This week as a part of my exam preparation I am reading John Bunyan's The Pilgrim's Progress. Written in 1678, (I didn't know this before I began reading the book), it was the first novel written in English. Because I have a lot going on this week, I decided to listen to the novel on Youtube (Part 1 is here, and Part 2 is here).
There are two things in part 1 that I believe are helpful to think about regarding mental health. The first is the main protagonist Christian's "burden" that he carries around with him all of the time and from which he seeks relief. The painting by William Blake (above) that depicts Christian walking with the burden is haunting (source: Wikipedia). I would be interested to explore Christian's burden in relation to depression in the future.
The second area that is also interesting with regards to mental health is the part of the novel when Christian and Hopeful get imprisoned in the Doubting Castle by Giant Despair. In their cell, they are beaten and starved by the Giant, and told that they should commit suicide. Psalm 88 is incorporated into the text here. This is a scene that was really hard to listen to, and I have to admit, I underestimated Bunyan.
I am looking forward to returning to this novel at a later date to think some of these themes through more deeply.