An Unquiet Mind

An Unquiet Mind Literary Elements



Setting and Context

America, England, late 1900s; Academic context

Narrator and Point of View

first-person limited, yet aware of the future

Tone and Mood

tone - reflective, serious, whimsical
mood - hopeful, analytical

Protagonist and Antagonist

Protagonist - Kay Redfield Jamison, Antagonists - Death, Madness

Major Conflict

Jamison struggles to maintain sanity in the face of an illness which prevents her from wanting to take the medication to treat it.


After a severe fit of mania, Jamison attempts to take her own life.


The book's title and beginning foreshadow the trials Jamison will face, and she begins the book by stating outright that it will chronicle madness.


Jamison uses wry understatement to write about living with a complicated illness that has a high mortality rate.


Jamison alludes to a number of works by famous manic-depressive authors, including Robert Lowell.


The author provides vivid imagery of her time abroad at St. Andrews and Oxford.


Jamison works with other psychiatrists who understand mood disorders from a clinical perspective, yet some of them fall into the same trap that they warn against as clinicians when they stigmatize her and consider her a coward for discussing her illness.


Jamison seeks to help others with the same illness as her; we see how her own health improves while she helps advance the cause of those suffering from manic depression.

Metonymy and Synecdoche


Throughout the book, Dr. Jamison personifies manic-depressive illness to understand its effect in her life and portray how she conceives of it.