EN 429 Studies in Performance Rotating Header Image

Graphic Novel & Mental Illness

Marbles tells the story of Ellen Forney, who is just finding out that her strong personality is connected to a mental illness. The graphic novel is told through sets of frames of her life and those she encounters. She deals with friends and family as she reveals to them she is bipolar. The novel also shows her ups and downs with the disorder and her experiment with different drugs to stabilize her emotions. With her attempting to stabilize her different emotions, she looses her creativity along the way.   With the help of different images, the reader can get an insight into her disorder and how she copes with different situations.

Upon finding out Forney has a mental illness, we are introduced to her personality which can be described as over the top. In the beginning of the novel, she is coming up with an elaborate tattoo that she wants to get. She has so many thoughts that she cannot contain it and finds herself writing them down in a notepad every time she gets an idea. When Forney is being told the symptoms to her disorder she finally comes to the conclusion that her personality may be flawed. Forney says, “My personality reflected a disorder shared by a group of people” (Forney 19).  With her saying this, she does not see her illness as an illness but who she is as a person.

The main frame that shows her disability to her advantage is the party she has for everyone who was seven in ‘75. She is over the top and doing a lot of things at once. She also has no concern for how much she is spending. These are signs of her mental illness but also she uses it to her advantage. She is the life of the party and keeping everyone entertained.

In a similar frame to the one above, the reader sees Forney struggle with her mental illness. She attempts to throw another seven in ‘75 party like the one she previously does but her disorder is holding her back and creating anxiety and doubts. She is nervous and wants to go home instead of performing. This event shows the lower part of Forney’s life and how she encounters her downs versus her highs.

As a reader, one can observe a mental disorder through Forney’s story. With it being a graphic novel, the reader can see pictures of how the author went through different phases of her bipolar disorder which helped. The story was strongly impacted due to the visual cues of the artist. What also helped was knowing that Forney is an artist and having those visual pictures she drew during her down days. Seeing how she sees herself was important and made an impact on how her mental illness affected her passions directly.


One Comment

  1. Janae,
    Choosing to analyze the impact of her bipolar disorder on two parties is a good way to highlight some of the issues with which Forney struggles. To really nail down your analysis, you should add page cites and analyze some details of the illustrations or dialog to convey what factors she’s weighing as she struggles to achieve balance. Sometimes you make her journey seem a bit more static than it is (ex: she loses creativity due to her disorder; she has this best-selling graphic novel, soooo….) But in what ways or what types off creativity does she fear losing or actually lose? Choose a couple of specific images and it will both help ground your analysis and offer specific examples.

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