Narrative Empathy and an Analysis of Three Contemporary Young Adult Mental Health Novels

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Cranston, Karen
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University Honors College Middle Tennessee State University
The goal of this project is to propose a solution to the mental health stigma crisis. Through my thesis, I explore the theory of narrative empathy, character identification, and two character-identification techniques: suspense and descriptive language. I ultimately argue that one way potentially to reduce mental health stigma is through the reading of literature that features a protagonist with a mental illness. The three novels I utilize to support my argument through literary analysis include Challenger Deep by Neal Shusterman, The Memory of Light by Francisco X. Stork, and Under Rose-Tainted Skies by Louise Gornall. I selected these three novels because each collectively paints individuals with various mental disorders in an authentic and empathetic light; the authors’ accurate representations stem from their personal connections to the mental disorders that they represent within the pages of their respective novels. I argue that these novels can cultivate empathy in readers toward individuals with a mental illness, which will help reduce the mental health stigma pandemic.
College of Liberal Arts, Mental Health, Narrative Empathy, Narratology, Mental Health Stigma, Young Adult Literature, Depression, Anxiety, Social Anxiety, Schitzophrenia, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder