Study Guide

Where'd You Go, Bernadette Madness

By Maria Semple

Madness

Bernadette Fox is having a tough time with her mental health. After her career falls apart and her family abruptly moves to Seattle, she starts suffering from anxiety and depression, not to mention severe insomnia and agoraphobia. These issues snowball for years and years until they get too big for her to handle. But is she insane? Like, a danger to herself and others? This question dominates Where'd You Go, Bernadette? but, thankfully, the novel answers it by raising a much more important one: shouldn't everyone be asking instead what they can do to help?

Questions About Madness

  1. How does Elgin come to the conclusion that Bernadette needs short-term institutionalization? Are his reasons fair? 
  2. What could Elgin have done to be a more supportive of Bernadette's mental health? 
  3. Why does Antarctica prove to be so beneficial to Bernadette's mental health? 
  4. What do you think Bernadette will do now to maintain her mental health? What sort of positive habits has she learned?

Chew on This

Although Elgin is wrong about how bad Bernadette's mental health has gotten, he's simply trying to do the right thing for his wife.

Elgin clearly isn't concerned about Bernadette when he tries to get her institutionalized, because if he was, he would have tried less intensive methods first.

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