‘Mentis Inn’ Commentary


John McGregor’s “We Were Just Driving Around” is where I initially drew inspiration from for my short story, where speech is used as the main indicator of the character’s personality, age and gender. The speech also leads the reader towards making particular assumptions about the character and what kind of situation they are in. “Mentis Inn” explores the psychological state of a mentally unstable character who suffers from a range of mental health conditions that distort her perceptions of reality. The mental institution she inhibits “Mentis Inn” is initially described as a hotel, purposefully misleading the reader from the offset. This allows the reader, through indications in speech, to decipher that Bertha is psychotic, and that Mentis Inn is not in fact a hotel. Just as John McGregor, I chose the narrative technique of in media res to give the reader a sample of an ongoing narrative that goes beyond the perimeters of my short story.

Specific details about the character’s personality in “We were just driving around” were revealed indirectly through certain idiosyncratic speech patterns. Mannerisms, such as the repetition of “like” and “basically” in a particularly colloquial syntax, reveal to the reader that John McGregor’s character is a teenager in an informal setting. The mental instability of my character is depicted through language and syntax; the fragmented sentences mirror Bertha’s fractured and unstable mental state, which is expressed in her speech, as she takes various unexpected pauses. My character’s sudden rise and fall of voice volume “BUT YOU MUSTN’T. Speak. So loud” is used to convey that Bertha is bi-polar. Her mood changes at a flip of a coin, stressing the need for her to be in a strait jacket to restrain her potential violent outbursts. The intended purpose of specific diction choices, such as “Shh. Shh. Hush now.” was to create a sense of panic and derangement to convey Bertha’s internal conflict as she struggles to maintain control. This picture of derangement is furthered through descriptive detail, such as “matted silver hair”, which is an external representation of Bertha’s internal torment as her hair is “matted”, highlighting her decline in self-care. I mirror Bertha’s internal decline with her external deterioration to ensure the reader can envision Bertha’s regression in two dimensions.

I chose to leave my ancillary character nameless to highlight the character’s purpose as a tool that is used to illuminate the reader’s understanding of Bertha. This character helps to reveal the reality of Bertha’s situation. The reader is initially lead to believe that the secondary character is simply delivering the room service at the hotel; however, as the plot develops the reader discovers this character is actually one of the workers at the mental institution that takes care of Bertha. This can be compared to McGregor’s “The Chicken and The Egg”, where the subject of the egg was just a device used to subtly unravel the wider reality. Bertha has an obsession with her illusory reality as a result of her psychosis that prevents her from confronting the truth of her situation. To a similar degree, the persona in “The Chicken and The Egg” has a fixation with an egg and projects their fear of finding out about their unfaithful partner on to the egg. Similarly, John McGregor and I drop subtle hints that our personas are actually subconsciously aware of the reality but chose to supress it “and that harsh light. WHY is there, nowhere for me to call room service?” My persona becomes aware of certain truths that threaten the foundations of her illusion and it is through the suppression that my character’s psychosis is perpetuated.

Names are vastly significant in my short story, “mentis” is the Latin word for mental, which gives my title an ambiguous quality through the way “Mentis Inn” can be seen as a double entendre. I chose the name “Bertha” for my protagonist as it is the name of the mentally deranged first wife of Mr Rochester in “Jane Eyre” and as they have similar mental disorders I made my character her namesake. “Bert”, who is Bertha’s imaginary friend, is the male equivalent of Bertha. The lack of imagination portrayed by this name choice conveys that Bertha created this imaginary friend at a young age, so to have a companion that is connected to her by sharing similar names. This imaginary friend has followed her into her senior years “stands of matted silver hair”. Bert is an aspect of her schizophrenia; a voice that was derived from her lonely youth that has driven her to commit heinous crimes. His identity is concealed to propagate the feeling mystery through blurring the lines between reality and fantasy. My story explores the power of psychosis and how reality is shaped through the mind.

Short Story: “Mentis Inn”


“I’ve been in this hotel for… for… how long has it been dear? Forever, it seems like. So I know a thing.  Or two. About this place. Wouldn’t you like to know?”

Bertha said, as she sat up, straining her neck as she did so.

“No, no. Don’t bother asking ol’ Bert over here. Shh. Shh. Hush now. I know you’ve been here as long as me. BUT YOU MUSTN’T! Speak. SO LOUD! Okay, right. Back to you then.”

She tried to away the strands of matted silver hair that had fallen on her eyelids, as she bellowed. Failing to do so in her first attempt, she began rolling her head in the shape of a half-moon allowing the strands of hair to successfully flick to the back of her head. Crimson veins pulsed vibrantly on her neck from the continual strain placed on it. She redirected her focus on me.

“Blasted Bert, always wanting a say. Yet always disappearing away. Here Bert. There Bert. Everywhere there’s Bert. Bert. And then, he is nowhere. And THAT is why I get so mad at you, sweetie pie.”

She paused, glancing at the plate on the ground beside her.

“I WAS PROMISED 5 STAR DINING! One, two, three, four, five, four, three, two, one. I give this zero. Not on quality. No, but on quantity. Incompetence. HOW MANY TIMES MUST I TELL YOU! One plate won’t be enough. For me and Bert, hun. And I am “forbidden from ever starving myself again.”

She recited this last part in a voice that was not her own, and closed her eyes as she spoke, in such a way as if she was recalling the voice from a memory. Her eyes reopened to reveal a gleaming grey window, glazed with tears that she would not permit to fall.


Frantically she looked from the left to the right, then up and down alternately; then glared at me.

“See! Look what you’ve gone and done. Bert has disappeared. Again. He’s gone because he felt forgotten. Again. Neglected. AGAIN. But I guess. Beggars can’t be choosers. I’M not paying for this place. I’M being treated. By mummy dearest. Reparations. That is what I see all this as. Reparations for the years of… BERT!”

She jumped up onto her feet and stared at the ceiling, stretching her neck out and tilting her head forward in an accusatory fashion.

“HOW ON EARTH did you get up there. Come down from there, this instant. Bert. You’ll HURT yourself. Again. See, he never listens.”

She sighed. She sighed in such a way that her whole body seemed to deflate during the slow exhalation. Her very aura revealed the torment her soul endured, the battles she continued to fight within herself were draining. Consuming. She floated back down to the ground beside me.

“NO FURNISHINGS! There. Another fault with this place. And that harsh light. WHY is there, nowhere for me to call room service? You come and you go. As you please. LIKE BERT OVER HERE! But that’s okay, because my mummy should be coming for me now. Or did she say soon? How soon is now? When is soon? I’ve been waiting. And waiting. AND THIS PLACE! Is not worth whatever she’s paying. But oh well…”

There was a pause – I used this as an opportunity to attempt my task and I began to draw near to her. Clocking on and realising my intentions she began to struggle, thrusting her body back and forth in a frustrated panic and collapsed on the ground; yelling and sobbing as she did so.

“I WON’T, I WON’T, I WON’T! LEAVE ME ALONE BERT! But please don’t go, I don’t want to BE alone. Just left alone. But only when you’re like this. I CAN’T HURT HIM, I WON’T! THAT’S NOT ME ANYMORE! Mummy I’m sorry, Bert told me too. He MADE me. I’m trying mummy, I’m sorry. I promise to get the blood out of the carpet.”

She whimpered, suffocating in her tears; screaming helplessly in-between large intakes of breath and then suddenly all was silent. Sedated and manageable I was finally able to tighten the strips on her white jacket, that wrap her arms crossed around her, completely preventing their movement.

Can’t have her escaping again.