Dissociative Identity Disorder As Literary Plot Device

The concept of personality disorders and the complexities that surround them has been explored throughout the years. Dissociative Identity Disorder is one, in particular, that seems to interest many due to the uniqueness of the illness. Dissociative Identity Disorder, also known as multiple personality disorder, is a complex psychological condition that is often traceable to many different factors. The concept of this disorder has been used as a literary plot device for centuries. For instance, the novel Fight Club written by Chuck Palahniuk and the film Split directed by M. Night Shyamalan explores the fragility of the human psyche and the struggles that come with the possession of a unique disorder such as that of dissociative identity disorder. In both works of art, the main characters desire to hide from reality leads them to create alter egos in order to help them escape their respective shells and achieve what they believe they cannot obtain on their own. (what their subconscious desires) For both characters, either their unresolved past, current or perceived realities is what leads to their need to fill such a void. In addition, their secondary personalities provide new means of fulfilment in their lives through violence against others they would otherwise never commit. Finally, their use of alter-egos reflects their overwhelming desire to find meaning in their lives.

When there are unresolved feelings in an individual’s life, the subconscious can play a detrimental effect on the behaviour of the person. In the film Split, Kevin Wendell Crumb’s Dissociative Identity Disorder was caused by early childhood trauma from continuous exposure to extreme and repetitive physical, sexual, and emotional abuse. Due to these terrible circumstances, Kevin was not able to go through the normal process of consolidating a core sense of identity. As a result of this, Kevin developed multiple personalities as a defence mechanism, mirroring the contradictions in his early social and family environment. At one point in the film Kevin, as his most villainous of the 23 personalities says, “The broken are the more evolved” (Shyalam 0:45). When he confronts his inner enemies and the pain and suffering within him, he integrates it into the rest of his being. His unresolved past created a monstrous alter ego that had built up inside him over the years. In the novel Fight Club, the narrator’s fear and feelings of entrapment in society is what leads him to develop Dissociative Identity Disorder. He uses his Tyler Durden personality as a coping mechanism, hiding from the reality of his life. It is evident that the narrator is unable to live happily, his personalities strongly contrasting each other. When reflecting on his alter ego Tyler, the narrator says “Tyler is funny, charming, forceful, and independent. Men look up to him and expect him to change their world. Tyler is capable and free, and I am not' (Palahniuk 130). This shows the narrator’s desire to be everything he is not, to escape the reality of his life and live through Tyler instead. He longs to be recognized by others and have the ability to express himself and explore the world he lives in but believes he is incapable of doing so, therefore allowing Tyler to take more control. As the narrator lives in a world where a personality such as Tyler’s fits outside the norm, he cannot embody the personality of Tyler into his true identity.

Both protagonists in Split and Fight Club allow their alter-egos to corrupt them as they gradually become their secondary personalities. There is an evident struggle between their multiple personalities, representing both a moral and an immoral side. Their immoral side leads them to commit acts of violence against others, providing them with a new sense of fulfilment. In the case of Split, one of Kevin Wendell Crumb’s multiple personalities, the Beast, is the ultimate antagonist of the movie. The 24th personality possesses incredible strength, speed, agility, stamina, invulnerability and pain tolerance. He has extremely terrifying abilities such as the power to rip metal bars and climb walls with ease.   

07 July 2022
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