Multiple Personality Disorder

Multiple Personality Disorder Free Essay

The subject of the multiple personality disorder in the nineteenth century excited strong interest in the context of philosophy and psychology that caused its coverage in literary works as well. However, Harry Tucker believes that the use of the theme of a split personality at that time can be defined as a comedy technique applied by the authors because of their interest in the supernatural and unreal things. He claims that the literary historians and critics of the nineteenth century could not obtain thorough understanding of the profound layers of the phenomenon and just presented their superficial interpretation of the multiple personalities in literature. In other words, at that time the authors presented a split personality as their desire to live another life or as a projection of their own identity and characteristic features (in Rank xiii).

According to Ellenberger, the initial form of the split personality theme appeared in literary works as a projected personality of dual nature or a ‘double’ (162). The first person who chronicled the psychological origin of a multiple personality or a double as a device in literature is Ralph Tymms. However, the term “Doppelgänger” was suggested by Jean-Paul Richter who introduced a unit made by a pair of friends, each of which appears as a half individually depending on the alter ego, the other one (Herdman 13).

The sixteenth century is the time when Christopher Marlowe used the popular idea of a split personality in his play The Tragical History of Doctor Faustus, a story of negotiation with the devil and selling the soul for knowledge and power. The play has not only the evident surface interpretation; it also shows the corruptive nature of a man, while a devil represents the evil side of a person and desire to get wealth and might. Two centuries later, the same idea was used by Goethe in his Faust, where the pairs of characters can be presented as parts of a multiple personality. Furthermore, the drama Die Räuber by Schiller gained even more popularity and drew more attention to the dualistic nature of a person (Herdman 13). It demonstrates a conflict between Franz and Karl Moorland, the brothers very different in nature. The beloved son of their father, Karl, is an intelligent robber who loves freedom, while the only wish of the shrewd, envious and jealous Franz is to gain the father’s inheritance.

The subject of duality gained enormous popularity in the last decade of the eighteenth century. Angela Carter mentions two novels by Marquis de Sade Juliette and Justine that serve as two mirrors or the means of reflecting and complementing each other (in Herdman 14). The story of a good girl Justine is a number of misfortunes that accompany her virtue, while a bad-tempered sister Juliette is wealthy and happy (Herdman 14). Those two stories show the evil and the virtuous sides of a human personality.

A surge in interest of the public in psychology in the twentieth century led to frequent coverage of the split personality subject in numerous literary works. One of the brightest examples is the novel The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde about one of the greatest fears of people in all times: getting older. Being a young man of extraordinary beauty, Dorian sees his outstanding portrait and expresses his wish not to get older by transferring all signs of his sins or age to the man in the portrait. Thus, there is Dorian’s alter ego that represents his inner world and conscience. In a sinister way, the second personality in the novel is the portrait (Rank 18). Rogers interprets the homosexuality motif in Oscar Wilde’s novel as a reflection of the writer’s own sexual preferences (in Slethaug 13). Freud in his time claimed that a literary double is created on the basis of the author’s neuroses being an image of the unconsciousness of the author that is regressive, repressed and autoerotic (Slethaug 13).

According to Herdman, the characters in all novels written by Dostoyevsky are doubles of various types. He refers to the novel The Brothers Karamasov as to a vivid example as the devil comes to Ivan Karamazov before the latter becomes mentally deranged to introduce himself as Ivan’s double. Having come home one day, Ivan meets there a man who tells about the things from the past only Ivan knew about. He does not want to acknowledge the stranger’s existence and calls him a phantom, a lie and a consequence of disease. He believes that he can destroy the stranger as he seems to be a mere hallucination. “You are I myself, but only in ugly caricature; you say just what I am thinking” (Rank 13). Being aware of the fact that there are two sides of his personality, Ivan can do nothing to resolve his problems. Another well-known literary representation of the image of a double is a novella Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Stevenson. According to Herdman, Hyde embodies the intellectual nature of Jekyll, being his darker side or the shadow (158). Hyde is a representation of the unconscious and the alter ego, while Dr. Jekyll is seen as the conscious and the ego.

There are a number of forms in which the subject of a split personality is represented in various works of literature. The Picture of Dorian Gray uses it to show the conscience, while the novel The Brothers Karamasov portrays Ivan’s evil personality side through it. In the nineteenth century, the number of published cases devoted to the problem of a split personality was growing dramatically; therefore, Ellenberger considered it as the matter of crucial importance to specify its clinical varieties and distinguish between three types: simultaneous multiple personality, successive multiple personality disorder and personality clusters. The type of simultaneous multiple personality disorder is rare as it implies that the personalities appear simultaneously. The type of successive multiple personality disorder implies that the personalities may know about each other, one of them may be aware of the other, or neither of them knows depending on the situation. The type of personality clusters implies that sub-personalities may appear (Ellenberger 131).

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