Struggle With Mental Illness In Janet Frame's Owls Do Cry

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Janet Frame 's novel Owls Do Cry tells the story of a New Zealand family who struggles with poverty. Set in the fictional town Waimaru, the story follows the lives of Bob and Amy Whithers and their children Francie, Toby, Daphne and Chicks. Aside from their monetary struggles the family has to deal with the early death of their daughter Francie (cf. Frame 50), Toby 's epilepsy (cf. 9 ff.) and Daphne 's mental illness (105). My analysis of the book shall start with how it describes Toby 's struggle with physical illness before I move on to Daphne 's life in the asylum. The first thing we find out about Toby Whithers is his reluctance to go to school (cf. Frame 7 ff.). “Toby felt sorry for them but he could not understand history and wanting to get more land and gold; nor, sometimes, could he understand what the master said, or read the words on the blackboard. And that is why he wanted not to go to school when the lady doctor came” (Frame 11). His lack of mental capability seems to stem from his epileptic seizures. They happen often and are described as being like a “dark velvet cloak” that robs him of his vision (cf. Frame 11). The narration is partly focalised through Daphne Whithers, who has been institutionalised in a mental asylum. These sections set themselves apart from others by first-person narration and the use of imagery: “... and I planted carrot seed that never came up, for the wind breathed a blow-away spell; the wind is warm, was warm, and the days above
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