The Professor and the Madman Book Report Essay

Submitted By Jonathan-Bonilla
Words: 703
Pages: 3

The Professor and the Madman Book Report The two main characters in this book are Dr. William Chester Minor and Professor James Murray, both instrumental in the creation of the Oxford English Dictionary. These two men were obviously intelligent, Murray being a self-taught polymath with a flair for languages, and Minor a Yale alumnus. They were similar in appearance, being described as tall, thin, balding, with long white beards and blue eyes with bags under them. But whereas Murray’s beard is well kept, Minor’s appears homely and disheveled. Professor Murray was born to a poor Scottish Christian family. A humble man who made his own way in life and as such had a strict work ethic, which, after a series of unfulfilling jobs, led to his appointment as editor in chief of the then named A New English Dictionary on Historical Principles; Founded Mainly on the Materials Collected by The Philological Society. Dr. Minor in the other hand, was born to a well-off New England family in Ceylon (modern-day Sri Lanka), his parents having turned missionaries. After Yale he joined the Union Army during the Civil War, as an assistant surgeon. It was during his service that he suffered one of his traumatic experiences that eventually led to his mental decline: the branding of a deserting Irish soldier. Minor is therefore depicted as a dynamic individual, mainly due to his failing grasp on reality, but also with his return to Christianity, having spent most of his life as an atheist. In contrast, Murray is shown to be quite static, a diligent worker with a thirst for knowledge and saint like patience.
They were both confronted with a plethora of conflicts throughout the narrative. Murray seems stressed, possibly because of the time constraints put on him by the publishers. As previously mentioned he was born in poverty, but his sudden rise to the position of Editor in Chief, slowly but surely raised his social status. He was also faced with poor working conditions, his Scriptorium was sunk into the ground 3 feet, making cold and damp, which may have been detrimental to his health. Minor was also endured his own problems. Foremost among these was his mental state. Diagnosed with Monomania, which along with the ever popular Hysteria of the Victorian era, was a generalization of similar mental illnesses, we now recognize it as Schizophrenia. He suffered paranoid hallucinations and he had a xenophobic view of the Irish, brought about by the aforementioned branding of the Irish soldier whom he thought was out for revenge. This escalation of his mental decline eventually ended with the murder of George Merrett, a brewery worker, that led to his confinement in Broadmoor. There he spent the vast majority of