Role of Madness in Literature

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Rationalists regard madness as the overindulgence in the creativepart of the mind. The nineteenth-century poets and writers haveexplored the relationship between madness and creative imagination intheir literature works (Langer 10). Madness was eithersensationalized or portrayed as a psychological realism in fictionwork. Caroll’s book, “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland”and Bulgakov’s text, “The Master and Margarita” aresimilar in portraying madness as a form of oppressive control.

Similarities in the Portrayal of Madness

In the Master and Margarita story, there is a battle betweenthe material and spiritual world. The book is unadoptable due to theenormity of characters and mixture of tone and style. (Young572-574). The religious sphere triumphs and the readers are left withthe positive statement that “everything will turn out right theworld is built on that” (Bulgakov 382). This is the ultimateabsurdity of madness because not everything turns out right. Madnessis seen as an oppressive tool in the sense that the state (SovietUnion) incites fear and introduces the feeling of madness to itscitizens. In his satire, Bulgakov discussed the terror inflicted onthe citizen by the Soviet government. Fear is articulated in hiswriting, which could be equated to the fear of political coercion.However, in this case, the fear was related to anxiety that comesfrom the dark. It can be compared to mental illness, which sometimesleads to double identities, the real person and the individual in theartistic world. Human beings rely on themselves and choose to ignorethe spiritual forces. Man rules himself this is evident when thehomeless Ivan says that “Man himself governs it&quot (Bulgakov 9).Bulgakov’s work tries to disagree with the fact that man governsthe world. Yeshua and Woland represent the spiritual world. Satan whowas known as a monster was compared to Stalin. Stalin and his heirstook pride in manipulating others. Anyone who ignored the spiritualforces was accosted in an uncomfortable way. The earthly power wasshort-lived. In the book, Bulgakov challenges the readers’ idea ofreality by changing the Bible through his version of Point Pilate.This demonstrated the fact that ideologies are malleable.

Communist policies were being rejected by many artists who weremostly confined in asylums due to their objections. Bulgakovsatirized the communist society. Political ideas were strongly linkedto the stability of the mind. In the communist state, the stigma thatcame with mental illness was adverse to the extent that the masterhad a fear of existing in the real world. Under the communist rule,most of the characters in the Master and Margarita who areequated to be mad are writers. This was due to the strong oppositionof the artistic world.

Similarly, Alice in Wonderland is not just a child story it hashidden metaphors and philosophies, which are relevant to the readersand writers. Written in the Victorian age where social norms were ofgreat importance to the high class, the tea party in the story was asymbol of chaos. The tea party was a representation of a societywhere people ignored rules and operated beyond social constraints. Atthe center of the chaos and madness, the dormouse was a hallmarkproletariat used by Karl Marx, the wage earners. He is persistentlyabused by the powerful Hatter, which showcases the Royals as dazedand mad, and they can do as they please. The queen of hearts who isbossy has subjects who seem to understand the madness, but do notpossess it. Stereotypes in the upper class are believed to fuel theideas of Caroll. The queen makes his subjects perform some of thesilliest acts due to the fear instilled in them, which is a form ofoppression. The monarchy and its subjects are symbolized by a deck ofcards meaning they belong to the same group just that one takesadvantage over the other. Different social classes do not relate withone another. For example, this is seen through the animals that Alicemeets the clothed animals do not mingle with the unclothed ones. InAlice’s world, the society is ruled by fools who abuse and oppressothers.

Alice’s Wonderland is a place of madness philosophically. Herimagination reveals the unmolded part of a child’s brain. TheWonderland journey was considered queer, and anyone who daredquestion the basic things was labeled as mad. She saw a door andpeeped through the whole to see a beautiful garden, but she could notget her head through. She thought &quotit would be of very littleuse without my shoulder” (Carrol 3). Her curiosity awakens her puremadness by following the white rabbit in the quest for knowledge. Sheruns after the humanely dressed rabbit curious to know where it wouldlead her. When she fell into the whole, it took her to a Neverlandthat brought loneliness and confusion. She is trapped in solitudethat led her towards the edge of reality.


In contrast, Caroll`s story and that of Bulgakov seem to differregarding some ideas about how madness is a form of oppressivecontrol. The Master and Margarita is a classic example ofprotest literature it is a novel within another novel. The structureof the story engulfs the atheism and human nature. The reaction ofthe atheist’s citizen shows that the Soviet Union was willing toaccept Stalin’s unrealistic policies the same way the residentsreceived the unlikely events. This why the Soviet government couldimpose rules on the members and violate their freedom rights. Alicebrings nothing to the real world it is only a memory. To Alice,proper social upbringing is important as compared to naturaldisposition. It does not matter if she does not get any knowledge.All the animals were educated in Wonderland none was stupid. Theonly common situation was the madness and not ignorance hence, theycould withstand oppression. There is also real justice where thequeen of hearts follows the laws that protect people from criminalprosecution.

Alice in Wonderland focuses on a child trying to rampagethrough the mad adult world. Alice tries to find identity amidst thechaos she is made to identify herself by every creature she meets.The Master and Margarita focuses on madness from a spiritualand communal point of view. Woland who is the devil, together withhis people, scheme their way into the Soviet Union.


Madness is a major theme in Caroll’s and Bulgakov’s literature.The realm of creativity and madness was not only explored in poetrybut also in fiction writing. It is displayed in the works of the twowriters. They explore the artistic and creative part of the reader.It shows similarity in their literature works. This shows similarityin their literature works for example, they displayed how thepolitical class or the in charge oppressed the wage earners.Moreover, they tackled the imaginative world. However, there weresome contrasts in that Carroll’s work was more of a metaphor whilethe Master and Margarita was a representation of what wasactually happening in Russia.

Works Cited

Bulgakov, Mikhail. The Master and Margarita. 1st ed., PenguinClassics, 1967.

Carroll, Lewis, and Lewis Carroll. Alice`s Adventures InWonderland: Through The Looking

Glass 1st ed. Vintage Books, 2007,

Young, Stuart. &quotThe Master And Margarita Adapted By SimonMcburney, Edward Kemp.&quot

Theatre Journal, vol. 65, no. 4, 2013, pp. 572-574.