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I Never Promised You a Rose Garden Analysis

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I Never Promised You a Rose Garden, by Joanne Greenberg, is a description of a sixteen-year-old girl's battle with schizophrenia, which lasts for three years. It is a semi-autobiographical account of the author’s experiences in a mental hospital during her own bout with the illness. This novel is written to help fight the stigmatisms and prejudices held against mental illness.

Joanne Greenberg was born in Brooklyn in 1932, and is a very respected and award-winning author. Because of her experiences as a Jewish-American and having fought her own battle with schizophrenia, Greenberg wrote I Never Promised You a Rose Garden to help people understand what it is like have to face so much hardship. After her illness was treated, she went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in anthropology and English. Throughout her life, she has fought for the respect and empathy that individuals suffering from both physical and mental handicaps have been denied. Joanne Greenberg presents her experiences by relating them to Deborah Blau.

Deborah Blau, who is very bright and artistically talented, creates an imaginary world she calls the Kingdom of Yr, to use as a defense against the confusing and frightening truths of the real world. When Deborah is five, she has an operation to remove a tumor that causes her to be incontinent. This is a very traumatic experience because a great deal of physical pain and shame comes along with the problems caused by the tumor and resulting surgery. Deborah suffers frequent abuse from her anti-Semitic peers and neighbors during her childhood. When Deborah first creates Yr, it is a sort of haven, but as time goes on, the gods of Yr become Deborah’s masters and control her every word and action.

I Never Promised You a Rose Garden shows the issue of mental illness from several different viewpoints. During Deborah’s three years in the hospital, the reader is provided with a glimpse of mental illness from the patient’s point of view. Deborah's parents, Esther and Jacob, show the struggle that family members face. This is a conflict between their love for their daughter and their shame of her illness. They blame themselves for what their daughter is facing and they fear what they must do to help her. In spite of this, they manage to gather the courage to get Deborah treatment, and allow it to continue, even though the therapy seems to have no effect for quite some time. These people get help from a brilliant psychiatrist, who is not only strong-willed, but also empathetic

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