Open Collections

UBC Theses and Dissertations

UBC Theses Logo

UBC Theses and Dissertations

Brilliant and Some Kind of Happiness : a close reading of two middle-grade novels' direct and symbolic… Moser, Caitlin 2020

Your browser doesn't seem to have a PDF viewer, please download the PDF to view this item.

Notice for Google Chrome users:
If you are having trouble viewing or searching the PDF with Google Chrome, please download it here instead.

Item Metadata

Download

Media
24-ubc_2020_may_moser_caitlin.pdf [ 749.88kB ]
Metadata
JSON: 24-1.0389758.json
JSON-LD: 24-1.0389758-ld.json
RDF/XML (Pretty): 24-1.0389758-rdf.xml
RDF/JSON: 24-1.0389758-rdf.json
Turtle: 24-1.0389758-turtle.txt
N-Triples: 24-1.0389758-rdf-ntriples.txt
Original Record: 24-1.0389758-source.json
Full Text
24-1.0389758-fulltext.txt
Citation
24-1.0389758.ris

Full Text

  Brilliant and Some Kind of Happiness: A Close Reading of Two Middle-grade Novels’ Direct and Symbolic Representations of Depression by Caitlin Moser  B.A., Brigham Young University—Idaho, 2012  A THESIS SUBMITTED IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF  MASTER OF ARTS in THE FACULTY OF GRADUATE AND POSTDOCTORAL STUDIES (Children’s Literature)  THE UNIVERSITY OF BRITISH COLUMBIA (Vancouver)   April 2020   © Caitlin Moser, 2020  ii  The following individuals certify that they have read, and recommend to the Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies for acceptance, a thesis entitled:  Brilliant and Some Kind of Happiness: A Close Reading of Two Middle-grade Novels’ Direct and Symbolic Representations of Depression   Submitted by Caitlin Moser in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts in Children’s Literature  Examining Committee: Dr. Richard Gooding, English language and Literatures Department  Supervisor   Dr. Margot Filipenko, Language, Literacy, and Education Department  Supervisory Committee Member     iii  Abstract Depression is the “leading cause of disability worldwide” (World Health Organization), and is known to affect children and teens as well as adults (“Anxiety and Depression in Children”). This thesis works toward a greater understanding of the current cultural landscape of depression through a close reading of direct and symbolic representations of Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) in Roddy Doyle’s Brilliant and Claire Legrand’s Some Kind of Happiness. The study investigates how authors depict the symptoms listed in the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders: Fifth Edition (DSM-5), techniques authors use to prevent stereotyped or overgeneralized portrayals, and what authors’ symbolic representations—Doyle’s Black Dog of Depression and Legrand’s inner darkness, poisonous fog, and Dark Ones—imply about lived experiences with MDD. The findings suggest that both novels depict eight out of nine symptoms listed in the DSM-5 excepting suicidal ideation, which is nevertheless hinted at or briefly mentioned. Both authors succeed in avoiding stereotyping and overgeneralization through different strategies: Doyle through his wide cast of depressed characters and Legrand through a combination of one depressed character’s intimate, first-person narration and inclusion of other characters with different mental health challenges. Through symbols, each author also captures varied depictions of lived experience with depression, notably depressed mood, feelings of inappropriate guilt and worthlessness, fatigue, hyper-/insomnia, and a loss of interest or pleasure. Doyle’s narrative is problematic because the responsibility (or at least ability) to save their depressed loved ones is placed on the children and because the entire city of Dublin is miraculously cured overnight. However, positively, much emphasis is placed on the importance of teamwork and community when facing the Black Dog. Legrand’s novel illustrates both the short-term positive effects and long-term negative effects of Finley’s coping   iv  strategies and the interference of self-stigma in help-seeking. Like Brilliant, this novel also stresses the importance of family and community support in working toward health. This thesis calls for other members of our global community to build on this research and fill gaps in varied and accurate representations of depression.    v  Lay Summary Because depression is so widespread even in children and youth, this thesis looks at how two novels, Brilliant by Roddy Doyle and Some Kind of Happiness by Claire Legrand, depict depression both in their characters’ lives and through symbols that represent depression. The American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders: Fifth Edition (DSM-5) is used to check authors’ accuracy in how they write about symptoms of depression. Both novels are found to be accurate, and each symbol (Doyle’s Black Dog of Depression and Legrand’s inner darkness, poisonous fog, and Dark Ones) represents and implies different ideas about living with depression, most notably that depressed people need community support. This thesis adds to an understanding of how depression is being portrayed to children and youth and calls for people to write, read, teach, and study more varied but still accurate stories about depression.    vi  Preface This thesis is the original, unpublished, and independent work of the author, Caitlin Moser.     vii  Table of Contents ABSTRACT .................................................................................................................................. iii LAY SUMMARY .......................................................................................................................... v PREFACE ..................................................................................................................................... vi TABLE OF CONTENTS ........................................................................................................... vii ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS ......................................................................................................... x DEDICATION.............................................................................................................................. xi CHAPTER 1: INTRODUCTION ................................................................................................ 1 1.1  Motivation for the Study and Origins of Interest ..................................................................... 1 1.2  Research Focus and Questions................................................................................................. 2 1.3  State of Scholarship and Use of Symbols of Depression ......................................................... 3 CHAPTER 2: LITERATURE REVIEW ................................................................................... 7 2.1  Introduction .............................................................................................................................. 7 2.2  Definition of Depression .......................................................................................................... 8 2.3  Children’s Literature Depictions of Depression .................................................................... 11 2.3.1  Young Adult Literature Depicting Depression ............................................................... 11 2.3.2  Picturebooks Depicting Depression ................................................................................ 15 2.3.3  Middle-grade Literature Depicting Depression............................................................... 21 2.4  Primary Text Reception ......................................................................................................... 26 2.4.1  Brilliant ........................................................................................................................... 27 2.4.2  Some Kind of Happiness ................................................................................................. 30 2.5  Conclusion ............................................................................................................................. 35 CHAPTER 3: METHODOLOGY ............................................................................................ 36   viii  3.1  Introduction ............................................................................................................................ 36 3.2  Theoretical Positioning and Methodology for Analysis of Primary Texts ............................ 36 3.3  Primary Text Selection .......................................................................................................... 44 3.4  Significant Terms ................................................................................................................... 48 CHAPTER 4: FINDINGS: BRILLIANT .................................................................................. 50 4.1  Introduction ............................................................................................................................ 50 4.2  Plot Summary......................................................................................................................... 50 4.3  Depression in Brilliant ........................................................................................................... 52 4.4  Analysis of the Symbol of Depression................................................................................... 58 4.4.1  Descriptions of Symbol ................................................................................................... 58 4.4.2  Interactions Between Symbol and Characters ................................................................. 62 4.5  Implications About Depression.............................................................................................. 73 4.6  Conclusion ............................................................................................................................. 77 CHAPTER 5: FINDINGS: SOME KIND OF HAPPINESS .................................................... 79 5.1  Introduction ............................................................................................................................ 79 5.2  Plot Summary......................................................................................................................... 79 5.3  Finley’s Depression in Some Kind of Happiness ................................................................... 81 5.4  Descriptions and Analysis of Symbols .................................................................................. 93 5.4.1  Introduction ..................................................................................................................... 93 5.4.2  The Inner Darkness ......................................................................................................... 93 5.4.3  The Poisonous Fog .......................................................................................................... 96 5.4.4  The Dark Ones .............................................................................................................. 101 5.5  Implications about Depression ............................................................................................. 108   ix  5.6  Conclusion ........................................................................................................................... 115 CHAPTER 6: FINDINGS: CONCLUSION ........................................................................... 117 6.1  Discussion of Research Questions ....................................................................................... 117 6.1.1  Research Question 1: How are Depressive Experiences Depicted in these Novels? .... 117 6.1.2  Research Question 2: What Role do Symbols Play in Representations of Depression?118 6.1.3  Research Question 3: What do these Symbols Imply about Depression?..................... 119 6.1.4  Research Question 4: How Effective are these Symbols in Depicting Varied Experiences of Depression? ......................................................................................................................... 121 6.2  Limitations of this Study and Future Research Possibilities ............................................... 122 6.3  Concluding Remarks ............................................................................................................ 123 WORKS CITED........................................................................................................................ 124     x  Acknowledgements  Just like Gloria, Rayzer, Ernie, and Finley, I have needed my community to help me succeed. This thesis could not have happened without my supervisor, Dr. Rick Gooding, and my committee member, Dr. Margot Filipenko. Thank you for giving your time, advice, experience, and encouragement over the course of my many revisions and defense. Thank you for challenging me to think more deeply and cheering me on when I felt stuck. My fellow MACL students have become my dear friends, without whom I would have felt rather alone in a new city. Particular thanks to my former housemates, Valeria De La Vega and Lauren Hathaway. Thank you for the laughter, support, shared frustrations, and excited conversations. I love you all.   Thank you to my family, especially my husband, Jonathan Leemhuis, who claims to have enjoyed hearing me read these pages aloud time after time and was the perfect sounding board as I talked out my theories, even while writing his own thesis. My mother, Jodene Moser, also read and provided feedback on my writing, and, along with my father and siblings, has always been a true friend and passionate example of the kind of acceptance I hope the Finleys of the world find in their families. I love you all.  Above all, I thank my God, on whom I lean hardest of all and who reminds me daily of the infinite potential and worth of souls.     xi  Dedication This thesis is dedicated to the students whose struggles and triumphs inspired this thesis, though their names are omitted out of respect for their privacy. I hope they are living happy, healthy lives.    1  Chapter 1: Introduction 1.1  Motivation for the Study and Origins of Interest According to the World Health Organization, depression is the “leading cause of disability worldwide” (WHO). It is a mental disorder affecting over 300 million people globally of all ages and genders, though is it more commonly reported in women than in men, according to a US National Survey on Drug Use and Health in 2016 (National Institute of Mental Health), and it occurs nearly four times as often in transgender males and females than in their cisgender counterparts (Witcomb 312). It’s so common that one in six people will experience depression in their lifetime (NIMH, Kessler et al. 594). Depression is not merely an adult disease, either. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, “[a]s many as 2 to 3 percent of children ages 6 to 12, and 6 to 8 percent of teens may have serious depression, and an estimated 2.8 million adolescents (ages 12 to 17) in the United States had at least one major depressive episode in 2014” (“Anxiety and Depression in Children”). Clearly, depression is widespread, and it is highly likely any given individual either knows someone or is someone living with depression. An understanding of this illness and mental health care is relevant for these people and for those who care about and interact with them. Such an understanding has personal relevance to me as a high school English Language Arts teacher. I taught for 5 years in Utah, a state in which the percentage of youth aged 12-17 with a major depressive episode increased from 8.4% to 12.5% in the space of 4 years, according to a SAMHSA report from 2015 (the rest of the nation also increased at a slightly lower, no less alarming rate, from 8.1% to 11%) (Behavioral Health Barometer: Utah, 2015). During these five years of teaching, three of my students confided in me they were thinking of harming themselves; these were able to receive the care and support they needed. There were five others   2  from my classroom whose struggles I only learned of via email, after they had attempted suicide and were recovering in hospital. Would these five students have felt more comfortable seeking help if they had understood how common it is to struggle with mental health challenges? I can’t say. But there is no better time than now to examine how often and in what ways depression and other mental health challenges are depicted in children’s media. In this thesis, I examine both the direct and symbolic portrayals of depression in two middle grade novels. My hope is that many more authors will add to the growing body of representation by depicting mental illness with sensitivity rather than sensation, as seen in my two primary texts. Perhaps children who read these books might feel they are not alone and even see that a hopefully-ever-after is possible for them as it is for the characters in these books.  1.2  Research Focus and Questions In this thesis, I analyze direct and symbolic representations of depression in two middle-grade fantasy novels, each of which uses a central textual element as a reified symbol for depression. I will use the characteristics of depression described in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders: Fifth Edition (DSM-5) (American Psychiatric Association) as a diagnostic tool for characters and a touchstone for the accuracy of representations of depressive experiences in the novels.  Key questions for my research include: 1. How are depressive experiences depicted in these novels? 2. What role do symbols play in the representations of depression? 3. What do these symbols imply about depression? 4. How effective are the symbols in depicting varied experiences of depression?   3   1.3  State of Scholarship and Use of Symbols of Depression The topic of depression can be found in various forms in young adult literature, middle-grade literature, and picturebooks. In YA novels, depression, suicide, and suicidal ideation (thinking about or planning suicide) are common topics, explored directly, often through first-person narration, as in Thirteen Reasons Why, published 2007 (Asher). In this novel, Hannah Baker is dead before the book begins but explains her choice to commit suicide in a series of recordings left to those she blames. There are also several studies on mental-health-related topics in young adult literature. These studies range from analysis of depressive symptoms (Cowger) to accuracy and sensitivity in the characterization of characters with schizophrenia (Wickham). As YA literature is a much more established forum for discussing difficult topics than middle-grade literature, it is no wonder the scholarship follows suit. And yet, except for two studies on dementors in Rowling’s Harry Potter books (Engdahl, Barton), which can also be read as middle-grade stories, few studies are available on the use of fantasy symbols of depression in YA literature.  In picturebooks and middle-grade novels, suicide and suicidal ideation are less often explored. Two notable exceptions in picturebooks are Die blaue Wolke (Ungerer) and Petit-Âne (Kozlov), which have received scholarly attention. Even in these two picturebooks, directness is tempered or replaced by symbolic and metaphorical representations rather than depicting a child with suicidal ideation, as is more common in young adult literature. In Die blaue Wolke, the blue cloud (shaped as a child) becomes traumatized when it runs into a black cloud, a product of war above a city where people are killing each other. The only way the people below will end their fighting is for the cloud to rain itself out on the people, thus ending its own life. Reynolds argues   4  this could be read as a religious, political, or psychological allegory; only in the third case would it be read as suicide (92-93).  Petit-Âne is far less ambiguous in its depictions of suicide and suicidal ideation, but still leaves room for an alternate reading. In Petit-Âne, a donkey wishes to hang itself but does not know how and seeks help from its friends. Reynolds points out the protagonist is not a child but an animal that is also a stuffed toy, thus removing the character two degrees from being a human child. She further explains that in the end, the donkey is hung from its middle, not its neck, perhaps suggesting an element of make-believe in the donkey’s act (94-95). She speculates on the reasons for this distancing:  Anthropomorphising toys and animals (or, as in Petit-Âne, a combination of the two) provides a degree of disguise and distance which can be useful when dealing with sensitive or disturbing topics. In this case, it could be that the disguise is at least as much for the adult, for whom the idea of child suicide is devastating and unspeakable, as for potential child readers. (95) This tendency to distance difficult subjects by using a substitute or symbol also manifests in middle-grade novels, though many also treat depression in a direct manner, as in young adult fiction. Several notable examples of direct representation in middle-grade novels depict mothers with depression, distancing the reader from depression by turning the child focalizer into a sort of buffer: Out of the Box in 2011 (Mulder), Nest in 2014 (Ehrlich), The Secret of Nightingale Wood in 2016 (Strange), and The Science of Breakable Things in 2018 (Keller). While Out of the Box and Breakable Things are set in modern times and reflect modern approaches to mental illness, Nest and Nightingale Wood are historical fiction set in 1972 and 1919 respectively and emphasize the medical treatments of people with depression common to their settings, including   5  institutionalization. Notable also is the use of a dominant symbol side-by-side with direct depictions of depression, used by each protagonist to understand her parent’s experience. For instance, in The Science of Breakable Things, Nat learns to see her mother’s discovery of a miraculously resilient orchid as a symbol of her mother’s resilience (Keller). In Nightingale Wood, Henry uses Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale of the emperor and the nightingale to understand how her mother must be feeling to be sedated and locked in her room, and the tale transforms over the course of the novel into Henry’s guide for how to set her mother free from over-medicated and institutionalized captivity (Strange). Even the direct representations of depression in middle-grade literature tend to use a symbol of depression to enrich their descriptions of the illness. Two of the middle-grade novels short-listed for my close reading, Brilliant (Doyle) and The Secret of Dreadwillow Carse (Farrey), embody depression symbolically in a textual element outside of the characters. The third novel, Some Kind of Happiness (Legrand), includes both direct representations of the child protagonist with depression and symbolic representations, making it a bridge between this distancing trend and more direct representations in middle-grade literature. In all cases, very little scholarship exists on the complexity or interpretation of these symbols. Kim Reynolds discusses “Self-harm, Silence, and Survival” in her book, Radical Children’s Literature, in which she spends some space on symbols (88-113); other works available are mostly theses at the Bachelors and Masters levels of scholarship (Smith, Barton). Two articles explore the dementors of Rowling’s Harry Potter as a symbol of depression (Engdahl, Barton). Barton adds the spectres of Pullman’s His Dark Materials and possible interpretations of Tan’s picturebook The Red Tree. In fact, The Red Tree is the most commonly   6  explored symbolic representation of depression in this category (Barton, Pantaleo, Phillips, Smith, Sikorska), and yet it actually contains different symbolic representations on every spread instead of one central symbol of depression. These articles are more deeply examined in Chapter 2 of this thesis. As the middle-grade novel is a bridge between childhood and adolescence, so too is its structure and treatment of depression a range. On one end, fully coded symbols undefined as depression pervade stories like The Secret of Dreadwillow Carse (Farrey); on the other end are direct representations of children living with depression, such as Finley in Some Kind of Happiness, who describes her illness using three symbols – an inner darkness, a poisonous fog, and creatures she calls the Dark Ones – which remain undefined for most of the novel (Legrand). And in between, Brilliant uses one central symbol clearly labelled for what it stands for: the Black Dog of Depression (Doyle). At present, investigation into symbolic depictions of depression in middle-grade literature is uncommon. I hope this thesis can add to the body of existing scholarship and perhaps inspire others to take greater interest in how such a common and diverse experience as depression is represented. There is a great need for scholarship to fill this gap. With so many middle-grade novels using symbols to discuss and represent depression, what implications are being made to readers about the realities of the illness? Are these representations playing into harmful stereotypes and furthering stigma, which can interfere with care-seeking practices (Corrigan, et al. “Impact” 43-46)? Or might they act as a kind of illumination, helping young people recognize they are not alone in their experiences and that there is help and hope available? Implicit in this thesis is a call for scholars, educators, authors, editors, publishers, parents, and readers to join in discourse on stories about depression and the ways they impact us all.    7  Chapter 2: Literature Review 2.1  Introduction  This thesis constitutes a close reading of two middle-grade novels’ direct and symbolic depictions of depression and depressive symptoms. The following pages, include a review of professional resources relating to depression, symbolic representations of depression, and the texts chosen for the close reading. As scholarship on depression in middle-grade novels is scarce, I have included a discussion based on my own research that also encompasses descriptions of how this mental illness is currently depicted in young adult literature, middle-grade literature, and picturebooks.  First, a working definition of depression (major depressive disorder) is delineated, including a description of its symptoms and requirements for an official diagnosis. Without a clear definition of depression and depressive symptoms, it cannot be established that these symbols represent depression at all. This definition comes from a resource created by the American Psychiatric Association for health professionals: Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition, or DSM-5 (2013). Briefly noted are the parts of this manual’s definition which are relevant to this study as well as which parts are not relevant and thus excluded. Next, a review of the depiction of depression in children’s literature gives context for the study. I focus particularly on children’s authors’ and illustrators’ uses of symbols for depression in picturebooks and middle-grade novels, though I give a brief overview of some popular young adult texts for the sake of context, despite their tendency to depict depression directly without the use of a central symbol. The frequency of symbolic representation (use of a dominant metaphor or textual element), even when paired with direct depiction of depression in a character’s   8  experiences, sharply contrasts with the dearth of scholarship interpreting these symbols in both picturebooks and middle-grade novels. The few studies addressing these symbols are integrated within my review and address the dementors of Rowling’s Harry Potter, spectres of Pullman’s His Dark Materials, and the images and text of Tan’s The Red Tree.  The literature review will conclude with an overview of my two chosen texts, Roddy Doyle’s Brilliant and Claire Legrand’s Some Kind of Happiness, and their public reception. As there are yet no scholarly analyses of either novel, trends in professional reviews will demonstrate some of the more notable characteristics about each book.  2.2  Definition of Depression Any attempt to wrestle with the accuracy of depicting major depressive disorder (MDD) and other depressive conditions will be complex. The variety of lived experience should always be kept in mind. For example, any major depressive episode may vary from mild to severe (American Psychiatric Association, HealthLink BC, World Health Organization), which means an individual’s experiences with depression will vary greatly not only from one person to another, but also from one episode to another. The causes of depression may vary as well. While the exact causes of depression are unknown, many contributing risk factors have been identified, including biological factors such as a biochemical imbalance or heart disease; genetics; personality tendencies; environmental factors such as abuse and major life changes (Belmaker and Agam 56-61, 65); and even spending a lot of time on social media (American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry).  In Some Kind of Happiness, and in most of the candidate novels for this study, the person with depression or depressive symptoms is female. According to the Anxiety and Depression   9  Association of America, “while depression affects all ages and both genders, girls are more likely to develop depression during adolescence” (“Anxiety and Depression in Children”). It is unclear whether this statistic is due to a lack of males reporting or seeking treatment for depression, based mainly in biology, some combination of factors, or whether it is entirely accurate that female youth are more susceptible. In transgender people, depression occurs nearly four times as often than in their cisgender counterparts (Witcomb 312). To reflect this diversity, I have included one novel with a depressed female child and one with many depressed adults and a depressed teenage boy in the primary texts selected for this study.  In the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5), a resource widely used in the US and created by the American Psychiatric Association for the use of health professionals in diagnosis and treatment, the criteria for depression are outlined. For a diagnosis of major depressive disorder (MDD), an episode must last at least two weeks and include at least five of the following symptoms: ● Depressed mood most of the day, nearly every day, as indicated by either subjective report (e.g., feels sad, empty, hopeless) or observation made by others (e.g., appears tearful). (Note: In children and adolescents, can be irritable mood.) ● Markedly diminished interest or pleasure in all, or almost all, activities most of the day, nearly every day (as indicated by either subjective account or observation). ● Significant weight loss when not dieting or weight gain (e.g., a change of more than 5% body weight in a month), or decrease or increase in appetite nearly every day. (Note: In children, consider failure to make expected weight gain.) ● Insomnia or hypersomnia nearly every day.   10  ● Psychomotor agitation or retardation nearly every day (observable by others, not merely subjective feelings of restlessness or being slowed down). ● Fatigue or loss of energy nearly every day. ● Feelings of worthlessness or excessive or inappropriate guilt (which may be delusional) nearly every day (not merely self-reproach or guilt about being sick). ● Diminished ability to think or concentrate, or indecisiveness, nearly every day (either by subjective account or as observed by others). ● Recurrent thoughts of death (not just fear of dying), recurrent suicidal ideation without a specific plan, or a suicide attempt or a specific plan for committing suicide. (American Psychiatric Association) In order for a diagnosis of MDD to be made, at least one of the minimum five symptoms must be either (1) depressed mood or (2) loss of interest or pleasure (American Psychiatric Association). In addition to experiencing at least five of these symptoms, the symptoms must “cause clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupation, or other important areas of functioning” and should “not [be] attributable to the physiological effects of a substance or another medical condition” (American Psychiatric Association).  In the close reading of the primary texts for this study, the characters are evaluated using these criteria to analyze the extent and kinds of direct depictions of depression and to establish a link between depression and the embodied symbol of MDD in each novel: Brilliant by Roddy Doyle and Some Kind of Happiness by Claire Legrand. In both novels, characters exhibit a range of these symptoms. In Brilliant, the children (who are not depressed) are merely told that their beloved uncle is depressed without really understanding what this means, and as their uncle is not a central character, the reader mostly hears and does not see his fatigue, depressed mood, and   11  inability to engage with normal life. But in Some Kind of Happiness, eleven-year-old Finley Hart exhibits seven of the nine symptoms listed in the DSM-5, all except for the death/suicide related symptoms and weight loss/gain. She even exhibits a few additional symptoms more directly related to her anxiety, comorbid with her depression.   2.3  Children’s Literature Depictions of Depression  This section describes the literary landscape of depression in a chosen selection of representative fictional texts in children’s literature, including both direct representations in characters’ lives and symbolic representations (through thematic textual elements such as metaphors and symbols). I investigate categories of young adult novels, middle-grade novels, and picturebooks as the nearest representatives in various age groups of my chosen topic. Excluded are graphic novels, comics, nonfiction or information books, biographies, and all digital media, limiting this discussion to forms, genre and media closest to my own primary study texts. 2.3.1  Young Adult Literature Depicting Depression Stories of depression in young adult literature are prevalent enough that a cursory search on Google, Goodreads, or the local library catalogue results in extensive booklists. In young adult literature of the mid- to late-twentieth century, the topic of depression was well-established, and it continues as a commonly depicted experience today. A few representative early books that include characters who are depressed and later take or attempt to take their own lives are Plath’s The Bell Jar (1963), Levoy’s Three Friends (1984), and Peck’s Remembering the Good Times (1985). More recently published novels that tackle depression, suicide and suicidal ideation are Stephenie Meyer’s New Moon in 2006 and Jay Asher’s Thirteen Reasons Why in 2007. The   12  Program, a series Suzanne Young began in 2013, is set in a near future when an epidemic of youth depression and suicide has reached such heights, that the government has created “the Program,” where anyone seen crying is taken to a treatment center, drugged, and brainwashed into forgetting everyone they knew before, then returns “cured” of depression. These are only a few of the most popular recent novels depicting depressed characters. The scholarship on depression depicted in young adult novels is likewise prolific, much more than for depictions in picturebooks or middle-grade novels, though the scholarship in YA literature is more likely to be focused on questions surrounding suicide, a symptom of depression, rather than the full range of depressive experiences. As early as 1986, scholars cite the “epidemic proportions” of teenage suicide and argue over the potential merits and harm depictions of suicide in young adult literature can do (Berger 14-15, Rosenthal 19-20, Tucker). Paula Berger reasons that confining such topics to a novel keeps the reader at a “discrete distance while absorbing potentially valuable information” (14). She lists some of this information, including some of the reasons why teenagers commit suicide; the characteristics of people considered to be at high risk to commit suicide; the role family, friends, and relatives play in triggering suicidal thoughts as well as their ability to help prevent or avert suicide; the value of seeking and utilizing psychiatric counseling; the effect suicide has on ‘loved ones’ as well as peripheral people; and the effect it has on society. Also, for those teenagers who have suicidal thoughts, these novels can show them that they are neither unique nor alone in their feelings of despair and hopelessness but others have shared these same feelings and have found constructive ways to handle them. (Berger 14-15)   13  Berger’s assertion that depictions of depression have the potential to instruct as well as comfort echoes Bruno Bettelheim’s introduction to his book The Uses of Enchantment: The Meaning and Importance of Fairy Tales, in which he adds that “if we hope to live not just from moment to moment, but in true consciousness of our existence, then our greatest need and most difficult achievement is to find meaning in our lives. It is well known how many have lost the will to live, and have stopped trying, because such meaning has evaded them” (3). Bettelheim further argues that in order to achieve a “secure understanding” in the meaning of our lives, we must find meaning at each developmental or psychological stage, mirroring our own level of consciousness and understanding (3). The entire book is dedicated to how stories, particularly fairy tales, play a vital part in helping young people find meaning in this way: The fairy tale...takes these existential anxieties and dilemmas [loneliness, isolation, fear, and mortal anxiety] very seriously and addresses itself directly to them: the need to be loved and the fear that one is thought worthless; the love of life, and the fear of death. Further, the fairy tale offers solutions in ways that the child can grasp on his level of understanding. (10) Faith in literature’s potential to give deeper meaning and revive hope is one driving force behind this study. Children may see themselves in the characters in Brilliant and Some Kind of Happiness, recognizing similarities in emotional or situational parallels, and seek solutions to the fear, loneliness, or mental illness they face in their lives.  On the other hand, fears of suicidal contagion (also known as the Werther effect or copycat suicide) have basis in fact. Though a causal link has not been identified, many correlative links between high-profile detailed descriptions of celebrity suicides or of local suicides may give rise to other people, especially youth who are forming their identities in large   14  part through social imitation, copying the suicidal behavior (Testoni, et al. 153-154). Other risk-factors should be taken into account, including in particular the situation of the suicidal youth: mental health factors, environmental stressors, and social isolation in particular (Testoni et al.154). Thirteen Reasons Why, both the novel by Asher and the Netflix show (13 Reasons Why), is one recent example of the Werther effect. This young adult novel documents a young high school student’s descent into despair brought about by bullying and culminating in her suicide. According to a study at the University of Minnesota Masonic Children’s Hospital, within 23 weeks of the show’s premier, 29 pediatric patients mentioned the show and 2 mentioned the novel in their health records when presenting at the hospital, either in the emergency department or inpatient psychiatry (Plager, et al.). Thirty of them had “at least one formal mental health diagnosis documented during the encounter, with major depressive disorder listed 84% of the time” (320). The “most common context of the reference was the patient self-reporting that the show…was contributing to their worsening mental health symptoms with nearly all…presenting with suicidal thoughts or attempts…Some patient presentations included thematic references to the show, including two patients who described explicitly writing lists of 13 reasons why they should kill themselves, and two describing altering their appearance to resemble a character on the show” (321). The World Health Organization has given guidelines on media reporting of suicides for this reason. Some of these guidelines include “provid[ing] accurate information about where to seek help,” “report[ing] stories of how to cope with life stressors or suicidal thoughts,” “not us[ing] language which sensationalizes or normalizes suicide, or presents it as a constructive solution to problems,” “not explicitly describe[ing] the method used,” and “not us[ing] photographs, video footage or social media links” (“Preventing Suicide” iii). The show 13   15  Reasons Why breaks all of these rules, in particular the last two: “The final episode of the first season shows a lengthy graphic depiction of the teenager cutting her wrists in the bathtub” (Plager et al. 317). This suggests that if it is possible to increase the likelihood of copycat suicides by the method of reporting or depiction, it is also possible to decrease its likelihood by other methods. It would be wise for media creators of all sorts to stay abreast of the research regarding this phenomenon and to consider responsible use of their powers of influence and creative license. Overall, the most common approach to depicting depression in YA novels is to directly represent depression through the lives of characters and to include suicide or suicidal ideation, as in Young’s The Program and Meyer’s New Moon. Neither of these approaches is as apparent in middle-grade novels or in picturebooks, with some rare exceptions included in the next section. This difference suggests a reluctance to depict suicide to younger children or a belief that young children do not need to read about it or do not experience it. It also suggests concern about the possibilities of suicidal contagion. This, added to the pattern of distancing the child reader from difficult topics through making the depressed person someone other than a child, through the use of metaphors, or through substituting anthropomorphized creatures and objects suggests that reluctance to expose young children to this subject may be a main cause of the different treatment of the suicide/suicidal ideation between young adult literature and middle-grade literature/picturebooks. All of these questions are discussed in the following two sections. 2.3.2  Picturebooks Depicting Depression Recent picturebooks with depressed characters include didactic informational stories (The Princess and the Fog by Lloyd Jones in 2015); depressed parents of child focalizers (The Color Thief by Andrew Fusek Peters and Polly Peters and illustrated by Karin Littlewood in 2014);   16  depressed animal characters (Virginia Wolf by Kyo Maclear and illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault in 2012, Pandora by Victoria Turnbull in 2017, 13 Words by Lemony Snicket and illustrated by Maira Kalman in 2010); stories employing metaphor to discuss depression (Michael Rosen’s Sad Book by Michael Rosen and illustrated by Quentin Blake in 2004, The Red Tree by Shaun Tan in 2001); and stories employing a central symbol (Jones, Maclear, Turnbull, Tan). The term symbol here means a central textual element, linguistic or visual, often an object, that takes on thematic meaning over the course of a text (Frye 89). An examination of some strategies for approaching symbolic representations will give context to this study, as those seen in picturebooks overlap with those in middle-grade novels, including distancing children from depression, naming vs. leaving depression undiagnosed/undefined, and the use of symbol and metaphor. Symbolic representations of depression in picturebooks are common. Two exceptions to the rule of picturebooks’ not including suicide or suicidal ideation are non-anglophone picturebooks identified in Chapter 1: Die blaue Wolke (Ungerer) and Petit-Âne (Kozlov). The symbolic nature of these books, however, makes the depiction of suicide ambiguous. Kimberly Reynolds discusses each, asserting that the first title Die blaue Wolke (translated as The Blue Cloud) can be read as a political or religious allegory rather than a story about self-harm, but the story also falls into the category of redemptive child deaths in the tradition of Hans Christian Andersen’s The Little Match Girl (93). The second title Petit-Âne (translated as The Little Ass) is much more explicit in its treatment of suicidal ideation and attempt; however, Reynolds claims its directness is tempered by the use of a stuffed animal in place of a child, and that as the final scene shows Petit-Âne suspended from his middle, not by his neck as the preceding picture suggests he will be, and his death is presented as neither traumatic nor dramatic. This lack of tragedy may   17  associate the events with the world of child’s play, reflecting the reassuring things adults often say to children when someone has died (they are out of pain, they have gone to heaven or a similarly happy place, they are not really gone because they live on in our memories). (96) While both picturebooks could be read as suicide or suicidal ideation, they both stop shy of actual suicide in picturebooks, suggesting a cultural taboo, that parents who read such picturebooks with their children do not want to expose them to this particular human experience, though Petit-Âne is only slightly veiled. Other picturebooks using symbols for depression include Jones’s The Princess and the Fog, Maclear’s Virginia Wolf, and Turnbull’s Pandora. In The Princess and the Fog, the happy princess’s happy life with her supportive parents loses its luster when strange dark clouds gather around her head. The black fog grows gradually, leaving bits of itself in a trail of black dots from page to page as it follows the princess. When a friend finally asks her if she wants to talk instead of trying to cheer her up, she shares how she’s been feeling, and everyone supports her with a variety of coping strategies until the fog has completely dissipated. It returns from time to time, but now she knows help is available and turns to what she has learned and the people around her. The fog as a symbol accurately represents a few depressive symptoms: 1) they may come on gradually and do not require an event-based cause, 2) they can be lived with, coped with, and treated, and 3) they can return. Additionally, fog obscures vision, just as depression skews perspective, and the dark color chosen communicates the despair of depression. Depression in this story is named; Jones does not leave the reader wondering what the black fog represents. This clarity of interpretation with symbols is not common across all picturebooks. A recent winner of the Governor General’s Literary Award (2012), Virginia Wolf by Kyo Maclear   18  and illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault, does not name or diagnose the mental illness, leaving the symbol ambiguous. Maclear takes the reader through young Vanessa’s day with her sister, Virginia, who is “feeling wolfish” and in the “doldrums,” not wanting to leave her bed or come to play (2). Virginia is visually represented as a wolf-shaped silhouette. While this picturebook has many layers of symbol and metaphor included in the topography, typography, and colors, the central symbol of depression is Virginia’s wolfishness, depicted visually and emphasized in the text—she growls, moans, and even howls. Her bad mood is reminiscent of one symptom described in the DSM-5: “Depressed mood most of the day, nearly every day... (e.g., feels sad, empty, hopeless)...(Note: In children and adolescents, can be irritable mood)” (American Psychiatric Association, emphasis added). However, it could also be read as nothing more than a bad mood. In the end, when Vanessa, the narrator-sister, succeeds in cheering her up, Virginia is seen for the first time as a colorful three-dimensional character instead of a silhouette, and the reader sees her smiling human face with a wolf-ears-shaped bow on top of her head. The ambiguity of this symbol is lessened if readers bring to the text their background knowledge of depression or of famous writer Virginia Woolf’s own depression, though it would be a particular childhood education that would allow a young child to bring such knowledge to the text. And despite Virginia Woolf’s struggles with depression, Maclear states in an interview with the National Post, “I really didn’t want it to be a biography,” and claims the story is only inspired by—not based on—the famous writer’s relationship with her sister. Yet according to the same article, Maclear “included references to Woolf’s essay On Being Ill” in her picturebook (Medley). The ambiguity of this symbol allows for multiple readings, either the wolf as symbol of depression or as expression of a bad mood.   19  Between these two representations emerges one large difference in the treatment of depression in picturebooks: the issue of diagnosis. As language scholars are well-aware, any label or definition both includes and excludes. In the case of depression and mental illness, depending on the culture, people who are diagnosed may experience stigma in addition to inclusion to the group labelled “depression.” While the diagnosis allows mental health professionals the ability to discuss a group of similar characteristics in shorthand, and it may open doors to healthcare options or individualized accessibility support in public schools, a person who receives a label of mental illness may have or might soon internalize some incorrect or sensationalized ideas about what it is to be “depressed,” which may lead to self-stigma and interfere with help-seeking behaviors (Corrigan et al., “Impact” 43-46).  Other examples of picturebooks that utilize metaphors include Victoria Turnbull’s Pandora (2017), in which a lonely young fox becomes depressed when her bluebird friend flies away, and Lemony Snicket’s 13 Words, illustrated by Maira Kalman (2010), a simple story of a “despondent bird” whose dog friend wants to cheer him up using cake and a “hat with panache.” The bird remains despondent to the end, despite enjoying himself on occasion, in true Snicket style.  But perhaps the most important and interesting example is Shaun Tan’s The Red Tree (2001). In The Red Tree, Tan takes the reader through a day in the life of a protagonist that appears to be a young girl but, as Meaghan Smith asserts, “She is ageless in her portrayal and any age group may feel the emotions that she feels. With this book Tan takes the reader through the experiences of a person who is depressed and asks his readership to eschew predetermined judgment on…who can experience depression” (63). The girl wakes up in her room with black leaves piling up around her, practically drowning her, and then goes through her day in which scene after apparently unconnected scene of surrealist images is paired with a second-person   20  narration text describing what it feels like to experience her life. In each image, a small red leaf (a central symbol of hope) can be seen by the reader, but the protagonist never notices the leaf. The story ends with the hopeful image of the girl having returned to her room, smiling up at a red tree growing out of the floor.  This book’s nonlinear snapshots of moments of despair, fear, frustration, loneliness, and disorientation allow for an unusual depiction of depression because it is all internal plot; Tan “deals with her thoughts and feelings instead of any of her actions” (Smith 63). Because each double-spread is a new scene, unrelated chronologically to the previous one, Tan’s portrayal of depression is not based in a central metaphor or symbol but delegated to 17 individual visual metaphors with minimal textual interpretation. The only central symbol is that of hope (the red leaf), not depression. This leaves a lot of space for the reader to interpret each metaphor individually without the consistency throughout the narrative that a single central symbol for depression would require. Additionally, there is no reason given for the protagonist’s feelings; Julie Barton explains, “there is no external monster enacting its will on her, no monster sucking her happiness away. Instead it is only noted that ‘sometimes the day begins’ that way” (36). Snicket’s 13 Words and Maclear’s Virginia Wolf are two other stories that fall into this category, where Snicket’s bird is simply “despondent” and Maclear’s Virginia is “in the doldrums” without any given reason or outside force. These picturebooks exhibit how commonly depression is depicted in children’s literature in symbolic ways and a few methods authors and illustrators use to approach the subject. Some of these define their metaphors and symbols by including the term “depression,” like in Jones’s The Princess and the Fog. More depict experiences and symptoms that could be read as depression without naming the illness, as in Turnbull’s Pandora. Some use a physical symbol,   21  such as the fog, to denote depression and build the story around characters’ interactions with these symbols, while others found metaphorical ways to express the experiences of depression more diffusely without connecting the mental illness to a single object, such as Maclear’s Virginia Wolf and Tan’s The Red Tree. These approaches are all to be found in middle-grade literature as well, combined with a few other patterns, discussed in the following section. 2.3.3  Middle-grade Literature Depicting Depression Middle-grade fiction depicting depression approaches the subject using many of the same literary devices already discussed in young adult texts and picturebooks, including the direct approach and the metaphorical/symbolic approach. As YA texts are likely to approach mental illness through characters’ lives (directly), so do some middle-grade novels. However, even in middle-grade novels where depression is depicted directly, it is often combined with a metaphor or symbol, as seen in many picturebooks. One tendency in middle-grade fiction that differs from both YA novels and picturebooks is that in the most direct (least symbolic) representations of depression, the texts come at the topic by way of the mother rather than through the young person’s experience. For example, in Out of the Box by Michelle Mulder (2011), thirteen-year-old Ellie goes to her Aunt Jeanette’s house for the summer and, besides solving a mystery about a bandoneón (similar to an accordion), she must come to terms with her mother’s mental illness by learning to acknowledge it and set proper boundaries so they both can begin healing. Interestingly, however, we only come to understand the mother’s illness through phone calls and a few flashbacks, thus, Mulder’s depiction of depression in this novel buffers the impact Ellie’s mother’s illness could have on the reader by removing the child focalizer from her mother’s physical presence. This seems to function similarly to the use of a metaphor, central symbol, or anthropomorphized cloud or   22  donkey in place of the depressed child as seen in picturebooks. In this novel, depression is unnamed. The Science of Breakable Things by Tae Keller (2018) is another story in which the daughter must come to terms with her mother’s depression, but is more direct in its depiction. Natalie needs the prize money from the local egg drop competition in order to fly her mother (whom she calls “Not-Mom” in her head) out to see the Cobalt Blue Orchid, a flower her mother discovered that grew and bloomed where nothing should have been able to survive. Nat believes this will cure her mother and remind her who she used to be; instead, she finds that her own misconceptions have been holding her back from understanding both her mother’s illness and hidden strength. This novel is more direct than Out of the Box in its treatment of depression, as Natalie must tiptoe around the house and stay out of her parents’ room most days in order to let her mother rest. It is brutally honest in its display of both the internalized stigma and personal struggles of a child of a depressed mother; Natalie hates to see her mom as “Not-Mom” (a lump that lives on the bed), wishes her dad would be more insistent that Mom get out of bed, fears what she thinks people around her are saying about Mom, and fiercely seeks a cure. Furthermore, Keller also uses both the egg and the Cobalt Blue Orchid as representations of Nat’s mother. The egg represents her mother’s “fall” from the top of the building: can the egg survive? And the orchid represents Mom’s hidden strength and ability to start over after devastation. In this novel, Nat’s mother’s illness is named depression. Two well-known middle-grade or crossover young adult series include symbols of depression in the form of monsters: Rowling’s Harry Potter series and Pullman’s His Dark Materials. These two most closely relate to the novels chosen for this close reading in that they use a fantasy monster as a symbol for depression and allow the descriptions and behavior of the   23  monsters and the characters’ interactions with them to define each symbol’s meaning, including demonstrating symptoms of depression. Julie Barton discusses both symbols’ implications on depression and compares the ways these authors grapple with the subject while simultaneously protecting their child readers from the full impact of the illness (29-34). In Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (1999), Rowling introduces the Dementors, hooded creatures covered in dead scabbed flesh with no eyes; but these creatures have a mouth they use to suck happy memories out of the people around them, and this effect is more drastic with those who have difficult memories. Barton approves this as an apt description of depression: “In their presence all happy memories are taken away from the character, mimicking a depressive episode…The absence of hope and happiness is characteristic of depression, as is the feeling of absoluteness; that never again will happiness be felt” (30). Rowling endows her monsters with the ability to suck a person’s soul out of their body and leave a living husk behind, a fate considered worse than death, which speaks to the symptom of suicidal ideation. This ability, to devastate a human being permanently, is mirrored in Pullman’s Spectres of Indifference. In The Subtle Knife, Pullman introduces his readers to the Spectres, who “feed on people’s awareness and leave them empty inside,” just like the Dementors (Barton 33). Pullman confirmed in a Q&A that Spectres are “a way of talking about certain mental states such as depression and self-hatred” (“Questions and Answers”). Barton differentiates between the effects of Dementors and Spectres – when a Spectre strikes, it doesn’t “inspire a little despair and then leave”; instead, it “completely devour[s] any sense of self from a person” (33). Pullman’s Spectres, it should be noted, do not devour a person’s soul, as there are no souls in Pullman’s universe; they devour a person’s experience, which is contrasted with a child’s innocence (Barton 34).    24  Barton finds two commonalities between these monsters’ depictions problematic: both are less able to victimize children than adults, and a person’s experience is what gives them the greater potential to be victimized (34). Spectres do not attack prepubescent children because Dust, which Pullman describes as “an analogy of consciousness,” hasn’t yet settled on them; this happens with maturation as children become more aware and informed (Kean). In fact, the children can’t even see Spectres. In Harry Potter, Rowling creates a barrier for children supposedly through their lack of experiences as terrible as Harry’s and also through putting the Dementors under the control of the Ministry of Magic, which outlaws the Dementors from attacking students, though they occasionally act outside of Ministry control and eventually forsake the Ministry in favor of Harry’s archnemesis, Voldemort, by the end of the series (Barton 30). Both cases imply that children have an advantage over adults when it comes to depression, an almost-immunity, which is problematic considering children do, indeed, get depressed, whether a life event is involved or not. Barton agrees: “…Pullman displays a naiveté about childhood depression. By framing childhood depression in the parameters of experience, he is falling back on the 1960s stereotypes of depression, and overlooking more recent studies which show that depression and experience are not intrinsically linked” (34). Barton likewise criticizes Rowling’s use of the Patronus Charm, a spell that conjures a guardian powered by the witch or wizard’s focus on one intensely happy memory and the will to survive. She says, As a literary device, having characters able to use their strong mental powers as a tool against adversaries is a cliché. Unfortunately it introduces an overly-simplistic view of depression that has been held for years. A person affected by depression has an illness, and illnesses cannot be beaten simply by strong thoughts; someone suffering from depression cannot ‘get over it’ by the sheer strength of their mental fortitude. (Barton 32)   25  One drawback of using a monster as a symbol for depression may be that it is very difficult to represent a mental illness for which there are no known causes, many known risk factors, many possible combinations of symptoms and degrees of those symptoms. While both Pullman and Rowling successfully embody a few of the symptoms and types of experiences a person with depression may have, both fall back on antiquated understandings of the extent to which children experience depression, or perhaps they trade accuracy for the comfort of their implied audiences or for the convenience of literary device. Neither author names depression within the novels; both name the illness in personal interviews.  This is one large difference between these novels and my primary study texts, which both name their symbols depression within their pages. My first study text, Doyle’s Brilliant (2014), also uses a fantasy monster in the real world in a kind of magical realism, similar to the Dementors. The Black Dog of Depression also seems to prey more on adults than on the children in the story, like Spectres and Dementors, and the children have a special sort of magical defense similar to the Patronus charm in the form of a magic word, “brilliant,” that seems to hurt or scare the Dog away. This depiction of depression falls into similar patterns to those found in both Rowling’s and Pullman’s works. But in my other study text, Legrand’s Some Kind of Happiness (2016), eleven-year-old Finley, who lives in the real world, explores her depression and anxiety by writing fairy tales about herself in which monsters she calls the Dark Ones feed off the young protagonist or orphan girl. This structure represents a bridge from fully symbolic representations such as Pullman’s Spectres and Rowling’s Dementors to a more direct representation, balancing the nuance of directly showing what depression is like in Finley’s life and thoughts with the central symbols of depression including the Dark Ones in Finley’s story (there are two other non-monster symbols connected with depression). Legrand does not remove the reader from Finley’s   26  depression by making her mother the depressed character or by giving Finley special powers against the Dark Ones, nor does she deal with Finley’s depression exclusively through the symbols in a fantasy world. Instead, she combines both approaches, allowing the real-world representation of Finley’s life to be supplemented by symbolic depictions of her mental illness in her own writing. So far, I have been unable to find any other middle-grade novel with this kind of powerful combination between the symbolic and the direct. In the end, similar methods of depicting depression emerge from this survey of middle-grade fiction as from picturebooks. Authors either name or do not name depression—the less symbolic the depiction, the more likely authors are to name it. It was surprising to find more suicidal ideation in picturebooks than in middle-grade novels. Many middle-grade authors also tend to distance the reader from direct depiction of depression, whether through making the mother the depressed character, giving children magical protection through their supposed lack of experience, or simply through the creation of metaphor. However, middle-grade novels are also more likely to feature human characters (rather than animal characters) living the experiences of mental illness directly instead of relying on symbols to carry the whole weight of depression. In the following section I discuss my two primary texts’ public reception through the use of professional reviews and awards.  2.4  Primary Text Reception Because neither of my primary texts has yet received any scholarly attention, the work of professional reviews will establish discourse around them. Of particular interest is what reviewers mention about themes and depictions of depression in these novels, especially   27  regarding the central symbols of depression. For each novel, brief plot summaries are given and any awards or nominations the authors and novels have received are listed. For Some Kind of Happiness, relevant information from author interviews is also included. 2.4.1  Brilliant Originally written as a short story for Dublin’s St. Patrick’s Day Festival Parade in 2011, Brilliant by Roddy Doyle is now a full-length novel, featuring siblings Raymond “Rayzer” and Gloria, two children whose Uncle Ben is depressed along with much of the city, which is also in an economic recession/depression. After overhearing their grandmother claim that the “black dog of depression” has got Uncle Ben and that the city’s lost its funny bone, they decide to search for the dog in the fog to retrieve the funny bone and save their uncle (Doyle 64-65, 73). They discover that saying the word “brilliant” literally lights the world around them (77) and provides an antidote to the beast’s paralyzing word, “useless” (135-137). While Doyle has received many honors and awards for his varied writing roles (novelist, short fiction author, dramatist, and screenwriter for both children and adults), Brilliant has yet to receive any awards. Doyle’s publisher described it as “a short, allegorical ‘quest’ novel, with elements of magic realism” (“Roddy is Brilliant: Doyle Moves to Macmillan Children’s”). Out of the two study texts, Brilliant is the one whose symbol of depression receives the most direct attention from reviewers. Reviewers summarize both the Black Dog’s effect on the characters and its eerie description in the novel. Some effects include that it “has stopped the adults laughing,” “weighs them down” (Breslin 164), and gives them “a citywide case of the blues” (Publishers Weekly, “Brilliant”). Important characteristics in its description and actions include the Dog’s slipperiness and trickiness: it is an “antagonist that [the children] sometimes can’t even see” (Cherry 75) and it’s “tricky…more than once lead[ing] the group into both literal   28  and emotional darkness” (Hulick 194-195). The deceitfulness and abstract nature of the Dog, while its presence is nonetheless strongly felt by children and adults alike, speaks to the omnipresent and invisible nature of mental illness—the adults only refer to the Dog as a metaphor, oblivious to its corporeal reality. Reviewers’ opinions are mostly in agreement on themes of the novel. Many saw it as a tribute to Dublin, which is unsurprising considering its origin as a short story for Dublin’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade in 2011 (Piehl 76, Kirkus Reviews “Brilliant”). Other reviews dwell on its messages of the power of optimism and friendship: Kirkus describes it as “[h]opeful,” and School Librarian as “a story of bravery and team work, together with a touch of magic and Irish humour” (Breslin 164).  Most reviews commented on Doyle’s playful use of both meanings of the word depression: both mental illness and economic recession. The best summary of both is from School Librarian: “it explores the darkness that the recession can create in families, and offers suggestions on how children can help and understand what is happening” (Breslin 164). School Library Journal also emphasizes the novel’s potential to “spark conversation about both economic and emotional depression” (Cherry 76), and Horn Book agrees with this sentiment, calling the novel a “jumping off point” (Piehl 76). Kirkus notes the general lack of despair in Doyle’s tone, but admits “sadness, economic disruption, and returns from far-off wars are acknowledged” (“Brilliant”). Publishers Weekly likewise reports the connection between economic depression and mental illness, describing depression in the novel as “a widespread malaise brought on by high unemployment and a shaky economy” (“Brilliant”). In general, reviewers enjoy Doyle’s play on words as an opener for discussion on both difficult topics.   29  Several reviewers hedge a bit about the implied “cure” for the illness or its oversimplification. Publishers Weekly warns, “Some readers may find it disingenuous to suggest that the cure for depression is optimism” (“Brilliant”). Hulick agrees: “[t]he tidy resolution isn’t realistic to the reverberations of true depression,” but further adds “the ending nonetheless provides a measure of wish fulfillment to this rousing but moving tale” (195). On the other hand, Kirkus finds the children’s extended chase through the city “uplifting and physical: a tribute to doing rather than waiting,” framing this cure as inspiring rather problematic (“Brilliant”). Some have harsher criticism. According to a blogger on Disability in Kidlit, the story implies depression is a “condition that can be fixed if one is just determined and ‘brilliant’ enough…[and also that] Ireland’s economy [can be fixed] overnight by shouting a single word” (Townsend). She calls this “a grossly irresponsible message to send” and expounds on how children who live with depressed family members could get the message that being cheerful can cure them. She pegs the novel as perpetuating a myth about depression, that it’s only “in our heads” and “‘think[ing] positive’ or ‘get[ting] out more’” is all depressed people need. While this harsh criticism takes up much space in her review, Townsend admits the story “does a good job in certain spots of describing how depression feels in kid-friendly language,” suggesting she found the descriptions of symptoms accurate enough. I, likewise, find the suggestion of thinking cheerfully an insufficient cure for depression and am happy to find others who agree while also enjoying the text’s merits.  Overall, Doyle’s symbol for depression is unambiguous to these reviewers—it clearly represents both economic depression and mental illness. They also note how the dog’s descriptions and effects on the people in the story. Despite universal agreement on the symbolic meanings of the Black Dog, the reviewers find it varying degrees of problematic or inspiring,   30  making this symbol just as dichotomous in implication as it is clear-cut in definition, a good subject for close analysis. 2.4.2  Some Kind of Happiness Some Kind of Happiness by Claire Legrand is written as two parallel stories. One, in regular type, is eleven-year-old Finley’s summer at her grandparents’ house with cousins she’s never met while her father and mother finalize their divorce; the other, in italics, is Finley’s creation, the stories she writes about the Everwood and the orphan (herself) who is destined to become queen and either save the forest from the Dark Ones or destroy the magical forest with her own secret darkness. The book was a 2017 Edgar Award Nominee for Best Juvenile (“MWA Announces the 2017 Edgar Nominations”), a Publishers Weekly Best Book of the Year and Best Book of Summer 2016 (Publishers Weekly, “Best Books 2016”), and a New York Public Library Best Book for Children (New York Public Library). In other words, while Legrand’s book has been noted in some lists and received one rather prestigious nomination in the category of mystery, the only places it has been publicly recognized for its sensitive grappling with difficult topics are in professional and consumer reviews, interviews with the author, and in praise from other authors.  Professional reviews generally praise Legrand’s depiction of depression and anxiety. The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books lauds Legrand’s willingness to address a topic “usually reserved for YA fare” as “refreshing to see those matters brought to younger readers and especially to those kids struggling to voice emotions they don’t yet understand” (Quealy-Gainer 476). They further commend her handling of the topic “with sensitivity and compassion” (477), and the American Library Association underscores Legrand’s “appeal to honesty and self-acceptance” (Smith). This opinion is shared by Publishers Weekly: “Legrand handles the tough   31  subject of childhood mental health gently and honestly, and…paints a realistic picture of a girl trying to figure out what’s wrong with her” (Fox). No reviewer suggested there was anything problematic with Legrand’s depictions of mental illness. The reviewers, while generous in praise, do not comment much on the central symbols of depression in this book – the orphan girl’s inner darkness, the poisonous fog, and the Dark Ones – preferring instead to stick to the more general symbol, the Everwood, or the setting for Finley’s stories. The most direct comment on any of the three symbols is from The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books, mentioning how Finley’s Everwood stories “serv[e] as accessible metaphors for her inner turmoil—the image of an inky dark blackness poisoning the forest is particularly vivid and apt” (Quealy-Gainer 477). The inky black darkness referred to here is the poisonous fog that escapes from the orphan girl’s chest after she has been avoiding facing her inner darkness for some time. It symbolizes Finley’s mental illness and surrounding shame at her secret. At least one reviewer, then, sees this symbol as “vivid and apt” and her metaphors in general as “accessible” (Quealy-Gainer 477).  More reviews mention Finley’s use of her notebook to make sense of her whole world rather than simply her inner one. For instance, Horn Book Magazine interprets the Everwood as a “fantastical forest whose mythology she develops as a way of understanding the world—her family, why she doesn’t fit in, and the recurring sadness she’s not able to explain…” (Rettger 105). Kirkus Reviews, on the other hand, interprets Finley’s stories as her “defen[se] against the painful stories in her head,” more directly related to her mental illness, but still rather general (“Some Kind of Happiness” 79). The reviewer from School Library Journal also picks up on this usage as a coping strategy, but is more general still, adding that “Finley escapes through writing,” not differentiating whether she seeks escape from her mental illness, from navigating   32  the complexities of her family’s secrets and society, or both (Engelfried 133). Reviewers recognize both the notebook’s function as thinking location and coping mechanism, but do not spend much space ruminating on the implications of the symbols. Still other reviewers identify narratorial uses of Finley’s Everwood stories. Two comment on the parallel nature of Finley’s stories and her life and how this gives Legrand space as an author to develop both Finley’s outer and inner world. Publisher’s Weekly claims the stories “[build] a foundation of understanding for Finley’s feelings of isolation and overwhelming sadness” (Fox), and ALA notes the parallel nature of her stories to her own life: “A dark secret threatens this wood, however, and if Fin is to save it, she must first confront her own darkness, which weighs heavily on her heart,” but “it will take more than stories to free her from her blue days” (Smith).  All in all, reviewers appreciate Legrand’s methods of depicting depression and anxiety in Some Kind of Happiness and latch onto Finley’s notebook as an important piece of that depiction, whether that importance lies in narratological effects, in demonstrating a coping skill, or in building understanding of her experiences with mental illness. They see Legrand’s writing as careful, beautiful, and compassionate but do not speculate much on the implications of how she depicts depression or on the symbols of the inner darkness, fog, and Dark Ones. Legrand does not say much about this novel in interviews. She indicates she learned “how to be more precise with [her] language because Finley’s voice is so thoughtful and deliberate” (GoodReads). This thoughtful, deliberate voice is one of the tools Legrand has at her disposal for communicating Fin’s experiences with mental illness. But while Legrand does not speak much directly about Some Kind of Happiness, she does reveal some of her approaches and   33  motivations for writing for middle grade and writing fantasy, and each of these is reflected in her novel. The author’s approach to writing middle-grade and young adult novels centers around her perceptions of young people as hopeful and imaginative. She “consider[s] middle grade and young adult books more about audiences than genres. [She] write[s] for these age groups quite simply because books for kids and teens are full of possibilities for imagination, discovery, wonder, and poignancy that, much like in real life, fade or at least change as you get older” (Reed). Thus, her depiction of Finley as a girl who uses her imagination to make sense of her reality reflects this outlook. It is Finley’s imagination that creates the Everwood as a place to express her feelings and helps her connect with her cousins in meaningful ways through imaginative play. It also hinders her progress in acknowledging her mental illness, as she imagines she will no longer be considered a Hart if she is found to be so different from her seemingly perfect cousins. Her self-stigma manifests through her imagination late in the novel as the Dark Ones start speaking in her head during the reality sections of the story instead of merely during her Everwood stories. Finley’s wide perspective of what is possible defines her experiences both with her family and with herself. In addition to Legrand’s perception of children as full of wonder and possibility, her belief that young people are intelligent and capable of wrestling with difficult subjects also plays a central role in Some Kind of Happiness. She believes that “kids and teens are a lot smarter and more perceptive than many people give them credit for. They can handle controversy, intelligent discussion, and debate if only given the chance to do so” (Reed). This being said, because she also sees middle-grade characters’ experiences as mainly “relegated to the relationships they have with their family and friends,” and that their questions will more likely revolve around   34  those relationships, such as wondering about parents who aren’t perfect and friends who are changing rather than the child’s relationship to the larger world, as in YA literature (GoodReads), the kinds of controversy Finley faces are close to home. Finley’s story is one that grapples with difficulties in her family relationships and the question of personal identity and belonging—Who are these family members she’s never met? What does it mean to be a Hart? Will her parents get a divorce, and is she responsible for that? What if she’s not perfect enough for her perfect grandmother? Such questions about family and belonging are compounded by her internal struggles with mental illness. Finley herself is depicted as intelligent through her love of crossword puzzles, solving mysteries, and writing her stories. Legrand depicts Finley as a capable person finding her place in family life and makes it clear that Finley sees herself that way through her Everwood stories, in which she is both hero and villain, never sidekick or cameo. Legrand’s choice to involve fantasy in Some Kind of Happiness may come from the genre’s not being restricted by real-world society’s rules while remaining open to real-world issues: “Because the stories within [fantasy stories] explore real-world issues in decidedly unreal settings,” she likes that they “put every reader on a level playing field…These are stories about places that no one has ever seen, and therefore every reader comes to them with no advantages over any other reader” and that they allow exploration of “very important issues…without the bias of a real-world context” (Reed).   These interviews with Legrand reveal several of attitudes toward children and youth that influence Some Kind of Happiness. The novel demonstrates a young person’s ability to wrestle with issues of identity and belonging through her intelligence and curiosity in imaginative ways, with some help from her cousins. The allegorical fantasy world of the Everwood allows Finley to   35  explore her questions and worries in a safe creative space and allows the reader to see depression and anxiety in new ways because of its setting without “the bias of a real-world context” (Reed). All these combine to make Some Kind of Happiness the kind of novel reviewers praise for its delicate, honest, and compassionate treatment of mental illness.  2.5  Conclusion  The landscape of children’s literature, from picturebooks to young adult novels, is rife with depictions of depression. While young adult novels are more likely than picturebooks and middle-grade novels to depict suicide and suicidal ideation, these symptoms of depression are not unheard of in picturebooks. Symbolic and metaphorical depictions of depression are just as common as more direct depictions of the mental illness in characters’ lives in picturebooks and in middle-grade novels, though it is clear that many representations distance the reader from the experience of depression through symbols, anthropomorphized animals/clouds/toys, or by making the depressed character someone other than a child protagonist, often the mother. Authors vary between naming depression and allowing the illness to remain unnamed, a practice that echoes questions surrounding the practice of diagnosis. Scholars like Barton emphasize the difficulty of using a reified symbol of depression in the form of monsters, as this likely will not reflect fully or accurately real experience. Studying more symbols like these in books like Brilliant (Doyle) and Some Kind of Happiness (Legrand) will help fill in the gap in scholarly literature that currently exists on the subject of middle-grade depictions of depression and hopefully lead to a better understanding of the messages they send about mental illness.     36  Chapter 3: Methodology 3.1  Introduction This chapter begins with an examination of my theoretical positioning, method of analysis for close reading, and organization of that analysis. My theoretical positioning is informed by my experiences as a high school teacher, Kimberly Reynolds’ Radical Children’s Literature (2007), and Eliza Dresang’s theory of Radical Change as set forth in her book Radical Change: Books for Youth in a Digital Age (1999). The DSM-5’s definition and symptoms of major depressive disorder and grief provide criteria to establish a link between the symbol of depression, the characters, and the reality of the illness (American Psychiatric Association) in close reading, and Northrop Frye’s Anatomy of Criticism (1957) helps in understanding how the meanings of symbols are formed. The method of analysis and its organization in this thesis are then outlined. Finally, the text selection process is described and significant terms used throughout this thesis are defined.  3.2  Theoretical Positioning and Methodology for Analysis of Primary Texts A few major works contributed heavily to my own theoretical framing of this close reading. Two inform my close reading motivations and philosophy: Kimberly Reynolds’ book Radical Children’s Literature: Future Visions and Aesthetic Transformations in Juvenile Literature and Eliza T. Dresang’s Radical Change: Books for Youth in a Digital Age. These share three basic assumptions: 1) that literature for young people is undergoing fundamental changes, 2) that those changes are not only a reflection of culture but also a reaction to it, and 3) that such literature contains a vision of future possibilities, inherent in anything dealing with young people, whom adults tend to see as hopeful and full of potential. While Dresang’s focus is   37  on the ways handheld books are changing to reflect digital age media (in form and interactivity, for instance) (12-13), Reynolds hones in on how “children’s literature contributes to the social and aesthetic transformation of culture by…encouraging readers to approach ideas, issues, and objects from new perspectives and so prepare the way for change” (1). Reynolds continues: “This is the sense in which I see writing for the young as replete with radical potential” (1). She identifies several examples of ways children’s literature is currently contributing to transforming culture, including through depictions of silence and self-harm, a topic closely related to depression (88-113). She criticizes some depressive young adult literature that “focus[es] on strategies for progress, perhaps implying too forcibly that there are always ways forward,” but admits that many of these novels are still “perceptive and credible…[not] mak[ing] the world seem simpler or safer than it is…[but] help[ing] to dismantle the long-standing stigma associated with self-harming, thus encouraging those who self-harm – or who know people who hurt themselves – to talk about it and to seek help with both the causes and the behaviour” (113). In this way, by revealing previously hidden topics in children’s literature in hopeful but not unrealistic ways, Reynolds claims that books may change the stories people tell themselves about self-harming and lead to a positive change in behavior. Novels such as Brilliant (Doyle) and Some Kind of Happiness (Legrand) may also affect their readers in similarly positive ways. Dresang’s discussion of changing literature is similar to Reynolds’. Dresang defines “radical change” as “fundamental change, departing from the usual or traditional in literature for youth, although still related to it” as influenced by the digital age (4-5). She, like Reynolds, identifies access as one of three main areas where this radical change occurs (12). In other words, in the digital age, young people have the ability to get behind and beyond some traditional gate-keeping techniques of adults, and Dresang argues this digital-age characteristic has also   38  influenced new print media, encouraging writers to “break[]…long-standing barriers in literature for youth – barriers that blocked off certain topics, certain kinds of characters, certain styles of language” (13). While mental illness has not been “blocked off” in the past, but rather stigmatized and misrepresented, a similar phenomenon to this one Dresang describes occurs with depression. Misinformation or dramatization has a similar effect to censorship in that widespread ignorance of the reality of mental illness results in greater stigma (Corrigan, “Impact” 1). My primary texts reflect this element of radical change, giving readers access to previously almost-blocked portrayals of characters and experiences.  Dresang’s “radical change” books not only increase access to previously censored topics, but also to “a wide diversity of opinion and perspective… both in a broader range of topics and in the manner in which fictional characters react to the problems presented” (13). One “new perspective” – one that is not widespread, if not utterly unique – is found in Some Kind of Happiness. The voice of such a young (eleven-year-old) person narrating from a position of dealing with multiple mental illnesses as well as the divorce of her parents is one of these new perspectives; her family’s loving acceptance of her with her mental illness is likewise a modern depiction, as opposed to the fearful treatment of mental illness in older media, such as in Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper” or Anonymous/Sparks’ infamous Go Ask Alice. Brilliant also includes a new perspective: that of an entire neighborhood of children opening up to each other and supporting one another during their family members’ struggles with depression. Both of these stories embody a new perspective not widespread in media depictions of mental illness—that those with mental illness and affected by family members with mental illness may open up to others and be accepted and supported in personal relationships and in the community, and not only are they accepted and supported, but also empowered with their own agency. Dresang’s   39  theory explains that digital-age media, with its increased access to diverse topics and perspectives, has influenced children’s books to increase the normalization of previously marginalized topics and perspectives. This work with my primary texts is a way of expanding discussion around one of these previously marginalized topics.  Thus, even though Dresang’s changes in nondigital media for youth are seen as a result of change in digital media, and Reynolds’ changes in children’s literature are seen as a contributing factor to social change, they both agree that topics and access to information previously hidden from young people are now being discussed much more openly and in various genres and forms. This new access and openness resonates with the topic of depression, as mental illness has often been misrepresented, stigmatized, or omitted from mainstream media. Currently, there is room for compassionate and accurate representations that young people may be able to access more easily than before. This close reading examines two primary texts as part of this move toward openness. The close reading and analysis encompass two chapters of my thesis, one chapter per novel. This organization, instead of dedicating a chapter to each research question, allows the building of context around the reified symbols of depression in each novel without jumping between texts, which could cause confusion. I use my research questions to focus and organize my analysis, setting the first three questions as subheadings within each chapter. The novel’s depiction of depression is explored through the lens of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition (American Psychiatric Association, 2013) as a guide to establish existence of depression/depressive experiences in the novel and as a touchstone for accuracy. An analysis of the major symbols of depression in each novel (the Black Dog in Brilliant and the orphan’s inner darkness, poisonous fog, and Dark Ones in Some Kind of Happiness) follows,   40  including textual descriptions (imagery, characteristics) and the interactions between the symbols and the principal character(s) of each story. Finally, I take the depictions of depression as compared with the DSM-5, the descriptions of the symbols, and the way the symbols and characters interact to draw out implications the text seems to make about depression and depressive experiences. The initial research question for use in close reading is “How are depressive experiences depicted in these novels?” This question is foundational, as the first step must be to determine how closely characters’ experiences of depression match the definition and symptoms of major depressive disorder as set down in the DSM-5. It is important to remember that any form of diagnosis is a construct, a name people have given to describe a set of similar or related behaviors, thoughts, and experiences in different people. It is only when such characteristics combine to interfere with a person’s functioning in society that such a diagnosis will be made. My decision to use the DSM-5 is based on its widespread usage by health practitioners in much of the western world and the reputation of the American Psychological Association. While no manual encompasses all people’s experiences of what are currently called depressive disorders, and there are criticisms of the DSM-5 and of the general practice of diagnosis (Paris and Philips, Demazeux and Singy), my lack of medical expertise necessitates the use of a widely recognized outside authority. Without establishing depression exists in the novel, further discussion of any symbol’s representation of depression has no foundation. After investigating how depression is depicted in characters’ lives, my second research question hones in on the specific textual structure of the symbol: “How do the authors of these novels navigate the complexity of depression through symbols?” Northrop Frye’s Anatomy of Criticism speaks to this question. First, Frye addresses the intentional fallacy, or question of   41  authorial intention, of literary works. Later he defines various kinds of symbols, discussing how they are formed and giving examples of each kind. Both of these sections are applicable to my close reading. The vast number of professional reviews of my primary texts as contrasted with very few interviews by the authors raises the question of the importance of authorial intent in interpretation and criticism. Reviewers sometimes see different themes and strengths/weaknesses, and neither author directly comments on the central symbols of their novels. Frye asserts,  One has to assume, as an essential heuristic axiom, that the work as produced constitutes the definitive record of the writer’s intention. For many of the flaws which an inexperienced critic thinks he detects, the answer ‘But it’s supposed to be that way’ is sufficient. All other statements of intention, however fully documented, are suspect. (87) Doyle’s central symbol is interpreted by the author directly in its naming: the Black Dog of Depression. However, while this name assists initial connection between symbol and meaning, it does not aid further analysis in what the story’s representation of the Black Dog implies about depression. Instead of including authorial intention in analysis, all relevant authorial commentary is documented in Chapter 2.  Next, I looked to how meaning is formed around concrete symbols such as the inner darkness, fog, Dark Ones and Black Dog. Frye recommends that critics keep in mind the wide range of symbolic representations in literature (92). He names and describes several of these that move along a spectrum from explicit allegory on one end (like Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress), through slightly less obvious allegory (like Milton’s Paradise Lost), and eventually to “ironic and paradoxical poetry” that is not allegorical but left completely up to the reader to   42  interpret (91). Frye breaks down this last “ironic and anti-allegorical” poetry further, noting types of imagery that could be described as symbols, including the metaphysical “conceit,” as in John Donne’s poetry, the French symbolisme (“suggesting or evoking things and avoiding the explicit naming of them”), an “objective correlative” image (“sets up an inward focus of emotion in poetry and at the same time substitutes itself for an idea”), and the “heraldic symbol,” which Frye suggests may be the same thing as an objective correlative, giving examples such as “Hawthorne’s scarlet letter, Melville’s white whale” (92). Frye’s descriptions of objective correlative and heraldic symbols fits the Dark Ones in Some Kind of Happiness – they are an object/monster, like Melville’s white whale, that sets up an emotion (several, in this case) and substitutes itself for an idea, depression. According to Frye, “thematically significant imagery”  or a symbol, that “begins with images of actual things and works outward to ideas and propositions” (89) should be studied by “trying to see what precepts and examples are suggested by the imagery as a whole” (90) rather than by isolating individual verbal structures for analysis. The Black Dog of Depression, as mentioned earlier, is named directly for what it depicts and thus may be more on the level of allegory, though it functions similarly to the Dark Ones, interacting with characters and acting as a central, thematic image. Frye again argues that allegory, like any other symbol, must be read in context (90), so because the other characters in the story are not allegorical, approaching both novels’ symbols as “heraldic” symbols, or central thematic images that substitute themselves for concepts, allows for clearer comparison. In approaching these symbols, then, a few key precepts apply: 1) that symbolic meaning is a matter of patterns of context built up over the course of a text, consistent within itself, 2) that the interpretation of those symbols lies much more heavily with the reader than with the author, and 3) that the symbols in these texts are mostly of the central, “heraldic” sort, which means an   43  object within and central to the narrative that is meant to both evoke emotions and “substitute itself for an idea,” in this case, depression (Frye 92). With the importance of internal consistency, repetition, and context in mind, each symbol is studied by its descriptions – including imagery, adjectives, and independent actions – and by the interactions between the symbol and characters throughout each novel. After examining the symbols and their context/interactions, the most central research question is addressed: “What do these symbols imply about the experiences of depression?” From my own positioning, implications are the most important function of art. Without this question, this thesis would accomplish nothing more than identification and categorization. Kim Reynolds expresses a similar outlook in her book Radical Children’s Literature; she defines her work as “attempt[ing] to map the way that children’s literature contributes to the social and aesthetic transformation of culture by…encouraging readers to approach ideas, issues, and objects from new perspectives and so prepare the way for change” (Reynolds 1). Like Reynolds, I believe literature has influence on individuals and society. If a person can change the story she tells herself about depression, whether she has experienced it or not, that story can open her up to new ideas about depression, new voices—perhaps those voices that were previously silenced and marginalized.  As mental illness becomes widely accepted as a destigmatized human experience, the lives of those who would suffer from the barriers of stigma may be improved, even saved. If mental illness becomes further stigmatized and stereotyped in stories we take in, nothing will change. This is perhaps an oversimplification. A few books about children with depression aren’t likely to change insurance policy to make mental health care more accessible or stop someone with serious MDD from deciding to take their own life. But they could help young people who   44  feel like they are broken and too different from others to realize they are not alone, long before they reach the point of self-harm. Without discussing what these symbols seem to imply about depression, the equation is incomplete. Identification and categorization are part of the equation and necessary to reach interpretation and eventual application, but if studying art is only to name things without examining what those names mean or how they affect our lives and cultures, I see next to no value in such study. After identifying depressive characteristics and describing symbols, each textual analysis concludes with an attempt to elicit implications as art contributing to a sociocultural understanding of depression.   3.3  Primary Text Selection  These primary texts were chosen based on a few criteria. First, while young adult literature is rife with texts for studying depressed characters, the scholarship on many aspects of representation in YA literature is already well-established; in contrast, the gap in scholarship on representations of depression in middle-grade literature calls for examination. This led me to rule out all YA texts. I also ruled out picturebooks because of my interest in symbols created by verbal text rather than visual. Hence, middle-grade novels.  Next, I sought books where the child character interacted with a symbol for depression; this interaction would provide a solid foundation for analysis of each story’s implied model of the illness. Some stories included a depressed character but had no symbol for the illness, such as Out of the Box (Mulder). Others included both a depressed character and a symbol for depression, but the child’s interaction with the symbol was not concrete (meaning direct and embodied), frequent, or central enough for my study, as in The Science of Breakable Things (Keller), The Secret of Nightingale Wood (Strange), and Nest (Ehrlich). I found this kind of   45  interaction was more likely in stories that featured a depressed child rather than depressed parent, which would also contribute to ease of comparison during analysis. Furthermore, central symbols with this kind of allegorical weight were more likely to be found in fantasy novels; genre similarity would also aid comparison. These considerations narrowed criteria to stories in which the 1) (depressed) child character 2) frequently interacts with 3) a concrete (embodied) and central symbol of depression, most likely found in 4) fantasy.  However, the children are not depressed in Roddy Doyle’s Brilliant. The rationale for inclusion is that the central symbol, the Black Dog of Depression, is given sufficient allegorical weight. It is superficially the clearest symbol of depression in both of my selected texts, with the word depression right in the name. And though the children are not depressed like their uncle, they do experience symptoms of depression—including despair, low self-esteem, and low motivation—as they chase the Dog throughout Dublin. The Black Dog only ever interacts in concrete form with the child protagonists rather than with the depressed adults in their lives. As the entire novel centers on the children’s quest to defeat the Black Dog and return the Funny Bone to Dublin City, the symbol is central, and the children’s interactions with it are nearly constant. Brilliant was an easy choice for analysis. In Some Kind of Happiness by Claire Legrand, there are three central symbols that dominate eleven-year-old Finley’s stories about the Everwood—the orphan’s inner darkness, the poisonous fog, and the Dark Ones, which represent her depression and self-stigma. The Dark Ones may also represent Finley’s anxiety, comorbid with her depression (369). These symbols are unusual because they are created by the child protagonist within the story to represent her own specific feelings instead of being an abstraction of depression in general like the Black Dog. This text is realistic fiction, being set in our world and time, which separates it from Brilliant in   46  terms of genre; however, Finley’s Everwood stories, both written in her notebook and acted out with her cousins, are most certainly fairy tales and fantasy. Within this context, the Dark Ones can still be compared with the Black Dog. This novel’s setting in reality presents a challenge—Finley does not interact with her symbols in the same way the children in Brilliant interact with the Dog. Instead, Finley interacts with her symbols in her mind, mostly through the mechanism of her stories where she is represented by her protagonist, the Orphan/Queen of the Everwood. Later in the novel, the Dark Ones invade Finley’s reality, interfering with her thoughts, an interaction that is certainly direct and symbolically embodied, but perhaps not concrete, as the Dark Ones are not physically present in the way of the Dog. However, Finley’s real-world actions are also influenced by the Dark Ones’ interference, and so these interactions are included in analysis. Because Finley herself is now interacting with the Dark Ones in her reality instead of through her Everwood avatar, these moments are even more directly indicative of how she defines and reacts to her own mental illness and therefore also more indicative of how the experience of depression is depicted through a symbol. The preservation of the symbol of the Dark Ones in Finley’s reality produces a magical realism comparable to the Black Dog in Dublin City.   One other novel made the shortlist for analysis but not the final selection. The Secret of Dreadwillow Carse by Brian Farrey does not contain a symbol so openly defined as the Black Dog or the Dark Ones. That said, the symbols of the Carse and dreadwillow trees are both central to the story: Aon and Princess Jeniah must learn what the dreadwillow trees are, what they do, and how they came to be in order to unravel the mysteries surrounding their parents, the kingdom, and the strange pull the Carse has on Aon in the present and on her mother and their ancestor in the past. Aon is the only one who interacts with the trees or the Carse directly   47  through most of the novel, which is sufficient considering she is also the only one who is drawn to it; Jeniah’s interest in the Carse is purely pragmatic, and her interactions with the trees reflect her courage and friendship with Aon rather than any connection with depression. The differences in the girls’ motivations and how they interact with the Carse beg for analysis. In addition, the fairy tale nature of the story makes it easier to compare with Brilliant, but Farrey’s choice to leave Aon’s, her mother’s, and their ancestor’s inexplicable sadness unnamed make it an alluring counterpoint.   It was only after developing a close reading approach using the DSM-5 that Dreadwillow Carse seemed too different from Brilliant and Some Kind of Happiness because of the type of depression depicted. In Dreadwillow Carse, while the implication of Aon’s mother’s and ancestors’ affinity to the Carse and draw to its sorrow is that Aon, too, has a genetic predisposition to depression, Aon’s experiences include the loss of both her mother (years earlier) and her father. While she exhibits characteristics that without the grief would be described as depression, the DSM-5 makes specific delineation between depression as a symptom of grief and as clinical depression, or major depressive disorder (MDD) (American Psychiatric Association). As a diagnostic manual, it delineates between grief and depression so as to prevent medical professionals giving someone who is in grief and exhibiting symptoms of depression a false diagnosis of MDD. This distinction is useful as a medical professional and for the purpose of prescribing treatment, but often life itself is not so clear cut. Aon’s grief complicates the reading of her depressive experiences to the extent that it may not be fair to compare them with characters with MDD in the other two texts. Reluctantly, I cut this novel from analysis, leaving as the final primary texts Brilliant by Roddy Doyle and Some Kind of Happiness by Claire Legrand.    48    3.4  Significant Terms Depression: While the term “depression” when used colloquially may refer to a general state of ennui or having a bad day, in this thesis the term is used as an abbreviated reference to major depressive disorder (or clinical depression) as outlined in the DSM-5 (American Psychiatric Association). See Section 2.2 of this thesis for greater detail.  Depressive: depressive experiences are defined as experiences that include symptoms of depression as laid out in the DSM-5, but not necessarily indicating a state of mind that would be diagnosed as MDD. MDD: Major Depressive Disorder. In order for a diagnosis of MDD to be made, a person must experience one or more major depressive episodes (MDEs), in which at least five of the nine symptoms listed in the DSM-5 last for at least two weeks and include as one of the minimum five symptoms either (1) depressed mood or (2) loss of interest or pleasure. The symptoms must also “cause clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupation, or other important areas of functioning” and should “not [be] attributable to the physiological effects of a substance or another medical condition” (American Psychiatric Association). Self-othering: My own term encompassing the entire process that leads to self-stigma, including identifying one’s difference as an essential flaw and believing it is sufficient reason to exclude oneself from love and/or belonging to a group. For example, Finley Hart believes her small mistakes at dinner are evidence of a deeper flaw and that this makes her unworthy of her seemingly perfect family; she mentally compares herself to a “smudge” on their crystal glass and decides to stop talking, excluding herself from the group out of shame (Legrand 23). Self-othering may occur incidentally or may become a habit leading to self-stigma.   49  Symbol: “Thematically significant imagery” that “begins with images of actual things and works outward to ideas and propositions” (Frye 89) and should be studied by “trying to see what precepts and examples are suggested by the imagery as a whole” (90) rather than by isolating individual verbal structures for analysis. In my primary texts, symbols are concrete embodied images that represent the ideas of depression and depressive experiences.     50  Chapter 4: Findings: Brilliant 4.1  Introduction This chapter begins the body of my thesis. First, a plot summary of Roddy Doyle’s Brilliant familiarizes the reader with background necessary to understand the close reading and analysis that follow. Next, Doyle’s portrayal of depression is documented through comparing the occurrence of depressive symptoms in characters’ thoughts, descriptions, and actions with those listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition, or DSM-5 (American Psychiatric Association). After establishing to what extent and in what ways depression is directly represented, the reified symbol of MDD, the Black Dog of Depression, is examined through the narrator’s descriptions (imagery, attributes, and independent actions) and the Dog’s interactions with the characters in the novel, especially the children, Gloria and Raymond Kelly, the two primary focalizers of the text. This chapter concludes with a discussion of implications about how depression is represented in the novel.  4.2  Plot Summary Set in Dublin during an economic recession (possibly based on the recent post-2008 recession in Ireland), the story begins with the nighttime arrival of an invader. Under the cover of darkness, the Black Dog of Depression slinks into Dublin City, and no one knows it but the animals. The Dog slides up walls and into people’s homes, including the home of Gloria and Raymond Kelly’s Uncle Ben, making him depressed. Later, their Uncle Ben comes to stay with them for a while, while he “sorts things out” (42). The evening before St. Patrick’s Day, the children overhear their Granny tell their parents that Ben has got the Black Dog of Depression on his back, and that the Dog has stolen Dublin’s funny bone. Out of love for Uncle Ben, the   51  children set out in the night to find the Dog, get him off their uncle’s back, and get the funny bone back. They sneak out, and in the darkness of night discover that saying the word, “Brilliant,” causes the word to appear in lights above them in the air so they can see (77). While checking out all the black dogs in the neighborhood, they meet Ernie O’Driscoll, a young vampire, whose father is also depressed. He joins their quest. As the night wears on, the children join forces with other children who have snuck out to save their own depressed loved ones from the Dog. They have many encounters with the Dog in which he tries to make them feel isolated in the darkness (129), like they should just give up (135-137), and that they are “USELESS,” the Dog’s favorite word (215-217). The Dog leads them through the city, through Phoenix Park and the Zoo, all the while growing larger and showing more of his strange powers over the cold and their emotions. But the children learn from Dublin’s talking animals that the Dog hates children because they are the future (197-198) and are always laughing when they should be crying (202-203). Despite the Dog’s attempts to intimidate the children and convince them they’re useless, they help each other remember how brilliant everything is even when things are frightening. Through their teamwork, they learn how to fight the Dog’s influence and chase him from place to place. Eventually, the Dog leads the children to the sea, all the while getting larger and larger and leaving the children gasping for air in a cold wind. He rolls out to sea in a giant fog, big enough to cover all of Dublin, and laughs at the children for thinking they could stop him. The Dog plans to head back to the city and fall on all the adults, leaving them to watch from the beach. They know they have to fight, even though it’s colder, windier, smellier, and scarier than ever. Gloria gets everyone to yell “Brilliant” at the top of their lungs, and others tell jokes to get   52  everyone laughing. All of them are motivated by thoughts of their loved ones. The Black Dog of Depression starts to shrink and break up in the sky. But this isn’t enough to stop him. Raymond asks Ernie to run into the Dog-fog with him, and Paddy comes along, too. Inside the Dog it is cold and dark, like they don’t even exist. Ernie is the first to remember why they’re all there and to yell “Brilliant!” at the Dog from the inside. Raymond and Paddy join in, and the Dog changes form one last time to a solid, flying, made-of-real-flesh dog, holding the funny bone in his mouth right next to Raymond, Ernie, and Paddy. The boys knock the funny bone out and follow before the Dog can swallow them. Meanwhile on the ground, the children all yell at the top of their lungs, “Brilliant!” The Dog explodes, and the seagulls come and eat its remains lying all over the beach. The enormous funny bone falls to the beach, miraculously heals one child’s toothache, and is taken back by the city: one moment it’s there, then it vanishes.  The story concludes with all the children returning home to find their loved ones miraculously cured of depression. Paddy’s father is up out of bed and dressed in proper clothes, ready to take him up the mountain for their St. Patrick’s Day picnic; Alice’s brother is laughing and smiling while making sausages talk to each other at breakfast; even the zookeeper remembers how to sing. Best of all, Uncle Ben is happy again and moves back into his house with Gloria and Raymond’s help.  4.3  Depression in Brilliant As none of the main focalizers of this text (Gloria, Raymond, Ernie, Damien, Suzie, Alice, or Paddy) is depressed, the only descriptions of depression in this story are from outside a depressed person’s mind, with the exception of two short excerpts from the zookeeper’s perspective about how he forgets and later remembers (post Dog-defeat) how much he loved to   53  sing and whistle to the animals (176, 242-243). To compensate for the lack of direct perspective of depressed people, Doyle lets the children explain to each other about why they are hunting the Black Dog of Depression. They describe their depressed loved ones’ symptoms of MDD, reflecting a variety of ways the illness appears from an outside perspective. In addition, Doyle uses the effects the Dog has on the children during each encounter to demonstrate various effects of depression in people’s lives. To be clearer, the children experience depressive symptoms briefly when encountering the Dog, but they are not depressed according the DSM-5 because their number of symptoms are too low (fewer than five) and of too short duration (less than two weeks) to qualify, since the story takes place in the space of one night.  Due to the novel’s brevity (248 large-print, double-spaced pages with many illustrations) and also the high number of focalizers, space is limited—Doyle keeps descriptions of depression in the children’s loved ones’ lives brief. The children telling each other what is happening occurs more frequently than the narrator describing actions of depressed people. In Uncle Ben’s case, the children’s Granny states that Ben is depressed (64), though there is little sign of it in his actions or description. By switching from one focalizer to another, Doyle also gives the opportunity for each child’s memories of their loved one to depict life pre- and during depression, emphasizing changes in behavior or personality.  While no one character goes through all nine symptoms in the DSM-5, or even the minimum five for diagnosis, every symptom of depression as described by the American Psychiatric Association is exhibited in this novel, with the exception of suicidal ideation and/or attempt. Symptoms should also last at least two weeks and cause “clinically significant distress or impairment in…important areas of functioning.” Because this story unfolds over a twenty-four hour period, I have extrapolated that many of these symptoms have been occurring for at   54  least two weeks before the children hear about the Black Dog. These symptoms are, “depressed mood,” “less interest or pleasure in all or almost all activities,” “weight loss,” “insomnia/hypersomnia,” “psychomotor retardation,” “fatigue/loss of energy,” “feelings of worthlessness or excessive/inappropriate guilt (may be delusional),” and “diminished ability to think or concentrate” (DSM-5).  To begin, Uncle Ben’s depression is mostly told to the reader rather than represented in his behavior and is ineffective in representing what a major depressive episode may be like. Una, the children’s mother, remembers Ben’s antics at her wedding, years ago, when he forgot the ring and joked about it (57-58). This supposedly acts as juxtaposition for how Ben is when depressed. However, in the present timeline, Ben’s current mood is only observably low when he tells the family he is shutting down his painting and decorating business (62). When asked if he is sure about this decision, Ben shrugs and mentions that the phone “never rings” (62). Then he stands up, says, “So…That’s that,” walks “slowly” to the door in a way Gloria knows means “that something sad and bad [is] going on,” and then uncharacteristically, and against the general habits of the household, closes the kitchen door, signifying to the children that something is very wrong (62-63).  Ben’s shutting down his business may be an indication of one symptom of MDD – a loss of interest or pleasure in activities – judging from his apathetic response of “that’s that,” but it is likely that his mood is just as influenced by his unemployment, a situation that could make anyone feel or act depressed (62). One occurrence of low mood or lack of interest/pleasure from Ben’s actions is insufficient evidence for a diagnosis of depression. Furthermore, the statement that the phone “never rings” means he is shutting down his business not due to a lack of interest or low motivation that interferes in his life, but because of a lack of customers. It is unclear to   55  what extent his mental illness affects this decision. The clearest view the reader gets of Ben’s depression is through Granny’s direct naming of it; this occurs directly after Ben shuts the door. After Ben has left the kitchen, Granny suggests that the Black Dog of Depression “has climbed on to that poor fella’s back,” and the narration switches to Mom’s (Una) and Dad’s (Pat) perspectives, who nod and accept it (64). So far, Ben’s depression does not offer much to the reader in terms of what a depressive episode is. Ben’s other appearances in the present timeline of the novel both depict a happy Uncle Ben who is engaged in the children’s lives (51-52, 247). When he arrives to move in with the Kellys (before shutting down his business), he laughs because the bottom of his cardboard box drops out and all the things he brought for the move-in fall to the ground (50). It is possible this moment pre-dates his depression as it also pre-dates the conversation in the kitchen with Granny. Later, after the Dog is defeated and Ben is cured, he laughs when the same thing happens moving back into his own home (247). There isn’t much of a difference between pre-depressed Ben, depressed Ben, and post-depressed Ben in these scenes. Perhaps this implies a depressed person’s personality does not have to change; perhaps it is a lack of indirect characterization due to the limited space available to the author. However, Doyle manages to work in another source describing Ben’s mental illness that backs up Granny’s diagnosis: the observations of his loved ones described in Una’s and the children’s thoughts. Una’s thoughts reveal that more has been going on with Ben than the children have noticed: “Ben was struggling – so the whole house was struggling. She felt a bit heartless even thinking like this. But she couldn’t help it” (58-59). Her description of Ben as “struggling” gives a sense of hardship or frustration, but is not specific enough to identify as a symptom of MDD. Still, it does suggest, along with Una’s thought about his influence on the   56  household, that Ben’s current life or state of mind “causes significant distress or impairment in social/occupation/other important areas of functioning,” fulfilling one of the DSM-5’s diagnostic criteria. And again, when he gives the news about his business shutting down, Una’s thoughts reveal more than the reader has seen: “She hated looking at Ben and seeing a problem. She wanted to help. She wished she could do something to make him happier. She could have hugged him, but she already seemed to be hugging him three or four times a day” (61). Ben has needed hugs, multiple a day, and this need is observable as a “depressed mood (most of the day, nearly every day)” (DSM-5). Gloria and Raymond give similar information about the depressed mood of their uncle, when discussing how the Black Dog must be after his funny bone: “So Uncle Ben can’t laugh.” “Yeah,” said Raymond. “Or even smile, without trying really hard.” Gloria nodded. It all made sense. She’d seen her Uncle Ben trying to smile. (73-74) Gloria’s thoughts about Uncle Ben’s smile clarify that his depressed mood, while not observable by the reader, is at least observable by the children, along with their mother and grandmother. These hints of how Ben’s mood and actions have changed him make his depiction as depressed at least acceptable, though shallow. Many other characters in Brilliant display different symptoms of MDD, serving to round out Doyle’s depictions of depression by number and variety instead of by deep connection with a single depressed character. The reader learns of them through the other children (and the odd meerkat), as they each join up with Gloria, Raymond, and Ernie in their hunt for the Black Dog. Again, Doyle distances the reader from a more direct representation of depression by using the children—who are not depressed—to discuss those are. This serves the double purpose of making limited space count and allowing multiple representations of how MDD manifests in   57  people’s lives. Suzie tells Gloria her mam is “down in the dumps, like” (126), another reference to the symptom of depressed mood. Paddy’s da is “getting skinny and old-looking” (132) and “stays in bed all day since his job got shut down…The Black Dog blocks the bedroom door” (126); this fits the symptoms of weight loss, hypersomnia, and possibly fatigue or loss of energy. The Black Dog has also “been at” Alice’s big brother, the only child (age not given) mentioned in the story who is depressed, “stopping him from sleeping, stopping him from laughing and from making Alice laugh the way he used to. The Black Dog had changed Luke – she’d heard her mammy say that – and Alice wanted the old Luke back” (162). Luke also hasn’t smiled in months (236). He exhibits the symptoms of depressed mood, less interest or pleasure in activities, and insomnia (DSM-5), and if the earlier depictions of Uncle Ben suggest that personality does not change during depression, Alice’s and her mammy’s descriptions of Luke balance that possibility with its opposite. Ernie’s da, who has the reputation of the town “waster,” (221) sometimes disappears for days, and Ernie hasn’t seen him smile in years (240-241), also fulfilling the criteria of depressed mood and significant impairment in important areas of functioning. At the zoo, Kevin the meerkat wants to chase the Dog with the children, and tells his wife, “That Black Dog has made your life a misery! He has tormented you! He has filled you up with big unhappiness!” (173). Even the troll under the bridge mentions the Dog has “been depressing [his] mammy,” but does not express any details about her illness (212).  And according to Granny, the whole city of Dublin is depressed. When Granny slips and hits her funny bone in the kitchen, she’s also struck by a thought: “The funny bone. That’s what’s after happening. The city’s funny bone is gone. There’s no one laughing anymore” (66). “No one laughing” may be an indication of a depressed mood or lack of pleasure, the second and third listed symptoms of MDD (DSM-5). Doyle makes up for the lack of direct representation by   58  including a variety of second-hand representations, creating a varied depiction instead of a single, more detailed one. The Black Dog is the common denominator in all the children’s (and others’) stories that allows the symptoms to be seen as part of one cause, a mental illness. This technique is effective in forming a profile of MDD as person-specific and able to manifest in a variety of ways, more effective than a single detailed description of someone’s life during a depressive episode would be. In addition, Doyle frames these depressive episodes with time indicators, such as not smiling in months or years (236, 240-241), indicating that for at least some of the children’s loved ones, symptoms have been occurring longer than the two-week minimum for a diagnosis of MDD. One drawback to these second-hand descriptions is the difficulty of showing any inward symptoms mainly observable by the depressed people themselves, such as “recurrent thoughts of death/suicidal ideation,” “diminished ability to think or concentrate,” and “feelings of worthlessness or excessive/inappropriate guilt” (DSM-5). This deficiency is remedied through the child focalizers’ experiences in chasing the Black Dog, where they experience the latter two inward symptoms. Suicide and suicidal ideation or attempts do not overtly occur in the novel, but may be read in two encounters with the Dog where the children want to give up. These encounters are analyzed in the next section, along with descriptions of the symbol itself.    4.4  Analysis of the Symbol of Depression 4.4.1  Descriptions of Symbol In this section, direct characterization (information given through narration or through the children’s dialogue) about the Black Dog of Depression is described and discussed. This includes   59  his (the Dog is referred to with masculine pronouns) physical form and a few general independent actions, as opposed to interactions with the focalizers of the novel. First, his physical form is marked by inconsistency in shape or substance, reflecting the individual nature of mental illness, its intractability, and the way symptoms of depression may wax and wane over time. When he first appears, he is an enormous cloud “that cover[s] the city,” but this doesn’t last long: “Then the black cloud got smaller. Until it was a small cloud that sank lower to the ground, and its shape became doglike and the doglike shape became a dog” (1). This pattern is reversed throughout the novel, as the Dog’s form changes from a dark shadow (98-99) to a solid invisible patch of cold (100-104, 122-123, 127-128), to a solid dog (107, 112-113), and finally a giant dog-shaped fog/cloud large enough to cover the entire city (215). He grows in size throughout the novel from being “a big, ordinary dog,” (112), to “even bigger” (144), to “huge, only a bit smaller than the adult elephants” (169), to enormous: “The Dog’s head lifted slowly to stare right at them. It was colossal, the head, as big as the whole Dog had been when they’d chased him out of Phoenix Park” (187). Finally, the Dog becomes a cloud large enough to “drop down on to the whole city – he was big enough to do it now – and smother it, and all the adults under him” (216). This morphing of sizes and shapes suggests the variety of severity and symptoms people experience with depressive disorders. Like any mental illness, depression is personal; some people’s depressive episodes may last only the minimum two weeks, and some much longer, even years, like Ernie’s da (240-241).  Multiple times, the children lose track of the Dog completely, reflecting the nature of mental illness as an invisible disability, one that is sometimes relegated to the shadows in society due to stigma. When he first enters Dublin, under the cover of night, the Dog’s sneakiness and ability to be silent, even invisible or blending into the shadows, is emphasized: “He slid along the   60  shadows and made no noise at all. He slid and crept and sneaked into houses and flats” (1). The Dog can even become the very air (3).  No matter whether he is invisible or visible, solid or fog, the Black Dog of Depression is both dog and Dog—that is to say, both familiar animal and monster. He exhibits several undesirable characteristics that could be seen in a regular dog but are exaggerated in their effects. His monstrosity manifests in his stinky breath (133, 135, 168-169, 190), gross yellow drool (165), and angry red eyes or eyes like “dark caves” (165, 167); at one point, his hairs become snakes complete with heads and forked tongues (215-216). Besides the cold he constantly exudes (103-104, 108), he also causes other kinds of physical discomfort, such as a roughness or wetness on the skin when he talks (135) and an inability to breathe (199-200). His presence causes the children to feel an oppressive weight (167-168, 195, 204-205). Clearly, this animal is not a pleasant or tame pet to keep in the house. Despite these monstrous attributes, he still acts like a regular dog:  They heard paws going through the grass – and panting. The panting that only dogs make. And they could see the Dog. He barked – he yapped – just before he disappeared into the extra darkness of the trees. He barked like a normal dog, like a dog that liked to play and loved being chased. (127-128) The Dog’s nature as an animal acting on instinct suggests that depression is not actually malicious (though by its nature, the Dog exudes malice toward the children and its victims). It is simply itself and acts by its own laws—the Dog is a dog, and an illness is an illness. Given the chance to lead the children somewhere to play, where does he lead them? To the park, like any other dog. The Dog is an animal, a “freezing, invisible animal…pushing them” with his strong will and cold air (123), like a large Rottweiler might drag its owner down the street on a walk.   61  Depression is likewise both familiar and monstrous to people—everyone knows what it is to feel down and have a low mood for a time, but not everyone knows what it is to experience a major depressive episode, and the difference can be as large as keeping a cocker spaniel or the Black Dog in their home. His dual nature underscores the relatability/unrelatability of MDD. In his influence, the Dog can speak to multiple children at once individually (129-136, 139) and depress an entire city of adults, regardless of the fact they may live across the city from each other (64, 66, 205, 216). He has stolen the funny bone, and therefore the laughter, of the entire city (204-205, 225-226). The Dog’s influence is both specific, as shown through the differences in Uncle Ben’s, Luke’s, and Ernie’s da’s depression, and vast, as all of Dublin has forgotten how to laugh.  Though it is not emphasized within the novel, dogs as harbingers of doom or death are not uncommon in mythology, and like the dog-star, Sirius, or the dogs of Canis Major or Canis Minor, the Black Dog is otherworldly and seems to originate from the heavens in his fog form. While Doyle is Irish, not Welsh, he is likely familiar with Cŵn Annwn, the hounds of the Wild Hunt, whose howls at night were feared as a death omen (MacKillop). Likewise, Doyle does not explicitly make reference to the Dog guarding the entrance of Hades, but in making the Black Dog sprout hundreds of snake heads in the last battle with the children, he is certainly seeking to connect with the image of Cerberus who was depicted as a dog with “a hundred snake[]” heads by the Greek poet, Horace (102). Doyle’s symbol of choice reflects the Black Dog’s role, and thus depression’s role, as a forerunner of death. All in all, the Black Dog is described through direct characterization as an unpleasant, often threatening, somewhat tricky animal, familiar but unfamiliar, with a variable form and strange powers unlimited by proximity or visibility. Depression, seen in this light, is like an   62  animal, with its own laws and influence, with just as much power as the Dog to be both visible in more intense moments and invisible in people’s everyday lives. Symptoms, like the Dog, may change in intensity and sometimes type, making it difficult to spot or fight. It can influence people regardless of age or distance. Its familiarity may lead people to mistake it for a run of bad days, poor sleep, or exhaustion, but it is far more than that.  4.4.2  Interactions Between Symbol and Characters In this section, patterns emerge in how the Black Dog of Depression and the children interact, especially in the Dog’s offensive strategies/tools and in the children’s defensive strategies/tools. The Dog tries to get the children to give up through isolating them from each other, making them feel worthless, or intimidating them. His tools to accomplish this are the cold (103-104, 118-119, 223), his words (mostly the word “useless” and whispers of how they’ve failed) (134-138, 163-164, 215-216), an intense tiredness accompanied by a desire to give up (137-138, 163-164, 223), the children’s fears (130-134), and other forms of physical discomfort. The children, on the other hand, rely on their superior numbers, their humor, and their magic word, “brilliant”; they also use trial and error in order to find the Dog’s weaknesses and stumble into these discoveries as a result of their apparently optimistic natures. In the beginning of the novel, before Gloria, Raymond, and Ernie unite with the other children, the Black Dog is secretive, silent, and invisible, only manifesting in the dark night as a darker shadow or a patch of coldness, and this coldness is the single most consistent indication of the Dog’s presence throughout the novel, just like Rowling’s Dementors in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. The children experience the Dog as “cold, a kind of moving cold, like a freezing, invisible animal was rubbing against them…the cold crawled around them” (100), “like solid, invisible cold” (104). When the Dog is invisible, he is the cold. Cold numbs, and this is   63  one manifestation of a “depressed mood,” or an emotional numbness. If a person is “cold-hearted” or “stone-cold,” their ability to feel love, or other emotions associated with happiness, is stunted. Cold is associated with death, the night, and a lack of sympathy. The children, however, are not “stone-cold,” but rather feel cold from the Dog, so the text does not imply the children are unsympathetic. A scene at the end of the novel supports reading this cold as emotional numbness: when Raymond jumps into the Black Dog cloud to dispel it from inside, he is “[f]reezing. He couldn’t open his mouth – he didn’t have a mouth. He didn’t know where he was – or why he was. He knew nothing” (220). The cold results in numbness, even to the point of non-existence, both physically and mentally. The implied emotional and cognitive numbness of the cold is only the first of many MDD symptoms the children experience in their hunt.  Not only does the cold make the children physically and emotionally uncomfortable, but it is also a tool the Dog uses to direct the children where he wants them—the emotional numbness leads to an even more dangerous situation. In his invisible form, the Dog manipulates them with “cold hint[s]” (104) that seem to “push at them, to make them face the same direction” (103). They lead the children to Phoenix Park where they have their first direct encounter with the Dog in his solid form. Raymond describes Phoenix Park as “darkness, with even more darkness behind it, miles of darkness” (125), where no light comes through the trees. The darkness makes it an opportune place for the Dog to isolate them, where they can’t see the people standing beside them in the dark of the trees at night: “Each of them looked left and right, but saw no one. Each could hear panting and grunts in front and behind them. But in the pitch dark, being grabbed at by twigs and tripped by things on the ground they didn’t want to see and that sometimes seemed to scurry, each of them felt very alone” (129). The cold, or numbness   64  (read emotional numbness), leads the children to a physical location representative of the belief they are alone and of their inability to move/choose freely or see the way forward.   Once the children feel alone, blind, and trapped, the Dog changes tactics from subtle hints to overt attacks on each of the isolated children, combining two of the Dog’s favorite tools: the children’s fears and the Dog’s own words about how useless/worthless they are. The text is unclear on whether the Dog is the direct cause of the children’s feelings of claustrophobia, isolation, and fear, or whether he simply leads them into a place where they will naturally feel these things. Still, he has led them there with his cold hints, and once they enter the park, they are very afraid (129).  In the next five pages, each of the children experience the Black Dog’s effects differently and similarly. Gloria feels “trapped,” alone, and like the undergrowth is trying to trip her (130). Raymond is afraid of the dark, and his desire not to let the younger kids know he fears it makes him reluctant to yell, “Brilliant!” before anyone else does (125). While he stumbles around, he feels like he’s “being grabbed by branches,” and is unable to call out to Gloria, though the text does not specify a reason, stating, “He wanted to shout, to answer Gloria, but he couldn’t” (130). Could this be fear of stigma, of being seen as weak by his sister? Another child, Paddy, is terrified there might be snakes in the darkness (131) and feels stuck:  He couldn’t move. There was something strong pulling the back of his jacket, and his feet were up against something big that he couldn’t see. Paddy could feel it push against his knees, like it was trying to trip him. He was afraid it would move and become one of those huge snakes, a python – a boa constrictor. They ate things whole…Paddy couldn’t move. He couldn’t shout – his throat was too dry and tight.” (132-133)    65  Suzie is lost and can’t see anything; she compares it to “being locked in a cupboard” but more frightening, and she also feels the Dog’s stinking breath on her face (133). She, too, gets stuck (134). All the others were also “lost or stuck, surrounded by things that they couldn’t see. Some of them were so frightened and anxious, they couldn’t remember why they were there. It was like waking up in a bad dream, instead of escaping from it” (134).  As for their similarities, all of them feel stuck. Three of the children, Gloria, Raymond, and Paddy, all feel specifically that some aspect of nature is out to get them, whether undergrowth, branches, or snakes, but Suzie doesn’t mention this. And all of them feel claustrophobic. Both Suzie and Paddy have direct interactions with the Black Dog, yet they each experience the Dog’s presence differently. Paddy feels the Dog trying to trip him, but Suzie feels and smells the Dog’s unpleasant breath. The individual experiences of the Dog’s effects mix here with the general ones (fear and feeling trapped). Paddy and Raymond were individually already afraid of snakes and the dark, but the Dog, or the situation they were led into by the Dog, magnifies those fears.  Again, Doyle expertly incorporates the dual nature of MDD as both having a similar set of symptoms with individual manifestations and combinations of those symptoms, avoiding a stereotype or caricature of “what depression is.”  As a side note, these symptoms of panic and fear sound more like anxiety than MDD. True, anyone led into a dark forest and isolated from their friends by a monster dog would feel similar terror, but anxiety is often comorbid with depression, and as all the children experience similar moments of fear in the park with the Dog, this is not to be overlooked. One study found that about half of all community members who suffered from MDD also suffered from an anxiety disorder, and in primary care, the number was even higher: 75% (Hirschfield 246). Hirschfield hypothesizes that even though recognition of both individual mental illnesses has   66  increased in recent years, recognition of comorbidity lags behind (244), in part because “appropriate diagnosis and treatment of anxiety disorders” are not as common as for MDD, and so a diagnosis of MDD is likely to mask the anxiety (245). Here, while the children’s fear is completely justifiable by their circumstances, it is also possible that symptoms of anxiety are included as a nod to its high comorbidity rate. However, if that is the case, since the Dog is specifically the Black Dog of Depression and not Anxiety, Doyle’s including anxiety-related symptoms perhaps unintentionally reflects the reality of misdiagnosis in comorbidity. Back in Phoenix Park, Gloria’s encounter with the Dog is the most extensive and detailed in the text and reveals the root of the Dog’s strategy, one that gives rise to several different depressive symptoms and proves the most dangerous to the children—making them feel useless. “Useless” is his favorite word and one that encompasses a common symptom of MDD: “feelings of worthlessness or excessive or inappropriate guilt (which may be delusional)” (DSM-5). It also has the strongest effect of the Dog’s arsenal. He begins his attack simply by stating Gloria isn’t worth biting (135). Gloria can feel the voice on her skin, “low and sneering, and kind of wet” (135). This escalates to her being “useless,” and here Gloria notices the voice “came with a stink.” The Dog whispers that even the stink is her fault: “That’s how useless you are. That’s what happens to everything around you. It all starts to rot” (135). At this point, Gloria feels the Dog’s fur, “rough and wet” (135). He whispers again, “useless,” and slides right up to her “swimming around her” in the dark (136). In this moment, Gloria cannot hear or see the other children at all. He suggests, “You’re no good to anyone,” and while Gloria knows it isn’t true, she feels it is and has the idea to lie down (136-137). The Dog whispers it’s a good idea, and she continues in that line of thought: “She’d lie down and escape, close her eyes and drift away, home. She just had to lie down. She just had to close her eyes. She just had to forget” (136). The   67  Dog encourages this line of thought, and Gloria is on her way to the forest floor when she has another idea: “Brilliant,” she whispers (137). This creates a small bit of light, and as she tries again, louder, the Dog retreats, “slouching away” (137). In the new light, she can see him again, that he is “just a big dog, running away. From Gloria” (138). She also realizes the Dog is a liar— “She wasn’t useless” (138).  This exchange is complex and rich for analysis. First, the Dog’s attempts to make Gloria feel useless are successful, up to a point, and she believes him even while she knows it is not true (137). This fulfills the “which may be delusional” provision to the DSM-5’s description of “feelings of worthlessness and exceptional or inappropriate guilt.” In fact, she even feels responsible for the stench of the Black Dog’s breath, that it’s her fault things rot (135), a clearly delusional and inappropriate guilt to the reader’s view. A depressed person may also see a task a healthy person deems simple or easy as difficult or frightening; this sort of perceptive reality is reflected in Gloria’s perception of the Dog as powerful. Her ability to move is hampered by this perception until she sees the Dog more clearly in the light of “brilliant” as “just a dog” (138). Her own ability to fight and her impression of the Dog’s maleficence depends on this changing perception. Gloria experiences the effects of depression, including the delusional beliefs of being useless and ruining the world around her. The text presents the feeling of uselessness/worthlessness/guilt as a root cause of a few other symptoms of MDD. These symptoms of feeling worthless and guilty makes her want to escape, lie on the ground, and forget (136). Her inability to remember the word “Brilliant!” until she’s nearly on the ground can be read as a “diminished ability to think or concentrate” (DSM-5).  She wants to sleep (137), which could be read as hypersomnia or fatigue, two symptoms in the   68  DSM-5. And all three symptoms are caused, in the novel, by Gloria’s belief in the Dog’s words that she is useless.  If read in context with the other two passages where the Dog uses his favorite word on the children, “useless” also has a more nefarious effect than these already listed; it could cause suicidal ideation. In the Phoenix Park section, the first instance, the Dog calls Gloria “useless” in a normal albeit “horrible” voice (135) and also whispers it to her (136). This results in Gloria believing she is useless and feeling like the best choice would be to give up, lie down, maybe go to sleep (137). Sleep is a common euphemism for death. In this case, however, the park’s name, “Phoenix Park,” a real park in Dublin, is optimistically appropriate—those who enter may “die,” but they will rise from their ashes; sleep is only a metaphorical death. On the other hand, hypersomnia is also a symptom of MDD, and the children’s almost-nap in the woods is more likely a straightforward depiction of this symptom rather than disguised suicidal ideation. However, the other two times the Dog wields his favorite word (in the zoo and on the beach), it is not merely spoken or whispered. At the zoo it is howled, a “howl that stayed and became a word that hung there, like poisonous gas” (163), and at the beach, it is “snarled” and the ground seems to shake (215). During these two encounters, each time the Dog speaks it, “USELESS!” is printed in a larger and bolded font, in all caps, to show its volume and increased power. Its effects are likewise magnified. During the zoo encounter, the Black Dog ambushes the children with the howled word “that ripped the zoo apart” (163). Its power is such that “everything was gone. There was just the howl” (163). Even the animals go silent. The children become instantly tired, and by the Dog’s second howl of “USELESS!” they are again sinking to the ground (163). At the third howl, Gloria’s eyes start to sting, she can’t remember the magic word “brilliant,” and she has to sleep.   69  And at the fourth, she believes she is useless and feels too tired to do anything: “Her eyes were so heavy and wet. She had to shut them. Just for a minute. That was all she could do. Because she was useless. She was doing that now, closing her eyes. She was…closing her eyes…now…for…ever” (164). Note the word “for...ever” and the progression of her symptoms’ severity with each howl. Later, at the beach, the Dog is able to get out two “USELESS!”es before Gloria intervenes. She knows, “[i]f they heard the word again, they’d believe what the Dog was telling them. They’d lie down on the sand. The sea would roll over them. One or two of the kids had already started to lie down” (217, emphasis added). Again, the threat increases with how often the children hear useless. These two lines, Gloria wanting to close her eyes forever and later realizing the sea would roll over them if they lay down, are a subtle acknowledgement of the symptom of suicidal ideation. It should be recognized that the passing thought that they could die is not the same as desiring it. But it hints at that kind of thinking in a middle-grade book where talk of suicide is rare (see Chapter 2). Taking these three encounters together (Phoenix Park, the zoo, and the beach), there is a correlation between how often/how loudly the children hear the word repeated and how much it affects them. The threat of sleeping forever or letting the environment do them in is not present in Phoenix Park, where the Dog only whispers the word. There the danger is only that the children will give up their pursuit of the Black Dog and take a nap. Nothing is said about wild beasts eating them up while they sleep or wanting to sleep forever, merely that they are exhausted. In the other two instances, at the zoo and the beach, there’s a clear increase in intensity of symptoms each time they hear the much louder and more powerful “USELESS!” The more often they hear it, the more they believe it, and the more likely they are to give up completely, possibly never to rise again.    70  But the children do not fully succumb to the Dog at any point in the novel; they, too have their methods and tools. The children fight him off through their support of one another, their laughter, the magic word “brilliant,” and their determination, motivated by love for family. These are examined here only their implications about the Dog during his interactions with the children since this thesis is concerned with the symbolic representation of depression rather than an overview of coping mechanisms. First, the children also have a favorite word to use against the Dog: “brilliant.” Whenever the children say, “Brilliant!” in the darkness of the night, the word appears in the air with “gentle, yellow light” (77). It doesn’t last very long (82), and the brightness of the light and power to drive off the Black Dog are correlated to the volume and conviction of the speaker(s) (12, 218, 225), in the same way as “useless.” The Dog reacts to “brilliant” usually with a groan and by moving away. In the end, when Raymond, Ernie, and Paddy say it from inside the Dog-cloud, and all the children on the beach are yelling, “BRILLIANT” together as loudly as they can, the power of the word makes the cloud break up in the sky, letting in “narrow little beams of [sunshine]” (223). It takes repeated united shouting to make a difference (225-227), though in the end, it’s Gloria’s spending her last bit of breath on a tiny last “brilliant” that conquers the Dog: “The word – the light, the tiny bit of desperate happiness – hit the cloud and the Black Dog exploded” (227). This word, or the power behind it, appears to be the key to overcoming the Black Dog. But “brilliant” does not always work the way the children expect. Gloria yells “Brilliant” at the Dog in daylight, and nothing at all happens: “‘Brilliant’ wasn’t working. It was proper daylight now, so ‘brilliant’ didn’t explode into light, the way it had in the night. It was just a word” (187). Gloria realizes when the Dog does not run away this time, but instead charges at   71  them, that “the Black Dog wasn’t afraid of the light. The air was bright and kind of lovely, but the Dog had never looked fiercer. His eyes were huge; the light wasn’t making him squint or cringe. He didn’t care about the light. He never had. Their weapon – ‘brilliant’ – was no good to them” (189). Gloria’s and the other children’s assumptions that “brilliant” worked because of its physical powers of light are here proven incorrect. The word itself is not a magic force the Dog fears and neither is its power to create light. There is another reason the word worked before, one that she soon discovers with help from others. This time, Precious saves them by noticing the Dog’s breath smells like socks, revealing a second power against the Black Dog—laughter. “They couldn’t help laughing, even though they were scared,” and, “just for a second, it…made the Dog seem silly” (190). The children’s laughter stops the Dog, and now when they say the word “brilliant” together, it works again, though the air does not light up (nor does it for the rest of the novel, set now in the early morning; brilliant things are simply more obviously wonderful when set against a dark and dreadful backdrop). The Dog runs away. Alice is the first to make the connection between laughter and the power behind the word, “brilliant”:       “Maybe it’s not just the word,” she said. “It’s what the word means.”       “Yeah,” said Gloria, although she was a bit annoyed; she’d been going to say that. “The Black Dog hates anything brilliant.”       “The Black Dog hates everything brilliant,” said Alice. (192) When the children support one another to notice the things around them that bring them laughter, and then deliberately channel this joy against the Black Dog through the word, “brilliant,” they have power to drive him away.   72  The other strengths the children have against the Dog, two rather Romantic notions of children and childhood, are revealed by animals they meet during their run through the city. Gloria asks a seagull why the animals have been supporting them. “‘Is it not obvious?’ said the seagull. ‘No.’ ‘The Black Dog of Depression hates kids.’ ‘Why?’ ‘You’re the future,’ said the seagull, and she swooped away” (197-198). Being the future is another way of talking about children that emphasizes their unfinished natures, with the ability to become anything. In other words, the children, by nature, are hope, and this is a reason the Dog hates them. A rat on a street corner tells them of another reason the children have power, one Precious unwittingly harnessed: “They started laughing as they ran…‘See?’ said the rat. ‘That’s why the Black Dog hates you.’ ‘Why?’ said Alice. She’d never really spoken to a rat before. ‘Because you’re laughing when you should be crying,’ said the rat” (202-203). The Dog is not afraid of the light or of the word “brilliant” (186-189), but of its meaning (192) and of the potential (197-198) and laughter (190, 193, 202-203) in the children.   A less obvious but more present power the children have over the Black Dog is their support for each other. When Gloria uses the word “brilliant” for the first time in the daylight, she finds it doesn’t work. Precious and Alice hit on the reason behind the word’s magic, but it’s also true that the Black Dog is bigger and badder than ever, and Gloria was trying to use the word alone. When the others join her with their laughter, it works again. From this point on, it takes the entire crew of children moving forward with laughter and hope to make the magic word work. All throughout the story, the children have relied on one another to help each other out of tight spots (as in Phoenix Park), and over walls. They encourage one another and lend each other their strength.    73  4.5  Implications About Depression Because of this novel’s unique set-up with children who are not depressed experiencing depressive symptoms due to the Black Dog’s influence, the implications that can be drawn from this novel on how it portrays depression are somewhat limited—not much can be inferred about how individuals experience depression, but much can be inferred about general symptoms and about ways to cope with those general symptoms in one’s own or in another’s life. Since the children are not depressed, the ways they fight the Dog are a mix of what someone who is depressed could do when experiencing these symptoms and of what someone who is not depressed could do to help others who are. The novel is framed to emphasize the children’s agency and abilities, ones they seem naturally to possess, including optimism, humor, and potential, in a rather Romantic portrayal of young people. The power they have over the Black Dog in their loved ones’ lives is overestimated to say the least.   The novel’s main conflict is the battle between children and a monster, and the traditional outcome of this set-up is the children overcome it, tame it, or find out it is not such a bad monster after all. In this novel, the monster is bad and unable to be reasoned with; it is making their loved ones ill, so overcoming or taming the monster has to be the answer, especially with the author’s focus on the children’s agency and abilities. This monster, however, is a mental illness, and so this novel becomes a cure story, in which thousands of people with a disability are magically healed, a problematic depiction. This effect is mitigated slightly by the novel’s genre as magical realism, its parallel as a St. Patrick’s Day driving-out-the-pest myth (as Saint Patrick did to the snakes), and by a paragraph Doyle adds at the end of the novel: “People still felt depressed sometimes. Of course they did. It was natural. They felt good, they felt bad. They laughed, they cried. They woke, they slept. They walked, they sat, [t]hey lived, they died. They laughed”   74  (245). However, because Doyle follows “felt depressed” with dichotomous pairs of mentally healthy feelings and actions (laughing/crying, waking/sleeping), the implication that MDD still happens is weak, equated with feeling down rather than experiencing mental illness in the normal run of things. MDD is left as an outsider experience, one that is rare and happens only when the Black Dog comes to town. There is criticism of Doyle’s method of curing depression as well; for instance, the implication that MDD can be cured with optimism (Publishers Weekly, “Brilliant”) or that it can be fixed if one is “just determined and ‘brilliant’ enough” (Townsend). Surely the implication that MDD can be chased off by a bunch of children with determination and a magic word, especially in one night, is unrealistic, and Townsend claims “grossly irresponsible.” But on closer inspection, the magic of the word brilliant is not magic at all. It is merely a tool powered by the children’s appreciation for the good things of life, or as Alice puts it, “everything brilliant” (192). It is their happiness the Dog cannot stand, not the magic of a word. This portrayal does, however, feed a common misconception that MDD can be cured through the power of positive thinking and will-power. As regards the time-frame, of course it is unrealistic to suggest that MDD can be cured overnight. Once again, the magical realism of the novel should be kept in mind; Brilliant is not even realistic fiction, let alone nonfiction. As to whether it is irresponsible to portray a cure for depressed adults as dependent on children, the text must be examined further. The children’s determination to save their family members raises questions about how responsible or capable they are, even while inspiring the reader with examples of love and courage. For example, the narrator establishes in the beginning that the children are the only ones who can chase off the Dog: “[The city’s animals] knew there was nothing [they] could do to stop him. Only the city’s kids could do that” (5). The animals’   75  assertions that the children are the future (198) and that they have some special ability to laugh when they should be crying (203), as though they have an immunity against depression, reinforce their responsibility to carry the burden and save the adults. Paradoxically, the symptoms of MDD the children experience in their chase belie this implied immunity. Instead, the plot demonstrates several ways children are affected by depression (though the only child with MDD in the novel is Alice’s older brother, Luke, possibly a teenager, whose age is not given) (162). If the children are the only ones who can chase off the Black Dog, the implication is that the adults cannot. Adults are disempowered here, and completely reliant on the children in their lives. This capability of children implies they also have the responsibility to protect their loved ones from depression—a heavy burden, in particular if they are also susceptible to the influence of the Black Dog, as the plot suggest. It is irresponsible to put the burden of “saving” a loved one on a child, who might already feel responsible for a parent’s irritability or sadness. Children are not responsible for a parent’s or brother’s or aunt’s depression, and they possess neither the responsibility nor the ability to heal them; the plot of Brilliant suggests ability to heal at the most generous reading, responsibility at the most critical. Children may be supportive, patient, and loving to a depressed family member, and this takes some measure of maturity and perspective, but they are not responsible for or capable of curing someone else’s depression, certainly not by reminding them of what in their life is “brilliant” or by telling jokes. This is not to suggest that positive interactions with loved ones cannot be helpful (though such direct supportive interactions between children and adults are missing from Brilliant), but rather that setting them up as a cure instead of as a support may create unrealistic expectations of a young person’s influence on someone else with MDD.   76  On the other hand, there is something to be said for giving a child a sense of capability and hope in a fantasy novel, one that is clearly unreal in its depictions of a depression-dog-cloud and therefore less likely to be transferred to life. Doyle’s ending suggests this hopeful implication as an interpretation of the children’s agential position: “The children knew now that they had power. They smiled their secret smiles when they met, and they pointed up at the sky. When they saw a cloud, a big dark one, starting to form, they gathered together – just a few of them – and shouted, ‘Brilliant!’” (245). The children have learned a few things and gained some power through battling the Black Dog – how to recognize the early symptoms of depression (the big dark cloud starting to form), and that they can deal with these right away. Their method is still magical, and subject to the same criticisms as the mass magical cure, but the children have recognized their own power and continue to use it, a storyline that could express the need children (and all readers) have of learning good mental health hygiene, including the importance of relying on others while acting as their own agents, implied by the way they gather together to shout. Furthermore, the novel has the potential to teach children about MDD – about what it’s like to feel depressed: to be cold, heavy, fatigued, or believe they are useless and should just give up. Doyle’s incorporation of nearly all the DSM-5’s symptoms of MDD avoids stereotyping by presenting each in isolated encounters with the Dog but also in varied depictions of several of the children’s depressed loved ones. He succeeds in introducing depressive experiences without confining them to a single pigeon-holing representation. Instead, the plot emphasizes the stuff of depression and that MDD is both similar and unique for different people. This can build understanding of mental illness’s personal nature and has the potential to help readers’ relationships with depressed people.    77  The children’s reliance on one another also has heartening implications. One of depression’s strongest tools is its invisibility, because as long as people are silent about their illnesses, they will not seek help. But in this novel the Dog’s sneakiness is trumped by the children’s willingness to share their worries. The children share with each other about their loved ones’ experiences, which demonstrates how common depression is. They face their fears together, yelling “Brilliant!,” making each other laugh, reminding each other to keep going. If they didn’t have each other to rely on, there are times the Dog may have won, such as in Phoenix Park. Everyone but Gloria forgets the word, “Brilliant” and is about to succumb to sleep when she remembers it and reminds them (137-138). And later, without Ernie to fly them into the Dog cloud with his vampiric gliding powers, how could Paddy and Raymond help dispel the Dog from the inside (220)? Precious makes the others laugh with her mention of sock-breath (190), and Damien turns his toothache into a reason for mirth by shouting “My head’s a toothache!” at crucial moments (211, 218). Finally, it takes all of them shouting together to make the Dog explode and drop Dublin’s funny bone for the city to reclaim (225). The children are only able to succeed because they do not try to face the Dog alone. Support groups for depressed people and their loved ones exist because of this phenomenon. People need people. Brilliant is effective in portraying how community and unity of purpose can be most powerful allies.  4.6  Conclusion Doyle’s Brilliant has many strengths in its symbolic and direct representations of depression. His chosen symbol, the Black Dog of Depression, is effective in representing MDD. The Dog’s characteristics, such as his changing form and density, invisibility, power over the cold, and nature as something both familiar (dog) and monstrous (Dog) reveal much about the   78  disease—it is intractable, invisible, mild one day and intense the next, personal and vast, related to but far different from being down-in-the-dumps. His arsenal of tools makes people feel emotionally numb and believe it would be better just to lie down and close their eyes because they are “useless.” Likewise, the many child focalizers’ second-hand accounts of depressed family members combine effectively with their experiences of the Dog’s influence to display all nine symptoms of MDD listed in the DSM-5, with the exception of suicidal ideation, which is nonetheless hinted at euphemistically. This impresses the reader with a wide and accurate view of what it may be like to be depressed without being led to believe there is only one way a person experiences MDD. A particularly unique strength of Brilliant is also based in the large number of focalizers—there is no single hero in the fight against the Dog, but rather they are each other’s heroes as the children’s reliance on and support of one another through the long night and morning allows them to succeed. Not to negate these strengths, Doyle’s depiction of the children curing their depressed loved ones remains problematic and somewhat irresponsible, though empowering if not analyzed too deeply. The children, as agents, have power to fight the beast that keeps their loved ones ill, but that the power to do so is inherent in their humor, optimism, and unfinished natures (all rather Romantic conceptions of childhood), both puts an impossible responsibility on the semi-immune children to heal the adults and perpetuates the false belief that positive thinking and hope are enough to cure MDD.  In the next chapter, I analyze Claire Legrand’s depiction of depression in Some Kind of Happiness through her direct and symbolic representations.    79  Chapter 5: Findings: Some Kind of Happiness 5.1  Introduction  In Some Kind of Happiness, Claire Legrand utilizes three main symbols to depict the complexities of eleven-year-old Finley Hart’s depression and anxiety (this analysis will not discuss the implications of anxiety). The plot summary that follows gives background on the structure of the novel, characters, and events in order to make the analysis accessible. Next, Legrand’s portrayal of Finley’s depression through her thoughts and actions is compared with the DSM-5’s diagnostic criteria for MDD. After establishing to what extent depression is depicted directly through Finley’s character, Legrand’s three main symbols representing her illness—the orphan girl’s darkness, the fog, and the Dark Ones—are described and analyzed, both in Finley’s stories and in her life when they begin to bleed into her everyday thoughts, for how they express elements of lived experience with depression. This chapter concludes with a discussion of implications about depression.  5.2  Plot Summary  Some Kind of Happiness has two main plotlines. The first is eleven-year-old Finley Hart’s own life, narrated in first person, and the second is the story of the orphan girl Finley writes in her notebook, printed in italics and narrated in third person. The story of the orphan girl parallels Finley’s own life in fairy tale form and is interspersed throughout Finley’s story, the main plot of the novel.   Finley must stay the summer with her grandparents and the family she’s never met while her parents “work it out,” a phrase she knows means divorce (3). She worries she won’t fit in with her outwardly perfect extended family, not when she knows there’s something deeply   80  wrong with her (her “blue days” (167) and the paralyzing fear that overtakes her sometimes, making it hard to breathe). To cope, she makes lists and writes in her notebook about the orphan girl prophesied either to become queen of the Everwood or to destroy it. Over the course of the summer, she befriends her cousins, allowing them to play pretend with her in the Everwood world, and, together with the “trash” (44) Bailey boys from across the river, they discover the remains of a house fire and three graves in the forest near Hart House. As Finley worries about her parents, tries to earn her perfect grandmother’s approval, hides her friendship with Jack Bailey, and tries to root out the truth behind her father’s estrangement and the Travers fire, the secret of her own “blue days” and paralyzing fear becomes harder to keep. When her grandparents discover the Hart children playing with the Baileys, Fin is labeled a bad influence and sent to therapy. However, Finley finds it impossible to confide in Dr. Bristow, who she feels couldn’t possibly understand. Meanwhile, the Everwood trees are dying, poisoned by a mysterious fog, and the Dark Ones feed off the orphan girl’s inner darkness, mocking her and telling her that everything is her fault. Being crowned queen does not cure her of the darkness spreading inside her or stop it from poisoning the Everwood.  Finley’s grasp on her emotions and thoughts weakens, but her resolve does not, as she, her cousins, and the Baileys dig up the past so the truth can be told and their families can begin healing. Only after Finley runs away to the Everwood in a storm, and after she and Jack save her young cousin from drowning, does the truth of her family’s scars come out, and Finley finally confides her own burdens to Jack, her parents, and her grandmother. The truth of the Travers fire is told. With her parents’ loving acceptance and Dr. Bristow’s professional support, Finley is   81  able to receive the help she needs, and while her “blue days” don’t disappear, the fog leaves and the sun shines again in the Everwood.  5.3  Finley’s Depression in Some Kind of Happiness  Legrand’s portrayal of depression, unlike Doyle’s, is seated in only one first-person narrator, Finley Hart, though there are other characters who exhibit struggles with mental health. This focus on one main character with mental illness through first-person narration prevents the breadth of varied experiences Doyle captures, but allows a deeper, more intimate approach to portraying depression. Filtered through Finley’s eyes, other characters’ internal struggles are unavailable to the reader, but their actions still act as a reminder that all mental health challenges are personal and specific. Finley learns by the end of the novel that her family and friends are as “broken” as she is in their own ways: “This room is full of snobs, secret-keepers, liars, and cowards. We hide our mistakes; we drink too much; we get scared and do things we are not proud of. We feel sad even when it makes no sense to feel sad” (353). In this way Legrand balances out the danger of setting up Finley’s story as the only story of MDD. At 374 regular-type pages, Some Kind of Happiness is much longer than Brilliant’s 248 large-type pages, leaving more space to develop a nuanced character to avoid caricature or stereotyping. Finley experiences all the symptoms listed in the DSM-5, excepting suicidal ideation/attempt, though she wonders momentarily whether she is suicidal (192-193). Out of the nine symptoms, she repeatedly manifests or describes her depressed mood, feelings of worthlessness/guilt, fatigue, insomnia/hypersomnia, and lack of interest in enjoyable activities. Finley’s symptoms also impair her social functioning and, at times, her ability to complete basic physical functions. In addition to these symptoms, Legrand’s portrayal emphasizes the   82  assumptions and thought-processes that reinforce low self-esteem and prevent self-care, including Finley’s tendency toward comparison, her ignorance about MDD as illness, its comorbidity with anxiety, her self-stigma, and the short-term aid and long-term obstacles her coping mechanisms produce. Legrand reveals these symptoms largely through the girl’s own voice, in her first-person narration and role as focalizer. Because of Finley’s love of words and writing, she has developed word-based coping mechanisms, especially reframing her life events and thoughts through her lists and her Everwood stories, thus regaining a sense of control (367). Finley’s metacognition allows the reader a view into less outwardly-observable symptoms, though of course these are colored by Finley’s perception of herself, which is in itself another symptom. In other words, Finley notices many of her symptoms and reframes them through these coping mechanisms; in so doing, she also reveals her low mood and feelings of guilt and worthlessness by the ways she describes and reacts to herself.  One way she reacts to herself is her self-talk, especially in narration, through which Finley reveals her low self-esteem (feelings of worthlessness/guilt). This is especially clear when she compares herself to her outwardly perfect grandmother, aunts, and sometimes cousins, which she does regularly (23, 218, 227) or when she compares her sadness to the sadness of others who seem to have better reasons to feel that way (63-64, 140, 216). She uses these comparisons to motivate herself to feel better through force of will, often using the phrase, “Get it together, Finley” (140, 216). This pattern of comparison leading to either self-motivation (that often fails) or to self-othering can also be seen in Finley’s descriptions of her illness. The girl describes her illness in narration by repeated use of certain phrases and words, most notably, the phrase “blue day(s)” (168, 175, 244) and the words “heav[iness]” (14-15, 110,   83  245, 366), “wrong[ness]” (60, 133, 209, 327), and “sad[ness]” (132, 193, 221). All three show an awareness of her emotions and a lack of understanding about depression as an illness, as well as the effects of depression in her life—particularly symptoms of low mood, feelings of worthlessness, fatigue, and insomnia. They also demonstrate her self-othering, as Finley frequently uses them when comparing herself with others she perceives as normal or better than herself in some way. Finley’s clearest description of her “blue days” is to Jack at the end of the novel. A “blue day” begins with a depressed mood and varies in levels of fatigue or hypersomnia. She says,  I have these things I call blue days…When I get sad for no reason…And I don’t mean normal sad. At all. I mean sad for no reason. Heavy sad. I wake up feeling happy and then anything can happen, or nothing can happen, and all of a sudden, I’m sad, and I can’t stop being sad, even though I want to…Sometimes I pretend to be sick to stay home from school because it feels impossible to get out of bed. (366) Her description uses the term “heavy” to describe her sadness, implying it is a burden to her and also illustrating her difficulty moving during a “blue day.” She also connects the term “blue” with “cold” and being underwater: “…I am sinking into cold, blue water, a blue nothing like the warm music filling the house downstairs” (60-61) and  “…I slip back into that cold, blue water again, and I can hardly move at all” (363). The association with cold matches with that of the Black Dog in Brilliant, but without the clarity as to what it means that she feels cold. As in Brilliant, it refers to her emotional numbness (“a blue nothing” (60)), but Finley’s body is also affected and she can “hardly move at all” (363). Being underwater makes it hard to breathe, a feeling Fin associates with her mental illness (perhaps through its comorbidity with anxiety) and also hard to move, if one “sink[s]” rather than swims (60). This fits with a bullet in a list she   84  writes in her notebook under “WHAT I AM AFRAID OF”: “My blue days, when I feel like I am stuck underwater, where everything is slow and cold” (168).  Finley refers to her depression as “heavy” or “heaviness,” when describing her psychomotor retardation, fatigue, low mood, and feelings of worthlessness (DSM-5), and also to describe how she feels her illness is a burden. It is also used when she compares herself with others. First, she describes her difficulty moving (psychomotor retardation and fatigue) as “heaviness.” Early in the novel, Finley pretends to be asleep rather than reveal to her grandmother that she didn’t brush her teeth or wash her face, “not because I am lazy but because I couldn’t. It was physically impossible. My body was too heavy to move” (61). After being dropped at Hart House by her parents, Finley lies on the bed in the guestroom musing on three different ways she feels “heavy,” one of which is her inability to move:  My head is so heavy, I can’t lift it from the pillows on this bed that is not mine…This is a room for a princess, and I am anything but that. What am I? A lump of heaviness. A stranger. A thing that does not fit. I can’t seem to stop the poison inside me from spreading. (I mean, I’ve never been poisoned, so I am only speculating.) (But I do feel something spreading inside me, something heavy and dark.) I can’t let them see it. They can’t know my secret. (14-15) Here, Finley describes three levels of heaviness, introducing two other meanings of “heavy” alongside (1) an inability to move her head: (2) her whole self (not just her body) is a “lump of heaviness” and (3) “something spreading inside” her is “heavy.” She again struggles with movement (fatigue), but her self-identification as “a lump of heaviness” goes a step further, depreciating herself into something that would be a burden for others to lift and demoting herself from a person to a “lump,” a sign of self-othering and low self-esteem.    85  Furthermore, she identifies not only her being and body as “heavy,” but also the “wrongness” she senses in her own emotions, compared with a “poison…heavy and dark.” The “wrongness” of her feelings does not only spread inside her like poison, but its weight (or heaviness) also shapes her. After an embarrassing moment at dinner when she uses the wrong fork, Fin laments, “I am afraid that if I open my mouth, the wrongness inside me will come gushing out…The wrongness of the tight, jumbled knot that is my insides. And how heavy it feels. And how it is pulling and pushing and molding me like clay” (23). The “wrongness” is also “heavy” in both of these excerpts, a burden that she carries, to the point that she feels it “mold[s]” her. In all of these excerpts, Finley’s use of the terms “heavy” or “heaviness” reveal symptoms of depression: fatigue and psychomotor retardation, her low mood, and her feelings of worthlessness. However, they do more than this; they also reveal how she feels about her illness—that it is “wrong,” that it is a burden, and that it weighs on her enough to influence her character and choices (“pulling and pushing and molding me like clay”) (23).  Finley’s connection between “heaviness” and “wrongness” begs analysis of her words “wrong” and “wrongness.” When describing herself with these terms, she further reveals the depth of her feelings of worthlessness and otherness, again through comparison. During the dinner fork incident, instead of laughing or shrugging off her embarrassment, she disengages from conversation out of a fear that the “wrongness inside me will come gushing out. The wrongness of using the incorrect fork. The wrongness of not knowing that Grandma [sitting down] is the key [to start eating]. The wrongness of the jumbled knot that is my insides” (23). Here she conflates the “wrongness” of not knowing household norms with the “wrongness” of her illness—a quick spiral from I did an embarrassing thing to I am full of wrongness. She feels this wrongness is a character flaw, something that will come “gushing out” her mouth if she   86  speaks, rather than a mistaken social choice. Her self-esteem is so low that she identifies with the sweaty fingerprint smudge she leaves on her crystal glass: “That is me. My aunts and uncles, my grandparents, my beautiful, beautiful cousins—I am a smudge on their glass” (23). In this she has taken the final step toward self-stigma, from I am full of wrongness to I am wrong and unworthy of belonging, a sense that interferes with Finley’s social functioning within her family, matching the DSM-5’s description of “significant distress or impairment in…important areas of functioning.” This self-stigmatizing thought pattern of doing something wrong translating to being “wrong” appears even when Fin has no audience to witness her embarrassment or with whom to compare herself. When she recognizes the wood nearby as the true Everwood, superior to her imagination, she feels her previously written stories are “all wrong” and again interprets her mistake (if it can be called that) as a character trait: “I didn’t know what I was doing, like I was just a silly kid playing make-believe. Before long these thoughts are so loud they start to feel true: I am just a silly kid playing make-believe. I don’t know what I am doing. I am all wrong” (60). Unlike the case with the dinner incident, Finley recognizes that her thoughts are not true to begin with, else there would be no room for them to “start to feel true.” She knows her thoughts are irrational, but the idea she is “silly,” ignorant, inexperienced, and “wrong,” resonates with her established thought pattern. The thoughts become “loud,” suggesting they played on repeat. Finley’s lack of audience confirms her feelings of worthlessness are not dependent on comparison with others. Instead her low self-esteem is reinforced by habit of thought. Again she takes a small mistake, from doing to being “wrong,” feeding into her habit of self-othering. When describing her illness as “sad” or “sadness,” Finley compares her emotions with those of others she believes have earned their sadness, thus revealing a source of her low self-  87  esteem: that she does not believe she deserves her sadness. After she learns of the Travers fire tragedy, in which a man survived his wife and child by only two days, Fin imagines her own sadness is “nothing compared to what [Frank Travers] must have been feeling, or what [Aunt] Stick must have felt when her husband died” (132). As a result of these comparisons, she concludes, “I have no right to my sadness when there are dead families and burned houses” and that her moments of sadness, when she “could not smile, when [she] felt heavy and pushed down. Nights when [she] could not sleep. Mornings when [she] could not wake up” are “small,” even “pathetic” (132). Fin believes her reasons for her feelings don’t match their magnitude. Her lack of understanding about her sadness as illness prevents her from understanding that her sadness has sufficient reason. And then because of her low self-esteem, she self-others, excluding herself from the group that deserves sadness and therefore sympathy. Fin continues this trend of comparing her “sadness” and “right” to it (132) with her grandmother, who has cancer. Her narration continues the pattern of comparison and lack of understanding about depression leading to invalidating her emotions: “What must it feel like to have a poisonous disease growing inside you, eating you up bit by bit? Surely it feels a lot worse than feeling sad. Sadness is for people who have cancer” (267). There is a special irony in this one – Finley symbolically represents her sickness as a poison in her Everwood stories (14-15), and while it is not the same as a cancer, depression is a disease, and both cancer and depression can have fatal outcomes, as poison. In both the Travers fire instance and with her grandmother, Finley exposes her assumptions that emotions are comparable from one person to another, and that to feel sadness, there must be a reason proportionate to the sadness, or else it has not been earned and something is wrong. She follows this line of logic to the conclusion that if she does not have a reason for her “sadness,” she is undeserving and should not feel what she feels – i.e.,   88  she herself is wrong. Her low self-esteem and mood arise in part from these assumptions of emotional comparison and requiring a reason (outside of her illness) for her sadness.  It should also be noted that “sadness” and “depression” are different in meaning. Finley can only understand herself in familiar terms, so calling MDD “sadness” is not Legrand’s mistake, minimizing MDD, but rather a reminder of Finley’s lack of knowledge about depression, or at least its terminology and how to recognize it. This same misunderstanding – “sadness” as only emotion – is demonstrated on one of Finley’s blue days, when she is lying immobile in bed, thinking, “If only it were some kind of sickness. Maybe I could take medicine or undergo a radical experimental surgery. Something to cut the sickness out. But it isn’t that. It is sadness. No reason to be sad. So many rational, listable reasons to not be sad. (I have listed them). And yet it remains inside me” (189-190). Finley’s lack of knowledge about mental illness prevents her from understanding her “sadness” is a symptom of illness, and that there are, as she wishes, ways to relieve her symptoms. She underplays her illness because she believes it is nothing more than emotion, but since she perceives its difference, she concludes it is wrong.   Besides Finley’s verbal cues, the reader sees other symptoms in her day-to-day life. For instance, Legrand represents Finley’s depressive symptoms of hypersomnia/insomnia as heavily intertwined with both her anxiety and MDD, in the process signifying how each of her illnesses may affect the other. During her panic attack/thought spiral in front of the Bone House, Finley lists “[n]ights when I could not sleep” and “[m]ornings when I could not wake up” directly after “[d]ays when I could not smile, when I felt heavy and pushed down” (132), linking her sleep problems with her depression. However, that same night, Finley can’t fall asleep, but more because of her anxiety than her depression. She blames her thoughts, which are “spinning and spinning. I think of being buried, and being buried alive, and being burned alive, and Hart House   89  falling down around me, and what my parents are doing…and and and My brain just will not stop” (134). In this instance and others, her insomnia is linked to her panic attacks and racing thoughts more closely than to her MDD (229, 275).  Still, Legrand does not leave things so neatly categorized. Finley’s next instance of hypersomnia is linked to both her depressive symptoms and her anxiety, showing how they can affect each other. During her sleep the night after she is crowned queen of the Everwood by her cousins and friends, Finley wakes up to panic. Covered in sweat, heart pounding, feeling heavy with sadness and fear despite the fun night she’s just had, she is found by her teenage cousin and grandmother kneeling by the toilet and trying to throw up (184-186). She is so embarrassed and exhausted by this that she sleeps most of the next day and only moves when forced to by her bodily needs: “What do you do when you wake up in the middle of the night, in a house that is not yours, and lose yourself to the strange sadness and fear inside you worse than you ever have before, and humiliate yourself in front of your most terrifying family members? If you are me, you sleep. A lot” (189). Finley’s reaction to her panic attack includes two symptoms of depression: hypersomnia and a loss of interest or pleasure in regular activities (190-191, 192). She eats only “because [she] know[s] [she] must eat” (192), but with the caveat, “I am eating it like a car consumes gasoline. I am not sure I actually taste it” (193). Legrand depicts Finley’s comorbidity of anxiety and depression as influencing one another and having overlapping symptoms like hyper- and insomnia.   Perhaps the most original facet in Legrand’s portrayal of a depressed young person is the girl’s coping mechanisms, most notably her Everwood stories, which give Finley a sense of control. Other coping mechanisms include her self-talk (“I am not sad” (221), “I am a queen” (334)), distraction/avoidance, emotional distancing, and pure willpower (“I will make it go   90  away” (192)). All of these prove insufficient for healing, since they are all aimed at allowing Finley a sense of control over her feelings or her secret, which backfires. This control is illusory, or at least temporary, because she requires help, which means sharing her secret pain with the adults. In spite of their inadequacy for healing, each mechanism still fulfills Finley’s short-term needs at different points in the story. By portraying a young girl as capable of developing so many useful coping strategies, Legrand acknowledges her resilient and creative spirit; by showing they are not the right tools to help Finley become well, the author declares the seriousness of MDD and need for community support and professional help.  The best example of this two-edged effect of coping mechanisms is the Everwood. The Everwood gives her a place to create, explore/vent her feelings and thoughts, and imagine things as different than they are (such as imagining herself as a queen). After her parents leave her at Hart House in the beginning of the novel, Fin narrates, “I wipe my face with tissues I find on my nightstand, unroll my notebook, and begin to write. The Everwood won’t leave me. The Everwood is always right here, in my notebook, on these straight lines. The Everwood is one thing I can always understand” (16). She describes its influence on her using words that evoke control (“straight lines”) and comfort (“won’t leave”, “right here”, and “always understand”). In this case, writing is helpful. She misses her parents and feels uncertain, so she writes to distract and comfort herself. However, in Finley’s reliance on this outlet, she feels a false sense of control over her depression and anxiety. As she tells Jack, after explaining to him about her blue days and panic attacks, “That’s how I came up with the Everwood. I started writing about it to make myself feel better” (366). Her objective in this first example is just that – to make herself feel better – which writing can accomplish for homesickness.    91  But the Everwood cannot do everything she wants it to do for her. After Mom sidesteps her questions about her grandparents, Finley is annoyed at the lies and secrets of adults in her life. Again, she turns to the Everwood: “This late, the Everwood crawls with shapes and shadows, but I am not afraid of them. Those shadows belong to me. I know just how they feel on my skin and in my hair and under my bare feet. My Everwood may have secrets, but it never lies. Not to me” (180). The Everwood’s consistent support is temporary comfort, but it does not change the underlying issue of feeling blocked and untrusted by the adults. That remains unresolved until the end of the novel, when many truths are told. In the same way, the Everwood cannot resolve the issues underlying her depression. It can help her with momentary frustrations, such as only getting one hour of sleep: “Not that it matters. I wrote three Everwood stories and creative expression is salubrious. (Ten-letter word: ‘healthy, beneficial, invigorating.’)” (266). But the Everwood will not help Finley get the help that she needs for wellness as long as she uses it as a way to keep her illness a secret. As her father says when she finally opens up to him, “You can’t hide in the Everwood anymore, sweetie…There are lots of ways to help you with this. But we’ve got to try together. Okay?” (368-369). Finley’s self-talk and other coping mechanisms also work to help her in the moment but prevent care-seeking for long-term health. Legrand’s depiction includes healthier supports than Finley’s coping mechanisms: family acceptance and friendship are strong indicators of her wellbeing, even before they learn about her illness. When Avery helps Fin sneak the cousins out for a secret midnight party with the Baileys, Fin narrates, With [Avery] beside me, everything is okay. Our shared secret knowledge sits between us, invisible, tying us together. It does not seem so terrible that Grandma has cancer, that Dad is not here. Everything feels beatable and not quite real…There is no reason for me   92  to be afraid. The night spins on and on, like it was made for us. We are wild Everwood creatures, and this is our kingdom. (291) Being surrounded by the people she loves in an accepting atmosphere makes her feel empowered and that “everything feels beatable.” Likewise, at the end, after a painful hashing-out of intergenerational secrets with her family and the Baileys, Finley still feels over-the-moon when her grandmother tells Mr. Bailey, “My Finley is a queen” (355): “Her Finley. Hers. On this couch I am weightless. I want to live inside this moment forever” (355). Here, Grandma replaces the Dark Ones’ possessive “ours” (283) with real connection and love through her “my.” Like most children, most people, Finley has a great need for belonging, especially with her family, and it is this support over time that makes her feel she can tell them about her illness (368, 373).   Legrand’s depictions of a young person experiencing mental illness matches the description in the DSM-5, more particularly emphasizing the symptoms of low mood and feelings of guilt/worthlessness revealed through narration and comparison. While her coping mechanisms are helpful to Finley in the short-term, they are aimed at giving her a sense of control and keeping her illnesses a secret, thus isolating her from the help she needs. Her self-othering and isolation are mitigated by the love of her friends and family, but only when she is honest with them about herself is she able to begin healing with their support and that of her therapist. In the next section, the three central symbols of Finley’s depression are described and analyzed.      93  5.4  Descriptions and Analysis of Symbols 5.4.1  Introduction  Unlike Doyle, Legrand does not embody depression in only one central symbol, but has developed several strategies for getting at the lived experience of a person with MDD, in part through three main connected symbols in Finley’s Everwood stories – the orphan’s inner darkness, the fog, and the Dark Ones – each demonstrating different facets of experience with depression through its descriptions and the way Finley and her character (the orphan girl) interact with it. When taken together chronologically, the three symbols build on one another, progressively representing Finley’s growing self-stigma (the belief that she is lacking or inferior because of her illness). The least harmful of the three symbols is the girl’s inner darkness, simply described as sadness (8) and fear (84), that she is afraid to name (50, 85). According to the animal guides, the Dark Ones will continue to come for her and the Everwood is dying because she will not face her darkness directly (84-85). These consequences do not result from the darkness but from her unwillingness to look at it, name it, and admit it is a part of her so she can get help. As time goes on, this results in her inner darkness leaking out to become the poisonous fog (230-231) (more harmful than her inner darkness, which only creates fear and sadness) and draws the Dark Ones (self-stigma) to her to feed on her darkness and the fog that emanates from her (283-284).  5.4.2  The Inner Darkness First, the orphan’s/queen’s inner darkness is the most obvious and direct symbol Legrand uses to demonstrate Finley’s experiences with mental illness. When she first arrives in the Everwood, the girl’s darkness is invisible, identified by the trees as a “great sadness” that the orphan girl carries “inside her” (8), something that has had no effect except to make the orphan   94  girl sad. The sadness’s placement “inside her,” and thus its hiddenness, hearkens to depression’s nature as an invisible disability. However, the orphan’s darkness does not stay hidden. In an attempt to help her, the snake sucks some of it out of her gut through her mouth and spits it in her hand, so she can see it. Here Finley writes a physical representation of her sadness for the first time—it is a “coil of darkness” lodged deep inside the orphan that, when held in her hand, looks like a “slick, wriggling lump” (50). When thrown aside in shame and fear, the lump acts first as a solid, “roll[ing] through the mud,” and then as a gas, “spitting smoke, until it, too, crumbled into ash and drifted away on the wind” (50). This change in form, even changing phases of matter (from solid to gas), captures the inconsistency of depression’s manifestations. A person experiencing a major depressive episode may have good days and bad days, some symptoms manifesting at one time and others at another.  By the time she’s been crowned queen, the girl’s inner darkness has spread inside her body, now visible under her skin, over her heart, without her realizing the extent to which it has grown. In this dire situation, the crow comes to ask her to leave the Everwood and take her darkness with her (203). The queen refuses but asks how she can stop the Dark Ones, whose nightly howls have been coming much closer. In answer, the crow moves her collar aside to reveal “[t]here, over her heart, beneath her skin, roiled a shifting darkness,” which the crow attempts to extract from her by pecking at it, pulling out “strings of darkness like tar from a pool” (204). But when the crow begins “to gasp and heave,” the queen pushes it away to save it from harm. The crow’s explanation is cut off by the queen refusing to accept that the darkness is part of her: “It hurts me only because you are fighting me…Do not be afraid of yourself. We are all both light and dark. We are both joy and—” (204-205).    95  This exchange, and the darkness’s changing form, give more insight into Legrand’s depiction of Finley’s MDD. The darkness’s move from her gut into her heart is reminiscent of a spreading infection or a cancer metastasizing, which is exactly what the queen fears—that her secret will escape her control (15). The queen’s horror at its appearance makes her “recoil” and “shudder[] to look at this thing inside herself” (204), again revealing a level of self-stigma related to her depression as well as her inability to actually help herself; if she cannot even look at the darkness or accept that it is part of her, then how can she hope to become well? In this passage, Finley uses powerful, energetic words to describe the darkness – “roil[ing]” and “shift[ing]” – bringing to mind a storm, the ocean, or some other strong natural force. To Finley, her depression is not just something that dulls existence or makes it hard to want to play with her friends; it is active, mystical, and forceful. Even so, the queen’s surprise at seeing it spread suggests its progress is slow enough that she might need help to recognize changes. The darkness’s new location and changed consistency also add insight into Finley’s depression. Its position beneath her skin and above her heart is metaphor—the darkness is part of her (under her skin) and also strongly associated with or inhibiting her emotions (above her heart). The darkness is now a semi-liquid, stringy and “like tar” but pooled over the queen’s heart. Again, it shows an inconsistency in phase: something that clings to itself like tar, a sticky liquid, but also something that moves on its own with intense energy, more like a free-flowing liquid or gas. Its tar-like consistency reflects the lethargy and fatigue of Finley’s blue days, when she feels stuck, and the way it clings to itself evokes depression’s self-perpetuating nature. For instance, a symptom like inappropriate guilt (caused by MDD) can intensify low self-esteem as Finley, or any depressed person, internalizes others’ problems as her own; this could increase   96  other symptoms, such as depressed mood or fatigue, as the burden of shame is added to the already heavy weight of illness. Overall, the orphan girl’s inner darkness in all its changing forms demonstrates Finley’s lived experience of depression in a few ways. Out of the three symbols, this is the only one housed inside the orphan/queen’s body, emphasizing the nature of mental illness as experienced personally and mainly affecting the individual with the mental illness, as well as implying that depression is biologically or chemically based. Legrand further establishes Finley’s MDD as changeable, growing, self-perpetuating, and active. 5.4.3  The Poisonous Fog Legrand’s next symbol of Finley’s MDD, the fog, is not the same as the girl’s inner darkness; this is established at the very end of the novel, where Finley writes that “[t]he fog had gone from the forest, leaving everything fresh and new,” but the queen “[still] carried her sadness inside her,” and “would no longer have to hide herself, or face the darkness alone” (373). Despite the girl’s darkness remaining (as she still must face it) (363-364), the fog has vanished. The inner darkness is not dependent on the fog, but the fog is directly connected to the girl’s darkness, leaking from the dark mass in the queen’s chest to fill the entire Everwood (231). The fog is the least consistent of the three symbols, but can help to represent facets of depression the girl’s inner darkness does not, such as its omnipresence, its effects on the world around her, its abilities to change how she experiences the world, and her own lack of control. This symbol demonstrates Finley’s lived experiences both in representing how Finley feels her depression affects her (manipulating perception, making it hard to breathe, preventing her from appreciating beauty and replacing it with unappealing slime) and also how she feels she might affect the   97  world around her because of her illness, another expression of her “feelings of excessive/inappropriate guilt” (DSM-5).  The reader is first introduced to the fog after Finley is grounded from being with her cousins and has started to see a psychologist, Dr. Bristow (225). She writes that one morning, the queen looks out the window because she thought she saw a “crow-shaped shadow,” but instead sees “fog, thick and deadly like smoke. It seeped through the walls of the Great Castle and settled in the queen’s blood. It sat heavily on the branches of the Everwood trees, and coated the abandoned watchtower with gray slime. The air in the Everwood turned rancid and sour. With every breath she took, the queen’s lungs burned” (230). She assumes that the fog is a result of “whatever had been [killing] the trees…getting worse,” and forms the resolve to find its origin and heal the Everwood (230). But she is unpleasantly surprised at its source. As she “clawed” through the fog,  a sharpness in her chest tugged, sending spikes of pain through her body. She looked down, gasping, and saw thin spools of darkness seeping out of the place over her heart. The darkness unfurled into the fog, twisting, growing. And the imprisoned queen understood: This fog was not natural, nor was it evil magic. It was her. The darkness inside her had escaped. It was no longer a secret, and it would never be again. (230-231) The queen’s fear has been realized: her secret is out. This matches Finley’s feelings about having to see a psychologist and being identified as different or a problem by her own aunts and grandparents (208). Finley is afraid her secret will get out, and the way the fog acts gives insight into how she feels it would affect the people around her, like the trees of the Everwood. This fog is both like and unlike the fog used to symbolize depression in The Princess and the Fog by Lloyd Jones. In both stories, the fog acts to obscure vision, just as depression skews   98  perception. But in Some Kind of Happiness, the fog is more than a smokescreen or dampener, interfering with pleasure (though it also fills these roles). It is actually toxic, affecting the entire Everwood and making it painful for the queen to breathe, “burn[ing]” her lungs (230). Jones’s fog is dark, grows gradually over time, and causes the princess to feel her life has lost its luster; it affects only the princess directly. On the other hand, Legrand’s fog is “thick and deadly like smoke” and appears suddenly, overnight. In addition, the fog also “[sits] heavily on the branches of the Everwood trees” (230), affecting life around her. She often uses the term “heavy” to describe her MDD (23); here it is clear she thinks her depression is heavy to others as well, influencing a world she otherwise finds beautiful. Since Finley writes the queen as the source of the fog, it’s clear she sees herself as a source of unpleasantness, even to the point of believing her presence is toxic like the poisonous fog. Again, this is a much more active depiction of depression’s influence than Jones’s fog, which only affects the princess’s mood and enjoyment of life. However, it is clear that Fin’s self-perception is darker than reality. Her illness confounds her family members, but it does them no harm, only frustrates their understanding and attempts to connect with her (208-209).  Another difference between Jones’s fog and Legrand’s is the result of the fog on the depressed character’s vision. The princess’s fog does not obscure her actual vision, only makes things seem sad and pleasureless; however, in the queen’s case, the fog prevents her from seeing the crow (a friend/helper) through the window: “A crow-shaped shadow darkened her window, but when she went to look, all she could see was fog” (230). In this way, the fog prevents the queen from asking for help. This may represent how a person with depression may not believe that help is available to them, or if it is offered, they may not recognize it as such. This function of the fog also corresponds to what Corrigan et al. learned about stigma’s interference with help-  99  seeking behaviors among people with mental illness (“Impact,” 43-46) and that avoiding the topic, as the orphan avoids naming or facing her inner darkness (50, 85), results in increased stigma (“Impact” 1, “Challenging” 969). Likewise, the fog in Brilliant is different from Legrand’s fog, though they share similarities. While outwardly they appear the same (gray, omnipresent, dark), they have different effects. Doyle’s fog is cold and wet; Legrand’s hurts to breathe and covers things in slime. In Brilliant, the fog is the Dog, who causes depression; in Some Kind of Happiness, the fog does not cause depression but is symptomatic of the queen not facing her inner darkness and symbolizes several effects of MDD in Finley’s life. For example, the fog’s omnipresence reflects how Finley’s MDD affects her every day life. It leaves a layer of “gray slime” on the watchtower and permeates brick and mortar, “seep[ing] through the walls of the Great Castle” (230). No fortress or defense keeps it out or prevents it from making everything gray, ugly, and slimy—words that describe a lack of pleasure in previously pleasurable activities. Likewise, Finley’s depression touches every aspect of her life, and she has been unable to find a way to keep it out. It affects her when she is playing with her friends and cousins, when she is in therapy, when she is with her family, and when she is helping her grandmother in the community. This fog is no mere water vapor, but a substance that hides or poisons both the beautiful (trees, castle) and the necessary (air), just as MDD can interfere with both enjoyment and functionality.  As with the girl’s inner darkness, Legrand uses this symbol’s physical makeup to communicate Finley’s depressive experiences. The fog turns the air itself “rancid and sour,” making it difficult, unpleasant, even painful for the queen to breathe. Breathing may be equated with living. For many people, one symptom of MDD is suicidal ideation and attempt. Like many   100  other children’s authors, Legrand shies away from her young character attempting or planning suicide, but gives the symptom a one-time nod by letting Finley ponder on whether she is suicidal or not: “I have heard of such things as ‘suicidal thoughts.’ Sometimes I have even examined my sadness with that in mind: Are these suicidal thoughts? Do I want to die? No. Do I want to hurt myself? No. I am simply sad. So it isn’t that” (192-193).  Then, if Finley has heard of “such things,” why hasn’t she heard of depression? There is only enough information for speculation, but if she thought that depression always includes suicidal ideation, it would be understandable for her to dismiss MDD as a possible explanation for her sadness. It is also possible she may have some knowledge of stigma associated with mental illness and (subconsciously or not) refuse to consider the possibility. Legrand has portrayed a girl who, on her blue days, finds it difficult to care what people say to her (227), only eats because she must (192-193), and can hardly get herself out of bed (265); these symptoms not only interfere with some of her life’s most pleasurable activities (eating and playing with her cousins and friends outside), but also make life difficult and sometimes painful, as she listens to her thoughts tell her she doesn’t belong, that people are better off without her. And yet, Finley is unable to make the connection between these experiences and MDD because she misunderstands what the illness entails.  Overall, Legrand’s symbol of the poisonous fog is best able to communicate Finley’s fears of how she may affect those around her, her MDD’s omnipresence, its interference with her enjoyment of life, and her lack of control over it. More than affecting only Finley as the inner darkness does, the fog communicates her fears of harming others through its effects on the Everwood. Its ability to be everywhere, coating everything and seeping through castle walls, emphasizes its presence in every facet of life. Fin’s frustrations with her illness’s interference in   101  life are further represented by the fog’s poisonous effects and ability to obscure both help and beauty, while her lack of control over its spread mirrors her increasingly poor grasp on her illness. 5.4.4  The Dark Ones  The most compelling and potentially problematic symbols of Fin’s depression are the Dark Ones, three sentient, voiced monsters who act as one, representing most obviously her inner voice and self-perception as affected and amplified by her mental illness. As the Black Dog do to the children of Dublin, the Dark Ones mock her, tell her she’s the problem, and undermine her confidence, often putting Finley’s fears about herself, her situation, and others’ opinions of her into words (310, 312). They reinforce self-othering whenever they can. Like the other symbols, their descriptions and actions carry much symbolic meaning in Legrand’s depictions of lived experience with MDD. Unlike the fog, the Dark Ones do not appear overnight, and they do not originate from the orphan girl/queen’s inner darkness though they are connected. Instead, long before the she meets them, she hears them from a distance, howling in the night (84-85, 108, 264) and drawing closer over time (84-85). Finley describes these howls as “hungry and fierce” (204), “eerie…ravenous, impatient” (255), and “unending” (227). The first time she hears them, after her first conversation with the snake, the girl feels the darkness inside her respond, “restless, as though her secret were a beast and those howls were waking it up” (51). Their proximity increases over time. When she meets the fox, they are “closer than they had ever been” (85), and by the time she meets the crow, the howls sound so close, “[s]he expected to see bared teeth and glowing eyes” behind her (204). In making the howls approach as the girl refuses to face her inner darkness, Legrand not only increases the reader’s anticipation to meet the Dark Ones but also   102  illustrates Fin’s lack of control or understanding in how or why her illness worsens as she watches it happen. This helplessness is something that is not described in the DSM-5 as a symptom, but that Legrand’s symbol portrays well. Finley often speaks of her illness as a “poison” spreading inside her (230, 322-323), and she communicates this feeling both in words and in symbols as the Dark Ones come closer to the queen.  Finley’s depression and anxiety intensify her fears and self-stigma, making it even more difficult for Fin to rely on others’ help. This is also seen through the Dark Ones’ possessiveness, calling her “ours” (283) and actively interfering in the queen’s conversations with others. When she first encounters the blind seer, the woman offers the girl help, which she refuses, asserting she does not need anyone’s help and knows that she needs to take the Dark Ones out of the forest to save the Everwood (283). In response, the seer offers a gift of food, which the Dark Ones “slap[] away” (284), and then offer substitute nourishment:  “The queen is hungry! The queen needs to eat!” They tore chunks of fog from the air and spooned it into the queen’s mouth. She ate greedily.  They clawed at her heart, drew out fresh spools of darkness, and devoured it. The queen lost her footing and struggled to breathe.  The seer watched, unblinking.  “We feed her; she feeds us!” the Dark Ones cried. “A queen, a queen, a delicious queen!” (284) In this interaction, the queen refuses help by her own will, but the Dark Ones prevent her from receiving the food she requires for proper nourishment. The queen instead accepts the Dark Ones’ offering that will fill her, but will not nourish. This is just like how, because of Finley’s desire to do things herself and not be seen as different or a burden, she relies on her short-term   103  coping skills, listens to her fear telling her people won’t accept or understand her, and is trapped in a cycle, feeding her own self-stigma as the queen’s fog feeds the Dark Ones. They also prevent her from receiving help from the seer later on (320-321) and from the ghost of the wizard (313-314), even to the point of stealing her voice (313). The Dark Ones’ physical attributes also reflect how Finley experiences depression. She describes them as clawed creatures, “shaped like humans, but with no eyes and no noses—only gaping mouths. Their bodies [are] made of shadow. Their horns curved like scythes” (272). The Dark Ones’ shapes mimic those of human beings but also share qualities associated with predators: horns, claws, and “gaping” mouths. Their horns are only mentioned once, here in their first description, evoking Christian imagery of demons and devils, but they have no practical use in the plot except to add to their terrifyingly powerful appearance. More useful are their claws, used to torture Finley when she is feeling particularly worthless or helpless (273, 294, 320), and their mouths, used both to feed on the queen’s darkness and to deride and undermine her efforts to fight back. The personification of mental illness in the Dark Ones’ sentient shape of demons, with personality and goals, may have the unintended implication that those with mental illness are victims of some intentional power, and one that is stronger than they are, instead of people experiencing an imbalance in their body chemistry. Unlike the Black Dog, whose animal form and behaviors suggest less of an agential intention and more instinctual response, the Dark Ones’ almost-human form makes depression seem purposeful, perhaps hearkening to the days when mental illness and neurodiversity were believed to be the work of the devil or a punishment from deity. The deal they make with Finley, her friends for her soul, falls into the demonic archetype as well, reinforcing the superstitious reading of depression (273). Remembering that the   104  Everwood is Finley’s creation clarifies this choice, though the subtlety might be missed by less careful readers. The Everwood reveals Fin’s biases, confusion, and ignorance about herself. In that ignorance, the girl wonders whether her depression is a punishment for something she has done or something she has yet to do (356) as well as whether she was chosen by some dark cloud with intent and agency (172-173). These images serve well to show Finley’s lack of understanding about depression, which parallels old superstitions of mental illness as a divine punishment or demonic possession, and these come together in the Dark Ones’ sentience and demonic forms.  There is a demystification process required for Finley to see herself clearly—she must accept her depression as part of her, as the crow urges (204), and not as a punishment or evil cloud possessing her, to be able to name it and begin healing. While superstitions and false information about MDD and other mental illnesses persist, the same demystification in the form of education can aid healing. Legrand’s portrayal includes space for education to fight stigma, thus allowing people to more easily accept their depression as an illness in need of treatment.  The seriousness of Finley’s MDD, is conveyed in that the Dark Ones outnumber her three-to-one and are unable to be harmed by the queen’s attacks. When she first meets them in the forest clearing, she and her animal friends try to fight the Dark Ones, but they magically turn aside and prevent all attacks, turning the queen’s knife into a feather, and trapping the animals (272). So she takes to them with bodily attacks, but these too are ineffective: “She threw herself upon the Dark Ones, tugged them to the ground, stomped on them, tore at them with her teeth—but still they howled and screeched” (273).  They deign to explain their seeming invincibility: “‘You can’t hurt us,’ they jeered. ‘We are you, and you are us…And you carry darkness inside you.’ The Dark Ones stroked the queen’s cheeks with six clawed hands. ‘And we know nothing   105  of light’” (273). What of Finley’s ability to name them and face them? The queen seems to be attempting that in this passage. She even admits to them that they are the same and allows them to take possession of her in exchange for her friends’ safety (273). She seems finally to have taken the animal guides’ advice, but it only seems that way on the surface. Instead of naming her inner darkness to her loved ones, she allows greater voice to the monsters who tell her that she is not queen (283), mock her efforts to connect with her family (276), and make her believe she is alone (294, 312).  The Dark Ones are the only symbol of her depression that interfere with her real-life thinking. She doesn’t start to see the fog around her, though she feels like she is moving through water on her “blue days”; she doesn’t stand in front of the mirror and pull her collar down to see if she has a roiling mass of darkness above her heart. But she does become so preoccupied with thoughts of the Dark Ones that, “Sometimes when I look in the mirror, I think I can see them, even though I am fully aware that they are figments of my imagination. I try not to let myself think about them, but my brain is disobedient” (278). Once Fin has imagined up the Dark Ones in her stories and written that the queen allows them to possess her, she also begins to imagine them on her back, regularly, to the point that the text becomes increasingly interspersed with italicized dialogue from them, mocking and taunting her in real-time instead of only when she sits down to write in her notebook. This could also be because her grandmother takes her notebook away from her, so she copes by telling her stories as she lives them, having no place to put her thoughts except into her present. She becomes distracted at times, thinking about the Dark Ones instead of paying attention to the people right in front of her, as she does with her cousin, Gretchen (227). Because she does not believe that the Dark Ones are real, this is not an example of hallucination.   106   Perhaps because they are more present in her life, the Dark Ones are also the only one of the three symbols Finley seems able to face directly. She does not overcome them as the queen in the story, but as herself, when she is fighting fear, guilt, and a sense of inadequacy in her cousin Dex’s greatest moment of need. Dex falls into the river and hits his head searching for Finley after she runs away from Dr. Bristow. According to Ruth, Dex’s twin, they “wanted to save the queen” and “thought if [they] found [her], [they] could be knights” (333). Fin’s guilt freezes her in place: “This is my fault. Maybe if I’d never told them about the Everwood— Maybe if I’d never brought them here—…My fault, my fault, my fault” (333). And then she imagines the Dark Ones: “The Dark Ones stood tall on the queen’s back, stomping, kicking, grinding her into the ground. ‘Sad, sad orphan girl with a sad, sad curse,’ they cried. ‘She takes everything happy and makes it worse’” (334). In most cases when the Dark Ones interrupt narration, Finley does not address them directly. In her desperation, she does so: “No. Enough. ‘Be quiet.’ I clench my fists. ‘Stop it. Stop, right now.’ The Dark Ones shrank back and fell silent. (Think, Finley.)” (334). The Dark Ones are not heard from again, in Finley’s life or in the queen’s, and Fin is able to get Dex the help he needs, boosting herself with thoughts of “I am a queen” and “I am not afraid” as she runs to the Bailey House (335).   At first, it seems incongruous that Finley’s deep desire to be rid of her self-demeaning thoughts and other symptoms of depression would only be effective in this one instance, and effective enough to drive off the Dark Ones forever. It appears to hearken back to the will-yourself-better attitude implying people with MDD simply are not trying hard enough. If it were true that Finley were “cured” by telling the Dark Ones off, Legrand would be guilty of perpetuating this attitude. However, that is not the case. Legrand does not end with “and she lived happily ever after,” and between this moment and the end, the tensions between herself and   107  her grandmother, her parents, and the Baileys have only begun to be resolved. Still, in Finley’s last notebook entry of the novel, the “fog had gone from the forest, leaving everything fresh and golden and new” (373). If it were not for Finley’s mention that the queen’s mother and father (not dead after all, merely away) told her “she would no longer have to hide herself, or face the darkness alone,” this would be an extremely improbable cure story, not unlike Brilliant (373). However, Legrand writes that the queen’s darkness remains, only now Fin does not need to face it alone—a kind of hopefully-ever-after instead of happily so. Read with the ending in mind (that Finley’s “darkness” does not vanish, only the outward signs of the fog and the Dark Ones) and contextualized with Dex’s desperate need for immediate medical help and Finley’s love for him, her willpower granting her mental reprieve makes sense.   All in all, the Dark Ones are able to communicate Finley’s harrowing self-stigma through their mockery and interference with her help-seeking and her low self-esteem, as the Dark Ones are the voice in her head, both in the Everwood and in her life. Their power and numbers attest to Finley’s feelings of helplessness at the hands of her illness. Their human appearance and sentience imply intent and agency, as though MDD were a demonic entity, but when paired with Finley’s musings about the origin of her depression, also reveal the girl merely lacks knowledge, and that her depression needs to be seen in a more informed light. Unfortunately, the need for demystification is subtle and may not be picked up by less-experienced readers, instead sending the false message that they have done something to deserve MDD.   The Dark Ones, as opposed to the girl’s inner darkness and the fog, add a dimension of terror and helplessness to the portrayal of Finley’s MDD and allow Legrand to voice self-stigma. Their demonic and human-like shape is both terrifying and powerful, drawing on millennia of demonic imagery and endowing depression with personality, intent, agency, and voice. In this   108  powerful image, Legrand creates a conduit for Finley’s self-demeaning and self-stigmatizing thoughts. More than just a symbol in her stories, they invade Finley’s real-time experiences. Their possessiveness is abusive, keeping her from seeking or accepting help from the seer or from the ghost of the wizard while they torture her physically and emotionally. There are many conclusions drawn from these characteristics and interactions—depression can feel like being bullied, like being possessed by something that is and isn’t yourself, perhaps even like being tortured by a demonic entity or three. In Finley’s fictional world, depression cannot be fought by mundane means (though these are left undefined) and through its self-degrading symptoms, it can prevent a person seeking help. Education and demystification may aid in overcoming this debilitating self-stigma, despite the illness’s magnification of one’s fears and insecurities.  5.5  Implications about Depression Legrand’s choice to have only one focalizer who has depression is both a strength and limitation of this text. The danger of the reader forming a limited idea of MDD looms, but the author prevents it in two ways: (1) through the three symbols’ changing forms and phases and (2) through other characters who express some depressive symptoms. These characters include Mr. Bailey, whose alcoholism inspires Jack to call him a “gargantuan, poisonous troll” (122), and Aunt Bridget, who Finley says, “hardly ever drinks something that does not have alcohol in it…even drinks that are supposed to be sweet, like orange juice. Even though Aunt Bridget smiles a lot, her eyes are thorny, like she is always picking apart everything she sees, to make sure nothing is hiding from her. Maybe she knows this, and matches her drinks to her eyes” (135). Finley’s mother fears using the phone, has workaholic tendencies, and snaps easily (172-173). Without more information, it is difficult to say whether these people also qualify for the   109  diagnosis of MDD, as the reader only gets Finley’s POV, but Legrand has made an effort to include other characters who are less than happy in life and possibly suffering from mental illness. A unique characteristic of this text is that the depressed eleven-year-old focalizer also possesses the language and introspection to express her experiences in narrating her summer and writing in her notebook. Fin’s language expertise and metacognition empower Legrand to give an intimate first-person view into a depressed person’s life. Some readers may see Fin’s introspection as a model and practice thinking through their own experiences. However, readers will do well to remember that this particular combination of traits cannot be generalized to all children. Children with depression may not examine their own motives, emotions, or reactions on their own. They may not consider whether their thought patterns are healthy or know how to talk about them if they do notice. Even Finley with all her eloquence and creative practice struggles to communicate her experiences to others. Like Finley, they might need outside help. Legrand does not spend space on the causes of depression apart from acknowledging the obvious stressors in Finley’s life that may contribute to her state (e.g. living with people she’s never met, worrying about her parents) and hinting at the possibility of genetic factors. Finley considers her “bad cells” may be the reason for her sadness, as she’s noticed traits and behaviors in her parents that make her think they have something “wrong” (356), a nod from the author to genetic heritage as a contributing factor for MDD. Most of the time, though, Finley is frustrated that she sees no reason at all. She is unsatisfied with genetics or happenstance as sources for depression; she writes, “I wonder if Mom is where I get my blue days from. They have to come from somewhere, don’t they?” and then narrates, “I am not sure which idea is more terrifying: that my blue days come from my mother, or that they don’t come from anywhere in particular.   110  That they are these toxic clouds floating through the universe, and they thought I was worth latching on to” (173).  Just as the reasons a healthy brain becomes sick are both complex and unclear to health professionals, Legrand lets the source(s) of Fin’s depression remain mysterious, instead dwelling on how this lack of reasons gives rise to her feelings of inappropriate guilt and otherness, compounding her symptoms. The girl looks so hard for a reason, any reason, that she allows herself to wonder if this “sadness might be a punishment” for “hav[ing] done something terrible, or [that she] will do something terrible, to deserve such a fate” (356). Finley is confounded by the lack of cause for her feelings, which is also why she doesn’t believe her grandparents would understand if she confided in them: “I am not certain my grandparents could understand the concept…of heaviness that seems to grow from somewhere deep inside the universe” (245). Here, Fin’s lack of understanding that her depression is illness and the guilt that arises from this unfamiliarity prevent her from receiving the help she needs. The mystery of depression’s causes in Some Kind of Happiness reflects the frustrations of a depressed person to understand herself and all that the professional community can still learn about MDD.  Legrand’s novel places great emphasis on the power of self-stigma to interfere with help-seeking. The three symbols taken together move the focus away from any specific symptoms of MDD to the gradually increasing influence of Finley’s depression on her state of well-being, particularly as self-stigma interferes in help-seeking and healing. Because she is ashamed to face her inner darkness and name it, the animal guides warn that the Dark Ones will keep coming and the Everwood will keep dying (84-85). The consequences do not result from the darkness itself, but from her unwillingness to look at it, name it, or admit that it is part of her. The role self-stigma plays in preventing healing is central to Finley’s story. In fact, because the orphan’s   111  inability to face her darkness results in worsening symptoms (the Dark Ones possessing Finley’s real-world thoughts, for instance), the story implies self-stigma not only prevents healing by interfering with help-seeking but also worsens depressive symptoms, creating a feedback cycle. The author attempts to balance this portrayal of self-stigma’s formidable power with another prominent theme of the novel—that only the orphan girl can name, face, or accept her darkness. This empowers the person with MDD, but it also burdens her, particularly if, like Finley, she believes that “only” means alone. Finley subconsciously understands her power (as she writes it into the orphan’s story) but finds she cannot follow her own advice in using it. She feels it is too difficult, that she has been “afraid for so long” (51). Likewise, Legrand’s compassionate depiction implies that people with MDD are not unaware that they need help, but may feel the task is too great for their strength or fear rejection from loved ones if they try.  Much of Fin’s character-building is focused around barriers to healing; this serves the narrative purposes of creating tension in the plot and a complex realistic character, but it also creates a sample of MDD including much more than symptoms found in the DSM-5. This story includes coping mechanisms useful in the short-term that unfortunately prevent help-seeking, such as Finley’s tendency to queen-up and push through when she could have confided in someone how she felt (80, 192). It also includes the barrier lack of knowledge presents and how, while Finley is intelligent and observant, simply noticing her symptoms does not help her know how to cope. Similarly, another barrier is that she cannot name something when the name itself is unfamiliar to her. There is no evidence that Finley has not heard of depression, but it’s clear she is unfamiliar enough with it that she and her parents have to do “some research” before they tell Dr. Bristow their theory of Fin’s MDD and anxiety (369). This lack of knowledge prevents Finley from recognizing it in herself, and, as the snake says, “tak[ing] away some of its power”   112  (51). Unlike the orphan girl, Fin tries to name it, but she only names it to herself, in her mind and notebook. The act of naming isn’t what allows Finley to accept help—it doesn’t empower her only to know she is sad, feels heavy, and has “blue days”; it is the act of describing accurately, aloud, and to another person that ends her isolation, thus exposing her fear of rejection from loved ones as unjustified. On a related note, Legrand does not leave Finley alone to face her darkness, just as people with MDD can receive much help from those around them. Still, she includes limiting factors around such aid. In the Everwood stories, the crow and snake each remove a small portion of the orphan/queen’s darkness. When the snake sucks some of her darkness out of her, it admits it is not “powerful enough” to dislodge the “deeply” rooted darkness and asserts “it is not [the snake’s] darkness to fight” (49). One limiting factor implied here is that others cannot take on themselves the responsibility to “cure” their friend/family member/patient. Rather, the person with MDD is the one with the most power, and the only one who can reach deeply enough to get at the roots of the disease, a depiction directly opposite that of Brilliant. When the crow begins to pull the tar-like darkness from over the queen’s heart, the darkness fights back, making the crow “gasp and heave,” but the crow tells the queen, “It hurts me only because you are fighting me…Do not be afraid of yourself. We are all both light and dark. We are both joy and—” (204-205). The queen refuses to accept this truth or the crow’s help, snapping, “This darkness is not me” (205). Here the limiting factors are the queen’s unwillingness and her belief that people shouldn’t have any “darkness.” Legrand’s portrayal warns that mental illness may be “lodged too deeply” for a friend to pull out (49). While small bits may be removed at a time as, say, a friend shows acceptance or listens with compassion, the depressed person is the only one who can do the work of naming   113  and facing. Together these scenes insist unless a person can accept they have an illness – and it is a part of them, not something to reject – they will have a hard time working to improve their condition. This depiction is accurate, according to Corrigan and Fong and their studies on stigma and help-seeking (111).  Here enters one of Finley’s (and the reader’s), most powerful messages—that yes, only she can face her darkness, but she doesn’t need to do it alone. Every time Finley tells herself to “get it together” or to “wake up” (140), she is denying herself opportunities to confide in a loved one who can help her understand herself, or, barring understanding, who can stand by her as support. When Finley does finally confide in her loved ones, she learns, “Sometimes before you can give someone help, the person has to ask you for it, because they have gotten really good at hiding what hurts them. I know, because I am good at that. I know, because I am learning that it is okay to ask for help. Otherwise, how will you ever find it?” (362). The support Finley receives from her community is the difference between a possessed orphan girl plagued by toxic fog and a queen whose “mother and father had returned to her at last, and...told her she would no longer have to hide herself, or face the darkness alone” (373). Not everyone receives a loving embrace from family and friends when they confide. However, it’s notable that Fin doesn’t go broadcasting her illness via social media, opening up to people who are uninvested in her, but only tells a few trusted and close individuals: her parents, grandmother, and best friend Jack—all people who have proven to Finley time and again that they love her.  Finley’s symptoms do not end with her acceptance by loved ones. This is not a cure story. Instead, Finley talks about the work she still has to do and her hope that she’s on the right track: “If I am a puzzle, this is the moment in which I find the first corner piece. There is still a lot of work to do; I still have a thousand pieces of myself to fit into place. But everyone knows you’re   114  supposed to find the corners first. They are the beginning” (357). This comparison between finding the first corner piece and all the “thousand pieces of [herself]” still to be fit does not minimize the time and dedication healing from MDD can require. It’s also interesting that she compares the healing process to a game. Throughout the entire novel, Finley shows herself to be a courageous, curious, and active participant in her own life, refusing to be held back for long, an empowered depiction of a person with MDD.  One more generalized warning, not only relevant to mental illness, comes through Legrand’s depictions of MDD: keeping shame inside is harmful, and is passed from one generation to the next. Why does Finley feel so uncomfortable with the idea that her family might find out she isn’t perfect like they are? Because they hide anything less than perfect. This is seen through Grandma’s wig and magazine smile, through her insistence that “upsetting topics” be avoided at the dinner table (22) and through Aunt Dee’s changing the subject when Fin comments on Grandma’s failing health (148). Gretchen describes this attitude as “one of the Hart family pretensions” and explaining that “Grandma likes things to look nice” (30-31). Grandma does not seem to mean this maliciously, but is simply a woman who wants her family to be positive and focus on happy things. But it backfires with Finley because she sees many things are not positive and happy, especially where her estranged father, the Travers fire, and her own illness are concerned. Most of all, this attitude and Legrand’s warning is seen in the secret behind the Travers fire that affects two generations of two families, causing deep shame and a rift where there could be friendship and community.  In short, the greatest danger of Legrand’s story is that people reading it might read too much into symbols like the fog or Dark Ones and miss the overall hope of Finley’s courage and her community’s support. Finley’s experiences with depression in Some Kind of Happiness   115  imply much about both her agential empowered position and the interference of her depressive symptoms with her ability or will to use that power. It implies much about the essential aid of a community and the limits of said aid. The text ends with a hopefully-ever-after, instead of a happily-ever-after, making it a much more realistic depiction of the healing process.  5.6  Conclusion Legrand’s Some Kind of Happiness succeeds in its symbolic and direct representations of depression through combining multiple symbols to express different facets of lived experience with self-aware first-person narration by the depressed child protagonist. The three symbols – the darkness, the fog, and the Dark Ones – are effective in representing certain symptoms of and experiences with MDD. Each has implications about lived experience with depression, most notably sadness, a lack of pleasure, shame, and self-stigma. In particular, the Dark Ones represent the torturous inner voice of depression, telling Finley she is not worthy of belonging with her family. Legrand’s direct representations of Finley’s life demonstrate all nine symptoms of MDD listed in the DSM-5, with the exception of suicidal ideation, which nonetheless makes an appearance when Finley wonders if she might be suicidal. By including all nine of these symptoms and by writing other characters who may be struggling with mental illness, Legrand prevents the pigeon-holing a single representation of a depressed person might otherwise create. Likewise, Finley’s character is so intimately known through her narration and her stories that believing every person’s depression is like hers would equate to believing every chicken soup recipe is the same. As a warning, the accidental implication that depression is a demon (or three) possessing a person should be carefully kept with Finley’s perspective in mind. The Dark Ones are her   116  depiction of how her depression feels, not the author’s depiction of what MDD is. In the end, her self-stigma and ignorance are finally overcome through opening up to loved ones and demystification through education. She is brought to realize, as she lists in her notebook under “WHY MY LIFE IS BEAUTIFUL,” that “It is okay to be sad. It does not mean I am broken or strange or a non-Hart” (372). If not read in the context of Finley’s perspective, the Dark Ones’ demonic representation of depression may add to inaccurate portrayals of MDD.  In the final chapter, I discuss my research questions in context of these findings and include limitations of this study. I end with possibilities for future research and concluding remarks.     117  Chapter 6: Findings: Conclusion 6.1  Discussion of Research Questions After analysis of the direct and symbolic representations of depression in Brilliant and Some Kind of Happiness, a synthesis of the previous two chapters’ findings in relation to the research questions will reveal the particular emphases, strategies, drawbacks, and strengths of each author’s work towards a more complete understanding of varied representations of MDD in middle-grade fiction. 6.1.1  Research Question 1: How are Depressive Experiences Depicted in these Novels? Both novels combine the strategies of symbolic (embodied within one or more central symbols) and direct representation. In both novels, MDD is represented clearly through all nine symptoms listed in the DSM-5, with the exception of suicide/suicidal ideation. Both give suicidal ideation a subtle nod, Brilliant through the children’s thoughts of wanting to fall asleep because they’re “useless” and can’t help anyway, and Some Kind of Happiness through Finley’s direct considerations of whether her lack of pleasure in eating means she wants to die.  In Brilliant, Doyle spreads the experiences of depression out through direct representation of MDD in the lives of multiple depressed people, like Uncle Ben and Luke, and also in the children’s lives through depressive experiences when interacting with the Black Dog. These people are of many ages and two genders. While the few glimpses into the life of a person with MDD (Uncle Ben) are not enough to gain a full picture, by using multiple focalizers who describe their loved ones’ symptoms through flashbacks, Doyle deftly maneuvers space in his short novel for both the children’s experiences with the Dog and their loved ones’ symptoms, representing a variety of lived experiences.   118  In Some Kind of Happiness, while third-person nods are given to other characters with mental health struggles, the reader views symptoms and coping mechanisms intimately through the first-person narration of a word-savvy depressed girl. Hence, much more space is given to the complex inner workings of depression on self-perception. Space is also given to how fear of rejection can develop into both self-stigma and sophisticated coping mechanisms to keep her illness under control and out of sight. Finley’s eloquence allows her to explain what her illness is like using metaphors such as “blue days” (168), symbols such as her Everwood stories, and descriptions in her narration such as “wrongness” (23), “sadness” (132), and “heaviness” (3). This intense focus on only one character’s mental illness is somewhat balanced by Legrand’s creation of other characters with different mental health challenges, such as Mr. Bailey, Aunt Bridget, and Finley’s mom. Both stories’ depictions stress the need for people with MDD to have outside support and acceptance. It is the love of the children for their depressed family members that motivates them again and again to keep chasing after the Black Dog; it is also their support of one another in that chase that makes it successful. In Some Kind of Happiness, Finley’s fight against her darkness is unsuccessful as long as she is alone, shutting out family because she fears being a burden or not belonging. It is only when she opens to her family that she can begin to dismantle the self-stigma she has developed and accept the help offered to her through their support and that of her psychologist, Dr. Bristow.   6.1.2  Research Question 2: What Role do Symbols Play in Representations of Depression?  Each author relies on symbols to metaphorically express and embody symptoms and experiences of depression. In Brilliant, the Black Dog of Depression is the central symbol of   119  MDD, functioning in the plot as the antagonist and affecting the characters directly. His physical features, abilities, and preferred strategies of getting the children down all relate to the realities of the disease.  On the other hand, in Some Kind of Happiness, Legrand opts for multiple intertwined symbols (the orphan girl’s inner darkness, the poisonous fog, and the Dark Ones) that function in her young depressed protagonist’s fictional stories and mind, thereby affecting only her rather than the plot or any other characters. In so doing, Legrand’s symbols function mainly as character development and to inform the reader of how Finley perceives herself and her illness. This difference means that Doyle’s symbol can be read as depression while Legrand’s symbols should be read as Finley’s depression and her personal perceptions about it. It allows a deeper, more intimate experience with MDD as opposed to the general experiences of the children chasing the Dog. It also adds an element of unreliability in narration. Are Finley’s symbols of MDD able to be generalized to others? Are their implications accurate to clinical descriptions and/or does their value lie in understanding self-perception in depression? There is a danger in knowing only one person’s experience, which is present in Finley’s story, but if these symbols are read within the greater context of other writers’ symbols and of clinical knowledge of depression as found in the DSM-5, individuals can draw their own conclusions about to what extent these symbols relate to themselves and their loved ones. That is the gift of a symbol—it is undefined until given context.  6.1.3  Research Question 3: What do these Symbols Imply about Depression? Each story has its own emphases, as the close readings in Chapters 4 and 5 attest, but there are many similarities between them. In both novels, the symbols begin as invisible, or at least unseen, and both the Dog and the Dark Ones prefer the dark, perhaps as an expression of   120  how keeping illness a secret prevents help-seeking and increases self-stigma. In each story, the symbol(s) grow in size and power over time and also change shape and substance. This reflects the personal nature of the disease as well as its ability to change over time. In both novels, the voiced symbols (Dog and Dark Ones) seek to undermine the confidence and esteem of their hearers, the Dog through the word “USELESS,” and the Dark Ones through their mockery of Finley’s belief in herself as queen. Symbols in both novels are menacing and harmful—the Dog has depressed all of Dublin and now seeks to fall on them all and crush them for good (though it’s not clear what this means), and the fog is poisonous, making the queen’s lungs burn and destroying the beauty and health of the forest.  The biggest differences between the implications of these two symbols lie in their interactions with the children/Finley. Though each texts’ symbols can only be overcome by the protagonists through teamwork and support of one another, the methods and outcomes are different. Doyle’s teamwork relies on the children’s abilities to remember the brilliance of life and laughter and results in other people being miraculously cured of depression. The responsibility and ability this narrative places on the children to cure their loved ones is problematic. While it is good that they learn to push through fear and discouragement with laughter, hope, and friendship, and to recognize the early signs of depression, the plot depends too much on the agency of the children to cure others and gives an unlikely timeline for healing, though it is a fantasy. In contrast, Legrand balances the help that others can give with Finley’s own power to accept or reject such help. Finley’s ending, with her “blue days” continuing despite everything, is also a much more realistic depiction of a timeline for healing.   121  6.1.4  Research Question 4: How Effective are these Symbols in Depicting Varied Experiences of Depression?  These symbols work well to depict varied experiences of depression. Since both the Black Dog and Legrand’s symbols match the descriptions of MDD in the DSM-5, I consider them accurate. Since the totality of the Black Dog’s implications about depression correspond well with the totality of Legrand’s symbols’ implications, this attests again to their consistency. Each author utilizes different strategies to prevent stereotyping—Doyle through sheer number of portrayals and Legrand through depth and character development. Additionally, Doyle’s open approach of allowing the children to experience the symptoms without actually being depressed suggests the normality of mental health struggles and the scale of difference in severity that may occur.   At the same time, because of the personal nature of mental illness, there are infinite combinations of experiences not represented in either novel or implied by any of these symbols. For instance, while neither novel deals with suicide or suicidal ideation beyond a mention or a coded hint, these symptoms are a daily reality for many people with MDD, including youth. A mere two books, no matter how well written, cannot encompass the unlimited possible combinations of symptoms with their differing forms of expression, levels of severity, circumstances, and complications. While the symbols in Some Kind of Happiness successfully portray Finley’s experiences with comorbid anxiety and MDD, another eleven-year-old girl with anxiety and depression may have completely different experiences and ways of describing them. Only as the topic becomes more common in children’s literature will more varied stories surface.     122  6.2  Limitations of this Study and Future Research Possibilities This thesis is limited in diverse representations of people with depression. Where are the boys? The transgender children? The people of color? The children from non-Western cultures? I found no middle-grade novels about depressed boys or transgender children during my initial search, with the exception of the mention of Luke in Brilliant (Doyle 162). The only book found with a person of color as the depressed protagonist was Farrey’s The Secret of Dreadwillow Carse, in which the protagonist’s depression may be less MDD and more an expression of grief for the loss of her parents. Both Brilliant and Some Kind of Happiness feature children from Western societies. As depression is not a culturally specific phenomenon, much more research (and writing) can be done in depictions of MDD across diverse cultures and with diverse protagonists.  While this thesis’ primary focus is on representations of depressive experiences and their implications about depression as a cultural concept, there is much to consider on how such stories may be practically applied. It would be wonderful to conduct reader response research with young people. To what extent can reading a book like Brilliant or Some Kind of Happiness influence a young reader’s perceptions of depression? Would they pick up on the same implications of the symbols? How might the narrative form serve the health community in terms of education around a stigmatized topic? As a classroom teacher, I would also consider how this study and its texts may be used to develop classroom materials, in partnership with the school psychologist. Would utilizing the novel in a didactic setting, such as a classroom, affect its message or persuasiveness? How might a young person’s agency in choosing the novel affect their perceptions of its portrayals? There is much space for practical research of this sort.   123  Additionally, this reading could be expanded on through examination of other symbolic depictions of depression in middle-grade novels, such as the egg in Keller’s The Science of Breakable Things. There are many other patterns of portrayal of MDD in children’s literature demanding examination, such as the depressed-mother pattern seen in Mulder’s Out of the Box, Ehrlich’s Nest, and Strange’s The Secret of Nightingale Wood, or the visual symbols of depression in picturebooks, such as Turnbull’s Pandora and Maclear’s Virginia Wolf.  6.3  Concluding Remarks  Like Finley, we are just finding the corner pieces of the puzzle and have a long way to go toward a more complete canon of varied representations of MDD in children’s literature. Kim Reynolds claims that “children’s literature contributes to the social and aesthetic transformation of culture by…encouraging readers to approach ideas, issues, and objects from new perspectives and so prepare[s] the way for change” (1). While she criticizes the type of literature that “perhaps impl[ies] too forcibly that there are always ways forward,” she admits that many such texts are still “perceptive and credible…[not] mak[ing] the world seem simpler or safer than it is…[but] help[ing] to dismantle…long-standing stigma…to talk about it and to seek help” (113). It is my hope that other critical thinkers, readers, teachers, writers, and parents will build on this research and fill gaps in representation. There is much work yet to do, and, like Finley and the children of Dublin, we need each other to help the vulnerable in our communities chase away dark clouds and start their hopefully-ever-after journeys toward wellness.    124  Works Cited American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry. Depression in Children and Teens, version 4, Oct. 2018. www.aacap.org/AACAP/Families_and_Youth/Facts_for_Families/FFF-Guide/The-Depressed-Child-004.aspx. Accessed 6 Feb. 2019. American Psychiatric Association. “Depressive Disorders.” Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders: DSM-5. 5th ed., American Psychiatric Publishing, 2013, doi: 10.1176/appi.books.9780890425596. Accessed 10 Feb. 2019. Andersen, Hans Christian. The Little Match Girl. New York, Grosset & Dunlap, 1944. Anonymous. Go Ask Alice. Prentice Hall, 1971. Anxiety and Depression Association of America. “Anxiety and Depression in Children.” Anxiety and Depression Association of America, 2018, adaa.org/living-with-anxiety/children/anxiety-and-depression. Accessed 6 Feb. 2019. Asher, Jay. Thirteen Reasons Why. Razorbill, 2007. Barton, Julie. “The Monsters of Depression in Children’s Literature: Of Dementors, Spectres, and Pictures.” Journal of Children’s Literature Studies. vol. 2, no. 1, 1 Mar. 2005, pp. 27-39, www.academia.edu/506808/_The_Monsters_of_Depression_in_Children_s_Literature_.Accessed 21 Dec, 2018. Belmaker, R. H. and Galila Agam. “Major Depressive Disorder.” The New England Journal of Medicine, vol. 358, no. 1, 3 Jan. 2008, pp. 55-68, doi: 10.1056/NEJMra073096. Accessed 12 Feb. 2019.   125  Berger, Paula S. “Suicide in Young Adult Literature.” The High School Journal, vol. 70, no. 1, 1986, pp.14-19, www.jstor.org/stable/40364966. Accessed 11 Mar. 2019. Bettelheim, Bruno. The Uses of Enchantment: the Meaning and Importance of Fairy Tales. Alfred A. Knopf, 1976. Blau, Amanda. “The Secret of Dreadwillow Carse.” Booklist, vol. 113, 2016, p.88, tinyurl.com/sh2s46p. Accessed 9 Jan. 2019. Bozievich, Anne. “The Secret of Dreadwillow Carse.” School Library Journal, Aug. 2016, pp. 56-57, tinyurl.com/sl9eqjp. Accessed 28 Jan. 2019. Breslin, Sue. “Brillian.” School Librarian, vol. 62, no. 3, Sept. 2014, p. 164. EBSCOhost, tinyurl.com/wzjhm2x. Accessed 31 Jan. 2019.  Kirkus. “Brilliant.” Kirkus Media LLC, 8 Sept. 2015, www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/roddy-doyle/brilliant-doyle/. Accessed 31 Jan. 2019.  Publishers Weekly. “Brilliant.” PWxyz, 1 Sept. 2015, www.publishersweekly.com/978-1-4197-1479-5. Accessed 31 Jan. 2019. Bunyan, John. The Pilgrim’s Progress. American Tract Society, 1857. Cherry, Wayne R., Jr. “Brilliant.” School Library Journal, vol. 61, no.7, July 2015, pp. 75-76. EBSCOhost, tinyurl.com/qqjp824. Accessed 31 Jan. 2019. Corrigan, Patrick W., and Katherine Nieweglowski. “Difference as an Indicator of the Self-stigma of Mental Illness.” Journal of Mental Health, 12 Mar. 2019, pp. 1-7, doi: 10.1080/09638237.2019.1581351. Accessed 13 May 2019. ---, et al. “The Impact of Mental Illness Stigma on Seeking and Participating in Mental Health Care.” Psychological Science in the Public Interest, Association for Psychological   126  Science, 3 Sept. 2014, pp.37-70, doi: 10.1177/1529100614531398. Accessed 13 May 2019. ---, et al. “Challenging the Public Stigma of Mental Illness: A Meta-Analysis of Outcome Studies.” Psychiatric Services, Psychiatry Online, 1 Oct. 2012, pp. 963-976, doi: 10.1176/appi.ps.201100529. Accessed 23 May 2019. Cowger, Ashley. “From ‘Pretty Nearly Perfectly Happy’ to ‘the Depths of Despair’: Mania and Depression in L.M. Montgomery’s Anne Series.” The Lion and the Unicorn, vol. 34, no. 2, Apr. 2010, pp. 188-199, doi: 10.1353/uni.0.0499. Accessed 9 Mar. 2019. Demazeux, Steeves and Patrick Singy, editors. The DSM-5 in Perspective: Philosophical Reflections on the Psychiatric Babel. Springer, 2015, tinyurl.com/t646r42. Accessed 10 Mar. 2019. Dresang, Eliza T. Radical Change: Books for Youth in a Digital Age. The H.W. Wilson Company, 1999. Doyle, Roddy. Brilliant. 2nd ed., Macmillan Children’s Books, 2015. Ehrlich, Esther. Nest. Wendy Lamb Books, 2014. Engdahl, Erica. “The Foulest Creatures that Walk this Earth: J.K. Rowling’s Magical Creatures as Metaphors for Difficulties for Teenagers.” Växjö University, 11 Feb. 2009. lnu.diva-portal.org/smash/record.jsf?pid=diva2%3A206503&dswid=-9470. Accessed 3 Mar. 2019. Engelfried, Steven. “Some Kind of Happiness.” School Library Journal, vol. 62, no. 3, Mar. 2016, p. 133, tinyurl.com/sge9uxd. Accessed 28 Jan. 2019.   127  Farrey, Brian. Interview & Giveaway—The Secret of Dreadwillow Carse. Julie Artz. From the Mixed-Up-Files, 19 Apr. 2016, www.fromthemixedupfiles.com/2016/04/interview-giveaway-secret-dreadwillow-carse/. Accessed 28 Jan. 2019. ---. The Secret of Dreadwillow Carse. Algonquin Young Readers, 2017. Fox, Diana. “Some Kind of Happiness.” Publishers Weekly, vol. 263, 29 Feb. 2016, www.publishersweekly.com/978-1-4424-6601-2. Accessed 28 Jan. 2019. Frye, Northrop. Anatomy of Criticism: Four Essays. Princeton University Press, 1957. Gilman, Charlotte Perkins. “The Yellow Wall-paper.” Feminist Press, 1973. GoodReads. “Q&A with Claire Legrand.” GoodReads.com, 4 May 2018, www.goodreads.com/interviews/show/1361.Claire_Legrand. Accessed 28 Jan. 2019. Guinsler, Robert. “The Secret of Dreadwillow Carse.” Publishers Weekly, vol. 263, 2016, www.publishersweekly.com/978-1-61620-505-8. Accessed 28 Jan. 2019. Harold, Suzanne. “The Secret of Dreadwillow Carse.” Booklist, vol. 112, 15 Mar. 2016, p. 63, tinyurl.com/wl6ktfj. Accessed 9 Jan. 2019. HealthLink BC. “Depression in Children and Teens.” 18 June 2018, www.healthlinkbc.ca/health-topics/ty4640. Accessed 6 Feb. 2019. Hirschfield, Robert M. A. “The Comorbidity of Major Depression and Anxiety Disorders: Recognition and Management in Primary Care.” The Primary Care Companion to the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, vol. 3, no. 6, 2001, pp. 244-254, doi: 10.4088/pcc.v03n0609. Accessed 21 Jan. 2020. Horace, and David West. Odes III: Dulce Periculum. Oxford University Press, 2002.   128  Hulick, Jeannette. “Brilliant by Roddy Doyle (review).” Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books, vol. 69, no. 4, 2015, pp. 194-195. Project MUSE, doi: 10.1353/bcc.2015.0927. Accessed 31 Jan. 2019. Jones, Lloyd. The Princess and the Fog. Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 2015. Kean, Danuta. “Philip Pullman Unveils Epic Fantasy Trilogy The Book of Dust.” The Guardian. Guardian News & Media Limited, 15 Feb. 2017, www.theguardian.com/books/2017/feb/15/philip-pullman-unveils-epic-fantasy-trilogy-the-book-of-dust. Accessed 27 May 2019. Keller, Tae. The Science of Breakable Things. Random House, 2018. Kessler, RC. “Lifetime Prevalence and Age-of-Onset Distributions of DSM-IV Disorders in the National Comorbidity Survey Replication.” Archives of General Psychiatry, vol. 62, no. 6, 2005, pp. 593-602, doi: 10.1001/archpsyc.62.6.593. Accessed 7 Mar. 2019. Kirkus. Best Middle-Grade Books of 2016 by Category. Kirkus Media LLC, 2017, www.kirkusreviews.com/issue/best-of-2016/section/middle-grade/lists/. Accessed 5 Mar. 2019. Kirkus Reviews. “The Secret of Dreadwillow Carse.” Kirkus Reviews, Feb. 2016, p. 1,  tinyurl.com/rx5v4cv. Accessed 28 Jan. 2019. Kozlov, Serge. Petit-Âne. Ed. Illustrated by De Vitaly Statzynsky. Trans. by Pavlik de Bennigsen. Ipomée-A. Michel, 1995. Legrand, Claire. Some Kind of Happiness. Simon & Schuster, 2016. Levoy, Myron. Three Friends. Harper and Row, 1984. MacKillip, James. “cŵn annwfn.” A Dictionary of Celtic Mythology. Oxford University Press, 2004, tinyurl.com/uscc4rd. Accessed 23 Mar. 2020.   129  Maclear, Kyo. Virginia Wolf. Illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault, Kids Can Press, 2012. Matters, Jenn. “Farrey, Brian: The Secret of Dreadwillow Carse.” The Horn Book Guide, vol. 28, 2017, tinyurl.com/sjrc8xg. Accessed 28 Jan. 2019. Medley, Mark. “Kyo Maclear isn’t Afraid of Virginia Woolf.” National Post, 16 Mar. 2012, nationalpost.com/afterword/shes-not-afraid-kyo-maclear-anthropomorphizes-virginia-woolf-into-a-childrens-tale-heroine. Accessed 13 Mar. 2019. Milton, John. Paradise Lost: a Poem Written in Ten Books. London: Samuel Simmons, 1667. Mulder, Michelle. Out of the Box. Orca Book Publishers, 2011. “MWA Announces the 2017 Edgar Nominations.” Mystery Writers of America, 2016, mysterywriters.org/mwa-announces-the-2017-edgar-nominations/. 28 Jan. 2019. Meyer, Stephenie. New Moon. Little, Brown and Company, 2006. National Institute of Mental Health. “Data from 2016 National Survey on Drug Use and health.” Nov. 2017, NIMH. US Government, www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/major-depression.shtml. Accessed 7 Mar. 2019. New York Public Library. “New York Public Llibrary Reveals its List of Best Books for Kids and Teens Just in Time for the Holidays.” 23 Nov. 2016, www.nypl.org/press/press-release/november-23-2016/new-york-public-library-reveals-its-list-best-books-kids-and#.WDoI9WPiDiA.twitter. Accessed 20 Feb. 2019. Pantaleo, Sylvia. “Exploring Grade 7 Students’ Responses to Shaun Tan’s The Red Tree.” Children’s Literature in Education, vol. 43, no. 1, 2012, pp. 51-71, doi: 10.1007/s10583-011-9156-x. Accessed 20 Feb. 2019. Paris, Joel and James Phillips, editors. Making the DSM-5: Concepts and Controversies. Springer, 2013, tinyurl.com/tgrlvuk. Accessed 25 Mar. 2019.   130  Plager, Phillip, et al. “References to Netflix’ ‘13 Reasons Why’ at Clinical Presentation Among 31 Pediatric Patients.” Journal of Children and Media, vol. 13, no. 3, 6 May 2019, pp. 317-327, doi: 10.1080/17482798.2019.1612763. Accessed 16 Jan. 2020. Plath, Sylvia. The Bell Jar. Heinemann, 1963. Peck, Richard. Remembering the Good Times. Delacorte Press, 1985. Peters, Andrew Fusek and Polly Peters. The Color Thief. Illustrated by Karin Littlewood, Albert Whitman & Company, 2014. Piehl, Norah. “Doyle, Roddy: Brilliant.” The Horn Book Guide, vol. 27, no. 1, p. 76, The Horn Book, Inc, 2016, tinyurl.com/qoxzc5p. Accessed 31 Jan. 2019. Phillips, Jessica. “‘There is No Sun Without The Shadow and it is Essential to Know the Night’: Albert Camus’ Philosophy of The Absurd and Shaun Tan’s The Red Tree.” Children’s Literature in Education, 6 Jan. 2018, pp. 1-16, Springer Science + Business Media, LLC,  doi: 10.1007/s10583-017-9342-6. Accessed 20 June 2019. Preventing Suicide: A Resource for Media Professionals: Update 2017. Geneva: World Health Organization, 2017, www.who.int/mental_health/suicide-prevention/resource_booklet_2017/en/. Accessed 16 Jan. 2020. Publishers Weekly. “Best Books 2016: Publishers Weekly.” 2016, best-books.publishersweekly.com/pw/best-books/2016/middle-grade. Accessed 20 Feb. 2019. Pullman, Philip. His Dark Materials Trilogy. Scholastic, 1995-2000. ---. The Subtle Knife. Scholastic, 1997. Quealy-Gainer, Kate. “Some Kind of Happiness by Claire Legrand (review).” Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books, vol. 69, no. 9, 2016, pp. 476-477, doi: 10.1353/bcc.2016.0379. Accessed 28 Jan. 2019.   131  Ratzan, Jill and Kiera Parrott. “A Chat with Brian Farrey About ‘The Secret of Dreadwillow Carse.’” School Library Journal, 18 Apr. 2016, www.slj.com/?detailStory=a-chat-with-brian-farrey-about-the-secret-of-dreadwillow-carse. Accessed 28 Jan. 2019. Reed, Jamie. “ Interview with Claire Legrand.” Write-Or-Die, 8 Sept. 2011, jreedwriteordie.blogspot.com/2011/09/interview-with-claire-legrand.html. Accessed 20 Feb. 2019. Rettger, Sarah. “Some Kind of Happiness.” Horn Book Magazine, vol. 92, no. 3, May 2016, p. 105, tinyurl.com/vtpn58l. Accessed 28 Jan. 2019. Reynolds, Kimberly. Radical Children’s Literature: Future Visions and Aesthetic Transformations in Juvenile Fiction. Palgrave MacMillan, 2007. “Roddy is Brilliant: Doyle Moves to Macmillan Children’s.” The Bookseller. No. 5575, Bookseller Media Limited, 10 May 2013, tinyurl.com/vmhwyof. Accessed 31 Jan. 2019. Rosen, Michael. Michael Rosen’s Sad Book. Illustrated by Quentin Blake, Candlewick Press, 2004. Rosenthal, Lynne. “To Be or Not to Be: Suicide in Literature for Young People.” The Lion and the Unicorn. John Hopkins University Press, Project MUSE, vol. 12, no. 1, June 1988, pp. 19-27, doi: 10.1353/uni.0.0228. Accessed 11 Mar. 2019. Rowling, J.K. Harry Potter Series. Bloomsbury Publishing, 1997-2007. ---. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. Arthur A. Levine, 1999.  Sikorska, Magdalena. “Re-reading The Red Tree: The Art of Shaun Tan.” Nordic Journal of English Studies, vol. 17, no. 1, 2018, p. 197, doi: 10.35360/njes.429. Accessed 20 June 2019.   132  Smith, Julia. “Some Kind of Happiness.” American Library Association, vol. 112, 2016, tinyurl.com/ydcevox3. Accessed 28 Jan. 2019. Smith, Meaghan. An Examination of Literary and Structural Aspects of Shaun Tan's Picturebooks and Their Conveyance of Social Issues. Apr. 2017. The University of British Columbia, Master’s Thesis, tinyurl.com/yyekbm67. Accessed 12 Mar. 2019. Snicket, Lemony. 13 Words. Illustrated by Maria Kalman, Harper, 2010.  “Some Kind of Happiness.” Kirkus Reviews, vol. 84, no. 6, 2016, p. 79, tinyurl.com/tgnxpqn. Accessed 28 Jan. 2019. Strange, Lucy. The Secret of Nightingale Wood. Chicken House Ltd, 2016. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Behavioral Health Barometer: Utah, 2015. HHS Publication, 2015, www.samhsa.gov/data/sites/default/files/2015_Utah_BHBarometer.pdf. Accessed 11 Feb. 2019. Tan, Shaun. The Red Tree. Simply Read Books, 2001. Testoni, Ines, et al. “The ‘Sick-Lit’ Question and the Death Education Answer. Papageno Versus Werther Effects in Adolescent Suicide Prevention.” Human Affairs, vol. 26, no. 2, 2016, pp. 153-166, doi: 10.1515/humaff-2016-0016. Accessed 16 Jan. 2020. Townsend, Alex. “Review: Brilliant by Roddy Doyle.” Disability in Kidlit, 18 Sept. 2015, Ed.. Corinnne Duyvis, disabilityinkidlit.com/2015/09/18/review-brilliant-by-roddy-doyle/. Accessed 27 Mar. 2019. Tucker, Nicholas. “Depressive Stories for Children.” Children’s Literature in Education. vol. 37, no. 3, Sept. 2006, pp. 199-210. doi: 10.1007/s10583-006-9011-7. 12 Mar. 2019. Turnbull, Victoria. Pandora. Clarion Books, 2017.    133  Ungerer, Tomi. Die blaue Wolke. Diogenes, 2000. Wickham, Anastasia. “It is All in Your Head: Mental Illness in Young Adult Literature.” The Journal of Popular Culture, vol. 51, no. 1, 2018, doi: 10.1111/jpcu.12641. Accessed 9 Mar. 2019. Witcomb, Gemma L., et al. “Levels of Depression in Transgender People and it's Predictors: Results of a Large Matched Control Study with Transgender People Accessing Clinical Services.” Journal of Affective Disorders, vol. 235, Aug. 2018, pp. 308-315, doi: 10.1016/j.jad.2018.02.051. Accessed 18 Mar. 2019. World Health Organization. Fact Sheet on Depression. 22 Mar. 2018, www.who.int/en/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/depression. Accessed 6 Feb. 2019. Young, Suzanne. The Program. Simon and Schuster, 2013.   

Cite

Citation Scheme:

        

Citations by CSL (citeproc-js)

Usage Statistics

Share

Embed

Customize your widget with the following options, then copy and paste the code below into the HTML of your page to embed this item in your website.
                        
                            <div id="ubcOpenCollectionsWidgetDisplay">
                            <script id="ubcOpenCollectionsWidget"
                            src="{[{embed.src}]}"
                            data-item="{[{embed.item}]}"
                            data-collection="{[{embed.collection}]}"
                            data-metadata="{[{embed.showMetadata}]}"
                            data-width="{[{embed.width}]}"
                            data-media="{[{embed.selectedMedia}]}"
                            async >
                            </script>
                            </div>
                        
                    
IIIF logo Our image viewer uses the IIIF 2.0 standard. To load this item in other compatible viewers, use this url:
https://iiif.library.ubc.ca/presentation/dsp.24.1-0389758/manifest

Comment

Related Items