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Literature / The Asylum for Wayward Victorian Girls

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The Asylum for Wayward Victorian Girls contains two intertwining stories. One is the autobiography of Emilie Autumn and her time spent in a psychiatric ward in Los Angeles as well as three very detailed diaries: Cutting, drug and suicide. The other is the story of Emily with a 'y' in the eponymous Asylum, sent to Emilie in letters originally written on wallpaper and re-typed by Sir Edward.

The book is both historical fiction and non-fiction, and one of the most complete accounts of bipolar disorder to be published, as well as a social criticism on the mental health system of the 21st century.


Contains examples of:

  • Abusive Parents: The Count de Rothsberg was this to his daughters, Jolie Rouge and her deceased twin sister.
  • And This Is for...: Emily with a 'y' says this when she stabs Doctor Stockill for the girls who couldn't be there followed immediately by Sir Edward for the rats.
  • Animal Motifs: The vultures represent the Asylum doctors, while the leeches and rats represent the inmates.
  • Asian and Nerdy: Sachiko, a bit. She does play classical music.
  • Bedlam House: The eponymous Asylum, where leechings are a common practice for almost every ailment. Bathing is done outside with a cold blast of water regardless of the time of year. After the bi-monthly bathing, death by pneumonia is a common thing. Ward B's inmates are often kept in chains. Pregnancy is often caused by the chasers and later the men who make use of the prostitution ring set up by Doctor Stockill. The modern psychiatric ward is better but it's still an uncomfortable, frightening, and joyless place that's understaffed, overcrowded and underfunded.
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  • Bitter Almonds: The only thing Madame Mournington can smell, recognizing it from the death of her daughter, Violet, on the breath of Christelle.
  • Bittersweet Ending
  • Broken Bird: Emilie and Emily, as well as many of the girls in the Asylum.
  • Brother–Sister Incest: One of the girls in the Asylum was abused by her brother. He had her committed to keep her from talking about it.
  • Bury Your Gays: In the audiobook, Veronica and Emily start a relationship, but Veronica is killed before the Tea Party Massacre.
  • Chekhov's Gun: The key Emily stole from the Count de Rothsberg, which is later used to open the gates to the Asylum.
  • Circus of Fear: The Ophelia Gallery. These kinds of shows were actually fairly common in the 19th century; many psychiatric asylums, including the original Bedlam House, had people paying to watch the antics of the patients.
  • Come to Gawk: Again, the Ophelia Gallery.
  • Deus ex Machina: Anne's key turning into the Asylum Key.
  • Driven to Suicide: Emilie and Emily, though their attempts both fail. Later, Madame Mournington and Doctor Stockill succeed.
  • Eerie Pale-Skinned Brunette: Jolie Rouge.
  • Even Bad Men Love Their Mamas: Doctor Stockill, in a really creepy way.
  • Evil Brit: All the asylum doctors in Emily's story.
  • Femme Fatale: Veronica.
  • Food Porn
  • For the Evulz: Doctors Lymer and Greavesly.
  • Four-Girl Ensemble: Jolie Rouge is the girl so broken she chooses to live in her own fantasy, Emily is the "mannish," clever, artistic one, Veronica is the sexy, glamorous one (though this is deconstructed,) and Anne is sort of a mother figure.
  • Good Girls Avoid Abortion: Averted. Emilie had an abortion before her mental breakdown.
  • Heel–Face Turn: Madame Mournington.
  • Hope Spot: With the arrival of Thomson the photographer, it appears that Emily may have finally found a sympathetic outsider... until it turns out that the photographs he's taking are meant to be used (against his will) to advertise the Asylum girls as prostitutes.
  • Kill 'Em All: The Asylum inmates all jump out from a collapsing building. Oh, and most of the doctors die in the massacre.
  • Mad Doctor. Stockill, so much. And he's convinced that he's the Only Sane Man, only keeping the insane in their rightful place.
  • Mad Scientist: Doctor Stockill who is attempting to create a new strain of the bubonic plague that only he can cure.
  • Magic Realism
  • Meaningful Name: Madame Mournington, Jolie Rouge...
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Madame Mournington, post Heel–Face Turn, says these exact words. Also, Thomson when he realizes what his photographs of the Asylum girls are being used for.
  • Nice Guy: Thomson.
  • Only One Name: Emily, Sachiko, Anne... Most of the Asylum girls, actually.
  • The Ophelia: Played straight, discussed and to an extent, deconstructed.
  • Parental Incest: Implied between The Count de Rothsberg and Jolie Rouge, his daughter.
  • Rape as Drama
  • "Shaggy Dog" Story: Used to highlight the pointlessness and chaos of Victorian women's lives, particularly the "mad" ones. Emily's story is spent building up to the moment when they will eliminate the doctors and run the Asylum. They succeed. Then they all commit mass suicide as the Asylum which they turned into their home collapses around them.
  • Significant Green-Eyed Redhead: Emily and Anne.
  • Spell My Name with a Blank
  • Talking Animal: The rats and leeches.
  • Token Minority: Sachiko.
  • Traumatic Haircut: Jolie Rouge gets one of these.
  • Victorian London: This is the setting of the story of Emily with a 'y'.
  • Wide-Eyed Idealist: Thomson, at first.
  • Yandere: Doctor Stockill, toward his mother.
  • You Dirty Rat!: Averted with Sir Edward and Basil.