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7 "Crazy" Women in Literature Who Were Actually Being Totally Reasonable

7 "Crazy" Women in Literature Who Were Actually Being Totally Reasonable

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The physically and mentally ill generally get treated like garbage in classic literature, and no one gets a worse deal than women accused of madness. At one point, the default medical opinion was that all women were insane by nature. (COME ON.) Here are 7 women who really got a raw deal.

1. Bertha Rochester, Jane Eyre
This one kills me.

Jane: "Who’s this lady?"

Rochester: "My wife. I married her because she was super hot and rich. But it turns out she’s really embarrassing and drinks and is mentally ill, so I locked her in a closet to be watched by an alcoholic seamstress for the rest of her natural life, while I partied in Europe."

Jane: "YIKES."

Like, obviously Bertha acts crazy. And in fact, she still has the presence of mind to tear up Jane’s veil, so she’s not completely out of touch with reality. Also, Jane, remember that time you got locked in a red room for about 5 minutes and completely lost it? Does that seem, oh, a bit parallel maybe? Jerks.

2. Narrator, “The Yellow Wallpaper”
Probably the most famous of misunderstood women, the unnamed narrator gets confined to the old nursery of her summer house for a “rest cure,” a common prescription for women suffering from depression at the time. The narrator—who is forbidden by "concerned" doctors to write or do anything active— becomes wildly understimulated and starts hallucinating some exceptionally disturbing sh$%. By the end of the story, she's biting the wallpaper, creeping around on her hands and knees, and refusing to leave the yellow room.

I’m gonna be straight: if someone locks me in a yellow room all summer with bars on the windows, I won’t just end up crawling around. I'll be Florida-bath-salts-level nuts. Somebody (*cough* husband *cough*) is getting their face eaten.

3. Ophelia, Hamlet
Everybody loooves looking at Ophelia all crazy and drowned, but can we back up a second? The poor girl gets continually harassed by Hamlet, who used to profess his love for her. He acts like a jerk, then acts like a bigger jerk by making a bunch of sexual jokes when girl is just trying to watch a play, and then homeboy murders her father. And she gets the Crazy Ex-Girlfriend title? This is not a case of a woman gone mad. This is a case of Hamlet being Prince Emo Douche of Denmark. The river was the only place where she was safe from his self-pity.

4. Lady Macbeth, Macbeth
I know what you’re going to say. “But Taylor, she was power-hungry! She encouraged Macbeth to murder the king! She says that bit about dashing out the brains of a newborn!” Yes, she's a bit extreme, fine. She goes mad, as seen in the famous "out damn spot" scene, and eventually takes her own life.

Look. Doesn’t matter. She’s the queen now. She gets to do what she wants.

5. Cathy Ames, East of Eden
I feel for Cathy. Sure, she murders her parents, drives a professor to suicide, and blackmails public figures. Okay, she shoots her husband; fine, she slowly poisons her kindhearted madame to death.

BUT.

Cathy has seen a cruel side of the world due to her beauty. People (men) are constantly, her entire life, trying to consume her in some way. Late in life, she disgustedly shows Adam pictures of a Congressman and a priest visiting her brothel, saying she’d “rather be a dog than a human.” The woman is really just frustrated and afraid, and as we know from Star Wars, fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, and hate leads to setting the barn on fire with your mom and pop locked inside. Does that mean you have to put up with a bunch of Steinbeck's snake metaphors? No.

6. Lucy Wetenra, Dracula
Classic case of sexual woman being deemed insane. Lucy is a prim and proper bride. However, Dracula has been drinking her blood at night and turning her into a vampire. One morning, she wakes up, and asks her husband for a kiss “in a soft, voluptuous voice.” The men are like, “Oh no! A woman wants a kiss? This bawdy lust monster must be a VAMPIRE. Let’s chop off her head and stuff her mouth with garlic.” And that (eventually) is exactly what they do. Ugh. Men.

7. Madame Bovary, Madame Bovary
Look, she's bored. Who hasn't reacted to boredom by having a couple affairs, racking up enormous debt, and eventually swallowing arsenic? What's really crazy is the idea that every woman is going to be content with a country house and a career in motherhood. If shark-diving were more acceptable in Napoleonic France, none of this would've happened!

Topics: Books
Tags: the yellow wallpaper, hamlet, the scarlet letter, feminism, ophelia, jane eyre, heroines, fictional characters, dracula, east of eden, madame bovary, female characters, lady macbeth, women in literature, bertha rochester, mental illness in literature, don't even get us started on bertha rochester

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About the Author
Taylor Noles

Taylor has very strong feelings about Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Her first name is actually Delaney, and her writing has appeared on VICE, NPR, and elsewhere. You can follow her on twitter @delaney_nolan

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