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Madness may be perceived differently by different individuals but it all revolves around the same understanding, which is an action or words that are not normal. Madness is constantly reflected in Alexander Pushkin's "The Queen of Spades." This is despite the fact that the book is funny and brings out quite a lot of intelligence. The aspect of madness of the book is visible but is not often reflected by most readers during their discussion. Therefore, the aim of this paper is to look at the aspect of madness in The Queen of Spades.
Gambling seems to be the main activity that the characters of the book are acquainted to. This is not strange because gambling was a common activity during the ancient times, where the young and the old used to gather and gamble (Pushkin par.1). This time was used as a social experience where stories were exchanged and people got to know each other better. However, the level of gambling in the book is rather different as people gamble all the time. The fact that the gambling activity starts at quite a young age is not normal. The rate of gambling is seen to destroy the lives of many potential people. Such a situation is seen in the case of Tchaplitsky, a young man whose life was destroyed by gambling. This may be closely associated with greed but it is at a high rate that it is classified as madness as well. The young man was in a lot of debt and had an opportunity to regain all he had lost and pay off his debts since the queen had volunteered to help him. This seemed to turn out well for him until his lust of money clouded his voice of reason. According to Pushkin (par. 4), this situation led to him leading a life where he was constantly in debt and it was miserable for him.
Countess X's Madness
The old Countess X presented a case of scenarios where madness was clearly evident. The fact the old Countess was very aged made her actions seem rather irrational from the way she spoke and commanded people around. The Countess is introduced as a woman who strong willed and does everything she pleases as long as she thinks she is right. This is a habit that she has harbored for quite a long while even during her youth. She goes out and engages in a game of Faro in Paris. During this game she loses most of her bets and finds herself in deep debt owed to the Duke of Orleans. This appears to be no problem to her as she returns to her home and orders her husband to pay off the debt. This is quite unusual as wives are supposed to be submissive to their husbands and it should not be vice versa. The husband is described as quite fearful to the countess and this could be well classified as a scenario of madness.
The same aura of authority is exercised by the countess in her old age as she addresses her servants and visitors as well. The countess is quite old but still dresses in a youthful manner and it takes quite a lot of time to achieve this. This can as well be classified a scenario of madness. The fact that she learns of her friends old deaths in a shocking manner and does not react to them as expected is quite abnormal. She received the news with much indifference and continued to recall memories of her friend without any emotions being exhibited.
The actions of the Countess X are rather irrational according to the way she conducts herself. The Countess orders Lizanka Ivanovna, whom she had raised since childhood to order carriage as they need to leave. She does not give the young lady a chance to order the carriage before she starts scolding her to hurry up. The activity is interrupted by the introduction of books that the Countess had been by Prince Pavel. She calls on Lizanka ordering her to stop what she was doing and makes her read one of the books.
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During the reading process, the countess is making endless complaints and after a short while orders her to stop reading since the book lacks interest. Immediately Lizanka stops reading the book, the Countess is back on asking about the carriage and why the young girl is not dressed. Lizanka rushes off to change and two minutes have not passed before the Countess is ringing violently asking the servants to go fetch Lizanka. After everything is ready and the young girl is dressed the Countess asks about the weather to check whether it is windy. The footman confirms that it is not windy but this gets the Countess rather angry and scolds the footman. She opens the window and confirms for herself that it is windy. She cancels their trip after having caused all the rush for poor Lizanka and the footman.
All these actions are clearly not what an average human being would engage in as they are too irrational. The old Countess may be excused for her old age but at the same time these actions indicate the existence of madness. The countess is not decided on what she wants and she still maintains the same attitude of authority that she did long ago. Pushkin demonstrates how she feels she has the right to do anything she wants and she does not stand to be corrected at any one time (par. 30).
Lizanka has no choice but to oblige to the demands of the countess at all times. She even hosts parties and she does not recognize the people attending the party but they know her. The parties are rather ambiguous since they are for Lizanka and she spends most of her time sulking at a corner. The point of the parties is not relevant and could be classified as madness as well.
Madness portrayed by Herman
Another case of madness is presented by Herman the German friend of Tomsky. Herman is a reserved gambler who does not engage in the activity since he claims the money he has is not enough to be used for gambling. He wishes to secure his future and that of his children and grandchildren. His hopes of an independent life are revived by the story relayed to them by Tomsky concerning his grandmother and the secret of gambling that she holds. Herman is obsessed with this and is willing to do everything possible to get the countess to tell him the secret. He finds an easier way to get close to the countess and that is through Lizanka.
He confesses and dying love for him to b able to get close to the countess. In his bid to acquire the secret of winning, he caused the death of the Countess by shocking her with a pistol (Pushkin par.45). This however was not the height of madness as Herman had an illusion, where he saw the old Countess and she gave him the winning secret. Herman used this to gamble all his life savings as well as interests, this seemed to work out for him but in the end he lost all his money and winnings. Herman ends up mad and in a psychiatric hospital since he could not recover from the shock.
Madness in the book is looked at from different roles. While others may tend to focus on madness at the point of Herman ending up in a psychiatric ward, they overlook the fact that it is also present in other parts of the story. Madness is also seen in the way of thinking and actions portrayed by the characters in the book.
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