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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:

  • Animal Motifs: The vultures represent the Asylum doctors, while the leeches and rats represent the inmates.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Mad Scientist: Doctor Stockill who is attempting to create a new strain of the bubonic plague that only he can cure.
  • Only One Name: Emily, Sachiko, Anne... Most of the Asylum girls are only referred to by their first name.
  • "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.