Choking and Beating Patients

The article taken from Ten Days in a Madhouse by Nellie Bly sent chills through my spine. As if it wasn’t bad enough that the title was “Choking and Beating Patients”, the lede was also powerful. Bly leaps in with both feet and tells us the grueling story of her experience in an asylum for the 10 days she was there conducting research. She begins with the short story of Miss Mayard who was suffering from a severe cold spell and began to convulse on the floor with chills. The most frightening part to these four pages was the fact that the article, while it told the stories of several patients, was actually about the caretakers and workers in the asylum. These women were some of the most uncaring (ironic considering their positions) and cruel people on the planet. I loved the language Bly used through her piece to portray the negativity and harshness and I really felt immense pity for these beaten, spit upon, harmless patients that lacked a proper way to escape or even defend themselves. The lede wasn’t fabulous, as I don’t think papers in the late 19th Century had such a strong focus on ledes as just getting down to the facts. However, it was sufficient enough that it kept me reading. Any title or lead that sparks our curiosity in a negative light will get read for at least a few more sentences. The goal then is to keep our attention until the article is concluded. Negative ledes I find are often stronger and do a better job of convincing me to read them than positive, upbeat ledes. Maybe I have some dark side of which I am not fully aware, but the more scary, angsty, and negative a lede is, the more likely I am to be sucked into the article and read it from start to finish. Bly put it pretty bluntly, and I liked that a lot as well. Additionally, her overall descriptions of the people of which she came into contact were detailed and intriguing. She told us enough that we felt like we were witnessing the little German woman get spit on, however it wasn’t so much that we got bored, were overwhelmed, or weren’t able to let our own imaginations take over for some time.

Comments are closed.