No institution can possibly survive if it needs geniuses or supermen to manage it. It must be organized in such a way as to be able to get along under a leadership composed of average human beings.
“While an institution might encourage individuals to change through enforcing rules and regulations, it is the individual who ultimately holds the power to change.” -Scott Monk
Scott Monk uses the protagonist Brett Dalton in the novel RAW as the individual who is able to change his previous life and attitude through the effect of the institution, The Farm.
Scott sets the readers mind straight away with the first 3 words of the book, “busted, Brett panicked.”
The reader immediately registers that Brett is a criminal which emphasizes the dramatic change Brett experiences during his stay on the farm.
As a caretaker, Sam says to Brett at the beginning, “just remember, Brett: only you can change your life”. He implies that the power to change lives within the individual.
Before becoming friends with Sam, Brett often protested against his rules and regulations due to his previous negligent personality. In response to these restrictions, Brett leaves in hope for the city, but gives in after he realises he would not be able to cope with society.
This is where I felt Brett is beginning to alter his personality, and respect Sam’s authority.
As this friendship develops, others are created. In the past Brett had severe difficulty confronting his problems, and first instinct in a sticky situation was to run away.
This could be said as conforming with everyone else, as they too in the past must have been in the same situation, but are now friends with Sam, and have ultimately changed their lives.
An example of this is the way that Josh. He, demonstrates to everyone that reads the book that institutionalisation can indeed be a positive experience.
Brett admits this “positive experience” in the ending of the novel where Sam questions him, “did you learn anything while you were here?” to which Brett answers, “yes, of course. Lots of stuff. Like friendship, trust, love, and loss.”
This to me sounds like words coming from a normal, happy, average human being.
The concept of change in an individual is equally evident in Susanna Kaysen in the movie Girl, interrupted.
The director, James Mangold, introduces the main character in a similar fashion to how Scott Monk introduces Brett Dalton in Raw. Susanna Keysen’s faults and flaws are exposed immediately, first seen being taken to the hospital after trying to kill herself with vodka and Aspirin pills.
The audience’s immediate reaction is that something is wrong with her.
Her psychologist establishes this after her recovery, asking questions like “Are you stoned?” and “how are you feeling right now?” to which her response was “I don’t know.” He then sends her to Claymore, a private mental institution.
During her stay at claymore, Susanna experiences much of what Brett describes he had experienced at the farm.
He mentions friendship, trust, love, and loss which is everything Susanna came across.
She made many new friends while being in the establishment, realising that crazy people aren’t so scary, but are fun, interesting people to be around.
As she grows closer to all of them (In particular, Lisa), she learns to trust them and adapts to their behaviours in the institution.
Unfortunately, their flaws also begin to have an affect on Susanna.
An example of this is the way Susanna acts out of character when Valerie tosses her into a cold bath unexpectedly. She imitates Janet Webber’s racist comments and mocking tone when she had her clothes denied due to the lack of eating.
One day while escaping the world with Lisa, Susanna discovers that sometimes to be sane can be a choice to some people; everyone is insane, but the insanity is to be kept to yourself, and if expressed, you are considered to be crazy. Something’s are just not meant to be said.
The line between normal and crazy is a blurry one even in today’s world. I believe sane and insane can be defined as common or uncommon behavior. Support and help is still given without having to be hospitalized. In the end of the novel, Susanna “recovers” from her diagnosis although she never really understood it or even knows if she really is “recovered.” She feels the same way about leaving the hospital as when she came in the hospital.