Life is a rum old thing isn’t it? On the whole I do believe that things work out for the best in the end, but I do wonder sometimes why people behave so oddly. I am starting to see that for some a total lack of confidence leads to a type of paranoia which destroys not only themselves, but maliciously takes down those around them, who are just trying to do their best.
Many very good pieces of literature are constructed around a flawed character and their paranoia. When a character starts to suffer paranoia, it can be very difficult for the reader to determine what is real within the setting of the narrative, in other words, the character is right to be suspicious, and what is a messy construct within in the protagonist’s own mind.
George Orwell’s 1984 is an obvious example of a paranoia-inducing read, as is much of Franz Kafka’s work. Having done a little research, there are some other great novels that delve into this murky mental state.
Ghost stories and horror also traditionally instill paranoia, and The Horla by Guy De Maupassant is a great example. Haunted by some unknown being, trying to suck the life from him, the narrator eventually cracks with devastating consequences.
Phillip K Dick suffered from hallucinations, which he used as a basis for his writing. A Scanner Darkly follows an undercover narcotics cop as he develops his own drug addiction whilst living with a group of addicts, and reporting back on their activities. He eventually starts to investigate himself.
I have been really hooked by Patricia Highsmith of late. Known for her Talented Mr Ripley books, she has written others which also carry her theme of, frankly, murderous heroes. Murder in itself doesn’t seem to worry her characters, but the deep dread of being found out drives them to ever more extreme behavior and paranoia. It is incredibly self destructive.
It seems to me that paranoid characters fit broadly into two categories. Those who live in a world where paranoia is a probably a prerequisite to survival, and those who create paranoia in themselves by generating situations which lead them to have to hide the truth, and not face up to their own actions. There are both types in this world, and the second group is by far the most dangerous as there is neither rhyme nor reason for their actions, at least not to anybody other than themselves.
What other good examples are there in literature of paranoid states?