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.