Tag Archives: Nellie Bly

A Closer Look at “Choking and Beating Patients” by Nellie Bly

Considering the actual story behind, “Choking and Beating Patients” by Nellie Bly, the lede could be much more of a “hook” to the reader.  Nellie was undercover in an extremely hostile environment yet the lede calmly discusses the sickness of a woman in the asylum.  There are several lines throughout the article that could have made a more efficient lede.  One, for example, is:

She grew more hysterical every moment until they pounced upon her and slapped her face and knocked her head in a lively fashion.  They made the poor creature cry the more, and so they choked her.  Yes, they actually choked her…

This would be a much more dramatic lede than discussing the serious, yet slightly mundane cold of Miss Tillie Mayard.

The quotes throughout the article are extremely useful, as well as credible.  The horrid nurses are given away time and time again through their own words.  For example, when Miss Tillie Mayard faints because of her sickness one nurse states:

Let her fall on the floor and it will teach her a lesson.

What could have made the many statements of the nurses a bit more credible would be adding their names to their quotes, if that was possible.  Other quotes by the unfortunate women in the asylum were also ver useful to the article and more credible because their names were attached.  For example, when poor Urena Little Page cried out:

For God sake, ladies don’t let them beat me.

The quotes were, by far, the strongest additions to this article.

Nellie Bly is successful in this article because of her strong descriptions of the asylum that truly illustrate for the reader the hash treatment and conditions of the patients.  For example, when Bly describes the beating of Urena Little-Page she states:

she caught the woman by her gray hair and dragged her shrieking and pleading from the room.  She was taken to the closet, and her cries grew lower and lower, and they ceased.

Instead of stating simply the facts, Bly allows the reader to feel as if they are there in the room, experiencing these traumatic moments.  While this is a strength of Bly’s writing, it is also important to note that she has become very attached to these patients while she was undercover.  It is fair to say that she becomes extremely biased as she goes from a concerned onlooker to an actual patient herself.

Neglect and Violence in the Asylum

The Article “Choking and Beating Patients”, taken from Ten Days in a Madhouse by Nellie Bly, exposed the horrifying living conditions for the patients in asylums in 1887.

The lede captures the readers attention immediately as Bly begins the story of Miss Tillie Mayard and her frightening health condition. Bly does not begin her article with specifics of each character or setting, rather she explains in plain English what is happening at an exact point in time and her journey to understand why. The last line of the lede is the most important, as it symbolizes the bottom line of the article, the patients are not the issue; the attendants are the real problem.

In the four pages that followed, Bly goes on to explain the gruesome acts of violence displayed by the attendants and nurses of the institution. Contrary to their job descriptions, those who were paid to care over the patients are exhibited to the reader as neglecting of their duties and extremely cruel. This is done through Bly’s first person account of her time spent in the asylum, although many of the instances reported in the article could then be argued as subjective.

Because there is no way to ensure to the reader that the quotes used were one hundred percent authentic, there is a large possibility that Bly altered them for her own personal agenda to mislead her audience. Her descriptions of specific instances with patients and their caretakers use negative language, almost immediately attracting the readers to the story due to the publics’ love for controversy.

Nellie Bly’s “Choking and Beating Patients”

In Nellie Bly’s article, “Choking and Beating Patients,” the lede is quite captivating because it introduces a lot of things in a general sense.  Because of this, the reader is more likely to want to continuing reading in order to find out the why’s and how’s.  The lede introduces the main character, Miss Tillie Mayard, suffering in a cold environment.  This leads the reader to wonder why this is happening and who the attendants, who are also mentioned, with coats are.

Because “Choking and Beating Patients” is less of a hard-news article and more of a story, there are not “sources” in the way one would think.  Instead, the reader gains knowledge from different viewpoints from the dialogue that Bly uses.  Due to the lack of “sources,” I believe the quotes enhance the nature of the piece.  However, I do not think that they add any kind of credibility to the work.

The style of writing in Bly’s piece isn’t flourished, or even descriptive.  The author uses concise details to get her point across without using any fluff.

Overall, Bly’s piece was well-written, got the point across, and informed the reader.