What she left behind for us to see- the asylum and the medical condition in the society
What she left behind by Ellen Marie Wiseman is one such social treatise which, much more than being just literary fiction, takes us on a particular journey to locate and relocate the mental asylums and medical and clinical diagnostic procedures which are both scientists, as well as cruel and unjust on occasions.
The precise plot tells the story of Clara, in the year 1929, descending from an affluent background. Her paternal loss has been caused due to her father’s murder by her mother, and how she is then admitted to the state mental asylum to get cured of her psychological disorders. She becomes pregnant and her child, Izzy later on getting to know about her from a series of letters.
The whole idea of pregnancy during the adolescent years, the dreary condition of the mental asylums in the American states during the 1930s, and the causes and effects of real and fake or forced sanity and insanity are other issues which are addressed in this sensitive novel.
The two female characters: the mother and the daughter dichotomy
Through a prose style that is entirely praiseworthy, the mother and daughter dichotomy is brought forward most beautifully by the author. Both the mother and the daughter share inhuman conditions-one is mocked and ill-treated at the asylum, and the other suffers from rude behavior from the schoolmates and unfriendly individuals in the society.
The average growth of adolescent pangs of emotions, frustrations, love and inner journey of the self, all are portrayed in the most practical as well as the imaginative manner by the author. Izzy’s friend, her friend’s boyfriend, and her young spirit and emotions are well-connected to what her mother suffers during her pregnancy, her life in the asylum, and after her loss of parents.
Separation becomes more poignant and resourceful when we see that Clara is not allowed to meet her boyfriend as she is behind bars in the mental asylum. The state of imprisonment is not just external, but it also leads us to look how her inner spirit is subjugated, and she is forced to accept the norms and strategies of behavior which is allowed by the doctors and the medical prescriptions.
Passages which are reminiscent of the past
The climactic episode of this novel is reached when the readers are given a sudden glimpse of the letters and manuscripts which are discovered by Izzy after many years. The notes open up her secret past, her birth story, and everything related to her mother.
The book has sold more than twenty-eight thousand copies, not because of the portrayal of some larger than life heroines, or some Feminist stories retold from the modern perspective, but this book becomes popular due to its endurance on the usual female lives and the desperate nature with which they try to seek a solution to their problems in the male-infested world.
The book is not about social justice or social injustice and its aftermath, but with the sheer penetration of the reality which is being retold from a humanitarian perspective, the words become drops of blood dripping down from the walls of the core of the female heart. The sections where Clara has to ‘act’ like being made are especially heart-wrenching.
Faced with this reality, associations of relatives began to emerge throughout the country, as the only way to, at least, find understanding and relief, to face a situation as unexpected as unknown. Over time, these organizations grew and could offer complete programs to support the recovery of people with mental disorders and train family members.
In these 30 years, many things have changed. The attention to the mental disorders has improved enormously. In several autonomies, very active devices have been created that are not limited to dealing with emergencies but are capable of maintaining a follow-up and increasing the independence of the people who need it.
But perhaps the most important advance is that society begins to recognize the importance of mental health problems and to show greater understanding to those who acknowledge a disorder of this type. Thus, little by little, the old, and unfair, prejudices that still weigh on them (“weak,” “rare,” “dangerous”) are being banished, and the fear of the unknown has been paying off for centuries.
However, at the moment in which it seemed that we were walking with a positive step to guarantee the respect of our rights as a collective, the economic crisis has crossed in that way. Today budget cuts are affecting the public network of care and the support we had achieved through the so-called “Dependency Law.” As with any person with chronic illness, our collective is being harmed by the increase in the price of medicines covered by the National Health System.