29cceebf9de2f3d7ac4457f3b3112763There is ‘Reason in Madness’ and ‘Madness in Reason’.

There is infinite variety and intricacy of human relationship which seamlessly oscillates between creativity and insanity.

The belief in truth is precisely madness.

(Nietzsche,Das philosophenbuch)

Blindness is the distinctive characteristic of madness“, such is the start of the explanation for the word ‘Folie’ in Encyclopedie :

To deviate from reason knowingly, in the grip of a violent passion, is to be weak; but to deviate from it confidently and with the firm conviction that one is following it, is to be what we call mad. Blindness is not the only attribute of madness, the person in question can never accept his own blindness with eyes open. The necessary entailment of illusion of reason is the crux of this point. This argument makes it even harder to infer where reason stops and madness begins, because they both stem from the same phenomena of thought. Hence, reason and madness are inextricably linked, and yet both involve some form of reasonability, for as madness is often explained as an act of faith in reason. Hegel gives a touch of ‘privilege’ to the idea of madness:

The capacity of self reflection is given to man alone, that is why he has, so to speak, the privilege of madness.

From here, Nietzsche goes a little further- There is one thing that will forever be impossible: to be reasonable! (….) For the love of madness wisdom is mixed with all things! Here, It all boils down to the perspective of these philosophers, Hegel puts madness into thought and Nietzsche puts thought into madness. But, this idea was basically introduced into literature through the works of Shakespeare, in his famous play- King Lear, one finds it to be the potent theme.

This brings us to the reading of Robert Browning’s poem, Porphyria’s Lover, written in 1836. It is an objective study (we do not draw sympathy for the lover hence, not subjective) in morbid, dark psychology. In the poem the lover describes in horrifying details the murder of Porphyria, his beloved. In the word’s of Robert Langbaum, “In Porphyria’s Lover the speaker is undoubtedly mad. He strangles Porphyria with her own hair, as a culminating expression of his love and in order to preserve unchanged the perfect moment of her surrender to him.” Through this we conclude that there was reason in the lovers madness, but, sometimes too much reason is also the cause of madness. The speaker seems to justify himself, to himself – and this seems to place him in some kind of a mental asylum where he continually repeats this narrative and the readers see sublimation in this act through his last line, ” And yet God has not said a word.” But, yet again, the comfort drawn from denial is tainted, “yet” means temporality and the lovers suspense lingers because he can only be certain that divine silence means divine approval, For he sees God’s silence as the approval of his own act. The speaker seems to reason his madness throughout the poem starting from- “Be sure I looked up at her eyes“.

“Be sure” suggests an effort to convince and believe that he has freed her from “pride” and “vainer ties”. He sees his strangling her as giving her salvation and bringing her to himself for eternity for which she is expressing her gratification by “smiling” at him in her death. When the speakers language becomes incomprehensible the last layer of silence falls on the poem, that is of the readers because we see it as a babbling from a deranged mind.

In Porphyria’s Lover, the expectations of the lover seem to have crossed all bounds of sanity and even though Porphyria approaches him with uninhibited actions of love he cannot help but, to want from her what he deems ‘equal companionship’, and in that point of murder he becomes a criminal, who is also a lover or in Langbaum’s words ” He is a criminal because he loves”. His rationality is over-powered by his reason of being united with her in death, and how nobody can take her away from him now. Blaise Pascal sums up all existent contrary positions by saying that, “Men are so necessarily mad, that not to be mad would amount to another form of madness.”

Another stance on madness can be taken in the viewing of the movie Perfume, which is based on Patrick Süskind’s famous novel written originally in German as Das Parfum, set in a tone of postmodernism. The writing style of the novel can be traced to Pastiche, which is an imitation of the style of two or more artists to form a single piece of literature. “Unlike parody, pastiche celebrates rather than mocks the work it imitates.[2]”

Perfume is set in the 18th Century France, and tells the story of Jean-Baptiste Grenouille, a physically and mentally abused orphan who has a supernatural sense of smell. Himself a genius of smells, Grenouille lacks a scent of his own, a personal odour, signifying an absence of personal identity. All his early childhood experiences have turned him into a sociopath which makes the viewer pity him and sympathize with him. Knowing his capabilities but, lacking the knowledge of his gift, Grenouille is seen as an absurd figure without any aim or drive. Until one incident that leads him to a girl with a very peculiar smell and makes him aware of his olfactory virtuosity. After accidentally killing her, he finds reason in his life; To make a scent that he can preserve, which will make him acceptable and loved at once. Here, we see that Grenouille is different from Porphyria’s lover in a sense that he has madness in his reason, though he has framed a reason to his life, the path leads him to murder virginal girls who have acceptable body odour to create that “one essence” that will over-power everyone’s sensibility and in turn make him socially acceptable. The beautiful projection of the protagonist makes the murders a secondary concern of the movie, Grenouille’s creativity undermines his insanity and this brings out the delicate relation of man with art, where one has to shed their mental blocks and societal norms to create a piece of work which is sublime and that, is only possible when the artist is a critic of the society and still functioning within it.

The story has been critiqued by many on the basis of being, “(….) Simply a postmodern pastiche that serves the viewer/readers titillating but derivative kitsch.” The story dwells into the genre of Horror, Mystery, Absurd and Magic Realism. It can also be seen as the coming of age text because it talks about the mysteries of life and the curiosity and passion of the protagonist removed from the reality of right and wrong. Grenouille lacks a Superego which keeps him at bay from guilt and makes his madness less gruesome, for he himself does not know what unlawful act he does.

In the end, after sending an entire audience of his trial into a state of trance by the power of his perfume which he created by killing all those girls, he realized that his impulse, his passion, was merely driven by hatred and that he has achieved nothing even after achieving what he had aimed for. In his last act of madness he drenches himself in his own perfume only to craze the maenadic crowd of Parisian slum dwellers who dismember him and devour him; piecemeal.

Hence, the thought put into an action, is reason itself. This very thought drives madness and in that moment, madness and reason are two coexisting truths of any human emotion and relation. An artist has to be mad to imagine, but, this madness is what we call normalcy, anything out of this idea or arena of normalcy is considered insanity. As Jack Sparrow puts it in The Pirates of the Caribbean: