Our protagonist, Mary Iris Malone—or Mim—discovers that her biological mother is sick back in Cleveland, Ohio. Upon hearing this news, Mim immediately hops on a Greyhound bus and ventures out to see her sickly mother, abandoning everything in her life—except her apparent case of psychosis. Throughout the story, Arnold describes, in haunting detail, Mim's mental outbursts. But what's even more harrowing than her "illness" is the way her (now-remarried) father, Barry, treats her because of it. In Chapter 7 "A Metamorphosis Begun," Mim recalls a memory of her father researching her condition after witnessing another one of her symptoms. She remembers him conversing with her biological mother, Eve, about a medical book that he believes provides "a way to differentiate between psychotic behavior and pychopathic behahvior" (56), indicating his apprehension towards his own daughter. Depicting Mim's flashbacks as cold and gloomy as this one, Arnold sways the audience into sympathizing with the troubled teenager. Furthermore, his emphasis on the word "psychopathic" compared to "psychotic" demonstrates his desire for readers to understand that the two are NOT the same and shouldn't be mistaken for each other, as many people tend to do. This highlights how the main character is easily misunderstood just because of her medical diagnosis. However, it is not only characters like her father who regard her as crazy: Mim herself recognizes her own issues. In fact, at the very beginning of the entire novel in Chapter 1 "A Thing's Not A Thing Until You Say It Out Loud," she is outspoken about herself as she voices, "I am Mary Iris Malone, and I am not okay" (3). For her to start her entire story with that one phrase is enough to make any reader understand that the rest of the plot will center around her inner struggles before even flipping to the next page. I can't help but wonder whether Mim became aware of her condition due to her father's trepidation or not. Because of this, I'm compelled to ask myself, "What goes on in the mind of someone who knows they have psychosis?"
As mentioned before, many people confuse "psychosis" with "psychopathy," when in reality they are completely different terms. According to Psychology Today, "psychosis is an umbrella term to describe the mental state of losing touch with reality." In Mosquitoland, this is evident in Mim's behavior as she often spaces out, lost in her own thoughts, before a supporting character nudges her to regain her grasp on reality. The article also states that "psychopathy is a personality disorder which consists of lack of empathy, impulsivity, recklessness, scrupulousness. callousness, and lying." Obviously, the two definitions share nothing in common, yet majority of society finds the need to associate both of them. We live in a world where stereotypes are unfortunately abundant: race, gender, religion, and yes, disorders are all targets of these stereotypes. Nowadays, it's true that many people claim baseless judgement is wrong and strive to rid the world of it. Nevertheless, as long as there are those who don't bother to communicate with others and attempt to understand their circumstances, misconceptions will remain. This fact is incredibly relevant to bearers of psychosis–or any mental disorder—whose difficulties directly correlate with their health. Since one's health can be such a sensitive topic, unaffected people are unwilling to openly talk about it. Despite this, we shouldn't just ignore the issue and create more fallacies. We shouldn't allow anyone to feel as if he or she is nothing but a freak of humanity, but instead try to put ourselves in his or her shoes and listen to what that person has to say about the condition. Otherwise, we'd only be producing more Mim Malones in our community—broken, lost, and misunderstood Mim Malones.
Arnold, David. Mosquitoland. New York, Speak, 2016.
Kaufman, Scott Barry. “Psychotic Is Not the Same as Psychopathic.” Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers, 16 Mar. 2011.