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Stephanie
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Registered: ‎10-19-2006
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Whole Book Discussion: Esme

Why do you think Esme was sent to Cauldstone, and never released to go home? Do you think she is mentally unbalanced? Give examples from the book to support your opinion.


This section is suitable for those who have read most or all of the book. Please be aware this section may contain spoilers.
Stephanie
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Cahill42
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Registered: ‎12-30-2006
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Re: Whole Book Discussion: Esme



Stephanie wrote:
Why do you think Esme was sent to Cauldstone, and never released to go home? Do you think she is mentally unbalanced? Give examples from the book to support your opinion.


This section is suitable for those who have read most or all of the book. Please be aware this section may contain spoilers.




I think that she was sent there mainly because she was an embarrassing inconvience for her family. Her parents didn't seem exactly loving, were distant even. I realize that Esme's childhood was in the era of children being "seen and not heard," but I still found their behaviour towards both their children appalling. It's not stated explicitly in the book, but I think that her parents knew what happened between her and James Dalziel, or at least suspected the rape. After Esme is committed to Cauldstone, there is a scene where the doctor is coming around. Esme "primps" herself (for lack of a better word) and tries to look as "sane" as she can. When the doctor comes around to Esme, a nurse whispers in his ear, he nods, and moves on without speaking with Esme. It seemed as if everyone knew what had happened and that Esme might be/was pregnant except Esme. I'm not sure that Esme is mentally unbalanced or not. I do believe that she wasn't before she was sent to Cauldstone, but I think that it's highly possible that she was just a bit cracked after sixty-plus years of involuntary committment. I'll even grant a bit more than cracked considering she killed her sister. Kitty's statement to the doctor regarding Esme's so-called hallucinations also played a huge part in not only her initial committment, but for how long she was there. She (Kitty) states several times she "never meant it to be forever," but I think she knew exactly what she was doing when she told the doctor about Esme's hallucinations. She thought that with Esme out of the way, she would get her chance, that James Dalziel could be hers, instead she ended up with Lockhart and a childless and loveless marriage until she discovered Esme's pregnancy and took the baby for her own. So, in my roundabout way, I think that although Esme did have her quirks and that her "otherness" certainly contributed to her committment to Cauldstone, it was Kitty's testimony that sealed her in the stone coffin of the sanitarium.
Destiny is a name often given in retrospect to choices that had dramatic consequences.---J.K. Rowling

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Debrachris
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Registered: ‎10-26-2007
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Re: Whole Book Discussion: Esme

No, I don't think that Esme was unbalanced. I think it is a clear case of getting rid of her so that her sister's chances for a happy marriage would not be jeopardized by the "nut" (as they viewed it) in the family. They killed 2 birds with one stone, because they also eliminated the problem of the social stigma resulting from an unmarried pregnant daughter. I agree with Andrea that if she wasn't crazy when she went in, they made her so with the cruel treatment she received at the institution. Anyone would go mad with that kind of treatment. Has anyone read "The Yellow Wallpaper" by Charlotte Perkins Gilman? An excellent example of what can happen to a person who is isolated in order to be "cured" of nervous illness.
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Dusty_Phoenix
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Registered: ‎10-06-2007
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Re: Whole Book Discussion: Esme



Stephanie wrote:
Why do you think Esme was sent to Cauldstone, and never released to go home? Do you think she is mentally unbalanced? Give examples from the book to support your opinion.


This section is suitable for those who have read most or all of the book. Please be aware this section may contain spoilers.




This point hasn't been mentioned, but perhaps Esme's early childhood experiences in India do make her a bit mad? Being left alone at home with only a nanny and a younger sibling isn't that uncommon-but what happens is. Esme is left clutching the only person she knows has loved her. Upon their return her parents are cold; her mother drapes herself in a cloak of self-loathing and confines herself to the upper-reaches of the house, and her father has no time for women. It becomes apparent that the family would rather forget the unpleasantness than re-hash it.
The Indian experience of course has an effect upon Esme's later life. Maybe she suffers from some post-traumatic stress, and copes with it as best she can, by acting in her own eccentric ways. She is after all still a fairly young girl. Later in the book Esme becomes detached from Kitty, with whom she has previously shared a close bond. Could this be because Kitty has become more like her mother and grandmother?
There can be little doubt that Esme, in the end, acts out of rage. But the novel has brought us full circle from the death of Hugo, to the birth and loss of her own child. Perhaps one of the themes here is not just eccentric behaviour, and possible madness in the early 1930's but also betrayal.
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Fozzie
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Registered: ‎10-19-2006
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Re: Whole Book Discussion: Esme



Stephanie wrote:
Why do you think Esme was sent to Cauldstone, and never released to go home? Do you think she is mentally unbalanced?



I agree with everyone's thoughts on Esme.

I think having her baby brother and the nanny die in India, while she was left alone with the bodies for several days, had to be traumatic. Then, no one discussed the little baby anymore. If I were Esme, I would begin to wonder if I had imagined the experience.

As a young adult, Esme was raped. Again, a very traumatic event that was swept under the rug and ignored.

Yes, she did not behave like a proper lady of the time, but to commit her to Cauldstone with a mental illness was not right. As if being sent there for no reason wasn't bad enough, her baby was literally stolen from her, by her own sister! The rage and depression that event would cause are unfathomable to me.

And, just to make sure Esme really did become unbalanced, she was left in the institution for 60 years!

I am left feeling sure that Esme was not unbalanced when she was admitted to Cauldstone, but feeling unsure about her mental state when she was released. She did kill her sister, but was she mad or completely sane?
Laura

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CanTri
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Registered: ‎10-19-2006
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Re: Whole Book Discussion: Esme

I think she was sent to Cauldstone because she wouldn't conform to the family's/societies expectations of the time. I think she was rather the loner, and independent, and could care less about what others thought of her, and actually wanted a career (asks her father to continue with school and I think was wanting to have a secretary/typist like job). There are plenty of times I'd rather be by myself than a crowd, I'm known to be fiercely independent and if you don't like me than go somewhere else, and I have a job outside the home that I love, but I don't think those personality traits should commit me to a mental institute. I think Esme was ahead of her time,not mentally unbalanced, and that was uncomfortable for everyone else. I think SHE was the one that was normal in her family,she wanted to process the death of her brother and everyone else had issues, to want to pretend like it never happened.
I think her family did things to make her feel more abnormal (crazy) than she really was, ex. the blazer incident.
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avidreadergirl
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Registered: ‎11-16-2007
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Re: Whole Book Discussion: Esme

I thought the blazer incident happened at school, not at home by her parents . .

One thing I have strugged with throughout the whole novel, and what I think makes this novel pretty brilliant is the fact that the flashbacks are told from Esme's perspective and anyone who's taken Phych 101 knows "persception is reality", so in other words, did it really happen that way or is that just her side??

I'm really surprised at the sterotype of mental heath professionals that has been par for the course throughout these discussions. I know someone who was in a very famous mental instutition in my state which is now closed due to budget cuts and the high cost of running it, and I have been told it was the best care they ever received. That the instution was focused on rehabilitation with the hope of eventual release. I'm sure the concept of "throw them in an institution so we can forget about them" does exist, but there are alot of good, necessary facilities that really care about their patients.

If you think about it, Esme is like the extreme of what could have happened in "Girl Interrupted" (if you haven't seen it yet, EXCELLENT movie--which is based on a real young woman who was in McClain Phychiatric in Belmont, MA. They even filmed on the grounds of the actual facility).
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IBIS
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Registered: ‎11-22-2006
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Re: Whole Book Discussion: Esme

McLean in the Boston area is well-known for its progressive mental health services.

When Esme was initially sent to Cauldstone, the mental health profession was not very progressive. As time went on, with the modern age setting in, I was surprised that the more contemporary staff didn't act more aggressively to see through Esme's "disappearance" acts, and actually help her cope.

I'm sure in the later 60's and 70's, with the advancements made in the field of psychiatric medicine, she could have been analyzed more clearly, and encouraged by better educated staff to sign herself out, and mainstream herself into contemporary society.

It was the later years of Esme's involuntary imprisonment in Cauldstone that I found a bit hard to believe.

IBIS
IBIS

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susandale
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Registered: ‎10-19-2006
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Re: Whole Book Discussion: Esme



IBIS wrote:
McLean in the Boston area is well-known for its progressive mental health services.

When Esme was initially sent to Cauldstone, the mental health profession was not very progressive. As time went on, with the modern age setting in, I was surprised that the more contemporary staff didn't act more aggressively to see through Esme's "disappearance" acts, and actually help her cope.

I'm sure in the later 60's and 70's, with the advancements made in the field of psychiatric medicine, she could have been analyzed more clearly, and encouraged by better educated staff to sign herself out, and mainstream herself into contemporary society.

It was the later years of Esme's involuntary imprisonment in Cauldstone that I found a bit hard to believe.

IBIS




I share your doubts about the likelihood of Esme remaining incarcerated for 60 years, given all of the advances that have been made in psychiatric medicine and treatment, particularly over the last couple of decades. Here in Australia, we too have a more enlightened approach to managing people afflicted with various forms of mental illness. However, many people do seem to stumble along, undiagnosed and struggle to survive in mainstream society.
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