and fifth stanza. “Slamming, doors, scuffing, slammed, spreading” in lines two and three. Again at lines 7-8 where we saw some assonance, there is also alliteration when we read “dishes were left unwashed, the cloth disappeared under hard crust”.
It Was the House that Suffered Most...
-After all, we can conclude that it really was not the house that suffered most. Whether is was the man that was broken inside of his own mind, or a family that had lost what is worth fighting for, it is clear that this poem is not about a house, but rather whom occupies it....or whom it may occupy.

"Definition of Schizophrenia in English." Schizophrenia: Definition of Schizophrenia in
Oxford Dictionary (British & World English). Oxford University Press, n.d. Web. 17 Sept. 2013
Meyer, Michael. Poetry: an introduction. Seven ed. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin's, 2013. Print.
Santorelli, Noëlle. "Schizophrenia Types and Symptoms." WebMD. WebMD, 26 Apr. 2013.
Web. 17 Sept. 2013.
"Schizophrenia." Oxford English Dictionary. Oxford University Press, 1982. Web. 17 Sept.
Smith, Melinda, M.A., and Jeanne Segal, Ph.D. "Schizophrenia: Signs, Types & Causes."
Schizophrenia: Signs, Symptoms, Types, Causes, and Effects. HelpGuide, July 2013. Web. 18 Sept. 2013.
Sung, Balik (Ben), and Dr. Lucia Cherciu. "하하 - "Schizophrenia"" 하하. N.p., 08 Oct. 2007.
Web. 17 Sept. 2013.

Dual Interpretation
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