Friday, November 09, 2012

The Wasteland of the Diseased Mind

The following excerpt is from a paper that was submitted for a MA of English Literature seminar in Spring 2007 at the University of Colorado by Amanda Perez (BA, MA, PhD). If you wish to use any portion of it as a source for your own exploration of George Eliot's The Lifted Veil please feel free to contact me at for a full manuscript.

The majority of George Eliot novels are often read as a psychological profile of diseased mind, the short story "The Lifted Veil" is no exception. Although the novella is often overlooked by critics because, it appears on the surface to be drastically different from Eliot's other works it does in fact encompass many of the qualities of an Eliot novel that critics so often explore. It is interesting that an author so often labeled a "psychological realist" should have her best work illustrating the psychology of the mind ignored. The few critics who have taken the time to write on "The Lifted Veil" cannot help drawing comparisons between Latimer and Eliot. Both seem to suffer from similar "diseases" that are caused by their "gifts of insight." "The Lifted Veil" appears at times, to be the autobiography of Eliot's own feelings of emotional inferiority, and at others, a comment on the power of knowledge and the ways in which it effects the mind. Taking the two elements together Eliot shows the reader that the power fiction can have on the reader and the writer, becomes a source of paranoia and disease of the mind. 
To live in the world of Eliot is to be trapped in a natural isolation where understanding of others is a fiction that can only poison the mind of the most sensitive subjects. Eliot's "The Lifted Veil" is an exploration into the sensitive mind poisoned by the curse of insight into the minds of others. As the reader begins their journey into the diseased mind of frustrated poet without a voice, Latimer, we are quickly given the facts of his childhood that has played a part in his mental downfall. The psychological case study begins with the a mention of the early loss of his dearly loved mother, 
"I had a tender mother: even now, after the dreary lapse of long years, a slight trace of sensation accompanies the remembrance of her caress as she held me on her knee- her arms round my little body, her cheek pressed to mine. I had a complaint of the eyes that made me blind for a little while, and she kept me on her knee from morning till night. That unequalled love soon vanished out of my life, and even to my childish consciousness it was as if that life had become more chill. [. . .] Perhaps I missed my mother's love more than most children of seven or eight would have done, to whom the pleasures of life remained as before; for I was certainly a sensitive child (4)."

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