Charles Dickens’ A Madman’s Manuscript: Madness and Its Aspects

Ali Mohmmad Alshhre


With the rise and development of psychology and the clinics in the nineteenth century, many psychologists classify madness as a mental disorder or a mental illness. Dickens views madness as a mental illness. But, Dickens alludes to madness as a symbol of pride, power, and greatness in his short story, A Madman’s Manuscript. When the madman says: “It is a grand thing to be mad” (Dickens, 1997, p.14), he considers his madness as a powerful, dominant, and creative tool for achieving his aims and plans. Porter and Foucault give many historical and religious explanations regarding madness and its connection to power, dominance, and pride. For example, madness is seen as a “gift bringer” (Porter, 1987, p.60) that brings benefits and blessings for them; consequently, the madmen would have happiness, intelligence, and creativity. Furthermore, Porter explains the religious meaning of the idea “good madness” (Ibid., p.83) that has a strong association between God and the worshipper, unlike the “bad madness” (Ibid.) that is associated with Satan and evils. For the madman in A Madman’s Manuscript, his madness is considered as a bad one due to his predecessors’ wrongdoings and their sins; hence, he is insulting his race and their sins. Moreover, the idea of madness as power, greatness and pride in Dickens’ A Madman’s Manuscript makes the madman suffers differently from some aspects of madness, melancholia, monomania, schizophrenia, and hysteria. The madman suffers and because of his “sadness and the great fear” (Foucault, 1988, p.120), he becomes fully obsessed with melancholic notions and thoughts. For example, his wife’s dislike to him makes him melancholic and very depressed. Then he decides to kill her rather than to see her with someone else. The complete obsession with killing his spouse makes him monomaniac as well. In addition to the madman’s character as melancholic and monomaniac, he is schizophrenic. The reality distortions are a symptom of schizophrenia that the madman suffers from. The “internal heat” (Ibid., p.139) inside the body makes the madman acts hysterically when he sees the people celebrating on street, and he is not able to join them due to his insanity. Therefore, Dickens’ characterization of the madman in the story is so special and unique. Finally, A Madman’s Manuscript is an expressive short story that illustrates different notions of madness rather than its consideration as a mental disorder or illness.



Melancholia; Schizophrenia; Hysteria; Madness; Pride; The great fear

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