Study Guide

The Interestings Madness

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In The Interestings, we're using the theme of madness loosely, as an in to explore mental illness and the ways in which it rears its head in both Dennis and Mo Figman. Dennis struggles with depression, and it winds up nearly ending his marriage and his life. Mo, though a more minor character, has some kind of autism-spectrum disorder that keeps him from connecting to people.

In both cases, the mental illness is vague and puts the characters into a murky haze of ambiguity—Dennis's medication is a trial and error thing, and Mo's illness is actually referred to as a "Pervasive Developmental Disorder—Not Otherwise Specified." Mental illness in this book is a very real and powerful thing, and the book doesn't shy away from the complexity of relationships between people with a mental illness and people without one.

Questions About Madness

  1. What similarities do you see between Dennis and Mo's experiences with mental illness? How about between their families responses? Are their significant differences?
  2. How does the book treat mental illness in comparison to bodily illness, i.e. HIV and cancer? What impact does this have on the theme?
  3. Are there any undiagnosed mental illnesses you see in the book? Use the text to support your claim.

Chew on This

Goodman's self-delusion and Jules's jealousy are way more damaging in the long run than any of the mental illness we see in this book.

Ultimately, this book works hard to combat negative stigmas about mental illness.

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