Hysteria in “The Feather Pillow” by Quiroga
Hysteria is an anomaly reaction on the exterior sources of irritation that is gradually developing and demonstrates openly only at the final stage of the disease. In this response, there will be considered a specific case was described in Horacio Quiroga’s story “The Feather Pillow,” where the main hero, Alicia, experienced the last stage of hysteria. In fact, while analyzing psychological diseases, it becomes evident that the consequences do not significantly impact the case study.
Instead, the motives play a pivotal role in defining the symptoms of living in a psychologically unstable environment. For instance, when describing the final stage of Alicia’s disease, Quiroga states, “Suddenly Alicia began to have hallucinations, vague images, at first seeming to float in the air, then descending to floor level. Her eyes excessively wide, she stared continuously at the carpet on either side of the head of her bed. One night she suddenly focused on one spot. Then she opened her mouth to scream, and pearls of sweat suddenly beaded her nose and lips“ (12). In this description, readers might observe the existence of internal struggles inside Alicia’s brain. By opening her mouth to scream, she suddenly stopped and continued focusing on the same point. This action in such a panic situation might signify that the main heroine was experiencing similar internal struggles throughout the considerable time period.
Several aspects indicate the possible motives for Alicia to experience the internal struggle between liberal self-expression and exteriorly calm behavior. On the one hand, Quiroga described Jordan, Alicia’s husband, as a symbol of patriarchy and false masculinity. For example, the author describes Jordan as a dominant husband: “…sometimes she gave a slight shudder when, as they returned home through the streets together at night, she cast a furtive glance at the impressive statue of her Jordan, who had been silent for an hour. He, for his part, loved her profoundly but never let it be seen “(Quiroga 10). In this portrait, the readers might admit that Jordan is illustrated as a typical representative of patriarchal culture. The author presented the ‘high’ parody character, who demonstrates the most widespread masculine stereotypes of the beginning of the 20th century. When analyzing the reasons for such behavior, some sociologists observe a fundamental reason that men must feel themselves as dominant personalities to support their self-estimation, even though, in reality, they might live in equal relationships (Whelehan and Pilcher 90). At the same time, the patriarchal system has also negatively affected the men’s population since it gave them the ephemeral right to value themselves as physically and mentally dominant individuals. However, by describing the final scene, where Jordan experiences internal shock, the author illustrates that their overconfidence would finally damage them.
When it comes to the analysis of the social issues, “The Feather Pillow” was demonstrated as a mirroring of the end of 19th and the beginning of 20th-century social problems. Some ponder and consider that literature is a major formator of society’s trends and values. However, Quiroga underlines through symbolic characters that his story did not develop any phenomenon. Instead, the author illustrates the social stereotypes and principles that were directing society to social, racial, and gender inequality. More specifically, Alicia’s hysteria might be interpreted as a symbol of social minorities’ inability to express their opinion freely.
As it was described before, the main heroine had experienced constant internal struggles concerning her emotional self-control. Even though she was at the peak of her psychological disease, she succeeded in remaining calm and did not cry during the whole night. Such ability might be considered heroism, but the real source of this phenomenon is discovered only at the end of the story. When Jordan took Alicia’s pillow since it was anomaly hard, he was shocked by looking at the huge spider that lived inside the pillow and utilized Alicia’s soul as its life source. Horacio Quiroga is famous for successful horror stories, but he is also admitted as a master of symbolism. In the spider’s description, the author symbolizes the masculine power prevailing in society for too long so personal relations become mutually painful. On the one hand, women or other social minorities were suffering from their freedom infringement. On the other hand, those males or other social majority were experiencing constant internal dilemmas of living the happy life without absolute privilege and living in abusive relations where there always exists a dominant power. By choosing the second option, men, with their masculinity and patriarchal stereotypes, ruined the institute of family, which is the fundamental aspect of people’s life. Instead of providing a detailed analysis of the males’ exposure to social institutes, the author illustrated their actions in a short but fulfilling story. I would consider this idea as the most important and valuable in Quiroga’s work since he intentionally left some space for readers to ponder his symbolization and develop their own opinion about the social situation at the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century.