Study Guide

The Interestings Madness

By Meg Wolitzer

Madness

[…] it hadn't occurred to them that Mo was "on the spectrum," as everyone casually put it lately, just the way people also casually said "chemo," all of it seen as part of the perils of the modern age. (3.62)

Illness, be it mental or physical, is very much a part of life—and in this regard, it's ordinary. But when it comes into your life, it feels anything but.

Depression wasn't anything that she and her friends ever thought about. […] They were trying to figure out the world through a series of experiments, and mental illness was not one of them. (4.1)

Until you have first-hand experience with depression, it's easy not to give it a second's thought. Once it shows up in your life, though, it's impossible to ignore.

It would turn out that he was a little soft-middled because of the medication he took for his depression. Antidepressants were crude then, slapping at depression with a big, clumsy paw. (4.108)

Mental illness comes with all sorts of hardships, and finding the right medication—and dealing with side effects—can be really tough.

He had been slowly fed drugs by a folksinger—psychotropics—and his mind had been stretched and distorted, his thoughts pushed into the mesh of a perceptual net. […] There were residual effects. (6.64)

It isn't mental illness proper, but Jonah's permanently altered by his experiences being drugged as a kid. Poor guy.

"Goodman said that Dr. Spilka wants him to tell him [...] what 'sexual intercourse' with Cathy was like. My parents are paying sixty dollars an hour for this." (7.94)

Dr. Spilka is a mental health professional, and while we aren't saying Goodman is mentally ill, we are going to point out that profit is a player in the whole mental healthcare system.

"Think about what these unhealthy comments do to us. They create this environment of unhealthiness. Of disease." (11.100)

Could Jules's obsession with her friends' lives and her overwhelming envy be called a kind of mental illness? She and Dennis certainly describe it like a sickness.

"He's diminished. […] It's like they took him for a while and then returned him to me, but now he's only an approximation of himself." (13.27)

Think about how much power this suggests our minds have over our selves: When the chemistry of your brain is changed, you can actually become a different person.

Their son had developed the capacity for unspeakable sadness, and who could blame him? Dennis and Jules had both come from families that hadn't really felt good. (13.33)

We get that this is supposed to be a moment where Jules sympathizes with Dennis, but it kind of seems like she's downplaying or misunderstanding his depression, and making it about herself (again).

[Mo's] mother's hand resting briefly on his [...] back made him look up sharply, […] remembering that she loved him. Remember that there was such an element in the world as love. (14.14)

Hey there, social commentary moment. What it really takes to make life easier for a person with any sort of wellness issues, beyond medical help, is simply to feel the love and support of other people.

"She said she'd become proud of the term high-functioning, as if it was the same as National Merit Scholar." (15.4)

Priorities change when you have a family member with mental illness. Illness doesn't just affect the person dealing with it directly, but everyone in their orbit, too.

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