Thursday, July 08, 2010

Surprisingly "Big Thinks" from H. G. Wells

I've finished The Island of Dr. Moreau, by H. G. Wells. I enjoyed it very much, but one thing in particular really jumped out at me. This book was written in 1896, yet Wells's description of what is unmistakably PTSD (or "shellshock," as it used to be more vividly called) is truly remarkable. I'll try to illustrate without giving away any more of the story that Wells himself gives away in the Introduction, but this is how the narrator introduces his condition:
They say that terror is a disease, and anyhow I can witness that for several years now a restless fear has dwelt in my mind
Then he talks about how he knows he's crazy, but can't help it:
I could not persuade myself that the men and women I met were not also another [redacted] and that would presently begin to revert
Even more remarkably, he finds professional help:
But I have confided my case to a strangely able man {snip}; a mental specialist, -- and he has helped me mightily, though I do not expect that the terror of that island will ever altogether leave me.
And it never does. Does the following sound like a panic attack to you, too:
At most times it [the terror] lies far in the back of my mind, a mere distant cloud, a memory, and a faint distrust; but there are times when the little cloud spreads until it obscures the whole sky. Then I look about me at my fellow-men; and I go in fear. {snip} I shrink from them....

When I lived in London the horror was well-nigh insupportable. {snip} ...prowling women would mew after me; furtive, craving men glance jealously at me.... {snip} Then I would turn aside into some chapel, -- and even there, such was my disturbance, it seemed that the preacher gibbered "Big Thinks".... {snip} Particularly nauseous were the bland, expressionless faces of people in trains and omnibuses; they seemed no more my fellow-creatures than dead bodies would be, so that I did not dare to travel....
Wow. Creepy. And consider that Wells, although raised in poverty, never served in a traumatic situation; he was, in fact, a socialist and a pacifist, so he would have had no personal experience with shellshock.

I just have one final, secret aside, for Prendick's ears only. If you aren't Prendick, don't listen:

The preachers? That's really not in your head. They really are gibbering "Big Thinks."

Labels: , ,


Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?