World Literature Essay


Paranoia as a literary tool in Oedipus The King and A Dolls House.

Many famous literary works have characters with exaggerated personalities that in some instances become so extreme that they can be interpreted as being paranoid. Paranoia is a medical diagnosis, however; we often use paranoia as a layman’s term to describe paranormal behaviour. In this essay paranoia is defined as a character trait where anxiety or fear is either overstated or indeed has no root in the real world at all.

Paranoia is a thought process thought to be heavily influenced by anxiety or fear, often to the point of irrationality and delusion”.

In literature paranoia can be a tool used to build a character, to prove a point or tell a story. This essay will examine the elements of paranoia present in Ibsen’s A Dolls House and in Sophocles’ Oedipus The King. Quotes from the plays will be used to exemplify the paranoia, and characters from these plays displaying paranoid features will be compared. In addition, the importance of the use of paranoid character traits in these plays will be discussed.

Paranoia can express itself in numerous varieties, and in many cases experts would differ on whether or not a person is paranoid. In this essay the paranoia identified in Oedipus The King and A dolls House is the “Peter Pan Syndrome”, delusions of grandeur, and the classic paranoid personality disorder.

“Paranoid Personality Disorder is when someone becomes regularly suspicious without cause, to the point where it disrupts their social, work and family life, they are said to have paranoid personalities” 

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The Peter Pan Syndrome and delusions of grandeur will be explained and examined in the relevant context.

Both A Dolls House and Oedipus The King have characters who display obvious signs of exaggerated behaviour that deviates from what their contemporary society would consider normal. However, the paranoid traits, and how they come to light, differ in the two plays. In A Dolls House a combination of Nora’s actions and her words provide the basis for claiming that she is paranoid, whilst in Oedipus The King it is mostly what Oedipus says that points to his paranoia.


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