Carmen, Madness, and Sexuality
Upon finishing the novel, it becomes apparent that something is very wrong with Carmen Sternwood. Once she takes Marlowe to the place where Regan was killed, she turns to Marlowe and tries to kill him in the same manner. Marlowe, by this point, has caught on to Carmen, and replaces the gun with blanks, which saves his life. He describes her at this moment as being “aged, deteriorated, become animal, and not a nice animal” (Chandler 238). This change in her appearance really reflects the change in her mental condition. After shooting at him, Carmen passes out and remembers nothing. There is some dispute as to whether Carmen was intentionally killing and acting stupid throughout the novel. However, it was apparent to Marlowe that she suffers from some kind of epilepsy (Chandler 243). Carmen has a mental issue.
The question I would like to turn to now is why she is portrayed in that way. One of the sad realities of the Victorian time period was the choice to view deviant behavior as proof of insanity. Tania Woods, in her article that covers several different works and how they view female madness, remarks that Victorian age literature defines madness in an animalistic way, which reflects the “concept of insanity as a deviation from human rationality” (5). In the Victorian age, hysteria, a unique disease to females, was gaining credibility, and women dominated the numbers in insane asylums (Woods 5). Insanity was also linked to morality, in the