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Submitted Literature

The Elected Member

By Bernice Rubens


Ruben’s 1969 text examines family dynamics and the impact upon family of mental illness and hospitalisation.  Rubens provides a realistic portrayal of psychotic symptoms, in particular hallucinations and paranoia.  Much of the text is narrated from drug-addicted Norman's perspective, which gives a great insight into his illogical and frightening emotions and beliefs.

Key Themes:

  • Addiction
  • Carer Issues
  • Psychosis
  • Revealing Reads

Significant Quotes / Pages

8 -  “He screwed his eyes tightly against the dark.  He knew that his short sleep was over, but he was too terrified to acknowledge it.  He should never have let himself doze off.  God knows what they were doing while he was sleeping, and God knows what they were doing now, and where else they were, and how many.  No, he would not open his eyes.  If they were still there, he could rely on them to stay.  He pulled the pillow over his ears.  He didn't want to hear them he.  Yet he wanted to check that they were still there.  He dreaded their presence, but their sudden absence would have terrified him all.  They were the only witnesses to his sanity.

[....] Quite often, he had sought to put an end to it all, but he had to convince somebody, at least one person before he went, otherwise, in their rise, he would die a madman.  But nobody would listen to him any more.  Nobody believed him.  Nobody had the willingness or the patience to sit with him for a while, if necessary for hours, and see them like he saw them, and catch a little of his fear.”

9 - “He stared at his mother again.  She was there, sure enough, and so were all the other things. She would have seen them.  She would have acknowledged them and got rid of them.  She would have delivered him.  ‘Mama,’ he whispered, but the curve and line dissolved into the sheet.  Even he saw that she was gone, and over the years he had become an expert in the appearance and disappearance of things.  But he knew she would come again, and he lay in wait for her, his cold hand spread over the sheet.

He lifted his ear from the pillow and he heard them, the scratching teeth-gnashing grind of their crawl.  And something new to.  Their smell.  At first, he held his breath, then he sniffed gratefully around him.  A dewy smell, like biscuits left uncovered, to soften.  It was further proof that they were there.  They had a right after all, to make a noise and to emanate some kind of overdone.  But he was frightened to.  Each further proof of their presence frightened him.”



Reference: Bernice, Rubens. 1969. The Elected Member. London: Abacus, 2006


- Charley Baker
Date Review Submitted: Monday 23rd March 2009