The Snake Pit

Following a mental collapse, a woman is placed in a mental institution by her husband where her depression is treated by electric shock, hydrotherapy, drugs, and psychoanalysis.
The Snake Pit Following a mental collapse a woman is placed in a mental institution by her husband where her depression is treated by electric shock hydrotherapy drugs and psychoanalysis

  • Title: The Snake Pit
  • Author: Mary Jane Ward
  • ISBN: null
  • Page: 304
  • Format: Hardcover
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    1 thought on “The Snake Pit”

    1. The Snake Pit begins like so many social comedies, with a woman called Virginia newly arrived in New York from the Midwest wondering about all the crazy city people around her. We learn she is a journalist, that she is waiting for her husband who is unaccountably and irritatingly late, and that she is sharp and funny and accomplished though a little confused by her surroundings. A few pages in we realize Virginia isn't sitting in a park in Manhattan. She's a patient in an insane asylum.Ward make [...]

    2. "I am just me, Virginia Stuart Cunningham. There is only one of me and it is having a hard enough time thinking for one, let alone splitting into two."The Snake Pit was written in 1946 and details a journalists' nervous breakdown into multiple personalities. I've seen the film which is quite depressing though Olivia D'Havilland is fantastic, and I picked up the book at an antique store or somewhere. Once I got through the first quarter of it the story picked up. It's a well written, albeit depre [...]

    3. I picked this up because I found out it was based on a hospital about 10 minutes away from where I live. It's an interesting look at how mental illness was treated less than a century ago and a good reminder that though we've come very far in many medical areas, mental illness is still not always well understood and remains a social stigma. Also, let me just say that I'm glad we no longer go with the idea of "well, if this would make a sane person insane, then maybe it will make a insane person [...]

    4. An important book, to be sure, but I'm not so sure about the pacing and overall structure. Maybe I'm missing something.I love the film starring Olivia de Havilland (though it made me cry and doubt my sanity).

    5. I read this book after I read an article stating that Sylvia Plath had read it and used it as inspiration for The Bell Jar. I could see the similarities in the two books. Overall I really enjoyed the book. I had to search to find it as it appears that it is not published any more. What a shame. The first chapter was difficult to read, but once you get into the book you understand the first chapter. It was interesting to read about some of the therapies used such as the tubs and how crude ECT was [...]

    6. What made me give this book 5 stars? Honestly, I have a hard time describing why I give a books 4 instead of a 5. Usually my 4s are books I really really enjoyed, with well drawn characters and a writing style I like. 5s tend to be the ones which really stick with me, in addition to the aforementioned book traits.This is a book which I have a hard time outlining, but also one which I remember putting down various times and thinking very hard about what was just written. I'll definitely read it a [...]

    7. This is probably the best book written about life in an insane asylum. Ward suffered from paranoid schizophrenia, but her illness did not affect her ability to communicate beautifully through the written word. Thankfully, many of the “therapeutic” practices used in insane asylums Ward suffered are no longer in place, but it is a revelation to get a glimpse into the world of a severely mentally ill patient.

    8. Not the best written book I have ever read, but a book that stuck in my mind the first time of reading, and I wanted to read it again. The author did have a breakdown, and although this is written as fiction, it is based on her experiences - and what experiences they were. Thank goodness that the treatment of mental illness is very different now from the 1940s when she was in hospital.

    9. Intriguing story - hard to imagine what it must have been like for the author to live in such an institution. It was helpful to get the perspective of a person suffering a serious mental illness - heartbreaking.

    10. My 5 star reviews are all relative. I think I gave The Dollhouse Murders, a childhood favorite I recently re-read, 5 stars. This book is going to stick with me for a long time. The author based the book on her own experiences, so it's a sad little peek back in time at a mental hospital of the 1940s. The narrator's frequent confusion felt real to me, and this book deserves five stars for the author's willingness to tackle the subject and to do it without sensationalizing it. Note that I haven't y [...]

    11. Virginia Cunningham is a writer. As The Snake Pit begins, she does not forget this, but she finds herself disoriented without her glasses, lost in New York City, and concerned that she has forgotten her address. I was intrigued immediately upon beginning this book. Virginia's disorientation was so convincing I felt as though I were disoriented and confused myself. Mary Jane Ward continues to write from within Virginia's mind convincingly for the duration of the book. We realize within the first [...]

    12. A fictionalized autopathography based on the author's own experiences with the "healing" process in early 20th century mental health facilities.The Snake Pit was startlingly realistic in its narrative. Virginia's struggle to remember - where she's at, why she's there, and how to "get better" - was harrowing. Right from the opening pages, thrust inside Virgina's mind, I could see AND feel the fear and frustration caused by the confusion that Virginia battled. That disorientation transcended the p [...]

    13. Imagine, one day you are in your house and you are thinking. Thinking about stuff you have never thought about before. Thinking things that make you feel crazy. That's what happened to Virginia in the book the "The Snake Pit" by Mary Jane Ward. Virginia has just gone to the insane asylum and is going through shock treatment. As she gets transfered from ward to ward she meets new, strange people. She is miserable in Juniper Hill and for reasons I don't blame her for. The food is the same every da [...]

    14. Mary Jane Ward offers a firsthand and in depth account of a mentally ill woman living in a state institution in the 1930's. At times, her writing is confusing, but this may have been the author's intent when she wrote the book. (Her narrative is based on an autobiographical account of the author while she was institutionalized at Rockland State Hospital in NY.) The book's title is misleading. She does not expose any horrors of the mental health system, but she does give an interesting glimpse in [...]

    15. Interesting to note that this book was written in 1946, when psycho therapy looked a lot like torture. The electrocution of patients was common and weird. It's odd to think that this was a common practice in the day, even though the results rarely produced anything less than a vegetable.I thought it was so disturbing how the patients would get worse with treatment and yet they would be treated all the more. It was incredibly depressing that the characters appeared to sincerely think they were he [...]

    16. The first really engaging book I've read in a long time. I was drawn in by the narration. It switches back and forth from third to first-person effortlessly. I thoroughly enjoyed this book. An interesting tale told from the point of view of a woman placed in an insane asylum. Or rather, a mental hospital. I would say it's a lighter "One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest". Interesting read, for sure. Out of print, I believe, now, so if you ever have a chance to buy a copy secondhand, I highly recommend [...]

    17. Before 1946 they lowered insane persons into snake pits. The theory was that such an experience might drive a sane person out of his wits so it might send an insane person back to sanity.Finally putting Virginia in with the worst patients showed her that she was not as bad as she thought she was. Working in the cafeteria she gained confidence, doing her job better than everyone else.Unbelievable that 60 years ago mentally ill people were treated this way. Not even allowed to read.

    18. I read this book as a young teenager. haunted me for a long time.ter down the road in my thirties I re read itonce again it haunted mew in my sixties if something brings it to the forefront I think about for a few daysedless to say this book made a real impression on met for good nor for bad. Probably as a young teen I couldn't understand most of what I read but it left me scarred inside

    19. Please see my detailed review at Graceann's "The Snake Pit" Review"Mary Jane Ward mined her own experiences in a mental institution for this powerful novel. She is brilliant in evoking the fog that her main character is in, and in describing the painfully slow clearing of that fog. An extraordinary novel, and one that I won't be forgetting any time soon.

    20. 1946 novel by a young woman who had been in a mental hospital after a breakdown. Very well written -- sometimes funny -- but all-too-familiar after the experienc of a family member. The movie of the same name is quite true to the book and worth watching. Think I saw it just after reading the book.

    21. This was an interesting book that I have wanted to read for years. I happened to find it in a local used book store and pounced upon it immediately. I was not disappointed. I wanted to learn about insane asylums of the past, and I tried to understand the main character. She was strong willed and determined to survive.

    22. I almost didn't read this book because the first chapter is so scattered and nearly impossible to understand, but it gets better immediately after. One of the best books I've ever read--a stark reminder of just how lucky we are to be sane. I especially appreciated how the author flipped between "you" and "I"

    23. This is a good read if you enjoy learning about mental illness and mental hospitals. I learned a lot, especially about the treatment of patients. As if the illness isn't bad enough, the treatment and the setting is unbelievable. Read the book first and then watch the movie.

    24. I had seen the movie at least 20 times and decided I really wanted to read the book. I was a bit disappointed in the book, which usually is not the case. I think had I not watched the movie, I would have enjoyed the book a bit more.

    25. I'm amazed at how the reader is made to feel like they travel the same troubling, confusing, frightening, but also sometimes funny path of insanity. Very interesting and entertaining read. I wish i still had a book club to discuss this at

    26. I read this book years ago and saw the movie. I found an old copy in a used bookstore and wondered if it held up. I think I enjoyed it more (or found it even more meaningful). I recommend it as an important period in the history of the treatment of the mentally disturbed. Raises many questions.

    27. This book combines the best features of a wonderful novel, a mystery and really biting satire. I never tire of it. The most quotable book ever about mental hospitals. Not everybody cane make a doll with arms that pull.

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