Jamison often uses overstatement in an effort to describe insanity to those who have never experienced it. Because words are ultimately limited in depicting the whole of another's reality, she must use overstatement in order to both show how overwhelming insanity is and demonstrate what a large and chaotic role it plays in her life.
Grandiose Delusion (Dramatic Irony)
Jamison experiences the delusions of psychotic mania when she dresses provocatively and observes herself to be the life of the party. She only learns of how her behavior appeared to others afterward, when friends and colleagues express their concern. A kind of dramatic irony, revealed in retrospect, is at play here, because there is a contrast between what her colleagues (and, in retrospect, Jamison herself as narrator) know, and what Jamison knows in the moment. Her perception differs from theirs, even when her mania is not severe enough to cause her lasting psychological discomfort.
Endurance (Dramatic Irony)
Often throughout the memoir, Jamison describes states as enduring even as the reader knows them to be temporary, evoking the dramatic irony that structures manic episodes. Someone in the grip of deep depression thinks it can never end, while those on the outside know differently. This highlights the helplessness many people feel when facing mental illness, as they are afraid that their pain will endure. Every depression feels like it is going to last forever, and every mania is so intoxicating that living as if it were to end is an unfeasible option. Even though Jamison has experience with the cyclical nature of her illness, it keeps her so firmly entrenched in the pain of the moment that she is unable to look forward to better times.
Medication Compliance (Dramatic Irony)
Although Jamison learns early on in her academic career that many people struggling with mental illness refuse to admit that existing resources might help them, Jamison herself spends a long time denying her mental illness and rejecting the idea that medication might help her with her issue. In this case, Jamison's expectations for her illness contrast with those of the audience, who know that she would benefit from seeking psychiatric help and sticking to a medication routine.
Visit to St. Elizabeth's (Situational and Dramatic Irony)
When Jamison is in her early teens, she is taken to a mental hospital with the other candy stripers from the Andrews Air Force Base Hospital. This visit is characterized by high amounts of fear and fascination, as Jamison looks at these women like strange animals that she cannot understand. She asks the nurses how they protect themselves from the patients and giggles with her friends about catching insanity. This passage is ironic because soon Jamison herself will be dealing with the same kinds of problems these women face.
An Unquiet Mind Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for An Unquiet Mind is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.