Archetypal Literary View Of The Professor And The Madman

The Professor and the Madman is a story about Dr. William Minor and his life during when he helped James Murray with making the Oxford English Dictionary by volunteering and contributing to thousands of definitions, while being held in an asylum for the criminally insane.  Dr. William Minor was an army war surgeon and had to retire due to mental illness and was put in an asylum.  After being released he moved to Europe where he traveled around by train.  While in England, one night he woke up and thought he saw a person and grabbed a gun and chased the person out of his hotel and onto the streets and then shot who he thought was the person in his room.  But, as it turns out, it was not the person he thought was in his room.  After the murder he committed he was put in court and found not guilty due to being mentally ill.  Instead of being found guilty and going to jail he was found not guilty, but got sent to an asylum for the criminally insane.  This is the start of how Dr. William Minor became the biggest contributor to the Oxford English Dictionary.

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Dr. William Minor

The journey of the main character, Dr. William Minor, does not really seem to take on the hero archetype, but I believe that he fits most of the role.  The only difference I think is that he is not saving the world or anyone’s lives by defeating some type of evil that is threatening others.  But he is helping, not saving them, and the evil he has to overcome is himself with his mental illness.  I think that it makes it hard to realize that he takes on this hero role because it is a non-fiction, while almost every story that has a hero is fiction and is about events that would never take place on earth due to the impossible aspects of the stories, like magic, aliens and on and on.

Dr. Minor’s journey begins by the reader being told he was a American army surgeon, which is the hero staring in his everyday life.  Then, the first phase of the journey begins when he moves to England to try and get rid of his “demons”, and there he ends up shooting a man, by the name of George Merret, thinking it was someone who was trying to kill him in his sleep.  As a result of the murder he committed, he went to court and there it was decided that he was not guilty due to, as what a yard detective explained as, “Insane” (Winchester 18).  Not being guilty relates to him being “insane” because if you were considered to be highly mentally ill then you could not be found guilty for the crime that person committed but would need to be sent to a mental asylum.  Moving from his everyday life to the mental asylum is that switch into the second phase of the journey and when having to overcome adversity starts to take place.

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Asylum for the criminally insane


Second phase of the journey begins by Dr. Minor moving to the mental asylum.  This is the rising action of the story, just without the action.  This is when Dr. Minor starts to face tests, gain allies, and discover the adversity he has to overcome.  The allies that Dr. Minor makes are the guards that he becomes friends with.  Becoming friends with the guards provides him with more freedom because they let him do things like letting him read, when they do not do that with other patients.  The tests and adversity he has to overcome are himself and the mental illness he bears.  The actions like “he would accuse people of trying to break into his room the night before, trying to molest him.” (Winchester 19) and how he thought “Evil men were trying to insert metallic biscuits, coated with poison, in his mouth”. (Winchester 19).  Then while facing his tests, the wife of the man he shot, Eliza Merret, came to tell him that she forgave him and from then on they would have sessions when they would talk together.  Then one time she came with a book and then started to come with more books.  While reading all the books that Eliza Merret, this is when Dr. Minor found an advertisement for the need of volunteers  to help make the dictionary and that is the start of how he started contributing.  This part of the journey is him meeting his mentor, who is the Eliza Merret, and how she shows him down the right path that helps him overcome his adversity and do what he was meant to do.
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Oxford English Dictionary

Dr. William Minors journey does not end with that and still has the climax and conclusion of his story to be told that include many archetypes or deepen current archetypes already shown.  With his allies and his mentor, overcoming his evil has become easier to deal with, but still needs to be beaten or controlled.  The story may have the archetype of overcoming the monster, the monster being his mental illness, and being able to live somewhat of a normal life somehow.  But that is only based off of the archetype that is in most fiction stories so it could be different.



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