Inventing the Self

Wray & McCarthy-Jones

October 16th, 2013 by Kristina Bodetti · 4 Comments

McCarthy-Jones writing on Hearing Voices is, in my opinion, the best scientific work we’ve read thus far. It was interesting and full of information. The variety of sources made it dense but convincing. I think the most important part was that he quoted patients through-out the work. The one thing that I have difficulty with in both of this weeks readings is that to me it seems to be impossible to understand and describe the mind of a schizophrenic unless you are yourself schizophrenic. McCarthy-Jones quoting the patients made his conclusions more reasonable, having the first hand information.

I don’t doubt that Wray did a great deal of research on the subject before or while writing Lowboy; that fact is clear in the details of the writing. It is a wonderful book and I particularly like that it switches points of view, from Lowboy to the Detective. But I still can’t help but question the accuracy of Wray’s descriptions of schizophrenia. I don’t believe that there is any amount of research one could do on the subject that could make them truly understand, or truly capable of making someone else understand, the experience of schizophrenia unless they themselves have lived with it. I don’t know what it is like personally so I don’t know if Wray’s description of the experience is a good one and in that way I feel detached from the subject and the book.

McCarthy-Jones’ Hearing Voices did help in the understanding of Lowboy. While I do know a little about abnormal psychology my base of reference is very small and reading McCarthy-Jones first gave be a better frame of reference with which to read Lowboy but it still seems that its not enough. With mental illnesses like schizophrenia the individual experience is so different from that of people without such a diagnosis that really getting a sense of what its like to be inside that persons mind is almost unfathomable. I can appreciate McCarthy-Jones’ collection of studies and thoughts on the subjects scientific research as well as Wray’s own research and literary exploration of the subject but I still feel it would be even more effective and more powerful if told by someone who truly understands that experience.

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4 responses so far ↓

  • Samantha Gamble // Oct 16th 2013 at 9:21 am

    I agree with you concerning Lowboy. I am sure the author did do a great deal of research but it was difficult for me to understand Lowboy as schizophrenic through his narrative. The beginning of Lowboy fro me felt slow and uninteresting. As I continued reading, I began to enjoy the shift from Lowboy, to the mother and detective but I enjoyed the detectives/mother’s chapters more than I enjoyed the chapter for Lowboy. My interest was only piqued in his interaction with Emily.

    Reading McCarthy-Jones did not give me a clearer understanding of the Novel. I did not really feel the connection between the real people that were discussed in McCarthy-Jones and the character of Lowboy.

    Overall though it was very interesting reading about this Schizophrenia because it gave me a very different perspective on the effects of the disease.

  • John Giunta // Oct 16th 2013 at 11:38 am

    My experience of reading Lowboy went a bit differently – I felt like Lowboy’s behavior on the subway cars, his conversations and outbursts, and the reaction from the “normal” train-riders did contain some kind of realistic truth… Being quite accustomed to subways (and New York City in general) I felt like the character of Lowboy was uncannily reminiscent of real-life encounters I’ve had on and off the trains, and the fact is that a large majority of homeless people in NY have been/can be diagnosed with schizophrenia. I wonder if the fact that Wray’s book is straight-up fiction colors our perception of Lowboy and Miss Heller and the other characters, asking us to challenge its accuracy?

  • Yitian Liao // Oct 16th 2013 at 12:03 pm

    I think Wray tried very hard to present the book based on his experience in writing the book in a train station where he tried to tried to fit in the character and background he set for the story (we see here from Noe’s perspective, that this would be where the body and surrounding idea appears). Also, yes, I think McCarthy-Jones’s writing helped a lot in understanding Lowboy, especially the part in which he addresses parenthood, the loss of security and the loss of relationships. These helped me see more about the role of Lowboy’s mother plays in the story. She is also afflicted with schizophrenia. If we disregard the potential genetic hereditary factor implicit when discussing mental illness, the reason Lowboy’s mother kept her son away from the doctor, despite the effectiveness of the doctor’s treatment was that Lowboy told the doctor secrets – implying her sense of loss in her relationship with her son. In addition, through Emily we perceive her feelings of loss of security. The phenomenons that McCarthy-Jones relates towards loneliness are reflected well through Lowboy.

    Lowboy cares about his mother very much and shows his deep connection with his family. He tries to keep his mind clear and always watches his condition. I’m not sure whether is just the way Wray is trying to create his character as a novelist or whether he is writing about him as his understanding of schizophrenia. But this “on/off” voice situation is something we often miss when we meet schizophrenic patients.

  • Adam Wagner // Oct 16th 2013 at 3:21 pm

    I wonder if his mother, Yda, and Violet were two different characters of Miss Heller? I kept reading it as if she was switching back and forth between the two roles of overbearing mother and the comforting-type.

    I didn’t think the McCarthy-Jones piece was all that enlightening personally, as it seemed they were simply listing snippets of anecdotal accounts from a wide range of voice-hearers. This strategy does nothing for me because, a little like statistics, it is kind of relative in nature and can be manipulated towards a biased hypothesis or thesis.

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