Professors Rivkin-Fish & Thrailkill
March 4, 2020
Reading Response 2
The text I chose to examine was Jean-Dominique Bauby’s The Diving Bell and the Butterfly. Revisiting the memoir after reading it several weeks ago, I was able to see the ways that different kinds of narratives are expressed. Specifically, I wanted to focus on how Bauby uses the chaos narrative within his memoir.
Bauby seems to employ the chaos narrative when explaining his emotional and mental wellbeing after becoming paralyzed. One aspect of this narrative he draws on is the paradoxical nature of illness narratives, in that they are stories that cannot truly be told. In the Prologue he says, “Paralyzed from head to toe, the patient, his mind intact, is imprisoned inside his own body, unable to speak or move,” (Bauby 4). In a literal sense, Bauby cannot physically speak to tell his story. He also says, “There are no words to express it. My condition is monstrous, iniquitous, revolting, horrible,” (Bauby 71). His situation is so overwhelming and painful that, even though he is in fact telling us about it, he feels as if his words are not accurately capturing the distress he is experiencing. When describing himself and the other paralyzed patients in the hospital, he refers to them as “broken-winged birds, voiceless parrots, ravens of doom,” (Bauby 32). The paradoxical language serves as a metaphor for how Bauby views his body as a detachment from his mind and voice. All of these quotations from the memoir reveal the features of a chaos narrative – the inability to actually tell an illness story, and the physical body being devoid of a voice.