It has been a long while since I read this story, but it was a formative story in my adolescence. I forgot many of the details, but perhaps that makes the essence easier to remember.

The story is about how a man, and a society, move through three phases. In the beginning, the society, in this case a mental hospital, is controlled by authority that tries to control through rules. Into this is introduced a man who breaks all the rules, who is a raw force of nature, who refuses to go along with the system. The rules, and the rule makers, buckle under his assault.

But it is what happens next in the story that was the true lesson for me. After having upset all the rules, the hero finds that he has a responsibility to those he has freed. And he sets aside his self-centered ways, and sacrifices himself for them: because after he has broken all the rules, he finds his own, new humanistic set of rules.

I find this story particularly interesting because while the first two steps of the story have been played out in the world at large, with the conservative society of the 1950s and before having had its rule challenged in a constant, decades long bacchanalia, I am still waiting for the point when people decide to treat each other humanely.

Brevity Quest 07