Insanity Within a Family

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Insanity devastates individual lives and families every day. Throughout the play Proof by David Auburn, insanity can be witnessed as it progresses genetically throughout a family. Robert, the father, exhibits many signs and symptoms of being insane, and his daughter, Catherine, seems to be following in his footsteps. In this play, insanity can be traced genetically, which is proven in the characterization of Robert and is implied in the characterization of Catherine. Robert is a mid-fifties mathematician who has spent his entire life writing mathematical proofs to further his career. His insanity begins to arise at an early age and continues until the day he dies. Throughout his life he begins to show signs and symptoms of insanity including: confusion, inability to take care of self, graphomania, paranoia, and hallucinations. The readers can clearly see an example of Robert’s insanity as it is applied to his everyday life when Catherine is discussing Robert with Hal and states, “I lived with him. I spent my life with him. I fed him. Talked to him. Tried to listen when he talked. Talked to people who weren’t there… Watched him shuffling around like a ghost. A very smelly ghost. He was filthy. I had to make sure he bathed. My own father” (1217). Robert’s mental illness is also apparent in the conversation that he and Catherine has after he has died. During that conversation, Robert says that crazy people do not realize that they are crazy. This theory is supported when the reader discovers that Robert honestly believes he has solved a proof, but all he has written is gibberish. Robert’s new proof states, “Let X equal the quantities of X. Let X equal the cold. It is cold in December. The months of cold equal November through Februa... ... middle of paper ... explained by the stress and grief in her life. Her possible diseases include Schizophrenia, Bi- polar, prolonged grief disorder, and extreme stress. Catherine could have a mental disorder; although, there is no proof in the text to officially confirm or deny that statement. The use of insanity as a theme in the play is developed in the characters of Robert and Catherine. Robert’s character does not really leave doubt in the reader’s mind whether he is insane or not. His symptoms alone confirm his mental illness. Catherine’s insanity cannot be confirmed as Robert’s is. The theme of insanity in the play can be proven and implied through the characterization of these two characters. Works Cited Auburn, David. “Proof.” Literature Reading, Reacting, Writing. Ed. Laurie G. Kirszner and Stephen R. Mandell. Compact 8th ed. Boston: Wadsworth, 2013. 183-186. Print.
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